Itsuwaribito 5

April 25, 2012

Yuuki Iinuma – Viz – 2012 – 13+ volumes

I think I’ve mentioned before, the absolute best thing about this series is the way that Utsuho fights. I’m still not bored of the way he tricks and lies his way through the trials presented. He’s a great character. But it’s a small part of each volume, and I’m growing increasingly impatient with the rest of what’s going on.

This volume continues the storyline from last time, where there is a band of murderers roaming through a town of fireworks makers. The murderers are captured, and claim they began their spree because the town hated them and burned their shop down. So then the problem is, who burned their shop down in the first place?

This story… was only okay. The problem with the fun part of this series, Utsuho’s lying, is that it takes a long time to gather the facts and set the stage for him. So there are a lot of in-between parts, and that’s a shame. Utsuho isn’t even really part of the solution for half of the problem here, the townspeople do that with fireworks.

The second half of the volume, a kind of legend about a man that built a utopia and was disillusioned by an Itsuwaribito, is much more interesting. Utsuho doubts the legend at first, but they find some pretty spectacular evidence in its favor. So spectacular, in fact, that we get to see Utsuho’s eyes. He is shocked. Once that’s out of the way, they trace the history of the story to a town with a large library, only to find out an eccentric millionaire might have the only records left. So they go to the town where the millionaire lives. His estate is guarded by spectacular killer dolls that are so powerful that it’s not worth it to engage them in combat. Utsuho hopes to gain access to the library in the main house, and gains another ally in the process that is looking to shut down whatever power source controls the terrible robots. That power source is all kinds of disturbing, but how they deal with that is a story for the next volume.

Okay, you know, when I was talking about being tired of the series, I was thinking of that fireworks town story. But the framing device of the legend in the second half has given Utsuho’s group purpose, and the fact that it led them to an estate of nightmarish killer dolls is a promising start to this portion of the story. I could go for more of this. Perhaps it was just purpose to the story I was missing. I hope that the number of allies that are now traveling has stabilized (I’m hoping that the fireworks town story was necessary to introduce the last), and I’m really looking forward to how this legend will affect the town that the main characters are looking to build. I’m interested again!

Itsuwaribito 4

November 10, 2011

Yuuki Inuma – Viz – 2011 – 9+ volumes

I’m still quite fond of this series, and I’m glad that this volume got back to what the story does best, Utsuho getting the better of random bad guys while on the road, instead of the plot about the Itsuwaribito island. In this volume, Utsuho goes up against a magician, so it’s a battle of illusions versus lies. The magician looks down on Utsuho, which, after four volumes, we know is never good for anybody.

Utsuho and company come across a cult, and the group is nearly killed when Utsuho calls the leader out on his obvious tricks that are being interpreted as “miracles.” The good guys think to just leave it alone, but when they find out that the cult is scamming people out of money, they decide to unmask the leader. Utsuho takes things one step further and tells the members of the cult to make their own “miracles:” find their own jobs, get their own wives, and make their own money. But the leader is the real problem. Is he just a man that wants to help people with the power of positive thinking, and is being manipulated by one of his top members, or is the top member being manipulated by the leader?

Either way, Utsuho has a battle of wits with the magician and professional fraudster behind the cult. The fights in this series are a touch cerebral, in that the characters have to talk their way in and around their tricks. I still love that Utsuho can build lies upon lies in order to mask his intents in a fight, and that his opponent is a magician makes things that much better in this volume.

One thing I’m a little unsure of is the budding romance element. Utsuho seems oblivious to the fact that Neya is falling in love with him. This isn’t a major plot point, and I hope it doesn’t develop further. Neya isn’t a very developed or fleshed-out character. In fact, that’s probably one of the series’ weaknesses. Utsuho is a show-stealer, so his traveling companions Neya and Yakuma only ever get to act as foils, the worst kind of shounen manga “friend” to have in your party. At least the party numbers aren’t increasing as of yet.

