Time goes by, and so the seasons. This summer was probably one of the first times where I ended up watching less shows than I expected. It is not to blame the selection but there was not much to pick my interests. But among all those shows, three ranked on top, shows that left me asking for more each week. Some of them were surprises, but those are the kind of stories that will last more than the three months that aired. Let’s talk about the third place, a love story set on a not-so crazy near future. Today, I’ll review Koi to Uso.
About the show
Koi to Uso (恋と嘘) is an adaptation of a six volumes ongoing manga. The anime consisted of twelve episodes, 22 minutes each.
Set on an alternative timeline in Japan, where the government implemented a system to encourage successful marriages and combat increasingly low birthrates. Based on data and compatibility calculations, at age 16, young people are assigned by the government a partner for life. This has been the norm for at least one generation. The story centers around Yukari Nejima, an average teenager who does not have much to show. Still adamant about the whole “assigned marriage” thing, he decides to gather all the courage he has to confess to his love to his long-time crush Misaki Takasaki. Both discover their feelings are mutual but cruel destiny will crush the moment when Yukari receives his notice and Misaki is not the one chosen for him. From here on, Yukari and his assigned partner, Ririna will uncover and be tangled on a world of lies, deception and the search for love.
Initially I picked up this show for the “dystopian” description of government mandated marriages and thought it was going to be more like Shimoneta about underground resistance fighting for love or something similar. But that was not the case. During the winter season, I reviewed two shows that went to the extreme to talk about love and both failed pathetically. Koi to Uso uses the scenario of young people being selected to be partners of others to highlight and present a story about falling in love and the complex feelings that get involved. You won’t find a pessimistic or cynic worldview in this show (like in Scum’s Wish) even if the background clearly allows it, but there are voices of dissent that would influence the relationships of our characters.
Koi to Uso dwells into a topic that is often times omitted from romantic shows, the conflict between love at first sight and nurtured love. The first half of the first episode of this show runs like any other shoujo where we are introduced to our MC and his group of friends and how the MC likes a girl and wants to confess his feelings. The difference here is that there’s something that will push him to confront her and reveal that he likes her. That thing being the government-mandated partners. Instead of waiting twelve episodes to see a confession and a kiss, we get it on the first. It’s a thrilling moment when it’s revealed that his feelings are corresponded and they kiss. Even if we know the story cannot end here, the emotions transmitted by that scene are a response for the kind of fantasy story we tell ourselves that maybe there’s a chance that somebody is in love with us.
Cue to Ririna, the selected partner for Nejima. Nurtured love is less attractive, fantasy-wise, than love at first sight because it is clumsy, difficult and it is a constant job to maintain it fresh and uphold despite whatever conflict you might have with your partner. Ririna and Nejima do not like each other, they don’t know each other only that a government agency select them to be married. Our first reaction is rejection but we have the understand to context they live in. Their parents got together because of this system, society has changed to accept these unions are as part of normal life. As they accept their situation, Ririna is fascinated by Nejima’s love for Misaki and wants to do everything for them to be together. But as they get to know more about each other, their defects, fears and insecurities, love will build up and will culminate when both reveal their feelings about each other.
Another thing to point out with Koi to Uso is that is gorgeous. The animation style resembles old shoujo mangas with their exaggerated eye size and head proportions but that is a charming detail that is not distracting and it helps for the characters to deliver their thoughts via their face expressions. Design wise is difficult to choose a favorite character, even the MC that is supposed the average, normal and dull one has his good points that makes him less obnoxious compared to other shoujo male leads.
Koi to Uso has its flaws. One predominant one is not wanting to expand the story they set up with Nejima and his friend. I’ll try to avoid spoilers about it, but it would be an interesting angle to take if you talk about different forms of love. Not talking about fujobit but in a society where marriages are arranged by the government, what happened to who do not fit the government definition of a couple. According to some manga readers, the issue is not even talked about later so this is a wasted opportunity. And talking about the government, the show hinted how the process involve more than selecting partner, they also give your courses and even pay for your wedding. Maybe a little bit more of information on how this society accepted these laws as part of regular life could have been great. Not a big deal but there’s a limit where you can suspend your disbelief.
As a romantic anime, Koi to Uso stands above others for its shred of mystery and completely different setting of the classic love triangle. If you like shoujo, or you were disappointed with “Scum’s Wish” I highly recommend this show. Anime is available where anime is.