Wow, I’m already getting ahead of myself. Let’s see… Ookami Shounen wa Kyou mo Uso o Kasaneru (狼少年は今日も嘘を重ねる, The boy who cried wolf tells a lie today also) is a romance series from namo (yeah, just namo, no moonrunes) that, at the time of this writing, I very much hesitate to recommend. Is it a bad series? No, but it easily could be. I am having faith that it will go in the direction I suspect it’s going, rather than the direction that is common to anime and manga. That is to say: this is a love triangle manga where the second heroine is leaps, bounds, and miles better than the main heroine (the “first girl”). She is the best “best girl” I’ve ever had the pleasure of discovering.
So, sit down with me here and let’s be real for a second: this is extremely common. Okay, not exactly — it isn’t often a heroine aside from the main heroine is this much better, but it’s usually the case that other heroines (or heroes, if the protagonist is a girl/into that) in manga have more compelling writing to them, aren’t as generic, and present a more exciting or believable option for the MC (main character) to go for. Although that is the case, it rarely comes to pass, and it’s rarely so noticeable that it practically becomes a series’ selling point. I can count two manga aside from Ookami Shounen that had drastically more interesting secondary love interests: The World God Only Knows and Kagami no Kuni no Harisugawa. Kagami no Kuni is terrible: don’t read it. Don’t do it, man. TWGOK was once upon a time my favorite manga series, but the final arc was abysmal — genuinely abysmal, which is shocking because the arc previous to it was the best in the series but — okay, okay, rein it in… TWGOK didn’t actually have a character you could call a “main heroine” — that was the whole point of it, so it was actually really impressive for that. I won’t say how the series ends (just that I saw it coming for years, HELL YEAH), but it leads to a way that could feel like “anything could happen, but if you were paying attention this ending was the only one that made sense”. So now that I’ve said that: know that it is almost a guarantee that the secondary heroines you begin to root for will “lose” the quintessential “bowl” for the MC’s heart, and be subsequently left in sorrow or worse — paired off lazily with characters that don’t make sense.
So we have Ookami Shounen. Not since TWGOK/Kaminomi have I felt so confident that a series is going the way I want it to in terms of romance and themes, is doing it well, and makes complete and total sense. But, just like with TWGOK, I am not certain what I desire will come to pass. So, when I recommend this to you, you need to know this: it is either going to make you very happy by the ending, or completely fucking pissed off. There will be no middle ground, this shit is all or nothing. Understand? Okay.
Alright, Ookami Shounen wa Kyou mo Uso o Kasaneru has a few things about it you need to know before going in aside from my ranting about shipping and coupling. Firstly, Ookami Shounen features crossdressing from the main character: rather egregious crossdressing that you need to suspend your disbelief for. That said, it’s not a gender bender. The protagonist is a guy and that’s all there is to it: he doesn’t consider himself the opposite sex/have gender identity concerns. The series is not actually about those kinds of things, and the crossdressing is just an element of the manga. So, if you were worried about that, it’s not a theme here, and if you wanted that, sorry. After that, aside from being a romance this is also a slice of life/comedy manga that is mostly lighhearted instead of dramatic. Lastly, if you are going to read this, be aware that it really gets good in the second volume, and that the first volume is not particularly noteworthy. Now then, let’s actually talk about this thing instead of just around it.
The premise is pretty easy. Itsuki Keitarou is a second year middle school(?) (yes, author confirmed it’s middle school) student who has a naturally mean-looking face, even though he’s a decent guy. One day he falls in love with a girl named Tokujira Aoi who reads in the library every day silently (he’s a library committee member). The reasons he falls for her are 1) she’s extremely beautiful and 2) she actually looks at him like it’s whatever (and he also saw her crying a bit while reading once and put a lot of significance into that moment). Looking at him as if he’s normal means a lot to him, since most people run from him scared just because they saw his face. So, on this thin basis, he goes and confesses. It goes poorly.
At home he explains what happened to his older sister, and she justifiably tears him down for getting the wrong idea and being needlessly beaten up over it. He mentions that things would probably be different if he didn’t have a natural scowl and glare, and falls asleep.
…But he only fell asleep because his sister spiked his drink and he wakes up looking like this.
No need to harp on it: this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You just have to roll with this or give up on it. Especially the eyes. I do think it wouldn’t have hurt to make the
“transformation” via crossdressing more believable by giving Itsuki a more girlish face, but I managed to suspend my disbelief so whatevs. By the way, wondering about the much larger irises/pupils? Contacts.
Anyway, his sister did this because Itsuki wanted to change. This may not be how he wanted to change, but his sister is kind of a troll and loves teasing him so that’s that. She sends him of to walk out in town and see what it’s like. From here on, he starts developing character a bit since everyone treats him like a normal person while crossdressing, so his mental wounds begin to heal just from this experience. He also ends up coming across Tokujira again, who kinda gets in a mess because she whacked a guy with her bag, and that guy moves to deck her. Itsuki comes to in the nick of time to tank the hit, then escapes with Tokujira in tow.
