Review/discussion about: Koi to Uso
Koi to Uso is an anime that asks an age-old question: “This or that?”
Such a question has been asked by people, of people for a millennium. Presented with two choices, someone must select either-or to proceed. It may be as simple as choosing which piece of clothing to purchase at the mall. It may cause more thinking when it involves which vacation spot to go to over the summer. And it may be completely life altering as a specific college is selected to attend.
No matter the chosen option, the outcome changes. For Koi to Uso, that question pertains not to jackets, beaches, or reputations but rather marriage. And the answer it comes to is ultimately disappointing.
When it comes to love, many people believe in the concept of “the one.” A person who, by an unbelievable miracle, completes him or her like nobody else ever could. Whether such a sentiment makes sense matters not, for it isn’t so much about the miracle as it is about people finally finding their better half. Within the story of Koi to Uso, such a belief is unnecessary – because it’s now a reality.
Government mandates, based off scientific evidence and extrapolation, discern for the masses their “one” to such a high degree of accuracy that compatibility is practically guaranteed. Already, and as the anime showcases, this intriguing premise gets the audience pondering about the truth behind love itself.
Be it by notice or by nature, the events tackled within the anime prove that love isn’t so simple. Circumstances, ideas, emotions, upbringings. These facets and more drive someone’s feelings on both an inherent plane and a personal level. To the point that love, in Koi to Uso’s eyes, must mean more than just a reactionary feeling based on a single encounter.
As it pits programmed fate against random destiny, the anime introduces different setups for its narrative that, while not groundbreaking, give it opportunities to further its thematic presence. For example, the Romeo and Juliet play, while perhaps an overused staple of the rom-com high-school genre, fits snuggly within the show’s discussion on forced feelings given the content of that famous Shakespeare work. Likewise, the camping trip, the sex lecture, and the wedding bring into the fold interpersonal drama, heightened hormones, and vital commitments (respectively) which once again follow the show’s intentions.
However, Koi to Uso arguably fails to explore its premise to an adequate extent, glossing over potential problems and obvious cues in favor of keeping its focus on just Neji and his singular dilemma.
Take the “penalty” for foregoing the genetic system. The anime often alludes to this threat, but it doesn’t mean much when it isn’t demonstrated in a real-world (their world) example. There’s also Nisaka’s case of homosexuality. Despite his own orientation, the show does not investigate how the government handles those who are attracted to the same sex, a trait which inherently goes against the “birth-rate boosting” ideology of the system. The show rarely even takes the time to highlight other couples or the system itself in action for comparative and contrasting purposes, turning the idea into a detail that the audience must trust and accept without remorse.
Playing devil’s advocate, the premise here exists only to get the ball rolling and not much else. After all, expanding the scope of the plot beyond Neji, Misaki, Ririna, and Nisaka’s bubble wouldn’t necessarily serve their dramatic sequences. An acceptable defense, but this direction means that that bubble better be airtight. Unfortunately, it contains a few holes that keep it from maintaining a sound structure.
One of these bigger holes takes the form of characters popping in out of nowhere. Yajima, the government man overseeing Neji’s situation, appears unannounced many a time, like at the school or at the cat playhouse. And Nisaka’s father has one of the most glaring “Okay, now where did he come from?” moments the medium has ever seen.
Another major hole pops up as frustrating circular dialogue. Characters like Igarashi and Misaki seem as if they are talking in earnest to Neji and others – only for them to take it all back afterwards. Lines such as “forget everything just said” forces this problem to the forefront.
And, at its core, the back and forth between Misaki and Ririna represents another hole for Koi to Uso to overcome. But this hole is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because the anime demonstrates well enough why either side deserves to win in the first place based off their separate-yet-similar reasons regarding love and its necessity in their lives. Plus, it’s the whole point of the show. Without this struggle, no story would exist, and it would therefore not have the chance to think about the scientific and personal implications of love.
Yet it’s a curse because, by the halfway point, it becomes painfully obvious that the show will not forego the status quo. Instead, it keeps the narrative in a tug-of-war match that only induces frustration and tiredness the further it goes. This lack of progression means less insight and more of the same drama revisited in a stale fashion.
