©2017「恋と嘘」製作委員会 ©ムサヲ/講談社

The Love and Lies manga and anime is a steamy romance about a boy and a girl who want to be together, but can’t be due to the boy’s fiancee decided for him by the government. The live-action movie, on the other hand, is a completely new story altogether.

While the live-action film of Love and Lies does have its connections to the source material, it’s peddled as an “alternate story” to the manga and anime, and as such, mixes up the dynamic completely. The story revolves around Aoi Nisaka—the niece of Yusuke Nisaka who is part of the love… square of the original Love and Lies. This takes quite a few years after the current timeline in the manga, with Yuichi, Aoi’s father, being a fully-matured adult. But despite the time change, Japan still uses forced marriages by the government with partners being assigned to a teen on the night of their sixteenth birthday.

Despite this, Aoi and all of her friends believe that this is actually a godsend, letting them be bound with the one person best fit for them for the rest of eternity. And, just as its explained to teenagers about to turn 16 in a hilariously cheery documentary with the bride and groom represented by gingerbread cookies. If teens do not get married to the person assigned to them, they are told they will have an unhappy marriage and life altogether. There are even rumors at the school that one couple who ignored their government assignment and got married to each other anyway ended up hating each other and getting divorced. It’s clear that there is a stigma around marrying against the government’s wishes, and all the teenagers believe it.

Aoi has a childhood friend named Yuto Shiba—and she’s never thought of him as anything else. But Yuto has been in love with her since they were little. He makes his feelings clear for her on the night of her 16th birthday. This makes things complicated when her government-assigned partner Sosuke Takachiho—the son of the prestigious and strict Takachiho household that owns the Takachiho Hospital—appears to fulfill his duty as her future husband. And, as someone who has believed all her life that her partner decided for her by the government is the only one she’s supposed to be with, she goes along with it. …And Yuto says he’ll cheer her on, despite everyone knowing he’s really not happy.

At first, Sosuke seems to be a complete asshole who is just following the orders of society so he can become a proper adult and stand on his own two feet. He ignores Aoi’s feelings and just treats her as a part of the package. He brings her on dates, but never enjoys them; he’s just going through the steps. However, as they spend more and more time together, Aoi begins to open his heart and understand his actions. He, in turn, falls deeply in love with her.

Despite this, it’s Yuto who has always been there for Aoi and understands everything about her, from her habit of touching her bangs when she’s lying to the pace at which she walks. Sosuke is trying to be more attentive of her feelings as well, but having known her since childhood, Yuto definitely has the advantage. Above all of this, however, it’s so clear how much he loves her and cares about her—and the sacrifices he’s willing to make for her are mind-blowing.

And this is where the biggest dilemma for the viewer comes in: who do you want to root for?

©2017「恋と嘘」製作委員会 ©ムサヲ/講談社

Each has their pros and cons, so it’s hard to choose someone that “should be” with Aoi. Even though it was decided by the government, it’s obvious that Aoi comes to deeply care for Sosuke, but the comfort she feels with Yuto is something completely different. It was truly heartbreaking knowing throughout the film she would have choose one of these two boys—both of which care so much about her. It’s a completely dynamic from the original manga, where two childhood friends in love with each other are desperate to become a couple, and the one thing standing in their way is a girl who is in fact isn’t just not interested in her fiancee sent to her by the government—she’s cheering their forbidden love on. While my heart was ripped to shreds during the film, the ending left me fairly satisfied with the conclusion to the love triangle.

The one thing that got me confused in the film compared to the manga and anime was that not some, but all 16 year olds get their assignments at midnight on the night of their birthday. That would mean that all partners would have to be born on the exact same day. Also, how did Sosuke appear with a bouquet in his arms immediately after Aoi’s government assignment arrived on her phone. How did he know his partner was her? And why did he know she’d be there?

The film obviously makes homages to the source material, with the park bench being used as an important symbol throughout the film, just like it is in the manga and an anime. However, as a film on its own, it works just fine without any knowledge of the original story. In fact, in comparison to its more steamy counterpart, the live-action film feels like more of a chick flick than anything else. “Chick flick” doesn’t necessarily mean bad—it just means a film aimed at a female audience to give them a dose of fluffy romance. And, as a female myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and even started bawling during the final ten minutes.

The Love and Lies film is a bit more of an emotional roller-coaster than most high school romance films, but it was an enjoyable ride that I don’t regret taking. If you’re OK with something very different from the source material and open to giving the flipped dynamic a try, it might be something to go see.

The live-action Love and Lies film opened in Japanese theaters on October 14. There is no word on an overseas release for the film, but the anime is streaming on Amazon’s Anime Strike service with English subtitles.

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