BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Itsuwaribito (vol. 1) by Yuuki Iinuma

ItsuwaribitoLiving in the “Village of Orphans,” Utsuho is constantly in trouble. He doesn’t do his chores, he disappears when needed, but worst of all, he lies. “Lying is the worst thing … a person can do,” the head monk Gramps admonishes him over and over again. And yet Utsuho knows otherwise … the last time a trusting young Utsuho told the truth to strangers, that trust caused the tragic death of his entire family.

Now that he’s older, he’s got a life plan picked out: “sneaking, tricking, beating, stealing … someone who has perfected all of these … is called an Itsuwaribito.” But in keeping with his contrary nature, Utsuho’s plan comes with a twist: he’s “going to tell good lies. And save people.” With a promise to Gramps on his deathbed, Utsuho vows, “with my lies, I’m going to save a hundred … or a thousand people in place of Gramps.”

He journeys forward, determined to lie himself to goodness, assisted by a talking tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog) he names Pochi. The pair have no end of rescues and good deeds along their path. Utsuho will stop at nothing, including literally baring his insides (!), to do the right thing, even if he’s not always to be trusted …

In spite of some rollicking fun, given its visual accomplishments – the stark illustrations are at times too-convincingly gory – this new series (which debuts today) is definitely not for young readers. Utsuho’s personal quest adds deeper layers of gray between the black and white distinctions of truth and falsity, which will require a slightly more mature audience to appreciate. The series’ premise is certainly striking … using evil for good. How the adventures play out in future installments will definitely be something to watch closely.

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2010 (United States)
ITSUWARIBITO © Iinuma Yuuki
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.

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