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The premise of Love and Lies seems simple: What if the government of Japan dealt with its depopulation problem by creating a scientifically based registry to connect the “best” couples and all other romantic relationships would be forbidden? Of course, that would require a modern authoritarian Japanese state which diverged significantly from the one in the world in which we live.

Given the recent actions of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, the subject matter of Love and Lies seems very timely indeed. For those not fully aware of current Japanese politics, the major recent developments which may be influencing Japanese media are as follows: a drive towards reinterpretation of Article 9 (the so-called “pacifism article”) of the Japanese Constitution and the recent, supposedly “anti-terror” conspiracy law (which many compare to the 1925 Peace Preservation Act which clamped down on opposition elements in the march to radical ultranationalism). There has also been a push by the LDP to replace the individual with the family as the primary unit of society in Article 24 of the Japanese Constitution in a way which seems like it could very well be the first step towards the Japan seen in Love and Lies.

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There’s a great deal to be worried about in the 2017 Japan of Love and Lies—and in turn the lives of Nejima Yukari, Takasaki Misaki, and Sanada Ririna. We can, perhaps, allow ourselves a quick sigh of relief that the opening narration immediately informs us that this is not our world. This is not our Japan, but I don’t feel we should be too comfortable, given what I’ve already discussed above. We know that the Yukari System (the marriage registry system) was set up in 1973, and immediately gives us a point at which to consider where the Japan of Love and Lies diverged from our own. I have a great deal of conjecture.

Japanese politics was my area of focus during graduate school, and I am a social studies teacher in Japan (primarily civics) and so, unlike most viewers, I immediately had a frame of reference for considering the circumstances of the characters and historical narration in terms of what actually has happened in our Japan. From the start, I did not like what I saw and heard from a political perspective (which made me really excited for how this series is going to deal with some very dark themes).

Image source: アニメ「恋と嘘」好評放送中! on Twitter

Modern Japanese political history isn’t easily covered in a short amount time, so this has to be broken down. First, let’s first consider the surface premise of Love and Lies and why it is absolutely impossible under the current Japanese Constitution. There are quite a few articles in the Japanese Constitution that would be clearly violated by the Yukari System, but the easiest to start with is the current article on marriage, Article 24:

第二十四条 婚姻は、両性の合意のみに基いて成立し、夫婦が同等の権利を有することを基本として、相互の協力により、維持されなければならない。

Article 24. Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.


With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce, and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.

Okay, so right off the bat, we see the Yukari System runs into a constitutional problem. Marriage shall be based on “mutual consent.” Except we know that the Yukari System is not a choice. In the case of our main characters, none of them consent to this. So, the idea of “consent” in marriage must have been removed before the Yukari System could be put in place. In addition, “choice of spouse….divorce, and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity…” Uhh, yeah. No consent, no choice of spouse, and no individual dignity. (The current LDP proposal would add a preceding clause that “family should be respected as the natural and basic unit of society” to Article 24, add further obligations to the last clause, and strike “only” before “on the mutual consent.”)

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But it gets worse. The Yukari System Law of 1973 would also run afoul of Article 11:

第十一条 国民は、すべての基本的人権享有を妨げられない。この憲法国民保障する基本的人権は、侵すことのできない永久の権利として、現在及び将来の国民に与へられる。
Article 11. The people shall not be prevented from enjoying any of the fundamental human rights. These fundamental human rights guaranteed to the people by this Constitution shall be conferred upon the people of this and future generations as eternal and inviolate rights.
Article 13:
第十三条 すべて国民は、個人として尊重される。生命、自由及び幸福追求に対する国民権利については、公共の福祉に反しない限り、立その他の政の上で、最大の尊重を必要とする
Article 13. All of the people shall be respected as individuals. Their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness shall, to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare, be the supreme consideration in legislation and in other governmental affairs.
Article 19:
第十九条 思想及び良心の自由は、これを侵してはならない
Article 19. Freedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated.
And Article 97:
第九十七条 この憲法が日本国民保障する基本的人権は、類の多年にわたる自由獲得の努力の成果であつて、これらの権利は、過去幾多の試錬に堪へ、現在及び将来の国民に対し、侵すことのできない永久の権利として信託されたものである。
Article 97. The fundamental human rights by this Constitution guaranteed to the people of Japan are fruits of the age-old struggle of man to be free; they have survived the many exacting tests for durability and are conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate.
…and that’s just what I felt, on a cursory glance, would most immediately make the Yukari System unconstitutional. But there are at least three or four other articles I felt could be used to present a challenge to it. My point is, the Yukari System Law would be very, very unlikely to pass Constitutional muster with even the most basic of scrutiny. So in order for it to have passed the Diet (the Japanese Parliament), the Constitution of Love and Lies would have to be very different from the revision established in 1947 after World War II and which survives into our present day.

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Second, political, and especially constitutional, changes in Japan are very slow going, which means that the Yukari System Law, even if it was passed 44 years before current events, would have needed several major events to allow its passage. My thoughts on how we got to this point are limited, because our views are limited. We don’t have an awful lot to go on when our views are mainly a few high school students. If we assume that only Japan has changed, but other countries have not, then I can make a suggested timeline where the United States allowed the Japanese right wing even more freedom to operate in order to bulwark Japan against communism than it did in our timeline. However, it’s also possible that the point of divergence occurred much earlier, and the history of WWII, its aftermath, and the revision of the post-war Constitution was very different.

