Shuusuke started off his second year of high school with an actual literal nightmare: a dream in which he asks a girl he doesn’t know to kill him. When he wakes, he thinks that it was just a bad dream — but then a popularity voting game in Class 2-A starts to go violently wrong in a supernatural sense, and Shuusuke and his classmates are left scrambling to find a way to save themselves and each other.
Tohyo Game (literally “Voting Game”) is a horror story in the vein of King’s Game: Origin and Another set among second-year high school students (equivalent to American high school juniors) in contemporary Japan. In one class, students vote for other students’ popularity — and the ones ranked lowest start to die in what can only be described as supernatural circumstances.
While the manner of choosing the dead is a bit more specific than either King’s Game or Another, Tohyo Game definitely has the same feel and shares a general sense of hopelessness and despair that permeates the universe. Shuusuke takes an active role in trying to save the lives of his classmates, organizing what he and his friend Wakaba think is an effort that will save them all — only to discover how very wrong they are.
The series is complete at three volumes in Japan, and the first volume is compelling enough to keep readers engaged for the second volume. As a reader, though, I’m curious how the plot will sustain through two more volumes: the members of Class 2-A are dying off too quickly to last through two entire volumes unless the pacing changes dramatically in the next two volumes.
Despite my questions on pacing, though, this is a manga that holds up. While Shuusuke refers to himself as “plain and inconspicuous with no particular talents,” it’s clear that others in his class don’t view him that way, and unlike a lot of manga featuring “plain and inconspicuous” male protagonists, readers can see why he’s so well-liked. His kindness and his desperation to save his classmates shines in this story, and as a reader, you can’t help hoping he’ll succeed.
Tohyo Game is an incredibly gory manga. While the first classmate death isn’t graphic at all — the last-place girl from the first round hangs herself in a manner that can be explained as perfectly non-supernatural — the deaths get progressively more and more horrific and gory as the story progresses.
While for the most part the art of Tohyo Game is simple and at times appears to be a little lazy, there’s no way that the art depicting different classmates’ deaths could be described that way. As someone who’s pretty easily freaked out by visual depictions of gore, I had to set this one down several time because I felt really disturbed and disgusted.
However, the art’s not exactly atypical of horror manga, and in relative terms it’s pretty tame on the gore front, though there are a lot of frightening and disturbing images. The manga has a clear warning label on the front about explicit content, and while there’s some scenes featuring brief nudity, the warning is very definitely for the gore.
Despite my queasiness at the graphic gore content, the plot of Tohyo Game was compelling enough that I really, really wanted to find out what happened next. This definitely isn’t a manga suited for absolutely everyone, but I would recommend Tohyo Game to horror-mystery readers and those who are either not bothered by super-gory content or can overlook it due to compelling plot.
Story: 4 out of 5 stars
Art: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
Feliza Casano founded Girls in Capes and currently edits and writes for all sections of the site. In her approximate 2.3 hours of free time each month, she loves watching anime, reading science fiction, and working on her novels-in-progress. Keep up with her antics at felizacasano.com and follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.