First Impression – Koi to Uso

Important life lessons #1

winter15-highw Love and Lies sounds like it’s going to be the name for a show like Kuzu no Honkai from last season. But what it’s showing me is that you can make a big difference in tone, but still have an interesting message in the setup. (And I want to reiterate that if you know what’s going to happen in this show, keep it to yourself. Don’t even put it in spoiler tags in the comments, please)

One Big Life Decision Made For You

Someone’s a little bit overupset

Koi to Uso is set in the now. But not the now, more like “a” now. Because they had the idea back in the rip-roaring 70s (when Japan was a much different place than now, to be sure) to make a law that changed the nature of marriage: When each person turns 16, they are matched with another person that they’ll marry. Marriages for love? Sorry, you marry the person the government says you’re going to. But thanks to this policy, the birth rate has now stabilized, and apparently children are getting smarter.

There’s no way that these two government employees are working at midnight to find a kid
in a park to hand him an official notice…

So from the very beginning, this setup has grabbed me. I love the way that it blends so many facets of Japanese culture into a policy that is so limiting and yet apparently successful. First, it plays into the history of arranged marriages, a practice that isn’t nearly as prevalent now, but is still not repudiated fully. Second, it ropes in the Japanese culture of obedience to the greater good. Why do they have this policy? Because it helps Japanese society. Third, a bow to the utilitarian facets that getting more people married will make more babies. And fourth, the “progress” nature of it, where “Science” is used as a matchmaking tool to effectively make these matches. And you’d need to get people who were as compatible as possible, because if you didn’t, even the Japanese would revolt against such a policy if all it did was make horrible marriages.

Some people aren’t interested in the government’s opinion about love

But on top of these cultural touchstones, I think this is a great space to explore. It’s a fact that in the internet age now, more and more people are using matchmaking services. But at the same time, we have a lot of people who, for whatever reasons, are not interested in dating or marriage or even companionship. For the most part, those people have made their decision based on the costs of a relationship, the effort spent, the misses, the pitfalls. They deem it not worth the hassle and maybe they don’t really see the upsides. But imagine that there is a high chance that the someone picked out for you would be very compatible. You don’t actually have to find someone, and go through the trial period to see if you are compatible. The assumption would be that you are. And knowing that starting condition, would you be more welcoming, more likely to try to make it work? I think so.

But maybe it could lead to something more than you think?

So why is an avowed love fanatic like me thinking this isn’t the worst idea ever? Because honestly, I think that it could work. People could fall in love with the person they’re matched to, easily. And let’s be frank: there’s a lot more to “love” than feeling all gooey inside when you see someone else. Sure that’s what’s expected, but it’s also not the greatest of indicators of success of a marriage, partnership, or family. Find someone that’s highly compatible, introduce them at 16 years old, with the expectation of marriage, and I think you’d have a lot more people falling in love in that situation than you might think at first thought.

The old “I lent her an eraser and loved her ever since” plot

But What About This Show?

Finding out you love someone and they love you back

This was actually a very nicely done kiss scene

So that’s a lot about the setup of the show. What’s the show actually like? Well, let me say first off that even if it’s actually by LIDENFILMS, it seems more like a pretty typical Project No. 9 show: Average art, Janky character designs, Kana Hanazawa, and interesting characterization and story (honestly, I’d take kooky Project No 9 over a lot of studios). It’s definitely not going to win anyone over with stellar visuals. But with that setup, and with the characters so far, it doesn’t really matter. The main character, Yukari Nejima, is reaching his 16th birthday, but he’s actually had a crush on a classmate for the last 5 years (these long term crushes, sheesh). As such, he’s not looking forward to his birthday and impending engagement to some stranger. And it doesn’t help when said crush / classmate, Misaki Takasaki, first joins their vow to not ever get married to their assigned person and then admits, right before he turns 16, that she’s been in love with Yukari as well.

But boy, that’s a look, wonder what it means

Ririna’s had enough of Yukari’s blahs

But then it’s too late, because Yukari’s already been matched with Ririna Sanada. And for me, Ririna lights up this show. Not because she’s especially beautiful, but because they have gotten her first impression just spot-on perfect. At a setup meeting between their families, while Yukari broods over Takasaki rejecting him (after having given him the impression that she was in love with him the night before), Ririna is faced with a situation where this boy she is supposed to marry is a gormless blob, ignoring her and making her feel like a chump. And in the first real display of her personality, she tells him off for it. And if you ask me, it’s perfect. She’s mad at him, because he’s both hurt her feelings and he’s been rude and made a mockery of this time that rightly represents a rite of passage for these two kids.