Must one or the other be selected? Perhaps not. But when Koi to Uso tries very hard to make it seem so throughout the season, and then fails to resolve much (if anything) come the end, it somewhat defeats the purpose of having to make a choice between the two in the first place.
Overall, this anime has interesting ideas about love and creates some nice setups for its story to talk about the concept. Sadly, it restricts the premise, it upholds too many writing problems, and it lacks a definitive answer to the question it posits. So, altogether, this narrative is by no means “the one” in this context.
ART & ANIMATION
Among the anime’s key traits, Koi to Uso’s artistry arguably ranks in the middle of the lot.
To its credit, the designs of the characters at least stand out in some regard. Yes, Neji’s short brown hair and unassuming looks unfortunately paint him as a rather bland person. But Misaki, Ririna, and Nisaka do not succumb to this same problem.
Instead, the love interests have a few details to call their own. Neji (and the audience) lose themselves in the girls’ large (almost too large) eyes as they look on with affection. Flushed fingers and long lashes increase their prettiness without calling attention to themselves as well. Individually, Misaki’s medium-length hair and generous proportions increase her physical attractiveness, and Ririna’s refined beauty evokes for her a cute, docile aura. As for Nisaka, his purple motif gives him a cool appearance, and his thinner eyes incite his standoffish personality well enough.
Besides the nice character designs, the lighting within the show also has a small foothold. Vibrant nighttime scenes with glowing fireflies. A sunset cascading into a classroom as a gentle breeze shifts the curtains around. Shadowing techniques as they start to get a bit frisky. While not incredible, Koi to Uso likes to play around with the lighting in its scenes when and where it can.
Speaking of “frisky,” the anime also isn’t afraid to showcase its distinct advances, highlighting the passions of the characters therein with kissing and caressing aplenty. Some of the slight ecchi moments perhaps do not belong in this drama, though. They could be chalked up to a meta aspect of the visuals that reflects their sexual ignorance, but that seems like a stretch. At any rate, the show includes a few comedic styles and backgrounds on occasion to change up its usually serious self.
Otherwise, the anime is very straightforward in its presentation. The setting and the direction do not do a whole lot to engage the audience, and the actual animation neither improves nor does anything too interesting. Worse still, artistic errors sometimes creep their way in. For instance, in episode eight, Nisaka’s mouth continues moving as he walks down some steps despite not speaking anymore.
Again, though, the designs, the various lighting techniques, and the attempts at varied styles prevent the visuals from falling out of favor. Meaning, the show delivers a passable artistic direction for this love-filled story.
The characters of Koi to Uso must contend with those occasionally tumultuous, often invigorating feelings of love. Neji, Misaki, Ririna, and Nisaka go about it in their own way, but they also have clear parallels which tie them together.
Most notably, these characters are quite naïve when it comes to love in and of itself. Indeed, they often think about and ask a philosophical question: “What is love?” To them, the “powers that be” have controlled their outlooks and their thoughts on the subject their entire lives. So, it makes valid sense that exchanging an eraser, listening in earnest, or sticking up for someone sparks those skip-a-beat feelings that they do not yet fully comprehend.
Their naivety also explains their reactionary behavior, for each of them responds to love in a similar yet distinct manner. Neji caves to the thoughts and actions which so easily influence him. Misaki runs away from and lies about her feelings. Ririna romanticizes romance with a starry-eyed expression. And Nisaka goes wholly on the defensive, remaining aloof in his mindset. Without a doubt, love plays a big part in their personalities.
That’s them as a grouping. On their own, these four teenagers not only have different places within Koi to Uso but also have different purposes as well. The two most interesting cast members that fit this description are the ones who get along the least: Ririna and Nisaka.
While Ririna’s backstory as a sickly child receives the bare minimum of attention, it accounts for much of her persona. Awkward social behavior, lack of companionship, idolization of romance. Her starting point within this series may in fact be the lowest among the cast simply because she, unlike everyone else, finds love only now and therefore understands the least about it.
