The Summer 2017 Anime Preview Guide LOVE and LIES
How would you rate episode 1 of
Love and Lies ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Love and Lies is predicated on a strange and emphatically love triangle-promoting premise: in order to fight declining birth rates, teenagers are assigned undeniable marriage partners at sixteen years old. While there'd probably be room in that premise to create a story focused on shifting societal norms and types of love, digging at both Japan's history of arranged marriage and currently fraught future, it doesn't seem like Love and Lies is going to be that show. Love and Lies is about Fated Lovers, presenting a romantic melodrama with absolutely nothing mellow about it.
Love and Lies no-holds-barred embracing of its melodramatic potential comes with both pluses and minuses. On the positive side, the show's generally excellent visual execution does a great job of supporting its larger-than-life romantic beats. The show's character designs are very unique, but attractive and expressive in their own way. The overwhelming use of soft focus and rich colors suits the material perfectly, and the direction is solidly up to the task of conveying the intimacy of our hero Nejima and his long-time crush Takasaki's moments together. On top of that, the reasonably grounded internal monologue gives Nejima a sense of personality that makes it pretty easy to relate to him, even if the story around him is absurd.
On the negative side, the story around him is absurd. I initially thought Love and Lies might be aware of the fact that Nejima harboring an undying love for the girl he gave an eraser to five years ago was ultimately a very silly, insubstantial thing. But by the end, Takasaki has also affirmed the deep romantic bond that eraser forged, and the show tries its darnedest to honestly sell us on their feelings. As it turns out, Love and Lies really does seem to only be using its premise to create the most contrived and overwrought of love triangles, and unless you can believe in the unshakable love of two people who've shared exactly one conversation, you are probably not going to be emotionally swept away by this story.
That said, Love and Lies is happy to be the show that it is. This style of “adolescent romance is the most important thing in the entire world” narrative, framed without the sense of more mature perspective that gives shows like Tsuki ga Kirei or My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU greater emotional heft, is simply not my kind of story. Without some larger point about youth or human connection or whatnot, the show's appeal becomes very directly “how much can you believe in and care about the feelings of these characters,” and this episode already had me groaning at the absurdity of it all. But if you're in the market for a solidly executed and unabashedly overwrought teen drama, Love and Lies is a perfectly reasonable variation on the theme.
The problem with a high-concept series is that if a story invests too much into a premise that isn't absolutely rock solid, its foundations will be shaky from the very start. On paper, Love and Lies presents us with an interesting take on an alternate history story, where the different confluence of historical events has led Japan to create a system where everyone is paired off with a romantic partner to eventually marry when they are in high school via genetic matching in order to combat low birth rates. The birth-rate crisis is definitely something Japan has a unique perspective on, and I've always liked seeing different media show their take on it. The fact that this is also a cheesy romance should mean that its right up my alley.
The problem for me is that this whole setup comes with a veritable mountain of unanswered questions, to the point where I found myself a little distracted. The main issue being that simply forcing people to get married to viable partners doesn't guarantee any kind of increase in birth rates, and there's certainly no reason to have these things set in stone when the parties involved are still minors. Furthermore, if there are already people that want to have children, wouldn't it make sense to let them be together, and reserve the mandatory marriage for people who wait too long? A more logical solution would be to have mandatory sperm/egg donation or something like that, or even to incentivize polyamorous/open relationships that would result in as many births as possible. The point here is that Love and Lies feels less like a well-thought out take on an alternate history and more like a poorly planned, contrived method of forcing teenage angst and drama.
This absolutely a personal taste thing, so if you're able to forgive the holes in a scenario like this and just jump into the story, you'll likely find a lot to like in Love and Lies, especially if cheesy drama is your thing. I will admit that, as I get older (and teach high schoolers for a living), I find it harder and harder to immediately latch onto the introspective and self-absorbed pining that passes for love at that age, but Neji and Takasaki make for a cute couple. Neji seemed a bit too milquetoast for my liking at first, but by the time he and Takaski actually got to talking I warmed up to him a bit more. I was especially pleased with their encounter in the last half of the episode, where the show managed to not only have their attraction to one another make sense, but it also got their love confessions and their first kiss out of the way before the end credits even rolled.
The circumstances surrounding their relationship might be way too contrived, but I'll give it credit for actually giving us a teen romance with some of the heat and passion that most anime of this ilk hold out on for entire seasons. If Love and Lies can keep this chemistry between the main characters going and make the most out of a fundamentally wonky concept, I think it can rise above the flaws of this premiere. I may be turning into a heartless old man, but I can still see the potential for an incredibly cheesy yet still satisfying high-school romance here.
There are some genuinely funny moments in the first episode of Love and Lies, but I'm pretty sure I laughed at more than just the intentional jokes. The premise of mandatory government-arranged marriages in a modern setting is just a little too silly for me, and the show wears its thematic heart on its sleeve just a little too openly. It looks like an earnest story about defying social expectations in pursuit of love, and I think it will work for a younger (or at least less jaded) audience. For me, the temptation to snicker and shout obnoxious advice at the characters is simply too great to enjoy it as intended.
