Kaori Ozaki gambles on a shocking plot twist, and with deft artwork and solid characters, pays off to create one of the best manga reads of 2016.

the gods lieTitle: the gods lie. (Kamisama ga Uso wo Tsuku)
Genre: Drama, Slice of Life
Publisher: Kodansha (JP), Vertical Comics (US)
Story/Artist: Kaori Ozaki
Serialized in: Afternoon
Translation: Melissa Tanaka
Original Release Date: April 19, 2016

The twist is one of the biggest selling points of the gods lie., and after reading this a few weeks ago that twist still haunts me and remains fresh today. Whether you could somehow see the twist coming or not doesn’t matter. It’s what happens after that which makes it one of the best chapters of manga of 2016. It starts slow, but make no mistake, if Kaori Ozaki wanted to sacrifice solid or average storytelling to instead blow you away with one move after setting up the chest pieces in order to tell the story, this was a shrewd move that pays off.

the gods lie. tells the story through Natsuru Nanao, and his recollection of events as an 11 year old middle school kid during the summer time. He skipped soccer team training and spent his time with Rio Suzumura, a seemingly quiet, frugal girl that he befriends due to a chance meeting. What was supposed to be one of his most fun moments with Rio and her brother, Yuuta, swiftly turns into horror once he discovers the secret that’s been haunting her that year. Now they have to deal with the aftermath and how they can manage to overcome it.

The set up to the manga isn’t perfect. It explains why Natsuru is important and Rio’s detachment from the class, and then it felt off. Maybe it was the tone of the chapter — we have a moment where there’s background on Natsuru’s dad and how he died, to then Natsuru groping his mom’s boobs. It goes from something pretty sad to an oddity that kids his age do apparently — sort of a jarring tone switch.

It’s not to say the first half is bad. It provides a much needed set up for the rest of the gods lie., especially the reason Natsuru skipped soccer camp in the first place. The art is very well drawn, though it does make me think a bit about Summer Wars for no real reason. It’s just that the when the second half occurs, the manga transforms completely. Up to this point it built the characters up well enough. Natsuru immediately reveals his character by rejecting the most popular girl’s advances as he transferred in, while Rio’s reasons for why she’s like this shows a rebellious streak, but also a naive one.

Then the twist hits, and everything becomes rotten and cruel. Mentioning the twist would be bad, but an explanation of why the twist stood out I feel is necessary. So, I’ll state this thusly: instead of the gods lie., this should have an alternative name of the adults lie. The consequences of lies is explicit in a lot of things. One reason is because we think of ourselves first and foremost.

It’s important to make sure you focus on yourself before you can focus on others, so you can’t begrudge anyone for that. It’s when you become able to take care of yourself that you should then consider caring not only for the people closest to you but those outside of your circle. Poor comparison, but I try to do volunteer work once or twice a month. Even if the help seems small, the people who need it truly appreciate the time you take out of your life to assist them with their needs.

In the gods lie., the adults for Natsuru and Rio didn’t think about what they were leaving behind — they only thought about themselves. For Natsuru, his new soccer coach has a license unlike his prior coach, but he can’t teach at all. For Rio, what happens with her is a failing that can only work when you’re naive and you have someone that’s incapable of thinking about others. Both of those things drive the story, and manage to leave a pretty unfortunate memory.

It’s weird to dance around a title that’s short. Because of its brevity, spoiling the gods lie.’s hook is a bit much. All I can say is this story about two middle school kids and the secret they hide/reveal is excellent, and will hit you like a ton of bricks as you read on to find out what happens next. Please read this manga if you have yet to check it out.

Official the gods lie. website.