There are some promises that are never kept, and some secrets too dark to share.
Sixth-grader Natsuru Nanao is a relatively recent transplant to his town. He lives with his widowed novelist mother and loves playing soccer until his elderly coach ends up in the hospital. Faced with a new coach he doesn’t like and a life that just isn’t going the way he wants it to, he finds solace in befriending Suzumura Rio, a quiet and solitary girl in his class. The two of them forge a friendship and deeper relationship in their own little world where no adult has the power to hurt them and all lies have the potential to come true.
I bought this manga a few months ago blindly, and it sat on my ever-growing TBR list until this past weekend. I had the pleasure to sit and read this book to its completion and experience the emotional rollercoaster of Natsuru Nanao’s summer vacation along with him. There comes a point when a moment or a person upturns life as you knew it. Lies that are so small to tell, but have immense consequences, or secrets that were never meant to be secrets at all with the burden of carrying them. While that seems heavy, for sixth graders Natsuru and Suzumura it becomes their reality.
The first half of the gods lie. gives you the character insight you need to see that these are indeed sixth-graders acting their age with all their oddities in place, like Natsuru groping his mother, to understanding the reason behind his reason of not going to soccer camp despite his love for the game. It’s what happens after the decision that really weighs in on the story.
When Natsuru decides to skip his soccer camp, he is offered to stay with Suzumura and her younger brother instead of telling his mom in what immediately resembles them playing “house”. The flowers Natsuru notices in front of Suzumura’s home stay prevalent throughout this entire time without him (or the reader) being aware of the grim truth connected to them. After Suzumura’s excitement wanes over her father’s not returning from his, the trio sets out for the town festival where it’s shown more of a character progression between the two. It’s after this wonderfully placed scene that we find the truth about the flowers – what they stand for and who they are for.
Now, I won’t give away what the grim twist is about the flowers, but it’s important to mention here that most of the issues with these children came from the adults in their lives telling the lies to satisfy or bring down a child. Towards the end of the book, Natsuru recalls something his father told him before he dies and says “sometimes the gods lie”, and as Justin from The OASG so eloquently put “The consequences of lies is explicit in a lot of things. One reason is because we think of ourselves first and foremost.”
In Islam, the Muslim community is one body, and if one part of the body hurts, the entire body feels it. You’re also supposed to want for your brother or sister what you want for yourself, and oftentimes that gets skewed and selfishness ends up getting in the way. In Suzumura’s case, the selfishness of her father casted a year-long shadow over her and the lives around her. Even in the case of Natsuru and the avoidance of his soccer camp boils down to the things we say to each other.
As children, the adults in your life have such a huge influence over you so they take the words they say to heart. Kaori Ozaki displays this in the gods lie so softly and subtly that even you start to believe it until the truth is unraveled. If this manga is still sitting in your manga pile, I highly suggest you read it.