The Fall 2022 Preview Guide
The Little Lies We All Tell
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Little Lies We All Tell ?
Community score: 3.6
What is this?
These girls may seem like ordinary second-year junior high school students at first glance, but they are a space pilot, a ninja without a clan, a girl with supernatural powers, and a boy in girls' clothes.
How was the first episode?
Here we have a perfectly competent slice-of-life comedy about four girls who are trying to come off as ordinary despite being anything but. The comedy is built around the fact that one of them is a psychic and therefore knows two of the other's secrets—i.e., that they are a ninja and alien respectively. Thus, she is constantly trying to make sure neither blow their cover—while trying to keep her own intact at the same time.
The “problem” with The Little Lies We All Tell is that it shares its general comedic premise with not only another currently-running anime, but one that is frankly a better show in every conceivable way: SPY x FAMILY. Frankly, Sekine is no Anya, despite them sharing the same basic role of the psychic in their respective plots. Sekine simply lacks the second layer of humor to the whole thing that comes from Anya's childlike understanding of the secrets she's privy to.
However, what sets The Little Lies We All Tell apart is its willingness to go into slightly taboo humor centering around things like girls farting and period jokes. In a lot of ways, it's like Please tell me! Galko-chan in that respect—with the extra layer of humor coming from having a cross-dressing guy attempting to BS his way through these conversations.
However, I admit that I just didn't find The Little Lies We All Tell all that funny. The only laugh it got out of me was the “hey” button joke riffing on one of my favorite shows of the mid-2000s, Hey! Spring of Trivia—but that's mostly due to surprise as the joke is hilariously out of date (the show's been off the air for over a decade at this point). While there's nothing overtly “wrong” or “bad” about this show, I feel that it lives or dies based on how much you enjoy the humor. It's a show that you really should try out for yourself and then go on from there.
It happens every season. We get most of the way through premieres, the biggest titles are out, my watchlist has filled up. The last few first episodes are coming out in drips and drabs and I'm so tired, I just want to watch the new season of Nailed It instead of anything animated. And perhaps, in those times, I can be a touch overly-harsh on those last few episodes. Such was my mindset when I started up the final show of the preview guide, The Little Lies We All Tell.
I grumbled my way through the theme song and the first few minutes. Why are they all just rattling off their secrets like that? Wouldn't it be funnier to tease them out and have a big reveal at the end of the episode or something like that? Did they seriously just use the word “loli”? Also, one of their secrets is that they're actually a boy? Great, I can't wait to see what kind of transphobic and gender-essentialist jokes come out of that, not to mention all the slurs that I'm definitely going to see on Twitter thanks to this…
But then I realized why they mentally monologued about their respective gimmicks right from the get-go: The Little Lies We All Tell isn't interested in slowly setting up a joke and paying it off later. It's not a sitcom, it's a gag anime that throws bits at you at a similar rate to 30 Rock with the chaotic energy of Asobi Asobase. When you have that density of humor, some of it is guaranteed to land, and by the episode's midpoint, I realized that I was smiling. I was having fun! The sight gags, the weird faces, the run-on jokes – they were hitting for me. Even the shitty on-screen handwriting, rendered in the subtitles as Comic Sans, scaffolded the deliberately slapdash feeling.
Oh, and for those worried – I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of transphobia in the jokes about Tsubasa/Tsuyoshi. Take this with a grain of salt coming from a cis woman, of course, but there aren't a ton of jokes about his gender, and the ones that are there are more about him feeling out of his element in a situation he was forced into, rather than him being a trans girl who is trying to “fool” the people around him.
You ever have that problem where you need to come up with a gimmick for your high school comedy anime, but just can't pick which one? Well it's 2022 and the very concept of moderation is buried deep in the bowls of the Earth, so why be choosy? Throw in every gimmick you can think of for a wacky comedy, and just let them figure themselves out. It's “Oops! All Gimmicks” here with The Little Lies We All Tell, and to hell with trying to craft actual jokes out of this four car pile-up of bits.
I really do think this episode could have been funny, if anyone involved knew how to deliver a proper punchline or just set up jokes. With a premise like this, you could pull a whole bait-and-switch where we see everything from one character's perspective, before switching POVs and revealing all the weirdness going on inside the other characters' heads. Instead we open with several minutes of each character explaining the wacky premise behind their 1-note personality: one's an alien, another's a ninja, a third one's psychic, and the last one is a guy who was forced to impersonate his twin sister For Reasons. They've all somehow wound up as friends in high school, and by that I mean they sit in an otherwise unpopulated classroom with their desks together, each one rattling off their shtick while the psychic girl who know 2/3 of the others' secrets makes over the top reactions. For good measure we have an ever-present narrator ready to explain why the jokes are supposed to be funny every minute or so.
It's just a lot of tired, low-energy comedy that occasionally stumbles into a sensible chuckle but otherwise sits around repeating itself, done no favors by airing in a season with a way funnier comedy about a group of people with secrets (and mind reading!) like SpyxFamily. There is at least some effort into Kaguya-sama style shifts in aesthetic to enhance jokes, but this production is lacking the energy and sheer polish that made that show's asides so cohesive. What you end up with a show that is trying just hard enough that it's embarrassing when the jokes don't land, but not trying hard enough to feel like earnest comedy, which is a really dull valley to get caught in.
At the very least though, there's some potential here. I liked the bit where both our crossdressing character and the alien just rolled with ninja girl excusing a blood splatter with it being “that time of the month” because they don't know any better. That's the kind of specific joke you can only get from a bunch of overlapping bluffs and secrets colliding, and if there was more of that I might actually have liked this episode. Sometimes these kinds of comedies take a bit to find their voice, so I could see this turning around some in the future. But with how strong this season is already, I won't be sticking around to find out.
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