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December 29, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Itsuwaribito vol. 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Itsuwaribito
Author: Yuuki Iinuma
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan in Japan, December 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Comedy, action, adventure

When Utsuho was a child, he accidentally revealed all the knowledge of his family’s mansion (layout, amount of people, etc.) to a group of bandits. His honesty and willingness to trust led to the deaths of everyone in the household. As a result, Utsuho swore not to tell the truth ever again. He was taken in by an old monk who managed a small village for orphans and raised there. The monk would constantly tell Utsuho that honesty is the best policy, but Utsuho only continued to lie. He also began to learn, and now makes homemade bombs and poisons. When the village is attacked by a group of itsuwaribito (thieves who have mastered swindling, burgling, and violent theft), Utsuho rushes to save the old monk, but they are betrayed by one of the orphans who turns out to be the leader of the group of bandits. Furious at how they have taken advantage of the monk’s kindness, Utsuho retaliates, but it’s too late. Everyone has been killed and the monk is at death’s door. In an attempt to let the monk pass peacefully, Utsuho lies and tells him that the children are alive and well. Seeing the happy look on the monk’s face as he passes convinces Utsuho of his future path – to use his lies to help others. He gets his first opportunity very soon when he comes across a talking tanuki (a racoon) in the forest, caught in a hunter’s trap. This exceptionally trusting tanuki has been continually caught in traps set up by the hunter, who has been holding the poor creature’s mother hostage. Irritated by the hunter’s manipulations and lies, Utsuho steps in to aid the tanuki when the hunter lures him into trap with the promise to free his mother. After rescuing Pochi (the nickname Utsuho gives the tanuki), Utsuho invites him to travel with him and offers to be his new family. The two set off together to help others and make their family grow. They start by helping a young girl rescue her brother from a group of vicious itsuwaribito, and Utsuho is made to participate in a lying contest to win the boy’s freedom. They then travel to another town where a gang of bandits is holding the town’s ill Lord hostage while they torment the citizens and spend the Lord’s money. A young doctor named Koshiro, a righteous young man whose creed is the exact opposite of Utsuho’s, has vowed to cure the Lord no matter the cost. With his lies and trickery, Utsuho steps up to take the bandits out.

The set up for this one isn’t as solid as I’d like. Sure Utsuho’s honesty and trust led the bandits to an easy victory, but they lied to him first to get the information they needed. I can understand how it would traumatize a child into thinking that honesty only leads to disaster. But I don’t think his conviction is illustrated as strongly as it should be; it feels like there’s a piece missing. Regardless, I enjoyed the book. I laughed out loud quite often; the humor is there and it works. The action is fairly clean, with only a couple confusing panels. The artwork is cute (though you don’t often see a squinty-eyed main character; usually they’re secondary characters), but there are some inconsistencies. Something there on one panel that isn’t there in another. Maybe it was an aesthetic choice, as what specifically bothered me, was the way the netting around Pochi would disappear throughout a series of panels; it’s possible this was done so you could see the little guy in close ups, but a cut-away would have been better if that were the case, instead of the netting vanishing altogether. And speaking of Pochi…the little guy is adorable. Most of the laughs in the book are a result of something Pochi says or does (like the way his little paws clap when Utsuho does something he finds amazing). Hopefully Utsuho will grow more complex through the series so it’s not just a story about some mischievous kid and his cute little mascot. Right now he’s pretty simple, other than his desire to believe that there’s a difference between good lies and bad lies, and his decision to use his lies to help those who can’t help themselves (or find real help; he specifically says he’s looking out for people who can’t simply be helped by the police or other authority figures). It’s the beginning of what could be a grand, entertaining adventure, if it’s handled well.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



  1. Jade

    It sounds like the missing puzzle piece isn’t so much that the hero doesn’t have enough motivation to be a liar, it sounds like he doesn’t bother at all to justify it to himself. It’s a thoughtless knee-jerk response to getting screwed over. A real Master of Lies is going to figure out exactly why lying is superior to telling the truth, ideologically. I can think of a few different ways you could do that. Saying his lies are better than the enemies because his motivations are pure is just dumb; they think their motivations are just as pure in the grand scheme of things. If he’s the best liar in the land, I’d expect his lies to function on a bit more logic, especially when he’s lying to himself.

    Philosophically, it just doesn’t work, like you pointed out with the bandits having lied in the first place. With a main concept that broken, it makes sense that the rest of the pieces don’t work so well either. It sounds like a fun book, but doesn’t sound well thought-out at all.

  2. Kristin

    Yeah, something was broken somewhere, but I was having a hard time pinning it down (and sort of rushed through it anyway).
    The monk says at one point that he only nagged on Utsuho not to tell lies, and no one else, because he wanted Utsuho to know that it wasn’t his fault that his household was destroyed. In the end, Utsuho decides to use his lies to help the people the monk wasn’t able to.
    But like you said…his reason for the lies is a little off, and I have a hard time just writing it off as childhood trauma. And his lies are very simple. “Hey, there’s poison in that. Nah, just kidding I was lying. Nah, just lying about the lying.” And most of his “lies” follow a similar pattern. It’s cute and silly, but not particularly intelligent, like it could be.

  3. Jade

    Haha, yeah, I suppose you don’t want to be too persuasive about lying being awesome in a young end shonen book, but why even try if you can’t do it well? It’s like that Rambo cartoon; if he’s not killing the living shit out of the landscape, it’s not Rambo. Why would they even try?

    Wait a second! They must have stolen that poison scene from Princess Bride and made a concious effort to turn it into something stupid! That scene probably inspired the whole series and they pooped all over it!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba, Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New #manga review: Itsuwaribito vol 1 from @Viz_Media https://comicattack.net/2010/12/bblitsuwaribito1/ […]

  5. […] Anyone (Slightly Biased Manga) Brent Newhall on vols. 1-3 of Imadoki! (Otaku, No Video) Kristin on vol. 1 of Itsuwaribito (Comic Attack) Brenda Gregson on vol. 6 of Kimi Ni Todoke: From Me To You (Animanga Nation) […]

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