Reading Between Reviews: Koi to Uso

Love is a strange, ethereal, yet powerful emotion, one that we often take for granted.

Koi to Uso was an anime that explored this concept in an extremely unique way, one that I had never seen before.  For that, it quickly got me interested, as a story with so much potential, I couldn’t help but get excited!  Exploring the meaning of what love is, the lies, the social drama, the emotions that would come about, how could I NOT be excited?

But of course, with such lofty expectations, the story must then be good enough to match–and suffice to say…

Well.  It’s sometimes hard to live up to expectation, ya know?


1. Story: (5.9/10)–Below Average

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In a world where love is decided  by the government, a system that decides your perfect partner from the get-go, one would think there’d be a LOT of potential problems.  Society wouldn’t ever accept that!  They could choose the wrong person!  It could get in the way of true love!  Except…in this world, where the system is rather precise, that’s not quite the case.

Having to deal with a population deficit, the Japanese government needed to do something, and developed this system, colloquially known as the “Red Strings of Fate” by some, in order to promote better relationships.  And, wouldn’t you know it, the system turned out to be a rather unique blessing.  No one had to worry about who their ultimate partners would be, and when they received notices of their partners, the relationships would, more often than not, work out wonderfully!

But of course, there are those people–namely, Yukari Nejima, and Misaki Takasaki–who find that the system has its flaws, not taking into account the idea of pre-existing love.

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It is in this world, where he finds himself matched with his future wife, who, strangely enough, wishes for his past romance to succeed.  A girl, Ririna, who doesn’t wish for love herself, but finds joy in this strange romance.  It’s…an odd situation–one where drama and broken hearts are sure to come about.

Now, the story of Koi to Uso is among the most intriguing I’ve seen in a while.  It tackles some rather interesting theoretical questions, the importance of young love, and puts a nice spin on some classic “Romeo and Juliet” themes that are so easily messed up.  And, in concept alone, there’s potential to explore the meaning of love, the importance of sex, the potential genetic and societal factors in deciding romance.

There was a LOT to unpack.  And this works both for, and against this series.

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Because you know.  That won’t get complicated at all.

It…had a lot of potential, and a wealth of material to work with.  The first three episodes in particular put forth many, many, MANY plot points that could have led the anime down many different roads.  From the feelings of male side character Nisaka, to the potential to explore glitches in the Red String system, I had this feeling that, if done right, Koi to Uso could have been…:gasp: a harem anime that was actually good?

And I mean really, everyone and their mother has an interest in Nejima.  But we’ll get to that later.

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Yep.

The development of the story, as it is, went down a rather predictable, yet still good path.  What Koi to Uso does well, is portray the potential awkwardness, the potential heart-break that could come with such a situation, and does so…in a surprisingly non-idealistic, respectable manner.  Having an assigned wife, while still being fully in love with another individual who loves you back, and everything that might imply, are very well explored, and as a result, we see that the moral, personal dilemmas that come up are NOT easy to deal with.

This particular avenue of the plot–not bad at all.

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The drama IS rather intriguing to see, and honestly, makes sense at most points.

However, this came at the cost at leaving multiple avenues only half-explored.  We hear nothing about one character’s feelings, even by the very end, a pivotal, potentially story-changing event at the very beginning of the series, is essentially unaddressed.  Some rather awkward sexual moments, that could have honestly been explored in a better, tactful, or more consistent, way, was crammed into a single episode, when it could have either been ignored, or explicitly focused on.

Either way, choose what you wanna do, ya know?  Otherwise the whole thing suffers.

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Ultimately, this resulted in a plot that was good at doing one thing, but left me rather disappointed.  As a story, it had the potential to be far more dramatic and thematically satisfying than it was, by simply having a greater sense of focus on one or two plot points, rather than half-heartedly sticking its foot in the water.  If it didn’t even MENTION some of the themes it hinted at, I would have been a happier viewer for it–at least then,  I would know exactly what the series was choosing to focus on.

The more I think about it, the more it annoys me.  And especially considering that ATROCIOUS ending…

Yeah, it just wasn’t that good.


2. Characters: (6.5/10)–Average

Koi to Uso’s characters…well.  Some were really decent!  And some…weren’t.

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My largest qualm with the main cast, is its male protagonists.  Namely the main one, Nejima, who falls into a trap I’ve seen many, many characters fall into before–what I like to call, “average nice-guy syndrome”.

As one might expect out of a romance anime, Nejima is…a nice guy.  But lots of romance protagonists tend to be nice guys.  The only question is how they distinguish themselves beyond that.

Tomoya of Clannad distinguishes himself through his internalized family pains.  Ryuuji of Toradora is a tough guy who’s actually a wimp, and Kousei from Your Lie in April, being a stereotypical nerdy student, is shown to be a crippled, yet brilliant, musical genius.  These people make themselves stand out from being just “nice,” defining themselves with specific characteristics that are memorable, intense, and just fun.

Nejima is a nice guy…that likes burial mounds?

Koi-to-Uso-TV-Anime-Character-Image-Yukari-Nejima
That about says it all.

The design of Nejima’s character just isn’t that good.  He’s not engaging, not relatable, and even in stressful situations, it never seems like HE’S the one instigating anything.  In fact, in every situation I can think of, Nejima just acts like his own nice self, while the people around him deal with intense emotional problems, actually growing, learning, making decisions.  He doesn’t appear to deserve any of the attention he gets, and there, lies the crux of the problem.

