Usotoki Rhetoric Volume 1 is the first tankōbon in Ritsu Miyako’s historical mystery manga series. Usotoki Rhetoric was published in Bessatsu Hana to Yume from June 26, 2012 to March 26, 2018.
By the first year of the Showa era, Urabe Kanoko’s unique ability has secured for her a place in her hometown … as a pariah. Hoping to find a community where she might fit in, Kanako leaves her home for Tsukumoya, a town where nobody knows her, and she might hope to conceal her dreadful secret.
Kanako is a living lie detector. Utter a known-to-be-false statement in her hearing, and she will infallibly know it is a lie.
Kanako finds the obscurity she craves but, alas, not employment. A slow death by starvation seems to be her fate. Chance intervenes. Iwai Soma and his pal Hanasaki Kaoru stumble over Kanako as she is losing a fight over a sardine with a cat. The men take pity on her. Her life is saved.
Soma is a detective. Kaoru is a policeman. While the state pays Kaoru’s wage, Soma is dependent on the local demand for detective services to pay his bills. Alas, very few people in Tsukumoya need a detective. Soma is almost as destitute as Kanako, relying on his charm to fend off his army of creditors.
It does not take the observant Soma long to notice Kanako’s ability. Her knack could be profitable. If the right case were to come along (as unlikely as that may seem), the pair might pick up some badly needed yen.
A missing boy might be an opportunity. Can the pair act quickly enough to save the missing child?
This book is set in 1924. Let’s focus on the stories in hand and not the conflict due to begin in nine years.
The art in this is unremarkable but sufficient unto need.
While Kaoru might regard Soma as a bit of a sponger, the relationship between Soma and Kanako is commensal rather than parasitic. Not only does Soma provide Kanako with lodgings, but his skill set compliments hers. For one thing, he is far more observant and more adept at blatant lying than the teen. For another, it’s Soma and not Kanako who discovers through experimentation the limits of Kanako’s gift, that she is a lie detector and not a falsehood detector1.
Given that the plot involves social ostracization, near-starvation, theft (attempted and otherwise), two kidnappings, attempted murder, and an actual murder, the manga is surprisingly laid-back. Violence occurs off-screen. Thus far the one dead victim is a person the reader only encounters as a corpse. On stage, the narrative focuses on Soma’s audacity, the outrage he provokes, and witty banter between the characters. It is all good-natured fun, except perhaps from the viewpoint of the kidnap victims and the corpse.
Volume One does what a Volume One should do; introduce the characters, cover an intriguing plot or two, and provide the reader with motivation to continue reading the series. I am curious to see how Volume Two builds on this.
I was not able to find Usotoki Rhetoric Volume 1 at Apple Books in the limited amount of time I was willing to spend trying to compensate for their lack of a functional search option.
1: She can only tell when people are saying things they believe to be false. To steal an example from the manga, if someone were to make a prediction about the next day’s weather, she cannot tell if the prediction will be correct or not. If, however, someone were to make a prediction about the weather that they believe is wrong, she will know.
It’s not clear if this is an innate ability or something that could be taught.