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

It’s pretty much an understood government truth that policy programs, once established, are very difficult to end. Entire industries come to depend on a policy program, and there are many vested interests in propping them up, no matter how flawed. The more episodes we see of Love and Lies, the clearer it has become that the Yukari System, far from the answer to Japan’s woes, is riddled with potential exceptions caused by human collected data and final human decisions concerning pairings. Humans are flawed and so is the Yukari System.

Love and Lies is about a parallel universe where, in the early 1970s, the Japanese government created a “scientific” system of classifying and comparing people in order to make the best matches and made the matches all but mandatory with the Yukari System Law. Specifically, the series revolves around four “System” enrolled high school students: Takasaki Misaki, Nejima Yukari (named after the Yukari System, as he was produced from his parents’ match), Sanada Ririna, and Nisaka Yusuke. Yukari and Misaki have been in love since elementary school. Ririna is (officially) Yukari’s assigned spouse. Nisaka is also in love with Yukari, although he’s not confessed.

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

You can already see where this will cause issues, hence the name of the series. The goal of the Yukari System was to not only stabilize the population (already on decline and getting worse forty years ago), but to create a steady stream of generations superior to each generation that came before. Public commentary (perhaps even public perception) states that the Yukari System has been a great success, with people happy with their partners, and the first Yukari generations (of which our protagonists are a later portion) having average traits superior to their parents. And, of course, the icing on the cake is that partners will end up loving each other and be happiest with their assigned partners.

This Yukari System is a lie made of other lies. I’ve made no secret in previous articles of my profound abhorrence of the Yukari System. I’ve called it authoritarian, totalitarian, dystopian, and, indeed, I have stronger words I’d like to use. Most specifically, I have called it “eugenics.” Are all attempts at eugenics bad? This is the wrong question to ask. The correct question is, “Can humans be trusted in practicing eugenics?” The answer to that is a resounding “NO.” Absolutely not. World history, specifically the last 150 years, is full of evidence that humans simply cannot be trusted to play “God” or “mother nature.” Even when we “succeed,” we do so at great cost to our humanity.

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

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

The aforementioned “public commentary” and “public perception” are public lies, and lies about one of the most fundamental aspects of human existence. We fall in love. As a species, we’ve studied love and its purpose from philosophical, political, social, psychological, and biological standpoints. Trapped inside our own humanity, we must admit that all of these standpoints are interrelated and cannot be truly dissected. (The biosocialcognitive approach to psychology will be familiar to students of the discipline: Everything psychological is biological). Why we fall in love and how we fall in love is not so important as the recognition that we do fall in love. And while we can certainly GROW to love those with which we spend time, we also have experiences of “love at first sight” and “the heart wants what the heart wants.”

With the evolution of the “institution of marriage” from business contracts for purposes of creating heirs to consolidate wealth (almost always to the disadvantage of the female partner), to international and interracial marriages, to same-sex marriage equality, there’s been an underlying fact: It is a fundamental human right to choose the person (or persons) with which we share our lives. As a basic part of our human nature, any person or state that interferes with that right is directly causing human suffering and oppression. Such oppression must be maintained by unnatural means. We do not willingly choose it on an individual basis.

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

If the Yukari System really worked perfectly, it would not require many of the systems we have seen in the episodes thus far. These systems deserve additional review as we have received many further bits of information with recent episodes. 

  • First, the Yukari System was established by Diet passed law. This is actually rarer than you might think, and thus this alone is significant. Many policies in Japan are decided under generic authorizations given to the ministries. An action must be a radical change if it is Diet passed law. And such a change is not easy.
  • Second, the Yukari system applies to every Japanese citizen. However, there is no discussion, and so far no evidence, of who is Japanese, but everyone we so far have seen appears to be of Yamato “ethnicity.” Where are mixed, naturalized, or immigrant descendent Japanese? Has the Yukari System deemed these genes inferior? Is immigration not allowed? Is there a Chinese or Korean ethnic underclass without citizenship rights? Were they forcibly deported? Assimilated? Worse?
  • Third, all pairings are heterosexual, as the purpose is to produce children. The system doesn’t appear to recognize, let alone accommodate, queer identities. Like the previous questions, this is deeply concerning. LGBT people exist in Japan. Nisaka is queer. We still don’t know what is going to happen to him.
  • Fourth, the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and Labor has an entire department of case workers that constantly interface with, observe, direct, and command pairs who have received notifications. This includes the department presenting mandatory seminars on the duty of the pairs to reproduce and providing settings (hotel rooms) in order for that reproduction to occur.
  • Fifth, the Yukari System data profiles come from a constant stream of recordings, test results, observations, and reports. The Japanese population is under constant surveillance and the case workers have made it clear to Yukari that they are fully aware of his relationship with Misaki. A “surveillance state” is a key component of any “police state.”
  • Sixth, while a procedure exists to terminate a marriage assignment, and it is not technically illegal to do so, in truth, the state allows and appears to encourage blatant discrimination based on Yukari System status. A rejection is public record and must be included on applications for higher education and employment. Anyone who rejects the match does so only by being subject to extreme economic and social consequences. Such extreme discrimination would be unnecessary if only a tiny fraction of System enrollees would ever reject a match. The fact that these penalties exist suggests that without them there would be a significant number of rejections. 

