“Where people have their future spouses decided…in this crazy world…my feelings of love are definitely not lies!” The despair of our main characters resonates right off the bat as a compelling manga series by Tsumugi Musawo (紬木 ムサヲ) [It is my first time encountering somebody’s name being preferably written in katakana.] finally have its anime adaptation whose first episode was aired last midnight.
The story is indeed a compelling one. Having read the manga months ago, it will be difficult for me to thread on writing this piece without having spoiling anything from the manga. I would still be spoiling it eventually – I bet to myself – as I begin to close this write-up. As an effort into not doing it, I would be borrowing Manga Box’s synopsis of the series which goes like this:
Lies are forbidden and love is doubly forbidden. In the near future, when young people in Japan turn sixteen, they are assigned a marriage partner by the government. People don’t have to go through the trouble of looking for someone, and everyone accepts that the country will find a compatible partner to make them happy. Yukari Nejima is fifteen years old. He lives in a small corner of the country, and just can’t seem to get ahead in life. Both academically and athletically he’s below average. But within him, he hides a heart burning with passion! In this world in which love is forbidden, what will happen to him when he falls in love?
The series presented us with a world of what-if, which is pretty striking for the Japanese audience, given the real-life population sustainability problems that Japan is currently facing. The solution that is presented in the series is however a terrifying proposition for it curtails the human free will, as humans, particularly the Yukari generation, are treated as genetic specimens being experimented for the optimization of the genetic build-up.
Furthermore, boys, by the time their ages reach sixteen, would be assigned by the government to marry girls around their age, who are determined by their scientific compatibility in order to ensure complementary union. At first glance, that law – The Law to Combat Low Birth Rates, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare – seems indiscriminate, for everybody is given a fair chance to have their respective partners. Some may get lucky, just like the case of that commoner in the beginning who was married to a popular idol, because of the notice by the government. But that scene also gave a sharp contrast to the theme that was often associated with marriage and relationships, which led to the question of whether their union was out of love. The answer was obviously a resounding no.
The concept of love was sidelined into obscurity by what the government called the “Red Strings of Science”. The romantic parts which constituted the bulk of the literary meaning behind the red strings were sterilized to the point that science – ever hard and cold – reduced romance…and ultimately love into a mere unnecessary social and psychological abstract.
Upon the backdrop of the question behind the meaning of love comes our main male character, Nejima Yukari (根島 由佳吏), who was at the height of his adolescent years, catching momentary glances of his longtime crush, Takazaki Misaki (高崎 美咲; Some read the 崎 alternately as “saki”, without the diacriticals. Therefore: 高=hawk=taka, 崎=peninsula=saki). What Yukari was feeling every time Misaki was involved has him wondering whether those feelings were love, and what triggered love in the first place.
But wondering on that line of thought led him, like the other adolescents, into a dead end, with the law – that would assign them to their respective partners – glaring over the distance. Understandably, 青春だね (Seishun da ne), the some people would initially rebel and resist, like a wild bird flapping inside its cage. But still, they were aware that they would be throwing away their future if they were to resist. Even so, for the sake of self-gratification (Hachiman: 青春のバカ野郎!), they would trade sweet words to romanticize their youth, like in this instance with Yukari, Nisaka Yuusuke (仁坂 悠介), and his friends vowing to never get married… On which Misaki joined in.
Misaki, who turned sixteen on the previous month (April 16), has not yet been assigned to a partner by the government. Apparently at the present timeline, she is not interested into having a partner, nor into love and romance themselves, evident with joining that “oath” and turning down tons of guys who have wooed her in the past, for she is a bijin (美人; beautiful person) after all.
Yukari finds it difficult to express his feelings on the premise that Misaki is romantically disinterested, especially when he has learned from Misaki herself that the moment with her five years ago – that he has been treasuring – is just trivial for her. However, with his birthday coming up which means adieu to his love to Misaki, despite being “more spineless than a scarecrow”, Yukari proceeds with his plan of giving his first love its last hurrah by confessing to Misaki before the time comes.
In this seemingly hopeless situation of Yukari that the brilliance of Musawo-sensei especially in delivering twists and suspense begins to surface. At this point, viewers and readers are already at the edge of their seats, maybe squirming on their seats too, as Yukari anxiously waits at the park, waiting ridiculously until the dead of night while making ancient tombs from the playground sand. As he (and the viewers/readers) begins to accept defeat and readies himself to be pinned the blame for not saying a specific meeting time to Misaki, Misaki shows up.