Struck by this girl’s manly presence, Tokujira decides to reveal a few things.
Firstly, she suffers from one of the more irritating traits for a love interest to have: androphobia (“fear of men”, its equally bad partner being “gynophobia” or “fear of women”). She can’t look men truly in the eyes (to her, they look like scary faceless dudes), shrinks away from them, finds them abhorrent, and gets an awful sensation from touching them. I am not saying that fear of the opposite sex is unrealistic, I’m just saying it’s a very annoying thing to see in fiction. Tokujira does earn some browny points quickly, though: she is fully aware that her fear is unjustified, and she wants to get over it. She thus requests that this heroic stranger become her partner. That is to say, as she is so masculine, Tokujira hopes that interacting with the girl (named “Itsuki”) will help her get over her fear of men. She’s fed up of steering clear of them and treating them awfully, even regretting that she hurt someone earlier (actually Keitarou, though she doesn’t know his face). Itsuki accepts the proposal to help train Tokujira to become more used to men. To do so, he decides he will crossdress in order to get closer to her. He vaguely hopes that after all the lies he’s engaging in so that he can learn more about her and hopefully find a way to make her fall for him, a good ending will be in store. There, that’s the premise. It’s really nothing new. Itsuki Keitarou is the titular “boy who cried wolf”, and it will likely come to bite him in the ass down the line. Meanwhile, he and Tokujira will try to grow as people and get over their complexes. They’ll become friends, get more self-assured: all that stuff.
As a premise, I’ll be honest: this really didn’t do anything for me, and most chapters in the first volume didn’t really change my tune. I thought “well, Itsuki’s crush on Tokujira is pretty flimsy and he’s kind of a baka” and over time I thought “these two don’t really have much in common”. Tokujira was also, as a heroine, just…not that interesting. I still picked it up, though. I specifically started reading it early, while volume 1 was still being translated. The scanlation group that’s picked up the series, Hachimitsu Scans, focuses on and has translated a ton of manga that feature crossdressing, gender bending, and homosexual romance (not explicit yaoi, really) which I like to read about for some reason (for instance, they translated Reversible!, Bokura no Hentai, and Himitsu no Akuma-chan), and Ookami Shounen was a new one. So I was like “Hell, I’ll read this”, and it was decent so I stayed with it.
But honestly, it wasn’t really winning me over. Like this character: “the overprotective and thus possibly gay best friend who is a total relationship blocker”. This is Kurashiki Botan, and when she was introduced I instantly disliked her. This is another kind of character that’s just bad news. Typically a highly aggravating girl who just gets in the way and isn’t even funny. Speaking of funny, in retrospect it’s funny I thought that.
Botan is the best friend of Tokujira (who she calls “Ah-chan”). She’s a kouhai (junior) to her senpai (seniors) Itsuki and Tokujira by one year. At first, she really just seems to embody the stereotype of the protective female friend interloper and that’s pretty much it. Volume 1 ends with nothing much to her, and about a year later (yes, a full year, when the next volume released) I continued to read it, thinking I might drop this or something.
But volume 2 changed everything.
During one of their (friendly) dates, Itsuki is brought to a small used bookstore that Tokujira thinks will have some books Itsuki will like. It turns out to be Botan’s home, and her family’s store.
At this point, Botan starts earning points like nobody’s business.
We learn that Botan’s pretty multi-faceted: she’s on the track and field club, but also the library committee (along with Itsuki), and she likes reading (later, we learn she especially likes American comics). She’s the one in charge of her family’s bookstore displays, which Itsuki naturally complimented.
And what’s really important about this bit is that we learn Tokujira actually fell in love with books because of Botan’s influence.
Botan proceeds to become more and more likable with each subsequent appearance. She is a strong-willed, extremely good-natured person who really was just being protective of Tokujira because the girl kinda needed protecting, and after Itsuki vouches for…himself (while crossdressing, he explains to her that Keitarou isn’t a stalker), she lets off of him, later apologizes, but still remains justifiably suspicious (and not in a “running gag” sense; she’s really just not positive she can trust him or Itsuki (“girl”) because their methods to help Tokujira might be a little too much at times).
Over time, Itsuki interacts with Botan more while not crossdressing and we get more of an impression of her character. She’s blunt as Hell, but also mischievous and cute. She’s got extremely charming likes and interests (tomboyish and girlish), and her expressions are hilarious. She is highly responsible, open-minded, and doesn’t flip out due to accident as heroines are wont to do almost 100% of the time (she just lets it roll off her back, basically). And even better, it was becoming clear that although she wasn’t really aware of it (SO CUTE), she was developing a crush on her senpai, Itsuki, who actually turned out to be a decent dude who was into what she was into and had great chemistry with her. After finishing chapter 11, I realized with dread, “Oh shit, Botan is best girl”.
