Review for Love & Lies Collection
Trigger warnings are the in-thing this season. Absolutely innocuous things have warnings plastered over them just in case they bring out an unexpected reaction in a tiny minority, usually for who said innocuous thing isn’t aimed. It’s like warning of applause in theatre productions, flashing lights at fireworks displays, Kanye West on a Kanye West album. Certainly some anime warrant warnings, especially the sort of Manga Video anime I grew up with. But you wouldn’t expect a light romantic comedy to warrant any red flags. But Love and Lies should have come with a trigger warning for me. After all, I’m from a heritage where arranged marriages are the norm, and societal reaction to those flouting traditions can on rare occasion tend to the extreme. In other words, I didn’t want to watch an anime that concluded with an honour killing in the final episode. Somehow, I don’t think Love and Lies will make that particular choice.
Today, Japan faces the usual first world problems of a declining birth rate, and an aging population, but in the world of Love and Lies, these problems were identified and prepared for forty years previously, when the Yukari Laws were put into place. Now, marriages would be arranged by the government, and matches were made with regards to optimal genetics, and compatible personalities. When a child turned 16, they would get a Notice from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and it would all be done and dusted. No need for messy things like dating, and falling in love. It works too, with an average of 2.1 children per marriage keeping the population nicely ticking over.
Only in Love and Lies, 40 years after the start of the law, one boy fell in love. Actually, Yukari Nejima fell in love with Misaki Takasaki in grade school, but it wasn’t until he was 16 that he built up the bravery to actually confess to her, and it was the best moment of his life when he learned that she felt the same way. This was immediately followed by the worst moment of his life when his Notice arrived, and he learned that he was engaged to a girl from another school named Ririna Sanada. Now if Yukari follows his heart, he’s breaking the law...
12 episodes of Love and Lies are presented across two Blu-rays from MVM as follows.
1. First Love
2. A Small Lie
3. Overlooked Love
4. The Science of Love
5. Risky Love
6. A Prison to Compel Love
7. A Silent Love
8. Feelings Without Lies
9. So Bright it Doesn’t Seem Real
10. A Love to Give Everything For
11. I Don’t Care If It’s A Lie
12. Love and Lies
Love and Lies gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs, and it’s a wholly unproblematic transfer. Unfortunately, that’s because this is an animation that doesn’t exactly tax the format. Sure the detail levels and colours warrant an HD presentation, but the character designs are simplistic, colours are flat, and the animation is limited. It’s as if the animators were working to a lower budget than usual. It is pleasant to watch, and it does get the story across well, but don’t be surprised if the motion on the screen can practically come to a halt at times.
The sole audio track on this release is the DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese track, with English subtitles locked during playback. The dialogue is clear, and this being a predominantly dialogue heavy show, there’s not a lot in the way of action and effects to enliven the soundstage, although the music does suit the story well. The subtitles are timed accurately, but I did notice at least one typo this time around.
The discs present their content with static menus.
Disc 2 has the extra features, or rather the textless credits and trailers for Magic of Stella, Long Riders!, Battle Girl High School, and Scum’s Wish. Doesn’t really have the “extra feature” buzz, does it?
No triggers were pulled in the watching of this show. Arranged marriage is prevalent enough in so many cultures, that there is the potential for a whole lot of real life drama and angst around the subject. Indeed entertainment isn’t shy of such stories, particularly from the Indian subcontinent. I don’t know how common the practice is in Japan; judging by the number of anime that have characters attending Miai, formal meetings to discuss the possibility of marriage, I assume it does still happen, but Love and Lies is anything but a realistic depiction of such. If anything, it’s romantic wish fulfilment, a love triangle with a ‘legal enforcement’ to bring it into being.
It’s the Yukari Law that is the legal enforcement in this story, a forty year old law to maintain the population through government mandated marriages. These matches are announced around age 16, and are supposed to be optimal in terms of suitability, personality and genetics. This is instantly so flawed an idea that you could drive a truck through it; the Big Brother society alone required to determine personality matches is just one thing. But it’s needed to kick the story off.
As is the way of these things, Yukari has loved Misaki since they were little kids, and Misaki has also loved Yukari all that time. They just never got around to telling each other. It’s the imminent arrival of Yukari’s notice that spurs him to confess, and experience that brief moment of joy when he learns that his love is reciprocated. It looks as if it would be the perfect life, when he gets a text message that seems to indicate that Yukari is his destined bride, but the reality of the official notice from the government puts that idea to rest, when it transpires that his actual fiancée is a girl from another school, Ririna Sanada.
Naturally he’s reluctant to meet her, and he doesn’t hide the fact. She would be offended, but then she learns the reason why, about Misaki. She was a sickly child, and had an isolated upbringing, and as a result she’s grown up a secret romantic. The idea of true love trumping government mandated destiny appeals to her. She decides to support Yukari in his love for Misaki, and the two of them become friends. Of course it gets more complicated when that friendship deepens, and also because Misaki and Ririna become best friends too.
Torn between two girls would be a difficult dilemma for Yukari, but luckily he has his best friend Nisaka to offer his often sardonic advice. Although on occasion it looks as if Nisaka knows more than he’s letting on.
That is this show’s most annoying trait. It keeps offering hints and promises of a deeper story, there’s a vague scent of tragicomic melodrama wafting over the whole thing. What is Misaki’s secret, just what is Nisaka keeping hidden, what is the truth behind the Yukari Law, what are the government officials handling Yukari and Ririna’s arrangement really up to? None of this is answered in the show, and neither would it make a difference if it really was, other than holding out a vague hope for a second season. It’s all rather pointless colour, a feature wall to hang a simple high school love triangle story on.
That love triangle is played out with just enough angst to get you invested in the characters, but not enough angst to really pull on those heartstrings. It’s really more of a romantic comedy with a melancholy core rather than anything more emotive. About the only off note in the story was the government sex education lecture, which ends with the couples assigned to a room for the night with a prophylactic, a plot development which seems a sop to the male demographic in a story which is aimed more at female audiences.
It’s a likeable enough story, watchable despite the limited animation, and with a rather weak male protagonist and two likeable female protagonists, it never gets too deep, or too real to engender any genuine anguish. While the story isn’t complete by any stretch in this series, it ends on a rather predictable ‘cake and eat it’ moment that will satisfy everyone and no-one at the same time.