Love and Lies
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Love and Lies ?
Love and Lies has something of a protagonist problem. This isn't altogether surprising, as I've found that many romance anime struggle to provide an interesting main character. For some reason, there seems to be a correlation between the blandness of a main character and the number of people vying for his affections. The more love interests there are, the less interesting a show's leading man is probably going to be. Most times this is excused as trying to make the main character an acceptable vessel for audience self-insertion, but as far as I'm concerned, there's no reason a show can't have a main character that's interesting andrelatable.
Yukari is easily the weakest link in the core cast of Love and Lies, and this is a problem seeing as he's the central figure of the show. The past few episodes have gotten by with Ririna's innate charm and Misaki's more aloof and mysterious nature, and with the two of them constantly revolving around Yukari, it was easy to overlook his prototypical blandness. Now that the story has settled into its groove more, Yukari's lack of interesting characteristics is more of a problem, especially in an episode like this one that essentially functions as a table-setter. Where the first three episodes of the show managed to heap as much insane teenage drama on the audience as possible, this fourth episode is more about reinforcing that drama while explaining more of how this science-fiction-esque setting works. It's really talky, is what I'm getting at, and the more this show relies on the strength of its dialogue to sell its story, the more it stumbles.
The big issue here is putting so much of the heavy lifting on Yukari's shoulders, having him recount his feelings for Misaki (again), ponder his future with Ririna (again), struggling to figure out how to balance his government-appointed future with his ideal one (again), as well as how he's going to manage being alone with both of the women in his life (again). I get that this is all driving the central conflict of the series, so I'm not asking for Yukari to quickly figure it all out. I just wish he'd be a more proactive and engaging protagonist. He spends so much of his time in his head, pining and fretting and generally being ineffectual. Pretty much the only things he actively pursues are makeout opportunities. This is understandable, but it's not really enough to paint a picture of who this guy is beneath his hormones, or why two very different women (plus his gay best friend) would be so into him.
Realistically, this is a problem that Love and Lies isn't likely to address any time soon, and I'd honestly be okay with such a milquetoast lead so long as the supporting cast can make up for his lacking performance. Unfortunately, Ririna's the only other character who gets much to do this week, and while her story about falling in love with an anatomy model was cutely bizarre, it didn't tell us anything more about her stunted social skills that we didn't already know. Honestly, my biggest worry with her character is that her medical history is just going to provide an easy out for Yukari. If his assigned wife dies of an illness, then he won't have to make the kind of difficult choice that might actually make him an interesting character.
Misaki does get a couple of scenes, including one with a mystery girl that I don't think we've seen before, hinting at a personal struggle with honesty that surely relates to the “Lies” of the series' title. This almost certainly has to do with Misaki being paired with Yusuke Nisaka, though I suspect the conversation Yukari half-eavesdropped on had more to do with Yusuke's feelings for Nejima than anything. This is bound to result in more of that gloriously ridiculous teenage drama in the weeks to come, but for now Misaki and Yusuke's personal conflicts remain frustratingly vague.
This wasn't a bad episode, but it was easily the most uneventful offering Love and Lies has provided so far. While I appreciated learning more about the government's unsettlingly meticulous stalking of every child in Japan, there was simply too much flat exposition and not enough soapy angst and romantic entanglements. Hopefully things will pick up with the camping trip next week, because Love and Lies has the potential to be one of the better guilty pleasures of the season. In order to win that title though, it has to deliver less aimless exposition and more trashy-romance goodness.
Love and Lies is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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