Thus, her bonds with Neji and the others grant her better relationships and allow her to discover a more realistic view on love. She befriends Misaki and a fellow classmate at her school as she opens up to them, and she learns from Neji and Misaki in equal parts that her feelings equate to a tangible, meaningful existence. So, seeing her evolve from a lonely girl to a mature lady becomes a high point of this series.
Nisaka doesn’t evolve as much as Ririna, but he plays an important role within Koi to Uso: maintaining a rational perspective. He often lets Neji bounce ideas off him so that he can in turn dish out his calm advice on the situation. Advice that comes directly from his heart. He can be a bit too tactless, but he has care within him, like when he is willing to put up with the school festival if it would mean making his best friend happy. Either way, when Neji caves, Misaki lies, and Ririna romanticizes, Nisaka keeps that cool of his (save for when his family rolls around), forming a nice contrast in the grounded stance he takes as compared to those three.
Unfortunately, Koi to Uso ignores Nisaka’s character to some extent. His interactions with Misaki and Ririna are few and far between despite their collective, interconnected circumstances with and towards Neji. Which is doubly odd for Misaki since his (heavily implied) feud of sorts with her doesn’t mean much or go anywhere meaningful.
As for Misaki and Neji, they fall further behind. The entire season, Misaki lies about how she truly feels, fitting her character well enough and imposing a strangeness within the dynamics. She even goes so far as to “betray” her friendship with Ririna in that she at one point secretly wishes for her to fail. As she sadly says, “It’s a cruel thing…loving someone.”
Yet the anime never reveals the true motive behind why she cannot follow her heart’s desires. Some guesses can be made (e.g., she’s lying about being matched with someone else already, she has a terminal illness that literally prevents a long-term relationship). However, without concrete proof, they’re nothing more than guesses. Her friend Igarashi appears later in the season to deliver extra information about Misaki, but most of the audience already knew or at least could infer these repeated details. As such, she certainly remains shrouded in mystery but likewise stays in a static state with little to no progression.
Similarly, Neji is the plain, main protagonist whose main hobby includes knowledge about burial mounds. So, naturally, he’s quite unintriguing, acting more as the vessel for this tale rather than a worthwhile person within it. Not to mention his simultaneous passivity and forwardness. Contradictory behavior for sure, yet it oddly works. In a writing sense, it reflects the tough decision he has before him: choosing between Misaki or Ririna as his bride-to-be.
To flesh out Neji’s character, Koi to Uso juxtaposes him with Yajima. Surprisingly, this government dude had a personal love (implied to be his red-haired work partner) that he did not pursue, posing as a what-if for the impressionable guy. This tangent leads to a dead-end, though, because Yajima’s involvement and impact feels more like an aside rather than a point of purpose.
Despite Misaki and Neji not having the greatest substance within this story, they stay true to themselves and have their tiny moments here and there. Plus, Nisaka’s role, Ririna’s arc, and the parallels present demonstrate that they all contend with their feelings on love no matter what.
MUSIC & SOUND
When it comes to the music and the sound within Koi to Uso, its audio decisions reach a standstill of sorts.
On the helpful side, its opening track provides a neat start. The OP, aptly titled “Kanashii Ureshii” due to its catchy lyrical content, begins each episode with a few peppy xylophone notes and a drum beat. However, the funky bass line, the harmonizing vocals, and the clapping interlude create in the song a passion and a somberness that reflects the emotions present throughout the season. Arguably, the dance-like, almost bubbly tone falls outside the scope of this dramatic tale insofar as the composition seems more aligned with a groovier structure rather than a direct appeal. Nevertheless, the OP has the musical chops to take a leading spot within the show.
The original soundtrack also helps Koi to Uso with its atmospheric approach. Grating sounds, jittery piano keys, reverberating guitar strings, grander movements. These ambient layers coat the show in unease but still maintain a sense of structure throughout. Such structured uneasiness coincides with that ever-present choice that nags at Neji’s mind. Even the tracks that focus on lighter instrumentation for the not-so-serious moments involve a lot of singular, disparate notes too, keeping the anime consistent in its music while also demonstrating its range.
