Love and Lies
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Love and Lies ?
This episode of Love and Lies was already guaranteed to be an improvement over last week's, since Ririna is back in Yukari's life, and this show is consistently at its best when these two are together. As the past few episodes have made very clear, the chemistry these two share is both the show's greatest strength and its Achilles heel, because Ririna's presence leads to such demonstrable imbalance in the show's love triangle. This imbalance is made doubly apparent whenever Love and Lies tries to give Misaki some time in the spotlight, and unfortunately this week's descent into the maddening love life of Yukari Nejima stayed the course in that regard.
Before we get to Misaki though, we have to wade through a veritable ocean of padding. I've seen plenty of high-school romances go to great lengths to stretch out the drama as needed, but Love and Lies makes an especially potent effort to take as much time accomplishing as little as possible. After picking up with Shuu's vague implications about Yukari's marriage notice mix-up, she opts to leave without explaining further. The show then spends a lot of time showing Yukari and Ririna both fail to secure Shuu's contact info, only to have Yukari secure it off-screen, which then leads to him being blocked by her, which then leads to Yukari wallowing in self-pity before Ririna has to rescue him and drag him along to Shuu's school. Even after all that, the three of them only sit down and talk once they get to a cat café for some reason. The entire process takes half the episode to figure out, and it's absolutely exhausting, especially because the only reason it took so long was to pad the plot out. The only good thing to come of this was a cute moment where Ririna correctly identifies the sad burial mound sand castle that Yukari is building, which further proves both that Yukari is a hopelessly nebbish dork, and that Ririna actually cares about his interests and hobbies, which is much more than Misaki can say.
That isn't a snarky stab at Misaki's character writing, either. Shuu's story of her friendship with Misaki includes a conversation where the former asks the latter explicitly about why she's attracted to our hopeless protagonist, but she literally can't name one concrete reason. She goes on and on about nebulous “feelings” that just need to be accepted because they exist, and the whole exchange just forms the umpteenth time that Love and Lies has failed to give anyone reason to believe that the love Misaki has for Yukari is anything other than a hormone-driven crush. This point comes up again and again, but it needs to be addressed because Love and Lies is driven entirely by a love triangle with one insufficiently supported half. Trashy teen romance doesn't need to be high art, but there is a basic level of investment that its relationships must establish to be successful, and this show isn't quite there.
There's more to Shuu's discussion about the algorithms behind the assigned marriages, not to mention Yajima's surprise appearance in the last few minutes, but none of it amounts to anything new or meaningful. Shuu exists to serve as a third party that can provide exposition and shake up the love triangle a little. Based on her muted but noticeable affection for Misaki, she might be serving as Nisaka's female counterpart, but Love and Lies is doing so little with its LGBT themes that I can't imagine it will matter one way or the other. When it comes right down to it, this episode sees Love and Lies' characters asking the same questions of their society that they've been parroting for weeks now, with little sign of any actual progression or meaningful growth for anyone.
All that being said, this is one of the better episodes that we've gotten in a while, if only because Ririna truly fulfills the age-old duties of the Best Girl by injecting life and energy into an otherwise dull and rote episode. “Best Girl” isn't a title I usually care to bandy about, but I can't think of a better way to describe this character. The jokes centered around her usually land, she manages to get more done than anyone else, and she even brings out the best in Yukari, who has become increasingly insufferable these past few weeks. At the end of the episode, as Yukari takes Ririna's hand and the twinkly soundtrack predictably swells, I was actually excited to see his feelings for her manifest just that much more. The ability of a show with such a frustrating track record to instill such emotions in me this late in the game is both a sign of my inherent sappiness, and Love and Lies' ability to actually be somewhat decent when it focuses on the right characters.
Love and Lies is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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