Love And Lies Complete Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 305 minutes approx.
What is Love?
How does it work?
Have you never been curious?
The lyrics from one of my favourite songs ever ask a pertinent question unlikely to be answered but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Adapt from the manga by Musawo Love And Lies takes a dystopian approach to exploring this particular head-scratcher.
Declining birth rates in a near future Japan have been reversed via the Yukari System, a Government programme that carefully calculates and assigns a compatible life partner to all children on their 16th birthday. The day before he turns 16, Yukari Nejima finally tells classmate Misaki Takasaki he has been in love with her since junior school.
Later that night Misaki meets Yukari in the park and reveals that love is reciprocated. When midnight arrives, Yukari gets a text saying Misaki is his assigned wife, but this is a fake; government officials arrive with an document naming Ririna Sanada as his official chosen partner.
Arranged marriages are a regular part of life in Asian countries and something we here in the west will probably never understand, but even then, they are nowhere near as clinical or deemed as absolute as the Yukari System is. Love And Lies might be a work of fiction but it does a proffer chilling vision of how technology can facilitate the inner workings of totalitarian mindset even if the motives are for the best.
Beyond this of course there is the obligatory love triangle that actually takes a while to manifest itself since the participants in this enforced dating game are very unwilling. As the story unfolds, audiences will find themselves either on Team Misaki or Team Ririna, all the while wondering what they see in Yukari, who admits he is no catch but at least has someone to love.
It seems that the Yukari System isn’t as popular as the government likes to think and many are keen to rebel against having their life partner chosen for them by a computer, and that includes Ririna, something she makes clear upon her very uncomfortable first meeting with Yukari. Accepting this mutual dissent for the programme, Yukari and Ririna agree to act like a couple in public, allowing Yukari to continue to see Misaki.
Ririna doesn’t have any friends but vows to be upfront with Misaki about their charade but they get on so well they become friends. Ideally, this wouldn’t be a problem but seeing how happy Yukari makes Misaki Ririna begins to see Yukari in a new light and the more time she and Yukari spend together… well, you get the picture.
Meanwhile Yusuke Nisaka, Yukari’s friend, knows about the ruse with Ririna, becoming involved in their duplicity, not out of duty to Yukari but for another, more personal reason. And this is on top of Misaki and Ririna bonding over their love for Yukari, neither wanting to get in the way of the other’s happiness as well as a mysterious third party trying to influence the path of this relationship.
At first glance, the premise of this show lends itself to a trenchant satire on the extremes of government interference and the coldness of arranged marriages that take intrinsic aspects like love out of the relationship building. As daft as some of the events of the first episode play out, this is certainly where the direction appears to be heading but the second episode reminds us that this is anime and it has a target audience to appeal to first.
Just to allay any fears for any tough guys, this isn’t aimed exclusively at romance fans despite the impression given by the character designs of inordinately large, shimmering eyes which work for the girls, less so for the boys. The concept of the forced partnership will engender ill feelings regardless of the viewer’s chromosome make up and even empathy with Yukari’s dilemma, a demonstration of how effective the plotting is.
Where it might lose some people is in toeing the line in regard to genre conventions, vis-a-vis a camping trip (with swimsuits), the hot springs visit and the school festival play. The necessity to show us this is a still a recognisable life away from the Yukari System affords the inclusion of these plot beats a pass but those hoping for a Logan’s Run-esque rebellion against the system won’t feel so enamoured by these hackneyed occurrences.
Luckily there is some humour in our chaste protagonists’ awkward journey, specifically Yukari and Ririna attending a mandatory group seminar on procreation. These 16 year-olds amazingly don’t even recognise a condom, let alone enjoy watching a graphic instructional video on copulation before being told to get a room and do it themselves! And they’re supposedly ready for marriage?
But it is made clear from the onset that this is a story to delve into the mystery of what love really is – whether it can be forced, nurtured or in worst case scenarios, destroyed completely. The conceit of this tale is that love is the reason so many people lie yet love is as much a cause of pain as the lies are, no matter how warranted they are. There are no answers but a reminder that love is a complex thing.
The relatively new Liden Films handle the production of this title and it is exactly what you would expect for the genre – watercolour backgrounds, plenty of sparkle and pretty characters. Some of the females are generously but not ridiculously proportioned, an fan service is surprisingly scant. However, some lurid kissing scene with saliva trails and busy tongues compensate, if that is you kind of thing.
In the final analysis, the biggest surprise about Love And Lies is that it is not as soppy as it could have been, making it more accessible to non-romance fans. The potential of the story as a futuristic satire being shunted aside for the status quo is frustrating but it poses enough intelligent questions to suffice as a worthy watch.
Japanese Language DTS HD-MA 2.0
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
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