Love and Lies
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Love and Lies ?
In some ways, this seventh episode of L&L is an improvement over last week's. Not only does it manage to move things along somewhat, it makes sure Yukari doesn't get away with the aggressive sexual behavior he pulls in the episode's opening. Regardless of his intentions or worries over being penalized, he's still called out for pushing Ririna to places she's not ready to go yet. This kind of emotional speedbump happens all the time in real teenage relationships, and exploring it is infinitely more interesting than reiterating how horny everyone is all the time. In fact, this episode does well enough at fleshing out their burgeoning romance that it actively undercuts what Yukari has going on with Misaki, to the point where I'm starting to get impatient for this love triangle to resolve so Yukari can just end up with the girl that's obviously a better fit for him.
I don't want to overstate my own personal investment in this relationship, because Yukari is still too much of a generic wishy-washy Nice Guy™ for me to care that much about which girl he ends up with. Frankly, he doesn't really deserve to be with either of them at this point. His only active choices of the past few episodes have been to make out with the girl he has a crush on and then somewhat forcefully make out with the girl he pretends he doesn't have a crush on, even though he totally does. Still, since Yukari's personal anguish over his feelings for these two beautiful girls is pretty much the only thing this show is concerned about exploring, it'll be impossible to avoid at least a little good old-fashioned shipping.
At this point, Ririna is obviously more compatible with Yukari, and the fact that this is so obvious actually higlights the flawed imbalance of Love and Lies' character writing. I mean, what have we learned about Yukari and Ririna's relationship and personalities so far? We've seen that Ririna is capable of engaging in Yukari's nerdy obsessions, even though she might not get it herself, and we've seen Yukari value that token of appreciation enough to injure himself just to protect it. We've seen that Ririna is the kind of person who might need to use the written word to express her emotions and get herself back to a place of comfort and conversation, which is a fantastic bit of characterization. When she does end up forgiving Yukari for being dumb enough to use “potential government spying' as an excuse to get on top of her and nudge her into swapping spit, it feels like we've witnessed the stages of a realistic argument between a couple.
Meanwhile, behind door number two, we have Misaki. In seven weeks, we've learned that she's vaguely nice, she finds a lot of things about Yukari kind of cute in a vague sort of way, and she enjoys making out with him. This describes a perfectly average high school crush, but if the story is going to insist that its stakes end in a lifetime of marriage, a crush does not a happy home make. Sure, the final scene of the episode gives her a little bit more to work with, as she struggles with her own selfish desires to keep Ririna and Yukari from falling for each other, but this scene also ends up highlighting exactly why Misaki lags behind in the character department. We still don't know why she should have such strong feelings for our leading man (and no, the stupid eraser thing absolutely does not count), and beyond that her internal conflict just ends up reinforcing the idea that Yukari and Ririna would probably be perfect for each other with a little guidance. It may make Misaki's own personal drama more interesting, but it also ends up making the overarching plot feel even more contrived and redundant.
We also get a big scene with the silver-haired fellow who tricked Yukari at the sex-ed seminar, but there honestly isn't too much to say about that. He has unrequited feelings for his red-haired partner and seems to be pushing Yukari to make the decision that he couldn't, which could potentially make for more interesting developments down the line, but it's mostly just a cliched take on the “Make the choice that I never could” bit that pops up in stories like these all the time.
If anything, all this extended dialogue did was highlight just how rough the art and music was this episode. It's bad enough that the characters look off-model and even kind of goofy for at least a third of the episode, with the quality of art varying between different shots of even the same scene. What's worse is the music, which has never been good, but reaches peak levels of obnoxiousness this week. The mix is too loud, and the same two tracks drone on and on over every single scene, regardless of whether or not they're appropriate. The opening scene was the worst offender here, with the twinkly pianos clashing horribly with the more somber tone of Ririna and Yukari's falling out.
In the end, Love and Lies remains the show it's been all season, a trashy attempt to take a deeply silly premise and squeeze a compelling love triangle out of it. The episode's unevenness and inconsistency in both production values and writing only makes it a perfect microcosm of the show itself. Ririna remains the Best Girl (of this show at least), and I don't see many other options for this story's resolution outside of her and Yukari getting together. Unless, I suppose, Ririna's vague and poorly explained childhood illness comes back, and she dies so Yukari and Misaki can be together guilt-free. I don't think even Love and Lies would be cheap enough to lean into that stupid old cliché, but—wait a minute. Oh no.
Love and Lies is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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