Compare him to other protagonists of romance anime, such as Kousei of Your Lie in April, or heck, even Ryuuji from Toradora, and he just doesn’t do much to earn anything good that happens to him.

It’s not that Nejima’s a bad protagonist per se.  It’s just that he’s…not good.

Also, the other male lead, who I have not mentioned up to this point, Nisaka, isn’t exactly…notable.  There’s a reason I haven’t mentioned him, despite being one of only four main characters in the series.  We learn about an interesting plot point–his attraction to Nejima–early on, but for the entirety of the series, NOTHING important happens regarding his character growth.  He’s a quiet loner who doesn’t appear to have many friends, but we never get to see this for ourselves–rather, we’re told this by a character who isn’t on screen for more than a single episode.

That’s not how you do character development.

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I want to care, I really do.  But…

Luckily, however, Koi to Uso has two (relatively) redeeming factors, in the characters of Ririna and Misaki, the two female leads.

Being the two primary love interests, in a world where choosing one or the other is kind of the whole point, you can bet that there’s some interesting development that is going to be happening on both their ends.  The seeds were planted for both of them in the first few episodes, hinting at, and exploring Ririna’s inexperience with love, and Misaki’s hopeless situation–two plot points that had lots of potential.

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Ririna in particular ended up being my personal favorite character–she was developed pretty well!

Their struggles, their personalities, and how they deal with their respective situations, are the main draw of the plot.  Thankfully, both of these points, by the end of the series, were explored, and integrated into their characters rather well, making for some of the best moments the series had to offer.

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I mean.  This moment in particular was actually really, really good.

On top of this enjoyable development, I’ve got to say that I personally enjoyed both their designs–from their looks, to their personalities.  They weren’t the best, but with Ririna’s hot-headed yet innocent personality, and Misaki’s introspective, yet amiable and experimental one, I found that they ended up taking up my attention whenever they were on the screen.

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However, these two, as good as they were, were just that–good.  They made the series worth watching, honestly, but overall, the cast just felt like a rather large plate of…average.

Not the worst, not by a long shot–but not good either.


3. Art/Style: (7.0/10)–Good

First of all, I’ve gotta say this–Koi to Uso’s OP is freaking great.  Catchiest OP I’ve heard in a long time.

But okay, really now, Koi to Uso’s animation, its art style, its music, all of it was honestly rather solid.  I have nothing to complain about here, other than the fact that it wasn’t…stand out.

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Pretty, yes, but where’s the build-up?

Technically speaking, everything was there.  The music picked up when necessary, the artwork looked great when necessary, but, similarly to the rest of the anime, it wasn’t presented in a consistent, confident manner.

Koi to Uso often divided its attention between humor, character growth, and romance, and this rather detrimental decision was evident through the style of the anime.  Well animated moments oftentimes came out of nowhere, without buildup, and felt rather lackluster in regards to the implementation of an ongoing theme.  Musical pick-ups came and went, and honestly, just a week after the end of the series, I can’t even remember the context of any of these moments, apart from the knowledge that they happened at some point.

 

The series, over the course of its 12 episodes, ultimately didn’t have many technically outstanding moments either, and the ones that did happen weren’t (usually) that great.  There were a few standout moments, don’t get me wrong, but they just…didn’t have that *oomph,* that large impact, that other anime have managed to create.  Combine that with a few rather…lazy animation moments in the last half of the series, and you get a series that feels like it’s relying on very specific parts of the story, to carry the whole thing, which just, doesn’t, work.

After all–great musical pickups, still images, and other such technically astounding moments, are only as good as the tone of the story they’re meant to complement.  And, with a storytelling style as disjointed and (sorry to say) mediocre as this one, it can’t exactly get very far.


4. Personal Enjoyment: (6.2/10)–Average

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Overall, I got the sense that Koi to Uso was a…pretty average experience.

However, that description doesn’t do it justice, simply because of how much potential it had to be something good.  With some genuinely intriguing emotional, thematic, and ideological questions to consider, the story could have been spun in so, so many intriguing ways.  Combine that with some characters that had just enough development to feel like they had depth, and you have a formula for a story that is almost really good.

As much as I wanted to really like Koi to Uso, I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed at every point.  Whether it was skirting the edge of oversexualization of its characters, or using a few too many basic, unnecessary anime tropes for my tastes, Koi to Uso just didn’t deliver on what I felt like it could have had.

That being said, the topics it covered, and the situations presented, aren’t easy to write at all, not by a long shot.  This particular type of love triangle, this particular world, the very sensitive issues (sexual and emotional ones in particular) that are confronted, are hard to write tastefully, so I have to give the series kudos for trying.  It had some good points, for sure!

…Despite this, as we all are aware, trying only gets a series so far.  At the very least, I can say that Koi to Uso is the closest I’ve ever gotten to liking a harem anime.  Even when it was spiraling downhill for its last few episodes, it had that glimmer of hope, that small amount of something good, that could possibly be redeemed.

But then, the ending happened.  An abrupt, stereotypical, unexplained ending that reminded me of everything that an anime ending should, and shouldn’t be.  It was like reality struck me in the face–what sort of story, could possibly make me like, in any way, a harem anime ending?

…Hey, Koi to Uso got close.

Final Rating: (6.4/10)–Average

Recommended If: 

  • You are craving a unique romance story, with unique elements you’re not likely to find anywhere else.
  • You can deal with male protagonists who don’t…do much.
  • You have some free time on your hands, and are craving a little bit of romantic drama to spice up your day.

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