Having moved past the initial set-up, we’re now into Volume 3 of Usotoki Rhetoric. At this point, readers have a good idea of Kanoko and Souma’s personalities as well as the kind of problems they get themselves into on a daily basis. What awaits them in this third instalment? Let’s find out!
As we rejoin our protagonists we find them on a train headed to what Kanoko thinks is a new case. In truth, Souma is fleeing the town after realising he can’t afford this month’s rent! But as we know, trouble always finds these two and it’s not long before Souma notices a suspicious individual among the passengers who seems to be stealing luggage…
After solving that incident, the two are noticed by fellow passenger Miyabi Hanasaki, who is the sister of Kaoru Hanasaki (Souma’s childhood friend and the police detective often helping him). Hearing about Souma’s trouble paying rent, Miyabi offers to pay it for him, provided he and Kanoko help her out on the case she’s gathering information about for the occult magazine Spirit Hunt.
Miyabi is on her way to learn more about the Doll Murder Incident where a month ago a young girl called Ine was found dead hugging a doll – but witnesses say that before she died, she was heard claiming to have killed a doll. Ine worked as a servant for the Ayao Residence, otherwise known as the Doll House because the family ‘raise dolls’ as a prayer to help sickly girls grow up healthy. Every day the dolls are dressed in a new kimono and served the same food as the rest of the family.
After the death of her parents two years ago, Shinako (thought to only be 17-18 years old) has become the head of the household. Rumours circulate about Shinako (who looks as pretty as a doll) and strange events at the residency, such as voices being heard when no one but the dolls are in a room and that their food mysteriously vanishes. Even in this case, Ine thought that rats had been stealing the food left out for the prayer and decided to put rat poison in it. Afterwards, she found a doll lying on its side with foam around its mouth as though it really had been poisoned, leading her to panic that she had killed it. Was an inanimate object killed or is there something else going on here? Together our three main characters must attempt to get to the bottom of a mystery far bigger than they could have ever imagined.
Author Ritsu Miyako talks about how up until now Usotoki Rhetoric has followed a ‘monster of the week’ kind of structure, with short chapters focused on a single case. But this time we spend the whole volume with this single storyline, which is quite a drastic change to what we’re used to but one that works for the better in my opinion. Not least because there’s a lot of depth to this mystery, but also because we have the new character Miyabi to get acquainted with.
Just like Kaoru, Miyabi’s the perfect middleman between Souma and Kanoko, helping the two communicate with each other when one or both are otherwise anxious or unable to put their thoughts together properly. She may not be a detective herself, but that means her view and sensibilities differ from the others and that change in perspective is often the breakthrough they need.
This storyline also builds on the set-up from Volume 2 with Kanako being forced to think about why people lie and when lies are acceptable. Not all lies are bad and being able to figure out which is which is going to be important for her going forward if she wants to continue investigating cases with Souma. She’s grown a lot of independence compared to when we first met her in Volume 1 too and it’s interesting to see how her relationship with Souma has been changing because of it. I originally became interested in Usotoki Rhetoric because of the mystery element, but as time has gone on, I find myself very invested in seeing Kanako’s story through to the end as well.
Usotoki Rhetoric Volume 3 comes to the West thanks to One Peace Books and continues to be translated by Molly Rabbit. The translation reads well, although I confess I found myself a bit confused when Miyabi is introduced as it has been translated as family name first, given name second. It makes sense given the setting, but I’m used to those being swapped around for an English translation to first name then family name, so that momentarily threw me off This is consistent with previous volumes, so it’s not an issue it’s just that until now we’ve mostly learnt character names through more informal exchanges using first names, as opposed to someone introducing themselves in this way.
One Peace Books has Volume 4 scheduled for an English release at the end of September, but #5 isn’t out until January 2024 and then there’s nothing further in the schedule so we will have quite a large gap between these going forward, unfortunately. Hopefully, the publisher will be finishing the series…
Overall, Usotoki Rhetoric Volume 3 changes tactics as it introduces a volume-long mystery for Kanako and Souma to investigate. It’s always risky to change the structure of a series when it has been working so well, but author Ritsu Miyako pulls it off wonderfully and provides us with another engaging read.
Our review copy from One Peace Books was supplied by Turnaround Comics (Turnaround Publisher Services).