Neomo takes a closer look at Love & Lies, a show he has grown to love.

It’s not often that shows get to me, deep inside. Shows like Madoka Magica, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Gatchaman Crowds, Sound! Euphonium, so on. So it’s even more remarkable that a seemingly average romance show like this season’s Love & Lies has gone and done it too.

In an alternate future where the population problem in Japan has gotten out of control, the government puts forward a plan for citizens to be ‘assigned’ life partners. Each citizen’s interests, tastes and desires are all put into consideration and the program actually works, the population problem slowly begins to disappear. Yukari Nejima has been pining for Misaki Takazaki since he was little. When he turns 16, he confesses to her, and discovers she feels the same way. When he meets his assigned partner, Ririna Sanada, a loner who attends an all-girls school on the other side of town, they don’t hit it off straightaway, but after Ririna meets Misaki, she suddenly becomes very curious on what love is actually supposed to feel like, and so decides to try to get Yukari and Misaki to get closer. It’s not until later when she finds out that doing that leads to some very serious consequences, for all of them…

On surface and on paper, Love & Lies sounds like a very nondescript romance drama; a boy battling his emotions and heart on which girl he likes the most. It’s only when Ririna becomes the one to drive a wedge between Yukari and Misaki that the show becomes more interesting. See, according to ‘the state’, Yukari is meant to disappear into the sunset with Ririna, but according to Yukari’s heart, it’s with Misaki instead. The one thing I have found very interesting, and one of the main things that has got me so hooked to the show, is Yukari and Ririna’s developing relationship. At first glance, it looks like a tsundere couple you see in pretty much every romance show, but it’s a mixture of things in the show that make their relationship especially appealing to me. This is set in a world where two teenage kids (full to the brim with emotions and hormones) meet, and are told that they are to be their partners for life. Despite Ririna’s cries that he’s a waste of space, she and Yukari actually act like what a long-term couple could be typically be seen as…

  • They share personal information about each other, even at their first meeting in episode 2. Yukari tells Ririna about Misaki straightaway, while she tells him about her lack of knowledge of what love is meant to be.
  • Whenever the two share a scene, Ririna doesn’t seem too fazed by letting any inhibitions she has go…unintentionally, of course. For instance, later on in episode 2, when Yukari pays Ririna a visit at her school, she doesn’t seem too bothered about walking around the nurses’ room without her skirt on, with him in the room. In addition, there are very few “OMG-I-can’t-believe-I-did-this-embarrassing-thing-in-front-of-you-baka!!” moments. It almost feels like ‘unconscious’ behaviour. Any accidental trips and falls onto each other don’t really lead to him getting a slap.
  • As the episodes stretch on, Ririna begins to take Misaki’s suggestion to heart, and attempts to get to know Yukari some more…by taking an interest in one of his passions: traditional Kofun burial mounds.
  • …most importantly, they call each other by their first names – in comparison, Yukari doesn’t even call the two other (and closer) people to him, Misaki and Yuusuke, by their first names, using their surnames (Takazaki and Nisaka respectively) instead.

…his growing relationship with Ririna gives off the impression that they were meant for each other right from day one, almost showing that this state system for ‘assigned’ life partners really works and I don’t think either of them quite realise that yet.

Saying that though, none of the main characters, I think, have a genuine clue on what love is meant to feel like.

  • Yukari is too blind with his crush on Misaki that he can’t (or won’t) understand that his real feelings could lie somewhere else.
  • Ririna’s own lack of knowledge on what love is supposed to be like isn’t helping, as she wants to be close to everyone. It’s almost as if she can’t entirely tell the difference between love on a romantic scale and love on a platonic scale. She wants everyone to be happy, but she doesn’t understand that if Yukari and Misaki were to enter an open relationship, it would affect them both in the long run (in terms of college applications, career prospects and such).
  • Misaki’s own crush with Yukari clouds any common sense she has, as if she is in the same awkward position that Yukari is in. Her heart says Yukari, but her head says otherwise. She is clearly the only one who knows what she is doing isn’t really the best thing to do…and yet does it anyway…why?…because her heart tells her to?
  • Yuusuke, on the other hand, appears to be taking everything in life with a hint of cynicism, love included, although his own actions in episode 3 shows that he has his own opinion about the government system. Despite his somewhat antagonistic attitude, Yuusuke wants to see Yukari happy. He knows about Ririna’s plan to get Yukari and Misaki to be closer, and disapproves, citing their potentially ruined futures as a reason.

Elsewhere in the show, it is implied that there is much more than meets the eye about not just Yuusuke, but of those working for the Ministry themselves. In episode 6, for instance, when Yukari and Ririna are sent off to a special lecture, it is implied that the two Ministry employees that are highlighted in the show (Ichijou and Yajima) are watching what Yukari, Ririna and Misaki are up to. Why? That remains to be seen…

A live-action film of Love & Lies is also due to come out in Japan in October, although it seems doomed to be a flop, for two reasons. One being that the love triangle is reversed, with two guys chasing after a girl instead, and the other being that it is to be a musical…yes…a musical.

Whenever a show I really really like comes around, it comes as a bit of a shock – almost as if I had been waiting forever for a show as good as this to come. But I do think it sucks that the show is somewhat sidelined by the typical bunch who follow anime seasons (what with it being Amazon-exclusive); perhaps with a home video release (which is guaranteed, as Sentai have the rights to it), the show will gain some more ground. I hope so. A high-quality show like this that’s tucked away on Amazon is just proof that Crunchyroll is not the be-all and end-all for anime streaming anymore. Saying that though, Amazon have not been very cooperative and interactive with us paying customers. I can at least afford it, but to have a double paywall will not attract people, especially when they have exclusivity.

If you’re able to, then Love & Lies is definitely worth checking out. Looking beyond the plot, it is not the average dime-a-dozen romantic drama you think it will be. But if you have the patience, then wait for the home video release…or if Amazon decide to lift their exclusivity and lease it to other streaming services.

(Not sure that my listening to BTS a lot while starting Love & Lies helped with the high opinion I have of this. No really, their stuff is actually not as bad as I thought it would be. *A 30-something guy praising K-pop…what have I become?*)

Love & Lies is available on Amazon and HIDIVE. Volume 1 of the manga comes out on Kodansha Comics USA on August 22. The live-action film will be released in Japan on October 14.