There is also an even more likely explanation: Imperial Japan didn’t so much lose the war as it was instead drawn into a kind of stalemated status quo. In this scenario, a constitution which would allow the Yukari System Law is just a more modern, somewhat more internationally palatable authoritarian riff on the Meiji Constitution of Imperial Japan. As this more authoritarian Japan has taken its place in the post-war modern society of nation states, it has taken on many of the outward appearances of our own Japan. A surprising amount, outwardly, might appear no different in the Japan of Love and Lies as compared to the Japan I see out my back window. Many Japanese modern aesthetics that we take for granted as part of Japan today were first innovated in the late Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa eras. There’s no reason to believe that a dystopian Japan needs to look substantially different from our own. It’s all the more realistic, and disturbing, that such a Japan would not.

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The reason why the Yukari System Law fails to pass our Japan’s Constitutional muster in so many different ways is something you do not need to be a legal scholar to understand. It’s inherently unfair. There is no choice with the Yukari System Law, and those that oppose it are not allowed to object or refuse. Therefore, in addition to there being no freedom of choice, and no freedom of conscience, there is now no true freedom of expression. A Japan where the Yukari System works is a Japan with none of the basic freedoms we are currently guaranteed in democratic nations. There may be claims, and most certainly are, about how happy and productive the Japanese people are, but that has been the hallmark of repressive regimes for all of human history.
But we need to be honest that as dark as the lack of liberty is in this parallel Japan, it gets still worse. Much, much worse. Let’s not be shy about pointing out what the “red string of science” (as the catchphrase for the Yukari System Law is promoted) actually is. It’s called eugenics; the attempt to decide, scientifically and/or morally, how to pair people for the maximum benefit of a nation and its people with the intention of creating a “best” or “master” population. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. We’ve seen this before, and the results were horrific.

Image source: アニメ「恋と嘘」好評放送中! on Twitter

As previously stated, we have very little to go on so far, but there are some really frightening prospects here. Is there a point at which the registry cannot and will not find a match for you? What if you are disabled? What if you are incapable of reproducing? What if you have down syndrome or are intersex? It’s not exactly like it’s more than a hop, skip, and a jump to slowly (or quickly!) working to push such people out of existence. What if you are lesbian or gay or transgender? Are you eliminated or forced into meaningless relationships with strangers? If you’re bisexual does that mean erasing half of your sexual identity? And what about naturalized Japanese or non-Yamato Japanese (those of Korean, Chinese, or other ethnic heritage)? Are non-Yamato allowed or considered in the registry? Is immigration to Japan not so much tepid as actually illegal?
As of yet we have only one clue on the LGBT issue. When Ririna meets Misaki, she admits to Yukari that she doesn’t know how to understand all of the emotions. She’s very overcome with making her first friend and asks if perhaps her feelings indicate something more. Yukari doesn’t dismiss them out of hand, instead probing Ririna to see if her feelings match how he feels about Misaki, but he determines they don’t. Drawing a conclusion from this exchange is difficult, because we get the impression that Yukari and Ririna are decidedly outside of social norms. Even if Yukari and Ririna were to accept that same-sex feelings could exist, there’s no suggestion that either has any support structure to do anything with such opinions. Furthermore, in a Japan where romance is forbidden, even the discussion of romantic feelings seems to be taboo.

Image source: アニメ「恋と嘘」好評放送中! on Twitter

The Japan of Love and Lies is one I’ve seen before, and one I worry is creeping up on us once again (if not in the external imperial sense, perhaps in the internal repression sense), and it’s absolutely frightening. If it takes a cute anime about star-crossed lovers battling the odds to make us think about what kind of Japan we are willing to accept, then I hope Love and Lies is a break out success. For all the right reasons, and none of the potential wrong ones.
Comments (2)
  1. “and those that oppose it are not allowed to object or refuse”

    Actually, you can annul the engagement. You need to do paperwork and prove that both of you can’t stand each other. And it’s pretty discouraged as it’s a red mark for you when you seek for employment, especially in government-related offices.

    Time for me to tell you to read the manga before making up conclusions on your own.

    “It’s called eugenics; the attempt to decide, scientifically and/or morally, how to pair people for the maximum benefit of a nation and its people with the intention of creating a “best” or “master” population. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. We’ve seen this before, and the results were horrific. ”

    Well, that’s one of the reasons why this law became popular in the first place. Children born of the Yukari law are smarter and healthier in average than children born out of it.

    • UgokiGyokuyou,

      Thank you for your comment.

      1) There’s no evidence of this in the anime. I wish you had not spoiled me with manga information. It may affect my interpretation, despite my best intentions. I would say the implication doesn’t yet suggest such an option. And even if it such a plot point is, clearly that’s discrimination and punishment. Calling it “discouragement” simply makes excuses for the authoritarianism. That’s not a fair choice, so my conclusion stands.

      As I have learned from many years comparing anime to its manga (or manga to its anime, if the adaption goes the other direction), it’s unfair to one source material to interpret it through the lens of the other. Often enough they diverge. In some cases the divergence is minor (Aoi Hana), in some cases the divergence is significant (Kimagure Orange Road, specifically the character of Hikaru and the first movie ending vs Volume 18 of the manga).

      2) Well, sure, popular amongst those who are in the privileged majority. That’s no surprise. “Smarter” and “healthier” are subjective, despite what the Ministry of Welfare reps say about the Yukari system. I tried to avoid a certain specific example of eugenics and the master race, but let’s be honest, you read it anyway. Those in the oppressed minority, those who still exist just be the nature of chaos theory applied to human development, have no place under the Yukari system, and I am deeply frightened for when we find out what’s done with them, since not fitting into the system when the system is eugenics usually leads to your murder.

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