Love and Lies
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Love and Lies ?
Samuel Beckett's most famous play, Waiting for Godot, was once famously described as “a play in which nothing happens, twice.” While this is an oversimplification to be sure, it isn't entirely unfair either.. Despite its intentional lack of plot progression, the play itself is a masterpiece, using its hopeless heroes as symbols for the eternal struggle of humankind to find concrete answers in an uncaring universe. Sure, nothing happens (twice), but it's nothingness with an artful sense of purpose, which is what makes the play so beloved.
Love and Lies is unfortunately lacking in both purpose and artfulness, as this season finale so woefully demonstrates, and the nothingness that's filled its entire story has been anything but entertaining. Given that the original manga is still ongoing, there was never much hope that the show would satisfyingly wrap up its story in just a dozen episodes. Still, when the credits finally began to roll, I found myself surprised at just how lame and toothless of an ending L&L had decided on. It's one thing to leave things open-ended out of necessity, but Love and Lies goes the extra mile to rub its lack of any conclusion in the audience's face. In neutering Yukari, Ririna, and Misaki's characters, the show essentially punishes its viewers for even daring to expect a satisfying narrative.
This conclusion's inevitable failure was apparent by the end of its first half, where Yukari and Ririna take even more time to reinforce the plan to dissolve their marriage so Yukari can eventually be with Misaki. Never mind that this conversation reveals yet another insanely easy loophole around the matching system that makes the show's whole conceit exponentially stupider; repeating this familiar beat for the umpteenth time telegraphs just how little this episode will move anything forward. Yes, Ririna and Yukari are more explicit about their feelings for each other than they have been up to this point (culminating in an incredibly poorly-animated makeout scene), but the audience has known where this relationship was headed since roughly episode 4, if not earlier. Forcing the audience patiently wait while the characters and plot catch up to them is one of the biggest mistakes a story can make.
After this, the finale is content to limp along to its conclusion, where Yukari meets his two love interests at a wedding photo shoot and tells them both that they're pretty. Misaki is moved to tears, Ririna is pleased as punch, and Yukari concludes that they all love each other too much to lie to each other, so they'll have to keep lying about how much they love each other. Nobody changes or grows or makes any consequential decisions. Love and Lies' ending doesn't just indulge in its own characters' indecision; it celebrates it, admiring its teenagers' stunted emotions without ever actually empathizing with them. It's cynical, crass, and most importantly, incredibly unsatisfying. The final shot of Yukari holding both of his would-be brides in his arms, enveloped in an ethereal glow, is almost a slap in the face to anyone who feels like “character growth” and “well-developed conflict” are elements a story should have.
I get that there's much more material to cover in the manga, and there are certainly those who will be okay with having to check out the comic to get the full picture. However, there's an argument to be made that even a partially adapted anime should have some kind of recognizable arc, some chunk of a satisfyingly developed narrative that leaves the audience wanting to read the manga, instead of begrudgingly searching it out because what's available doesn't stand on its own at all.
All Love and Lies has done in this final episode is demonstrate what happens when a story fails to establish any sort of meaningful intent. Unlike Waiting for Godot, this show isn't a thoughtful enough piece of art to recognize how trapped its characters are in their own indecision, or how frustrating and self-defeating their choices are. To paraphrase the play, Yukari, Misaki, and Ririna simply do not move, not in any meaningful way. Their lives are tragic parodies of what teenagers think romance is supposed to be, and a better story might have latched onto something profound to observe about that. Unfortunately, for all of its angsty histrionics and wheel-spinning, Love and Lies ends up not having anything to say at all.
Love and Lies is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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