stop staring at me with them big ol eyes

In the not so distant future, Japan’s latest attempt at curtailing the plummeting birth rate are ‘Yukari Marriages’ – marriages arranged by the government with matchups determined by some kind of genetic algorithm. When someone turns 16, they will receive a government notice with the name of their future spouse, who they will then have children with. Ridiculous as it sounds, in the last fifty years it has stabilized the birth rate, there are finally more young than old and the glorified eugenics system is producing smarter babies as well. The catch is that a Yukari decision is absolute, so if you happen to be in love with anybody else…tough luck.

Nejima Yukari is one such person who is in love with someone else – despite his parents having so much faith in the Yukari system that they literally named him after it. The object of his affection is Takasaki Misaki, who he has had a raging crush on for the past five years but has never even managed to even talk to her. On the day before his sixteenth birthday, realizing he may never get to talk to her again, he decides to finally confess – and, to his amazement, she actually felt the same way about him all this time. The happy confession and half hour they spend as a couple is cut short when Nejima’s government announcement is sent to his phone….and it turns out that his fated marriage partner is Misaki. Except, the message is somewhat strange and glitching, and it disappears from his phone without a trace before he can properly react. At that moment, the government officials show up to give him his documents, which have the name of a completely different girl, and what’s more, they deny the possibility of him ever receiving a different notice. The new couple are forced to face the reality of this ridiculous society and the angst begins.

This scene looked really pretty at least.

If you’re queer at all it’s incredibly difficult not to roll your eyes right out at heterosexual romances with the premise of ‘~what if true love was ILLEGAL?!~’, and yet I actually was keeping up with the  Love and Lies manga for a good while. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece or anything, but something about the characters and their designs is kind of charming and I really liked the art, plus it was free on the offical mangabox app.  I can’t stand most teen angst stories, but this one was slightly more bearable than most – and it’s probably because Nejima and Misaki get their feelings out of the way first instead of spending half of, or most of the entire series not admitting they like each other, which a lot of other series would do.

The plot, of course, is ridiculous – it was ridiculous in the manga and it’s still ridiculous here. Even if such a ridiculous system were to come about – why the hell does it come into effect when they’re sixteen?! At least make it eighteen? Or when finishing school? If you’re thinking that it’s just to prepare them for the future so they have the time to get to know each other for their eventual marriage, slightly spoiler and all but there is literally a scene in the manga where the teenagers are taken to an educational facility to watch what is basically educational porn with their Yukari partners and sent to a love hotel and basically told to bang each other. I know the easy answer is because it’s literally impossible for some authors to conceive of a romantic drama that isn’t set in a school, but come the fuck on. (Like I said, it’s no masterpiece, and the whole scene was just a really stupid way to inject some drama for the characters to run away from.)

The main thing I liked about the manga – the art – also unfortunately did not make the transition to anime very well. Something about the way the characters are drawn – especially the eyes – feels really off. The eyes are goddamn huge. They’re huge in the manga too, but they don’t look so…starey? I kept wanting to yell at the characters to blink and ask them why they keep staring at each other like deers in headlights. There are times when it manages to look decent, but overall it’s not a particularly attractive show, which is a shame, because there’s really not much else it has going for it. I think one of the main issues is that the characters just don’t move enough. A still image of two people staring at each other is one thing, but in an animation, where things should by definition move around, it’s a lot more uncanny. And maybe I need to reread the manga to check but…were there that many superfluous shots of Misaki’s butt and chest? Half the time when she’s talking to Nejima the camera is from that angle. It’s presented in a way that doesn’t even really feel like fanservice, it’s just…weird.

I can forgive a lot of dumb plots as long as I like the characters – this episode doesn’t introduce them all so I can’t yet say how well they’ve made the transition though. Nejima’s still a weird kid obsessed with burial mounds for some reason, and Mikasa is still just kind of pleasantly bland. I might watch a bit more to see the two characters I like a lot better – Nejima’s marriage partner Lilia and his attractive friend Nisaka, but otherwise I’m not really sure how much I can be bothered. I’d rather just read the manga to be honest, which I’m not even all that invested in to begin with, so there’s no reason for me to desire what currently looks like a  worse version of the same story.

the yukari agents somehow hunting him down literally minutes after he turned 16 like some kind of cockblocking Men in Black was also ridiculous.

out of 5,