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

In any summary of Love and Lies, one of the key points about the series is that “romance is forbidden.” This isn’t strictly true, of course, it’s more nuanced. However, like much about the real world Japan, social pressures are what dictates right and wrong—and direct state power isn’t always necessary to ensure conformity. While romance isn’t actually illegal, with all the consequences to those who place love above the system, it honestly might as well be. Punishment is punishment.

[This article contains spoilers for the fifth and sixth episodes of Love and Lies.]

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

While those who have read the manga already have ideas about how the structure of the Japan in Love and Lies works, those of us only watching the anime have only what we have in front of us with which to work. It’d be fair to think from what we’ve seen already that romance is forbidden by law. The extent with which members of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (literal man and woman in black) spend time observing and recording the behavior of citizens certainly implies that the government takes a dim view of messing with the Yukari System. And while authoritarian societies often use a wide variety of social pressures to maintain the power of the state, legal consequences are amongst the most common. It was certainly my previous prediction that open resistance was illegal.

What It Would Take to Twist Japan into the Authoritarian State of Love and Lies

In fact, we learn this is not actually true. When Nisaka confronts Ririna over her plan to secretly keep Misaki and Yukari together, Ririna says clearly that it isn’t like her actions are technically breaking the law. Nisaka confirms that she’s correct. Technically speaking, it is not against the law to reject the match made by the Yukari System. If Ririna continues to push Yukari and Misaki together, according to Nisaka, then her own official relationship with Yukari will be threatened. Nisaka points out that there is legalized and encouraged discrimination for those who choose to reject the Yukari System and pursue romance in spite of it.

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

Specifically, Nisaka says that Yukari’s dream of attending Waseda University (he doesn’t mention the university by name, but it’s pictured during the conversation) would be impossible. Waseda, with the implication being that its behavior is normal across the Japanese university system, uses adherence to the system as part of its admission criteria. Rejection of your match is apparently a significant enough issue that Nisaka feels confident in saying that no matter how hard Yukari works, he’ll never be able to overcome this one black mark.

Frankly, learning that rejection of the Yukari System match leads to legalized discrimination doesn’t surprise me. In our Japan, (which I do admit is significantly less authoritarian than Love and Lies, yet is still trending somewhat that direction), such systems already exist. Many of the rules in Japan are not Diet (that’s Japanese parliament) passed law. Rather, the Diet has has used law to create and authorize policy making by government agencies. This means most of the rules one follows in Japan, and the consequences one receives for not following them, are not a matter of law but of policy. What’s worse is that often authorized members of these government agencies have wide power to enforce these policies according to their own interpretations.

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

We also learn in the sixth episode that beyond merely allowing the Yukari System to choose a match and leaving it to the matched pair to figure out how their relationship will (or won’t work), officials of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare directly intervene. In addition to the significant state of monitoring, they require a series of lectures on sex, and introduction to a government-run “love hotel” which is apparently monitored. Rumors amongst Ririna and Yukari’s peers suggest consequences for those who do not have sex. This puts extreme pressure on the matched pairs to become intimate very shortly after being introduced, relatively speaking.

While the sex education seems comprehensive, it also seems to be intentional to lead couples to seeing sex as something they should do, at least eventually, to meet the 2.1 child per couple average across the Yukari System matches. Essentially, the goal is reproduction in service of the state.

To argue that one has a “choice to refuse” is highly questionable. Punishment allowed by the state but not carried out directly by the state is still punishment, in my view. In his conversation with Ririna, Nisaka makes it clear that what awaits Yukari (and likely Misaki as well) if the match is rejected is a significant decline in standard of living. Not only will Yukari be denied his dream, but he may be relegated to the lower end of society. Certainly his lack of educational and economic options will mean he is more exploitable. With fewer positions competing for his labor, he will be forced to take lower compensation. Indeed, if there is widespread collusion on how to treat those who have rejected the Yukari System match, he may even be exploited further than the supposed free market should allow.

The idea that consequences like fines or jail time need to be instituted by the state in order to say that the characters in Love and Lies lack freedom of choice is simply false. It’s clear that there is a severe social consequence to “choosing” to seek romance outside of the Yukari System. And when such a consequence directly affects one’s ability to not starve or to live up to potential, it cannot be said there is any choice at all.

Love and Lies can be watched with subtitles on Amazon’s Anime Strike!

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