Before watching the first episode of Love and Lies I wasn’t sure what to expect. I like to dive into a story without having any sort of introduction to what it’s about. It initially looked like a light romantic drama aimed at young girls. But it’s not.
Japanese Episode Title: 初恋
In a somehow dystopian reality for the fate of love and romance, the Japanese government picks the spouses of its citizens when they reach the age of 16 in order to balance the extremely low birth rates. The partners are matched based on some sort of emotional technology (or ‘happiness based on genetics’, as the anime quite accurately explains). The results of the system have been successful and the offspring of such marriages have even increased intelligence.
So in this worrisome (or is it…) reality, young Yukari Nejima finds himself in love with his schoolmate Misaki Takazaki. The night before his sixteenth birthday, Yukari decides to confess his feelings to Misaki, who despite having pretended that she didn’t remember him at first, admits to being in love with him also. The two meet in a park where they confess their feelings to each other, when Yukari first receives a distorted phone message announcing that his partner should be Misaki, then upon this message’s sudden disappearance, two government officials deliver him a folder containing the name of the actual girl he is supposed to marry, Lilina Sanada. At this point Misaki lies again trying to escape expressing her feelings on the situation, but Yukari hunts her down and gets her back.
Introduction: The episode starts with a rather interesting introduction. Bright in color and cheerful in content and tone, it seems very much like a propagandist commercial for the government’s matchmaking system, demonstrating celebrities getting married with ‘commoners’ and presenting the beneficial outcome of the process, like the increased IQ of the new generation. There is little emphasis on the fact that not complying with that system is illegal.
A generation of romantics: In Yukari’s class, he seems not to be the only one disappointed on having to marry due to legislation rather than love. His peers are also not keen on getting hitched to someone they have never met just for the sake of convenience. This gives us some insight on the fact that this system had been applied for a long time already (40 years) and that the younger generation is not enjoying having to live with it.
Takazaki’s lie: Yukari doesn’t seem as sharp as Misaki, who pretends not to remember him when he introduces himself to her. Obviously (even though Yukari still doesn’t get it even when she admits it to him) Misaki was being cautious and kept in mind the fact that neither of them had been assigned a spouse yet, so it would probably be troublesome if their feelings for each other were to be found out.
The kiss: It felt intense yet awkward, kind of like looking at children kissing, and who the hell kisses on that position for the first time anyway?! Her back looked like it was going to break. That scene, along with the sudden exposure of Misaki’s pretty overwhelming boob size, made me realize that the show is probably not targeting a female demographic as I first thought.
Themes & Trivia
Musawo and anonymity: my very, VERY first question about this show was: is the writer male of female? What else have they done? The female mangaka is very privy as is the case these days with mangakas, who seem to be increasingly fond of their privacy. This can be attributed to both the occasionally creepy aspect of the otaku community as well as to the eastern and more specifically Japanese culture that values privacy more than fame and celebrity status.
Shonen demographic: I’m always surprised to find out that this type of anime can be classified as a shonen, but it is. Especially given its aesthetic, which reminds me of NANA (if you haven’t watched NANA, well you probably should), that I consider the most archetypal female audience oriented anime of all time. The extremely large eyes and slightly retro style of drawing is screaming ‘THIS IS A GIRLY THING’, but apparently I’m wrong. *sad*
Kofun mounds: Probably the most disturbing part of the episode (and I’m going to guess of Yukari’s character) is his fascination with Kofun mounds, megalithic tombs from the Kofun period (250-538 AD), which happens to be the earliest era of recorded history in Japan.
Saliva line: After Yukari and Misaki kiss, a thin line of slobber momentarily connects their mouths. This reminds a lot more of a different genre that I will not be discussing now. Use your imagination.
Love or Lies?
I spent a lot more time analyzing this than expected. The quality of the animation was not what I expected, which more often than not appears quite flat. The show seems to be touching some really sophisticated questions about humanity and love, but whether it does that in a superficial or thorough manner remains to be seen.