「恋と嘘」 (Koi to Uso)
“Love and Lies”
Well, who honestly did not see that coming? Neji actually making a choice was probably the lowest possibility heading into this week, but goddammit I still hoped he would. Reject someone, tear off the Band-Aid and fully embrace the winner—there can only be one. Instead we got some convoluted rationalization, open regret at the choice, and a final conclusion that if you can have one, why not both? A little convenient I think, particularly finding a matchmaking escape clause at the eleventh hour which allows a dissolution with no adverse side effects. Well, that we know of. Plus there’s also all the issues surrounding Misaki (and her match) agreeing with the plan and going through with it, which (as we saw) is no guarantee.
With all said and done though I cannot complain too much, after all we have Yuusuke to thank for giving us two dresses for the price of one, and that harem(-esque) ending which still amuses me far too much for my own good. Oh and the kissing, cannot forget the kissing. Problems or not, arguable copout conclusion or otherwise, no denying KtU stuck to its guns until the last moment. Sometimes it’s hard asking for more.
In hindsight KtU was a show I really wanted to like. It had one of romance’s most unique foundations, a relationship setup (and initial development) largely breaking with the usual tropes, and some surprising tangents not at all expected. Yet what began as the new Kuzu no Honkai (if only spiritually) gradually devolved into a conventional romance largely abandoning what made it unique. Instead of an interesting take on love and choice, we disappointingly wound up with more of the same.
Part of the issue KtU had was its lack of focus. The matchmaking system, the driving force behind every action in this show, was never particularly elaborated on after the first few episodes. Sure we cannot expect a romance show to delve into the intricacies of sociopolitical structures, but KtU never really made an effort to give us anything beyond the barest of details. A lot of had to be divined from allusions, off the cuff remarks, or the occasional run in with authorities—and that’s before touching on things like the midnight letter deliveries, sex ed seminars, and corrupted texts. Too much of the setup felt forced and contrived, actions for the sake of rustling the love triangle (square?) and witnessing the resulting chaos. Rather than use the premise to its utmost, KtU chose the easy way and let any “superfluous” concerns fall by the wayside. Yuusuke of course was the big loss in this regard, his situation unique even in regular romance stories and one with serious questions under KtU’s system of love. The poor guy was a great way to explore the challenges and consequences of the matchmaking, but little ever came of it—for both him and us. Even Shuu offered a tangent for analyzing the costs/benefits of arranged love, yet was largely relegated to a one-off drama generator. KtU had multiple opportunities for serious thought, but did not choose any.
Now by itself this isn’t a serious concern, KtU after all is a romance show. The problem is KtU’s romance could not make up for it alone. Obviously a key component here is the lack of tangible movement (i.e. Neji actually choosing someone), but this is nothing new given the likes of Nisekoi or Golden Time—you just expect it in this genre. The deadweight lies with Misaki and her development, or rather lack of it. Unlike Ririna who saw serious change over time (as she nicely summed up in her final monologue), Misaki remained relatively static, a sort of idyllic perfection Ririna had to obtain if she was to win over Neji. Misaki was the childhood friend who just so happened to crush on Neji for as long as he did her, the girl who somehow went from distant observer to intimate lover in the span of 20 minutes. Whereas we saw Ririna slowly grow interested in Neji and open herself up, Misaki just sort of inserted herself and never grew beyond her initial impression. This (IMO) hurt KtU’s story because we need such development to emotionally invest ourselves in the characters. We need a reason to cheer Misaki on in place of Ririna, and a love with little explanation or development is not enough for the purpose. Sure Misaki suffers and shows it on occasion, but there’s nothing like the emotional highs and lows of Ririna’s experiences for us to chew on. This choice arguably stunted KtU’s growth and deliberately limited its potential to be something more. By leaving half the girls developmentally untouched, KtU effectively became half a story, and nearly broke down because of it.
Overall, however, while I have my issues with how KtU turned out, I cannot say I’m unhappy having chosen to blog it. For all the problems and annoying choices it featured, the show still presented some intriguing ideas and offered enough choice morsels for some serious thought. It may have lacked the emotional impact and thematic exploration needed for sustained debate, but KtU stayed true to its premise and showed that romance is not only limited to the conventional setups. There are a lot of interesting situations left unexplored to insert a romance story into, we just need one willing to take the plunge. In the end I hope that KtU (as with Kuzu no Honkai before it) has shown the risk can often be worth the reward.