Again, I have to admit to a recent fondness for most of Shounen Sunday’s shounen action titles, and Itsuwaribito is one of the series that made me realize my love for them. It’s a solid read, with a crafty main character and interesting fights. The side characters are very weak, and I have to admit the plot isn’t really moving anywhere very fast, but it’s enough for me to watch Utsuho at work, and I think it’s a great series for any shounen manga fan.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Itsuwaribito 3

September 25, 2011

Yuuki Iinuma – Viz – 2011 – 9+ volumes

I do like slightly crazy Shounen Sunday series, and this is a good one. A little understated, it’s the kind of series that doesn’t do anything well enough to make disciples out of its readers, but it’s still a well-written story with fun characters, and I’ve enjoyed every volume of it so far. It reminds me a lot of Law of Ueki in that, but the difference is that I’m a huge fan of Law of Ueki, and you should be reading that right now instead of this sentence.

But anyway, back to Itsuwaribito. This volume starts off on the island of outcast Itsuwaribito criminals, who are being terrorized by a criminal. Utsuho and the criminal match wits, have a shounen manga moment where they see eye-to-eye and heroic things are done… it works because Utsuho’s such a fun and completely unpredictable character. I love the fact that you really can’t see what’s coming next, because Utsuho may be lying, he may commit a crime for the greater good, or he may just do the right thing. Who knows? He always seems to, but sometimes he takes a roundabout way of getting there.

I just couldn’t get into the itsuwaribito island story, though. There’s a second part to it after the criminal is defeated where Neya inevitably joins Utsuho’s traveling party, and I liked that better than the confrontation with the criminal, but rather than the involved plot here, I enjoyed the simple bad-guy confrontations that Utsuho was dealing with earlier. This series is best when it’s just Utsuho outsmarting bad guys in increasingly elaborate bluffs. It’s great at that, and that’s the reason it’s worth reading. It goes back to this formula in the second half of the book, and improves upon it, much to my pleasure.

First, Utsuho and company confront a man who has swindled an entire village out of their money and property. The downside to this story is that how this man did the swindling is never explained, and it’s a little hard to believe he took the entire village for a ride. Hmm. In any case, in true Utsuho style, he sides first with the man, then with the village, though in this story it’s not hard to see who Utsuho is trying to help. Seeing him do it is the fun part, though.

Later, he helps a young man win the lady of his dreams. You’d have to read this one. It’s another great con, though. So selfless, Utsuho! That his personality goes completely against his chivalrous nature is also wonderful.

It’s worth reading! Pick it up and give it a try if you’re a fan of shounen. So far, it’s got a fairly simple premise that isn’t bogged down in a lot of terminology, items, flashy gear, legends, and whatnot. It’s just a boy and his lies, and I like it quite a bit for that.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Itsuwaribito 2

May 2, 2011

Yuuki Iinuma – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

This series is aiming to please me. Its violence and morals far surpass anything you’d find in the average shounen series, but the artwork, types of characters, mascots, and much of the story resembles the genre essentials.

Within the first few pages of this volume, a corpse-looking individual corners a man, accuses him of being a liar, then kills him with an arrow. The arrow is shot into his mouth and exits through the back of his head and sticks into a tree behind the man. His tongue is pinned to the tree with the arrow, having been skewered, torn out, and driven through his head with the arrow as it went through and through. The corpse man took out his tongue because he was a liar, you see.

This sounds way more gory than it actually is (there’s very little blood), but this approaches Berserk levels of demented violence. Later, we find out that the corpse man keeps a pit of corpses whose tongues he’s removed, and that his face was torn off when he tried to escape from a well as a kid. There’s all sorts of wrong with this story. I really should emphasize it’s not really that gory, but it’s the idea of what’s going on that really impressed me. It’s the type of cartoon violence that is completely cool with most parents because it’s so far removed from reality, so it can go as crazy as it wants.