Before Yukari (and the viewers/readers) begins to ask the why’s and before he takes his deep breath after confessing, Misaki blows his mind with the revelation that she knows him all along (She just lied earlier)… and that she likes him too. This was like one has just surfaced from his pent up emotions to catch his breath, but suddenly, he encounters an enormous wave of emotions from the other as the dam that stopped those emotions suddenly broke away.
Those mutual emotions culminate into them kissing…starting with a peck, then escalating into a french kiss.
Before we could hear Hanazawa Kana (Misaki’s seiyuu) voice any french kissing sounds, they were interrupted by a text message from the government, informing Yukari about his determined partner. I need to cue another meme:
Threading anxiety, Yukari reads the message, to which on his delight, tells that his arranged partner is Misaki after all. But before he can be fully jubilant about it, agents from the ministry, Ichijou and Yajima(motoi), whose shared back stories drew parallels with Yukari and Misaki’s current dilemma, come to inform that Yukari’s arranged partner is not Misaki, but rather a girl named Sanada Lilina (真田 莉々奈).
The notice hits the newly-materialized couple hard. Misaki’s reaction is probably one of the most heartbreaking lines every produced in anime (which also gives us a glimpse of how Hanazawa-san will deliver Onodera’s lines and emotions when she confessed to Raku in the concluding chapters of Nisekoi):
Even being able to wish you a happy birthday in person like this is like a dream. I feel like I could live 70 years just off the strength of this half hour’s memory. I’d be happy if you felt the same.
She knows that this would happen, and she is prepared to keep her love in secrecy forever. If they were in our world, they would find their happiness. But in the world of Koi to Uso, in that cruel world, such instance is too cruel and heart-wrenching. Arienai! Yukari chases after her, not willing to let go of her, ready to fight for their love against the whole world.
The debut episode ended upon the introduction to that main struggle that our main characters would undergo, not only of Yukari and Misaki, but also of Lilina and Yuusuke. The second half of the episode was executed very well, because of course, it entailed the cream of the introduction to the series. The first part, just like the manga did, left the premise of Yukari and Misaki’s shared past, somehow blurry and rushed. Maybe, it was a conscious choice and was on purpose, because it was a question about love. Nature doesn’t give away answers by making everything concrete. Love always surfaces over blurry thoughts.
The title itself, Love and Lies, poses a question about the very definition of love. Is what Yukari is experiencing love? That question is further pressed upon Yukari upon the introduction (出た! Spoilers are coming!) of Lilina. I really don’t know why Hanazawa Kana-san always voices the likes of Onodera Kosaki from Nisekoi, because Lilina is the Chitoge of this series. But unlike Chitoge, Yukari’s development with Lilina is not half-assed nor half-baked (presumably because this is not a rom com like Nisekoi). His relationship with Lilina draws a sharp contrast with his relationship with Misaki, in terms of foundation. His affection for Misaki is only founded on a distant yet striking memory from their childhood days, while his developed affection for Lilina is founded on their daily struggles.
But it is not like the Raku-Chitoge-Kosaki love triangle, because the love triangle of Koi to Uso’s trio comes with a refreshing twist: Lilina is supportive of the relationship of Yukari and Misaki since the beginning. But it is with that premise from Lilina that things will become harder for them eventually, as each of them is confronted of whether what they are experiencing is love or just a mere lie. Indeed, they are playing with the strings of fate, which the opening sequence is all about. Sadly, that is what the opening sequence is all about. I was expecting an opening song of a somber tone, but we were given an opening song that was somehow out of place (though it tried its best to convey the problems regarding connecting one’s feelings and swings between happiness and sadness).
But, on a positive note, the opening sequence gives us a preview on where in the manga will this season end…and it will be on the part where Yukari and Misaki almost had sex in the woods. That leads us to the question about Misaki and her feelings. The intensity of her feelings, whether they were being suppressed or being let out, is one of the most noticeable things on the whole series itself. Though it is obvious that she would go all the way (On how she initiates the kiss and going on top of Yukari: damn!), it is with her willingness and effort to suppress them is what still make her such a mysterious character like the others. That reflects to the overall atmosphere of the series, especially in the manga, with the addition of Yuusuke (whose bromance with Yuukari reeks of fujoshi paradise). The mysteries, plot twists, suspense, and revelations will never seem to run out, keeping us forever at the edge of our seats.
That is why prepare yourselves and your seats, because you’re gonna have a roller coaster ride with this series!