After the OP and the OST, the music slowly skirts away from helpfulness and towards hindering. Listening to the ending track “Can’t You Say”, it ditches the groove of the OP for that direct appeal in a hip-hop love song. The snapping, the chimes, the female singers, the melodic structure. Everything screams romantic and emotional, complementing the anime’s own direction. However, despite picking up in the second half of the song and intermixing both Japanese and English lyrics for more dynamism, the ED doesn’t do enough to leave a lasting impression in its beat, its vocals, or its delivery to reach a similar set of heights as its counterpart.
Voice acting likewise reaches the same conclusion. Each performance works as is but fails to capitalize on a lot of scenes with any notable moments. At the very least, Kana Hanazawa as Misaki and Yui Makino as Ririna bring along innocence, Ryota Osaka as Neji fumbles ahead with nervousness, and Shinnosuke Tachibana keeps his cool for sure.
These VA performances mark for an average outing, meaning they’re neither too positive nor too negative in execution. In fact, the only real negative in the sound design stems from the infrequent mixing issues. For, while that OST is nice and has its uses during the season, it sometimes overbears the characters as they talk. Again, not that it always happens, but the loudness is noticeable during select scenes.
Pointing out the loud music may be overly nitpicky anyway, for the OP and the OST help Koi to Uso in a positive sense regardless. And the ED and the VA performances, while not standout in their inclusion, do not interfere with this project. In total then, and much like the art and the animation, the audio elements rank somewhere in the middle.
The fact that I wouldn’t mind if either Misaki or Ririna won must say something about me, about the anime accomplishing its goals, or both.
They’re kindhearted and sincere, each wanting a relationship with Neji while also dealing with their own situations and even looking out for the other in some fashion. Truth be told, I still like Misaki more than Ririna and believe Misaki to be the better of the two. Yes, she lies a lot, but my heart tells me that her feelings for Neji (and his for her) hold a higher value than those of Ririna’s if only because they derive from a personal place all their own as opposed to a by-the-books matchup.
Again, though, I would be perfectly okay with a polygamous ending despite such an outcome defeating the purpose of the show’s thematic presence. For Ririna’s emotions, while a result of government meddling, still blossom from the real bond that she shares with Neji. In simpler terms, I just want those three to live happily ever after together because they deserve it. So, I’m rooting for the harem.
That said, I feel sad for Nisaka. Not that he was ever teased or belittled about his feelings or his personality (because he is known as the hottest, coolest guy in school), but the anime almost never gave him a chance to begin with. Neji clearly has no romantic interest in him, so he was doomed before the story started. Even the scene where the girls rush his changing area when nobody did the same to Misaki minutes earlier didn’t sit right with me in its blatant double-standard portrayal.
Aside from the mistreatment of Nisaka, I didn’t dislike the anime. I could do without Neji since he wasn’t the best protagonist, but the passionate moments with Misaki and the heartfelt talks with Ririna kept me entertained. The smaller comedy sketches had me slightly chuckling, too. However, without a proper conclusion on any front, I’m left unsatisfied with this incomplete tale.
Koi to Uso leaves much to be desired. It does have several strong traits: its ideas, some of the details in the artistry, a couple of its cast members, pieces of the music. But too many others are decidedly weak: a slew of narrative problems, a boring artistic direction, lame character involvement, average audio design. Between “this” or “that”, this project chose poorly.
Story: Bad, despite having themes targeting the true roots of love and using worthwhile setups for its various events, the unexplored premise, the weak narrative direction, and the inherent lack of progress prevent this tale from reaching a meaningful place
Art & Animation: Fine, nice character designs and appreciated lighting techniques offset the rather straightforward artistry
Characters: Fine, parallels between the cast strengthen their foundations, Ririna goes through a solid arc, Nisaka is an interesting player who is ignored, Misaki remains too static, and Neji needs more to him
Music & Sound: Fine, a neat OP and an ambient OST help more so than the direct ED, the okay VA performances, and the infrequent loudness in the audio
Enjoyment: Fine, although Misaki is better than Ririna, a polygamous outcome is highly acceptable for maximum romance, but Nisaka’s mistreatment and an unfinished answer is not welcome
Final Score: 4/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3