A review of the first volume & first impressions
Wow! Talk about an amazing license. I still can't believe we got this series. Usotoki Rhetoric by Ritsu Miyako is a 10-volume historical mystery series with some supernatural themes. The series has long been completed in Japan. It ran in Bessatsu Hana to Yume magazine from 2012-2018. No anime adaptation. No live-action adaptation. I don't know how we got this license especially since it's a mystery-themed shoujo, and the US market isn't kind to mystery-themed manga, especially non-actiony shoujo as I pointed out in my Something's Wrong With Us review. Another big surprise is that a small publisher snagged this license.
Located in New York, One Peace Books is the "brainchild" of Japanese publisher Sanctuary Books and was founded in 2006 to translate and publish Japanese entertainment and literature. One Peace Books' claim to fame is publishing The Rising of the Shield Hero and I Hear the Sunspot. Per their website, The Rising of the Shield Hero has sold over 1 million copies in the US alone and over 11 million copies worldwide, and I Hear the Sunspot was nominated a Best Graphic Novel for Teens by the American Library Association. I've heard of both series, and I Hear the Sunspot gets high praise from the BL reading manga community as a severely underrated title, but I haven't really taken an interest in those series as well as anything else the company has published until now.
The story: a young girl, who hears lies, becomes an assistant to a smart but poor detective. The manga is set in a small town in 1926. The first chapter serves as a great hook and introduction to the series. The chapter introduces us to our lead female and male heroes, gives us a brief look into the detective's skill, and sets the tone for the series. Our lead heroine is Kanako Urabe, a 16-year-old girl who's left her hometown to start anew elsewhere. Kanako and her family have been ostracized because of her gift (or curse) of hearing lies. When she enters the new town of Tsukumoya, she has trouble finding a new job.
Resigning herself to sleep at a rundown shrine, she runs into our male lead and detective Soma Iwai and his police officer friend. With the promise of better digs for the night and a new job as a nanny for tomorrow, Kanako follows the pair back to a family restaurant, where she encounters a young boy lying to his family, and unbeknownst to her, the first case as the detective's assistant. The case ends well, but Soma doesn't get paid, and the new nanny job that Kanako was promised falls through. It's then that Soma hires her as his assistant. The rest of the volume unfolds episodically with one new case in each chapter. The cases are very light. No murder (just attempted murder), blood, or gore thus far. It's not a very violent manga. The volume ends cleanly. No cliffhangers, thank goodness!
Kanako is an earnest, honest, and hardworking protagonist whereas Soma is brilliant but carefree. Like Kanako, he's also an honest person. (Soma reminds me of Yato from Noragami: Stray God.) The two work well together, and I love that Soma immediately tests Kanako's ability to perceive lies, which is something she never thought of before. So, not only does Kanako know the true strengths and weaknesses of her power but so does the audience. Seeing them work together brings me to the elephant in the room. Is this a romance? No. If you're looking for a romance between the leads, you'll be sorely disappointed. Likewise, if you're hoping for more supernatural things to happen, you will also be disappointed. This is "purely" a historical mystery.
A brief word about the translation and book itself—First, it's interesting to note that there is no rating on the back of this book. I'm used to seeing a rating somewhere. I'm no rating expert, but I think it's mild enough for young teens to read, so like 12+? Another thing to note is that One Peace Books gives the family name first and the given name second like they do in Japanese, which threw me for a loop. Most companies flip the names for an American/Western audience. Also, the manga is slightly taller and wider than regular-sized manga from VIZ. Lastly, the digital edition is roughly the same price as the print edition so $10.95. Like Kodansha, digital books from One Peace Books are higher than average. Additionally, One Peace Books aren't stocked everywhere. You can find them in-store via Barnes & Noble and online via Amazon, IndieBound, and RightStuf Anime. Just a heads up.
In summary, if you're looking for a cute historical mystery and CHILL series, check out Usotoki Rhetoric. If you're looking for a 1930s historical mystery with some romance, check out My Dear Detective: Mitsuko's Case Files by Natsumi Ito. Likewise, there's Madame Petit by Takao Shigeru, which, coincidentally, ran in the same magazine at the same time as Usotoki Rhetoric. Madame Petit is still unlicensed in English, but it's on my wish list (and now, hopefully, yours too!).
You can check out Usotoki Rhetoric via One Peace Books' website here.