Honestly, this episode's delivery is remarkably solid for such an on-the-nose premise. Nejima is very much the standard listless romantic protagonist, but he's so gosh-darned sincere that I found it relatively easy to like him. Takasaki suffers from a boring lack of flaws as Nejima's lifelong crush, but that may be a result of the audience seeing her through his eyes. Given an interesting flaw or two, she could make for a solid heroine. Their awkward teenage chemistry certainly works, especially as Nejima slowly starts to realize that his dream girl might actually like him. The other characters haven't had enough screen time to make a proper first impression, so the jury's still out on the supporting cast. For the moment, my biggest gripe about the characters is that their eyes look creepy to me for some reason. Takasaki in particular seems to have a weird doll-like aesthetic going on.
The problem here is that it's really hard to take the whole dystopian matchmaking system seriously. The idea of having your future spouse revealed by a formal document hand-delivered by government workers feels better suited to satire than serious drama, which may explain why I sputtered and giggled every time it came up. This might have been easier to buy into if the story took place in a different time or place, but dumping it all on ordinary teenagers in a realistic modern setting only serves to highlight the leap of faith that the audience is being asked to make. There are simpler, less ludicrous ways of tackling the conflict between love and social pressure, so it seems odd that Love and Lies is jumping through so many hoops to make it all work.
I imagine this narrative will quickly evolve into a complex web of mixed emotions and romantic betrayals, and the characters might very well be up to the task of making their relationships fun to watch. If you're able to give the premise the benefit of the doubt, then I'd even say that the odds are in this show's favor. It's probably not my cup of tea, but don't let that stop you from giving it a try.
The first episode of Love and Lies leaves me with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, it tries very hard to set up an emotional story about young lovers who are going to be forcibly torn apart by circumstances even though they'll remain classmates, and it is at least somewhat successful at that. On the other hand, though, the premise and its execution is so cumbersome that it is a big distraction to the more romantic elements, enough so that it entirely disrupted my appreciation for what the series was doing.
“What-if” scenarios about governments taking dramatically fascist actions supposedly for the betterment of the populace they rule are hardly anything new. They've been around at least since the 1930s in Western literature, have been a regular feature in science fiction tales over the years, and have appeared in manga and anime in fully ridiculous forms like Battle Royale and SHIMONETA. The concept here isn't anywhere near as extreme as those two cases as does have at least some foundation in the Japanese tradition of arranged marriages, but it's still hard to imagine a modern-day populace readily agreeing to go along with something like universal arranged marriages, even if it does promote genetic compatibility and better offspring. In fact, it smacks of eugenics. I'm a little curious to see if the series ever touches on that point, but given the near-total lack of philosophy involved in the first episode, I suspect that's outside of the scope of what the series will do. Also, I found it wholly un-credible that two government agents would a) bother to meet directly with Yukari at all (unless he's a special case, and there's been no indication of that so far) and b) that they would be able to conveniently track him down at exactly the right time, unless there's something far more frighteningly fascist going on in the background here. That Misaki bothered to come at all when 5+ hours late also bugged me, but for entirely different reasons.
The technical merits of the series, though generally pretty good, also threw me off a bit. I can't quite put it into words, but there's something about the facial designs here that doesn't sit quite right with me; maybe the eyes are a little too rounded or the facial proportions are a little off, I don't know. What I do know is that it makes the character designs less aesthetically pleasing than it feels like they should be. Somewhat balancing that is that the series looks like it will have a sensibility similar to Scum's Wish when it comes to fan service and showing characters making out.
I might give this series another episode or two to see if it's going to address some of the bigger issues I mentioned, but right now I'm not hold high hopes for this one.
I really dislike the premise of this show. The idea of a government-mandated marriage that you're locked into at sixteen leaves a bad taste in my mouth – and I suspect, after watching this episode, that it's intended to. Certainly it goes out of its way to make it clear that Yukari isn't feeling great about his upcoming marriage notification because he's already got someone he's in love with, and has been for the past five years. Since we're treated to a full confession and make-out session before he learns that his marriage partner will be someone else, it seems clear that this is supposed to be an evil sci-fi system that leaves pesky things like emotions at the door in order to produce adequate marriages which will result in children.
There're are a lot of unanswered questions left by this episode. Is the marriage absolutely binding, or is it just that no one has told our protagonists that there's an out yet? How did the government officials know where Yukari was at the stroke of midnight? Does everyone have tracking devices that help them decide who people should be matched with? Or is it solely based on genetic factors, making this even creepier? Something about the whole set-up is very ominous, and that doesn't mesh well with the rom-com factors that the show seems primed to throw in. Yukari's partner doesn't seem all that upset with the idea of a marriage, and the fact that the preview has both Yukari wearing a (silly) mask and a bra shot of the new girl when he meets her leads me to infer that there's going to be a lighter and more romantic tone taken going forward, at least in part. That does give me pause, because the more tragic note of this episode seems like it would work better for the story.
In any event, I admit that I have zero interest in pursuing this show further. Not only does the premise rub me the wrong way, but the art is very off-putting – there's something particularly off about the faces, almost as if they're not formed enough for the more detailed bodies, and there's as little background as the show can get away with. While I can't say that this is a truly bad episode, it is heavy on the melodrama and angst, which doesn't work for me. Depending on how it proceeds, the brief and blurry email that Yukari got before the love police showed up may turn out to be a sci-fi saving grace for this show, but right now it's looking like teen angst rom-com to a melodramatic soundtrack. Thanks, but not for me.
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