Anyway. After a one-chapter resolution to the story at the end of the last volume, we find out that the doctor, Yakuma, is probably along for the ride as his path crosses with Utsuho and Pochi and the three wind up traveling together briefly. Yakuma doesn’t trust Utsuho, a liar and self-proclaimed Itsuwaribito (professional liar), but his mistrust lands him in a situation with the aforementioned corpse-man, who stops everyone who passes through his neck of the woods and accuses them of being a liar. Yakuma is forced to trust Utsuho to do the right thing as Utsuho matches wits with the extremely violent corpse-man while Yakuma is impaled on a bed of spikes.

While so much of what’s going on is absolutely standard shounen fare (everything aside from the radical violence and the fact that the hero’s profession is lying, a surprisingly dark vocation for any hero), these first two volumes are worth reading for these Utsuho fights alone. They aren’t physical battles, more of a match-up of wits as Utsuho alternately lies and tells the truth about various small traps he sets. Seeing him work his silver tongue is something to behold, and I was sad to see that the second story arc in this volume stretches out a little longer, putting off the satisfying climax ’til volume three.

That’s not to say that Utsuho isn’t putting his lying skills to work throughout the second story in this volume. Yakuma and Utsuho decide to travel to a mythical island where society banishes convicted criminals and Itsuwaribito, an island that is also rumored to contain a medicine that makes men immortal. Once there, Utsuho crosses paths with many fine liars, but the story’s just getting warmed up, and it looks like most of the payoff will be in the next volume.

I really like what I’ve read so far, and the unique elements make this a worthwhile read. I’m not 100% sold on the entire series (however long that may eventually be), but I do want to read for another 3-4 volumes to see where it goes, and if it keeps improving, I’ll likely be in for the long haul.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Itsuwaribito 1

December 6, 2010

Yuuki Iinuma – Viz – 2010 – 7+ volumes

Oh man, was I ever wrong about my initial impression on this. It looked like a pretty standard Shounen Sunday series, crafty hero tricks people through “lies,” has some sad backstory that causes him to do so.

We are treated to the sad backstory right off the bat (in multiple layers, both sad child and sad teen), but what is interesting is the disturbing moral ambiguity this series portrays. The main character, Utsuho, really is a liar, and does things like throw bombs at bandits, poisons bad people, and a multitude of other things a shounen hero really shouldn’t do, but the bad guys really did deserve it, in a “they slaughtered a village full of orphans” way. He’s a liar, and is on the path to becoming one of the dreaded Itsuwaribito (a person who can lie and steal through all known methods of deception), but he wants to tell “good” lies, and save 1,000 people in place of his mentor when the “truth” can’t.

Since I’ve been reading about One Piece all week, the parallel was inevitably drawn to Luffy since Utsuho is setting out to become what is nominally a bad guy, but is going to do good with the name instead. The similarities pretty much stop there, since Utsuho is really clever and knows how to bluff, double bluff, and bluff again.

Aside from the disturbing lengths the hero goes through to stop people, what’s probably more disturbing are the absolutely ruthless villains he’s doing these things to. One of them snaps the legs of a small, trusting baby animal. Others behead people left and right, and try to behead Utsuho when he sits down to an “honest” match. Others trick old men into thinking they’re well by treating him with opium. Just… wow. They are some bad people. And this is only the first volume! I’m a little worried the author is going to be forced to dial it down before too long, or run out of ruthless actions for the villains to perform.

Utsuho always gets out ahead, though. He is devilishly clever, and good at inventing his own weapons and methods of attacks, too. The story is fun to read because it’s hard to predict what he’ll do next. He doesn’t really get into fights in the traditional sense. The situations between Utsuho and the villains are usually that the villains have weapons and Utsuho fights… well, with a rock, or his index finger, or simple capsules he pulls out of his belt. At one point, he deflects some arrows with his obi, and that’s pretty cool. He’s also got a little bit of an evil streak to him, and while he’s doing the right thing 90% of the time, part of you always wonders if he’s going to snap and do something crazy. He could. He’s the type.

It’s got a super-traditional shounen flavor to it so far, and the sad backstory reeks of cliche, but the weird black tone and the clever main character will have me coming back for more.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.