Manga Review: The Gods Lie by Kaori Ozaki

May Contain Spoilers

When I started this, I thought that I would hate it.  It was pretty weird when Natsuru was grabbing his mom’s boobs.  Their entire relationship took a while to get used to, and even though it’s obvious that they are close, I just don’t know. I guess you have to have a few boob references since it is a boys’ comic, but, yuck.

Natsuru is your typical eleven year old boy (boob squeezing aside).  He loves soccer, has just moved to a new town, and accidentally alienated the most popular girl in his class when he rejected her Valentine’s chocolates. He’s having problems with the new soccer coach, a demanding man who makes him feel inadequate, and he soon dreads going to soccer camp. Instead, he pretends that he’s going, and plays hooky, without his mom’s knowledge.

While dodging his soccer commitments, he runs into Rio, a quiet, serious girl in his class.  They strike up a friendship, and Natsuru ends up staying with Rio and her younger brother, Yuuta.  As he spends time with the siblings in their rickety house, things seem kind of odd. That’s when he learns that their father, a fisherman, is away in Alaska, catching crab.  Rio is trying to make ends meet until he returns, stressing that they will run out of money or that the authorities will be called on them before her father returns home.  Natsuru agrees to keep their situation a secret, and they spend the summer vacation together, until Rio’s deep, dark secret shatters their blossoming friendship.

Wow.  This story was not what I expected.  Poor Rio.  This girl is suffering under the weight of the world.  Guilt, abandonment, and fear are her daily concerns.  There isn’t one adult in her life that she can trust and confide in.  Her mother walked out on the family years ago, her grandfather, the one steady anchor in her life, died, and her father was a useless piece of garbage.  In spite of all of that, Rio is a kind, considerate girl who cares for her brother the best she can. When she realizes that Natsuru is having some issues, too, she doesn’t hesitate to welcome him into her home. 

As the reality of Rio and Yuuta’s situation slowly unravels, Natsuru is forced to see life from someone else’s perspective, someone not as fortunate as he is.  Then it’s Natsuru’s turn to grow up and try to be a caregiver for both Rio and Yuuta.  This was a touching read, and I was sorry when it ended.  Despite it’s themes of abandonment and Rio’s unfortunate experiences, the story ends on an uplifting note. The beautiful, expressive art only adds to the emotional pull of The Gods Lie.

Recommended.

Grade: 4.75 – 5 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book

Natsuru Nanao, a 6th grader who lives alone with his mother, strikes up an unlikely friendship with the reserved and driven Rio Suzumura. Natsuru plays hookey from soccer camp that summer, and instead of telling the truth to his mother, he spends all his time with Rio and her kid brother at their rickety house, where a dark secret threatens to upend their fragile happiness.

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