“This is bad,” I thought, “not again; it’s happening again.” But she wouldn’t stop, she just got better and better. Into the latest chapters, the raws, she is still becoming more likable. She is an immensely cute girl with a great personality and a wonderful heart, not 100% kind but not an awful grouch either, just…reasonable (and I so value reason). Volume 2 eventually got fully translated, I stopped, and I reread everything. I was now in a trap, having become invested in the series, and my only means of solace would be finding out if Botan even had a snowball’s chance in Hell of victory. I would not be able to stomach this if she ended up heartbroken in the end.
So let’s get back to Tokujira. I examined closely her scenes and considered the overall plot with detail. Tokujira hates men. Over time, it also seems like she might, might prefer women. She isn’t sure though. For instance, she says she wants to try falling in love at least once, and she doesn’t mean “with a girl” when she says that. She’s got first volume cover, first girl, and “MC’s first love” buffs applied to her that give her high Resistance to loss, with great bonuses toward victory. However, her problems with men in combination with her feelings about women make me not see much of a future for heterosexual romance for her. Her character arc is also mostly about becoming a stronger person, but not about romance. Itsuki finds more things he likes about her, but she has no reason to fall for “him”. Furthermore, her relationship with Itsuki is built on lies. When it falls, it won’t be good, and I can’t really see how they can recover from it into a romantic relationship. And this brings us back to Botan.
When it comes to Tokujira’s conflicts you can’t ignore Botan. Not only is she her best friend, Botan was integral to Tokujira’s development as a person. Tokujira doesn’t have any friends aside from her, but it was thanks to her that she was even ever able to open up at all. Between the two of them, Botan is also the more confident and mentally tough character. I suspect, and I’m not sure about this (THEORY TIME) that if and when things go south because Itsuki’s crossdressing secret has been exposed, the person who will be key to mending the resulting broken relationships will be Botan, as she just strikes me as that kind of gentle and forgiving soul. Itsuki’s crush on Tokujira therefore becomes the central issue. One cannot underestimate an MC’s ability to densely be blind to the objectively better choice. They will stay true to their feelings no matter how silly those feelings might be. That said, Itsuki’s feelings are very silly, something the manga is absolutely aware of and explicitly points out. His “romance” with Tokujira is written in an unrealistic, fairy tale-like manner quite deliberately. He calls himself “the boy who cried wolf”, Tokujira has the nickname of “Thorn Princess” for her prickly nature, and lots of fantastical imagery is employed whenever either of them consider romance. I can see that namo knows this and kind of pokes fun at it. Botan, however, has a significantly stronger rapport with Itsuki than Tokujira has. Their relationship builds more naturally, and everything about it feels more believable. Also, when it comes to Botan, romance becomes a greater focus to her character than it does for Tokujira who, as previously stated, is more about building confidence and getting over her fear of men. I think, I. THINK. that namo-sensei is writing a story about the value of friendship, improving oneself, perception and confidence, and also a nice romance. With Botan. To be clear, a nice romance with Botan and Itsuki.
If namo does this, like I think he(?) is, then Ookami Shounen wa Kyou mo Uso o Kasaneru will be one of the best manga I have ever read. Botan is a lovely character and honestly the manga is worth reading for her alone. She really just makes the read extremely pleasant, fluffy, swell, and fun. And for the manga proper, I would really enjoy seeing a subversion of expectations to this level, in order to tell a touching story about getting over your own faults and also finding a sweet and touching love. If namo does this, then it’s an easy high recommendation from me. If he doesn’t, then I’ll probably lose it. It seems that fans of this series all want Botan to win (even in Japan). I want to see it too. If I ever list this series as highly recommended (check the tags) you will know how I feel about the ending. That said it’s going to take a long time. This has a very slow release schedule, and there’s about one or maybe two volumes a year. And the scanlators wait for volume releases to translate. This isn’t an easy ride to get on. Join me only if you’re ready for it.
And experience a truly awesome girl.
This extremely cute series is also quite funny, and the story becomes very compelling, with or without the romantic aspects, in volume 2. It’s a very, very good manga, regardless of how it might end. Even though I haven’t talked much about her, Tokujira actually becomes pretty great too as we get more of her quiet, awkward character (and she approaches lesbian dilemma). namo has thus been put on my radar. I’ve also read Go!Go! madoromi chan. (Madoromi-chan ga Iku.) by him and it’s mighty cute/amusing so I definitely recommend it. I hope to read more from him into the future.
If you decide to join me on the dark path of wondering how this series will end — well, you’re crazy, but alright. Please consider buying the tankoubon! You may purchase them from Bookwalker (guide), CDJapan, honto (guide), or ebookjapan. And here’s namo’s twitter account: @namo_. Ahh, that was a strange review. Hm.
P.S.: This is another series which offers its latest chapters for free. [Link]