The Gods Lie
In looking over the manga I’ve read from Vertical, I’ve come to realize that they specialize in challenging works. With the exception of their two longest-running series — the heart-warming What Did You Eat Yesterday? and the weirdly comic My Neighbor Seki — the stories in Vertical releases are generally off-kilter and discomforting in some way. (Even the cat manga had some disturbing portrayals about home and family.) These are not manga you read for escapist enjoyment or light entertainment. They make you think and leave you unsettled.
The Gods Lie by Kaori Ozaki is no exception. For “gods”, read “adults”. Natsuru is a soccer-loving sixth grader with a single mother. His kindly old coach has just been replaced by a harder-charging guy. His attitude has changed Natsuru’s love of the sport, and his mother treats him more like a friend than a child who needs to be taken care of. Although he would disagree, he’s still growing up and needs help making decisions.
He spends the summer with Suzumura, his classmate, who takes care of her younger brother alone. As the book continues, we find out why, and it’s shocking in its portrayal of selfishness. Even when the adults betray them, the kids want to do well for them. Sometimes parents lie for good reasons, sometimes for ill.
These children are doing their best in situations beyond their capacity. They shouldn’t have been placed in them in the first place. Ozaki does a terrific job building suspense, focusing on everyday tasks like providing meals or shopping as she doles out more information about what brought these kids to where they are now. They’re capable of so much, even though adult readers can see the strain placed on them.
The summer winds up being life-changing for the pair. If this had been told by an American author (but I doubt it would be), then the focus would be on young love. Instead, I see the two’s relationship more as support, leaning on each other because there’s no where else to turn. The Gods Lie left me uneasy. I’m glad it’s complete in a single volume — that’s just the right length to leave the reader thinking about what they’ve read. (The publisher provided a review copy.)