Love and Lies
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Love and Lies ?
The scene that occurs near the end of this episode is a perfect encapsulation of the show. Misaki is being as open and honest about her feelings as she's ever been, and when Yukari asks her “What is love?”, a floodgate of emotion opens. She describes waiting for Yukari to notice her every day of elementary school, and she details fantasies of first kisses and being whisked away by him to a far-off paradise. She confesses to the longing of a connection she felt for him for years and how their first kiss was the moment that cemented her consuming, almost indescribable love for Yukari. In a small way, it's a sweet and endearing moment of vulnerability, which is especially nice coming from a character who has been so closed off for so many weeks.
In a larger and much more problematic way, this scene is almost unbearably trite and naïve, and it had almost nothing to do with love. Yukari and Misaki's relationship is based almost entirely on the broad emotional constructs they've formed of each other in their own heads, with a healthy dose of uncontrollable lust tossed in for good measure. These are two teens whose most meaningful conversation for most of their lives revolved around needing an eraser, and not much ground has been covered since they started swapping spit a few months ago. They feel infatuation and lust for each other; you cannot be in love with someone you've barely spoken to.
This naiveté is not the problem, though. The problem is that I'm not entirely sure Love and Lies is self-aware enough to understand that Yukari and Misaki are not really in love with each other. Everything about this episode and this show as a whole seems to earnestly believe that Yukari and Misaki are carrying the burden of true forbidden love. From the treacly music to the overwrought Day-Glo color palette, everything about Love and Lies's direction screams sincerity, and that simply does not work for this show. Even the inclusion of Romeo and Juliet seems to lack any sense of necessary irony; Yukari waxes poetic about two teenagers defying the odds to be with each other, seemingly missing the fact that that Shakespeare's play is predicated on the idea that teenagers are very stupid and think with their junk, which is very sad and frustrating for reasonable adults to watch throughout their doomed courtship.
I'll admit that I could very well be wrong in my reading of Love and Lies's intentions. It's fully possible that the show is making that exact point, and Yukari and Misaki are destined to realize their love for each other is merely a poor imitation of what they think love is. None of that matters this week though, because the show is completely failing to communicate that yet. What we end up with is a teenage romance that's either fundamentally misunderstanding teenagers or fundamentally misunderstanding romance. Either way, the show seems to be careening towards disaster, and I don't know what it can do to save itself. Like the Shakespearean tragedy it's mining for misappropriated imagery, Love and Lies is headed toward a terrible end, and it doesn't even know it.
It doesn't help that the show's moment-to-moment watchability has descended into “straight up bad” territory. The trashy, soap-operatic fun of the first few episodes has been replaced with the dull and meandering slog of watching Yukari be incapable of holding a meaningful conversation with anyone in his life. The entire first half of this episode is devoted to giving Nisaka some time to actually be a character, but all of it is completely wasted. The only thing we learn about the boy is that he has a ridiculous (and completely out-of-place) relationship with his father, and he dislikes the idea of dressing up as Juliet, assumedly because he's uncomfortable being cast in a feminine role and confronting his sexuality. What we don't get, however, is any exploration of why this kid would possibly have feelings for Yukari, who's as dweeby and oblivious as he's ever been this week. Honestly, it's a wonder anyone would be attracted to Yukari at this point, but Nisaka is starting to feel like the most ancillary of fourth wheels.
Also, a good portion of this episode looks straight up awful. There are too many off-model faces and terribly animated sequences to count, and a few of the scenes in the diner looked as if the poor characters were being horribly pasted onto even worse-looking flat backgrounds. I'm usually willing to forgive lackluster art, especially when a show is more focused on its script, but some of the visual lapses this week were inexcusable.
This was Love and Lies's worst outing by far. Its script is a meandering, overwritten mess that doesn't seem to have a grasp on what it's trying to do with its characters' relationships, and the production is turning into complete shambles. Ririna didn't get a single line this week, and maybe she's Love and Lies's lucky charm, because without her the show feels like a chore to sit through. This series started off as a guilty pleasure of sorts, but there's absolutely no pleasure, guilty or otherwise, to be gained from this slog of an episode.
Love and Lies is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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