Love and Lies
Episodes 1-3

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Love and Lies ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Love and Lies ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Love and Lies ?

In my Summer Preview Guide coverage of Love and Lies' premiere episode, I talked about how difficult a time I had accepting this show's outlandish premise. A speculative concept with one or two small holes is easy enough to take without much question, but this world of mandatory marriages that are seemingly set in stone when the subjects are still in high school just leaves the viewer with so many questions that it becomes hard to ignore them all. That doesn't seem like it will change much throughout the show's run, but as I worked my way through L&L's second and third episodes, I did find that I was managing to enjoy the series all the same. For a series that I was somewhat dreading having to cover this summer, I was downright shocked by how much I've ended up liking it.

A lot of this has to do with Ririna, Yukari's assigned spouse. Though initially introduced as a somewhat predictable tsundere, the role she actually ends up playing has proven integral to what makes Love and Lies so much better than the predictable, angst-ridden romance it seemed like it might be at the start. Ririna doesn't just prove to be a likable and nuanced character in her own right; she also actually pushes Yukari and Misaki back together. Her playing cupid to both Yukari and Misaki immediately complicates what otherwise could have been a more trite love triangle. Ririna is a socially awkward girl with no friends, so her immediate latching onto our other protagonists' personal love story as if it were some TV drama gives Ririna a depth and subtle sadness that I wasn't expecting, making it much harder to predict where her relationship with Yukari will go.

This unpredictability comes to a head in the most emotionally awkward and intense scene of these three episodes, where Ririna invites both Yukari and Misaki over to hang out, only to end up insisting they kiss right there with her watching. This scene is doing a whole lot of tonal heavy lifting, revealing a lot about the current state of these character's feelings for each other while injecting an absurd amount of palpable romantic and sexual tension into the complicated friendship these three share. Ririna's voyeuristic observation struck me as a particularly honest moment of sexual awakening for her character, since while she obviously had some interest in seeing these two play out her romantic fantasy, she also seemed shocked by how much it affected her. Even more intriguing was the private moment she and Misaki shared just afterward. The way the camera lingered on their shared hands, plus Misaki's coy facial expressions as she confessed her feelings of unworthiness for Yukari, made the romantic waters even more muddy. After that brief exchange, I could see Ririna ending up in love with Misaki as much as Yukari.

Yusuke Nisaka is another character who throws a wrench into the proceedings, so to speak. Though we don't learn too much about this boy outside of him being somewhat sardonic and standoffish, the final scene of the third episode reveals that he's harboring romantic feelings for Yukari as well. One of the main questions posed during the preview guide was how this society would handle LGBT individuals, and thankfully L&L hasn't completely neglected to address that issue. Now whether or not the series will handle Yusuke's sexual identity with the tact and attention needed to make him more than just another tragic gay friend character remains to be seen, and I hope that whatever path L&L takes him on will be handled with care.

So despite my initial misgivings, I wound up unexpectedly invested in the soap-opera levels of romantic entanglement these teenagers are getting themselves into. It's a good thing that the writing held up as much as it did, because every other element of the show is average at best. Outside of the bedroom scene I mentioned earlier, there hasn't been much in terms of standout directing, and the animation and character designs don't make much impact either. The only defining quality of this show's art direction might be the character's giant eyes, but I honestly find them more off-putting than anything else. Outside of some catchy tunes in the OP and ED, L&L is also sorely lacking in its soundtrack, with the treacly music serving as mere background noise more often than not. The show's attempts at comedy were also rather uneven; most jokes came off as harmless, if not very funny, but one extended gag involving Ririna somehow forgetting to put on her skirt was just lame, injecting needless fanservice into a show that has plenty of deeper steaminess to work with.

None of these things makes Love and Lies an ugly or bad show, but its lack of polish does mean that the writing doesn't have another leg to stand on when it stumbles. This show is already being compared to Scum's Wish, and the major advantage that show had over this one was its stronger music, animation, direction, and writing, which all worked in unison to communicate the high emotions that come with unfettered teenage sexuality. Love and Lies has managed to create a surprisingly compelling web of romance and tension within its cast, but it remains rooted in a premise that's already kind of ridiculous. It will be a difficult tightrope to walk for the next ten weeks, but I'm excited to see where it all goes from here. I never would have predicted that much based on episode one, and that's a win for the series in and of itself.

Rating: B+

Love and Lies is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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