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

So why does such a system continue to exist when it is so deeply flawed? For all of its flaws, the Yukari System sets up social rules. It allows people to make decisions based on these rules because they are generally dependable, as the social and discriminatory pressures prevent people from bucking the system. It is also the case that entire industries, both departments in the public sector (like the aforementioned caseworkers from the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and Labor) and private enterprises, like wedding halls and conference buildings, rely on the steady stream of assigned couples going through set motions. The liberalization of our own approaches to marriage has seen a marked decline in the utilization of these services.  There is a monetary value to the many people perpetuating the system. They are, quite literally, invested in the lie.

We also know of one other large lie that was alluded to at the beginning of this article: final decisions concerning pairings and notifications are made not by the Yukari System computer (as the case workers imply in a presentation), but by human interpretation of the computer data. We know this because Igarashi, a classmate of Misaki’s and Yukari’s from junior high school, tells us so. We had previously seen her in the monitoring booth during the intimacy seminar that Ririna and Yukari were required to attend. Her grandmother invented the notification system (the way of interpreting data from the Yukari computer system to assign partners) and is or has been in charge of signing off on final pairings. Igarashi is widely expected to succeed her grandmother in that position. Despite her youth, Igarashi is considered a genius in the algorithms and formulas used to determine pairings.

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

Igarashi herself has made it clear to Yukari, Ririna, and the case workers (perhaps, indeed to others in the ministry) that she strongly believes that the data shows Yukari and Misaki are the correct pairing. With access to the ministry and the Yukari System, there is a strong implication that the initial notice sent to Yukari digitally naming Misaki as his assigned partner was created, sent, manipulated, or otherwise influenced by Igarashi. Igarashi, of course, knows both Yukari and Misaki personally, and more to the point, is one of Misaki’s best friends outside of the high school she attends with Yukari and Nisaka. Even in a surveillance state, she is privy to Misaki’s innermost private thoughts in ways that most ministry monitoring staff collecting data for the Yukari System computer simply would never have access. There is simply no way that Igarashi isn’t influenced by this.

From input to output, there is a human hand in every step of the Yukari System process. Data is collected, collated, and input by humans. The data rendered by the system computer is interpreted by humans. Humans are flawed, and human data is subject to bias. Further, the strong social consequences for maintaining the system, combined with the financial and authoritarian reasons for maintaining it, are products of human behavior, and suggest that while there may be plenty of people who actively benefit from the system, there must be many who are oppressed enough by it to reject it, were they able to do so freely. They simply are not so allowed.

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

The Yukari System stabilized the Japanese population, turned the tide the other direction, and has created a populous that generally adheres to the improvement of those traits the framers of the law decided should be prioritized. But did it make the population happier? I don’t believe so. Maybe it made Yukari’s and Ririna’s parents happier, but it has made Yukari, Ririna, Misaki, and Nisaka (as well as countless others, such as Yukari’s and Ririna’s case workers, themselves the product of a romantic relationship destroyed by the Yukari System) absolutely miserable. 

You cannot create net happiness by force, you will only create greater unhappiness. If you try to force love, you will only force lies.

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

Comments (2)
  1. In your bullet points, you forgot one – they explicitly do these pairings at 16 to essentially try and “mold” the matched up couple, i.e., “get ’em while they’re young” to reinforce the “success” of the system, because the couple doesn’t know any better with so little life experience.

    Also, I got the impression that the system wasn’t mandatory for every one, but the vast majority of parents signed their kids up (presumably at birth! which presents its own problems as well) because again, it’s “beneficial” economically, educationally, etc.

    • You’re correct. I did forget the “molding” part. That itself adds to the already super-creepy aspects of the authoritarian nature of this society.

      I am pretty sure after rewatches that the system is definitely mandatory for being enrolled. You can reject your pairing (at great social and economic cost), but you cannot avoid being enrolled. The Yukari System Law was passed by the Diet in the mid 1970s, and specifically includes every Japanese citizen. Our current characters are the children of the first generation to be enrolled. There are some couples at that time that weren’t, because they may have already been together when the law was passed, but we’ve had almost two generations born during that time. My generation (I am in my mid-30s) was born after the Yukari System Law.

      I think you might be thinking that because Yukari’s and Ririna’s parents are huge fans of the system that they’re voluntarily placing their children into the system, but I don’t think that’s the case. Also, as someone who has gone through happy fun times of getting into the Japanese system without being born into it (and all the recent fun times of new residency systems and the My Number system), I am well acquainted with how these sorts of things work, both as an outsider and an insider. It’s an interesting dual-view to possess. But that, I suppose, is part of the immigrant experience.

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