“Oh no, you shouldn’t bow your head…”

“but aren’t you doing it wrong?” It’s like they’re already married

But immediately after that, when Yukari finds her, we find that Ririna is just as mixed up about the idea as Yukari. She doesn’t know what to expect, what to feel. And that’s made more clear as they get to know each other more when he meets her at her school, where she’s a highly-rated student… but not popular. She’s not the target of bullying (because if she was, her classmates would recognize her name a lot sooner), she’s just a social non-entity. She just doesn’t know how to get along with people, or have conversations. Heck, even when Yukari bows his head in apology to her, she recognizes it and then proceeds to criticize his bowing technique in a detached manner. And that detached feel is how she is interested in love. She’s never been in love, so Yukari’s being in love with Misaki is interesting to her, moreso even than this guy that she’s supposed to marry. She even talks to Misaki about Yukari, and it becomes clear that even if Misaki was trying to push him away, she has real affection for Yukari.

What a coincidence that she walks by

Making a new friend


The interaction between Ririna and Yukari really does well

To the point where she forgets she’s not wearing her skirt

But if Misaki actually does like Yukari, then why is she acting like that? The name of the show, Love and Lies, has me thinking while watching it that Misaki has an ulterior motive. Why is she confessing to Yukari 10 minutes before he turns 16? Why does she then reject him, saying she wants to keep their first love as a happy memory? It’s said earlier in the show that she’s been 16 for a while, but rumor has it that she hasn’t gotten her notice from the government. Is something messed up with that? Is it related to the weird text message that Yukari got initially which had Misaki’s name on it? Or did she get her notice, and she’s intended to marry the other guy in their class, who seems to be involved but not really? I’ve got even more theories, but they can wait until later in the show whether they play out or not.

Maybe this awkward couple will work out

Also, Yukari got his notice on official paper (from government workers right after midnight in a park? What? No way.), but we see that Ririna got a text message. This is another great thing about this show: It’s not just the surface love story. There appears to be a lot of things going on, and it really is masking the intentions and feelings of all the people involved, and even for a girl like Ririna, it seems like maybe she doesn’t even know herself what she wants.

There’s actually a US TV show (based on a Danish show) called “Married at First Sight” where people get married to people they don’t know that are matched by a group of counselors / specialists. Now, that show doesn’t have the greatest track record, with only 2 of the 12 couples married by the series still married, but then again, it’s USians, and even more, it’s a super limited pool of applicants who wouldn’t mind being on a reality TV show.

Mom and Dad are excited!

But one thing that I think really makes this show work is that this isn’t a new policy. The kids parents all were married this way, and their parents were likely married this way. They’re three generations in, and all of them think that this is good policy. The way the parents are looking forward to their child’s notice, and excited about the possibilities, is one of the aspects of the show I find a lot of fun. Heck, Mom even named her son “Yukari”, a girl’s name, just because she liked the system. They even consider it so important that they have kids miss school to meet their newly betrothed, and use event spaces for the meetings (Yukari and Ririna meet at the same inn that Yukari’s parents met). This is just the cultural background now. But even as much as these kids want to ‘buck the system’, it’s assuredly not a new thing for rebellious teens to think that their first love is much more important. I just think that it can be a great framework for creating tension in this story.


Proving that you don't have to be young to love anime, I enjoy all genres and styles of shows. If it's not hurting anyone else, you should never be ashamed of what you like!
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8 Responses to “First Impression – Koi to Uso”

  1. ProtoSovereign says:

    Hurray you’re covering something that I’m watching highway ^^. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

    • Highway says:

      I’m interested too, but also interested in seeing what other people’s impressions of the show are. Has anything struck you as worth noting?

      • ProtoSovereign says:

        Well I’m not sure if its just me but I found the execution of the concept pretty nice and relatable, nothing is overly dark and dramatic. The character interactions feel fresh and interesting too but all of this is just my personal opinion lol. I wonder what that issue with his notice being scrambled and completely incorrect at the start was meant to be. Was it his over active imagination and hopes making him see illusions or was it something else entirely.

        • ProtoSovereign says:

          After watching the first 2 episodes again I found out Nisaka (the handsome guy) was probing Takasaki about her feelings towards Nejima. Can’t can’t believe I missed that XD, what a cheeky guy.

          • Highway says:

            Yeah, Nisaka asking Misaki about it was rather pointed, and at the time I was wondering if he and Misaki had actually been already paired up by the government. And nothing that happens in ep 3 changes that possibility, although it does provide more possible context.

          • Highway says:

            I find it interesting that the two women who have some romantic connection to Yukari, whether they believe it or not yet, both have such out of character reactions to Nisaka, different from meeting some random guy. Ririna is afraid of him hiding behind Yukari, and I don’t get the feeling that she’d do that when meeting other random friends of Yukari. And Misaki goes further and seems to loathe Nisaka. Like she thinks he’s absolute scum. And heck, he might be, but again it’s not a usual classmate reaction, especially when we haven’t seen anything that Nisaka’s done to her (yet).

            • ProtoSovereign says:

              Yeah, Misaki definitely seems to loathe Nisaka. My pet theory is that she is probably his arranged partner (which would be super convenient for Yukari) or she’s in on his little secret (the one revealed in ep 3) and she’s probably still hi arranged partner. I just feel like it would be so obvious if she was, but hey maybe they’re not exactly trying to hide that. As for the Ririna hiding from Nisaka. I thought that seemed like a natural reaction. Maybe she’s just wary of his pretty face and his attitude.

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