The Gods Lie.
神様がうそをつく。(Kami-sama ga Uso wo Tsuku.)
Seinen – Drama, romance, slice-of-life
1 Volume (complete)
Sixth grader Natsuru is ready for summer, but his easygoing soccer coach has been replaced with a stricter one. Meanwhile, Natsuru’s classmate, Rio, and her brother have been raising the cat Natsuru found. So Natsuru hides out at Rio’s house instead of going to soccer camp. But the days of just the three of them can’t go on forever…
The Gods Lie. is a story about what happens when two coming-of-age tales intersect and form a new one.
If I was big on spoilers in my reviews, I would have a lot more to say. I could talk in detail about Rio’s family situation and the psychology of Natsuru and Rio’s days together. But alas, you’ll have to put up with me dancing around subjects.
The Gods Lie. focuses on two aspects: the tween years and types of families.
Let’s start with the former. Eleven- and twelve-year-olds are still technically children, but they are also starting to go through the emotional and physical changes associated with puberty. At this age, some kids stay at the childhood stage while others mature early into the teenage years. Natsuru is decidedly in the former group. He could not even handle a classmate essentially confessing to him, so he ran away. Then, when no girl would talk to him, he insists he “can get by just fine without talking to girls”. When the new coach makes slights about Natsuru and his family, Natsuru kicks a ball in the coach’s face. He’s still emotionally immature. As for his physical maturity, he is on the short side for his age. Meanwhile, Rio, a girl in his class, is maturing in both ways: she is not only tall for her age, but she takes on the role of being the head of her household.
Which leads into the second focal point of the manga: families. Natsuru and Rio both have only one parent in their lives, but the similarities end there. Rio has a younger brother named Yuuta; Natsuru is an only child. Natsuru’s mom, Ritsuko, works at home; Rio’s father leaves for long periods of time. The only other thing the two families have in common is that both Natsuru and Rio love their parents. Natsuru, like many young boys, complains about the “old hag”. Rio looks forward to her father’s return even though she knows what a flawed person he is. With both children somewhat upset with their parents, it’s fascinating to follow along with the family Natsuru and Rio end up forming. They end up with a stereotypical ideal household: the male who checks out strange noises at night, the female who cooks, and the cute, silly, but adorable child. In acting out these roles, it’s no wonder the two leads are drawn to each other.
But the manga makes one thing clear: Natsuru and Rio can only play house. They are too young to be independent and self-sufficient. They’re powerless. Had they been a little older, the story would have played out quite differently. One or both could have skipped high school and entered the working world right after middle school. People surely would have objected, but at least it would have been possible. But at their ages, they can do nothing. And that’s the whole point of The Gods Lie. People are often frustrated at being stuck in a situation they can’t do anything about, and even God and/or gods don’t seem to help. All humans can do is find happiness in ways they can, to live the best way they know. This sad beauty plays out over the course of the single volume.
I may be making this sound like some sort of tragic, depressing manga. While there are several unhappy moments, the volume ends on an optimistic note. It’s the sort of “write your own future for the characters” open ending that many tend to hate, but this is the story of one summer, not a lifetime. There are also plenty of charming moments like Yuuta greeting the sights, Natsuru escorting Rio and Yuuta to the festival, and even Ritsuko’s heartfelt talk with Natsuru at the end. The manga is touching, but it never overwhelms you in sadness. For those concerned, there’s no violence or sexual situations, and the main mystery is revealed by the middle of the book. This is a story that is bound to touch you, but you won’t have to worry about bursting into tears. (Although you may get misty-eyed at the ending.)
I also want to mention the bits of culture shock in this manga. Most notably, we Westerners often find it strange that elementary students would still bathe with their parents, but we would certainly bat an eye at an 11-year-old boy who would grope his mother’s breasts. Again, we can probably dig deeper into the psychology of The Gods Lie., but this is a manga review, not an analysis.
While Ozaki’s previous English-translated series (Immortal Rain) had a shounen feel despite being shoujo, The Gods Lie. is a seinen series with a shoujo flavor. Big eyes and big panels mean the art gets a lot of focus. The manga starts with a two-page spread where the only text is Natsuru narrating, “It was the summer when I was 11.” It’s a simple opening, and it’s even more moving when you realize why Rio notices the smell of the curtains. Savvy readers will notice a lot of visual hints leading up to the two big revelations. Flowers play a big part in the imagery, from Rio’s flower in her hair when she goes to the festival to the daisies in the pop can to the flowers at the coach’s bedside. The art is very clean, and since the manga is pretty serious in tone, Ozaki focuses more on using shadows and shading rather than screentones. The art and text both work well together.
No honorifics are used. The soccer coach is referred to both as “Mr.” and “Coach”, and the other adults are addressed in a similar fashion. For the cutesier and/or younger characters, they are given nicknames to replace the Japanese honorifics and conventions (“Nats” instead of “Nacchan”, “Nat-Nat” instead of “Nattsun”). Vertical keeps how the classmates usually call each other by their surnames. A footnote is included to explain why Himegawa is called “Princess”. The summer holiday is romanized as “O-Bon”, “chirashi sushi” is named, but neither are explained in further detail. Really, there’s not much to say. It’s a smooth adaptation.
While you could just borrow The Gods Lie., this is the kind of manga you will want to revisit again. The story is subtle without being vague, cute without being fluff, moving without being depressing. The Gods Lie. is worth a purchase.
Tokyopop released most of Ozaki’s Immortal Rain before shutting down.