“Science is magic that works,” is a quote from Kurt Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle and seems to be the government of Japan’s opinion in a futuristic society where they use science to pick your spouse for you. The Yukari Law nicknamed “the red string of science” is a play on the idea of the red string of fate, the mythological thread that connects you and your destined partner. The red string is the complex government program of computer analysis designed to encourage successful marriages and combat increasingly low birthrates. You are notified of your perfect match at the age of 16. If you don’t like your match or decide to refuse you can be sanctioned by the government, making it hard to get into colleges and secure gainful employment.
The story of Love and Lies focuses on the effects of the red string of science on Yukari Nejima, an average 16-year-old boy who happens to already be in love with a girl in his class. He knows that the clock is ticking and that any day he could be getting his notice with his algorithm-based match and miss his chance to tell Misaki how he feels. Yukari summons his courage and confesses to Misaki, she reciprocates and the two are both ecstatic. It is at that very moment a text with the name of his assigned wife comes through and it reads: Misaki. The lovebirds are over the moon and then confused as the message disappears and two government workers show up and give him the name of Ririna Sanada as his assigned wife. Will Misaki and Yukari be honest with society or buck the system and stay together? Or will they find happiness with their assigned partners? And what will their partners think? We now count down the top seven characters that just need to be honest with themselves despite being trapped in a world of Love and Lies.
7. Shuu Igarashi
Shuu is a rather perplexing character who gets introduced later in the story and is Misaki’s best friend going back to middle school. She is also the granddaughter of the creator of the Yukari Law, the law that codified government matchmaking. She is a genius and may become the ministry’s head one day. She is devoted to Misaki and is obsessed with her happiness, so much so it appears that she might be the reason Misaki hasn’t yet received her notice. She has a pretty cold attitude towards people in general. Shuu’s opinion on the Yukari Law, as demonstrated by her willingness to hack the system for Misaki, might not be in lockstep with the government. She needs to be honest with herself, her family and the government, explaining to them that the system has flaws and that sometimes nature knows best. We do think if she waits until she is in power she would be more effective at taking on the system.
6. Kagetsu Ichijou
Kagetsu Ichijou is one of the social workers at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the agency that monitors the Yukari Law and distributes the marriage notifications. She’s also the caseworker for Yukari Nejima and Ririna Sanada. She seems to be happy with her life and her assigned partner, yet spends her days with her old boyfriend from high school as partners at work. When you see the two together they have a comfort with one and other that generally only happens with extremely good friends or lovers. She and her partner, Motoi Yajima, met first in elementary school, grew closer in middle school where they started dating, and then only broke up when she turned 16 and received her Yukari Notice. Kagetsu needs to honest with herself about her partner. Who would she rather be with, her best friend or the guy she says she loves that the state picked out for her?
5. Motoi Yajima
Motoi Yajima is Kagetsu’s partner at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. He and Kagetsu were the ones to inform Yukari and Ririna that they were partnered by the Yukari Law. Kagetsu and Motoi first meet when they are in elementary school when they’re both left behind during a field trip. The two meet up again when they seek shelter from a rain storm in middle school. Kagetsu got her match at 16 and told him that she’d reject her assigned partner if Motoi agreed to marry her. He couldn’t recognize that fate was pushing him toward Kagetsu. As a 16-year-old, Motoi isn’t very confident, declines her proposal and lets the government to make the choice for him. We can tell in his body language that he regrets not saying yes. Kagetsu is his partner at work and from what we gather he has a loveless marriage which only reinforces the fact that the red string of science was wrong. Motoi needs to be honest with himself even though it’s inconvenient, considering he works for the agency overseeing the Yukari law, and that he loves Kagetsu, his best friend and partner. He needs to take a stand and confess. She may shoot him down this time but it’s better than holding those feelings in. We think he feels that using science to direct matters of the heart might be a bit arrogant and not always work. It’s as Vonnegut said, “She was a fool, and so am I and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing.”
4. Yuusuke Nisaka
“[We]… are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it never can be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier,” another Vonnegut quote that in many ways can sum up Yuusuke’s struggle in Love and Lies. Yuusuke is Yukari Nejima’s closest male friend. He is also a friend of Misaki Takasaki, the girl that Yukari Nejima is in love with. We don’t know much about his relationship with Misaki but imagine that they could be assigned partners -- it’s never disclosed. Yukari believes that Yuusuke is in love with Misaki but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yuusuke is often considered somewhere between aloof and on guard and not that approachable. But he’s different when he is with Yukari; he’s much more relaxed and open. His relationship with his “best friend” is exactly what he needs to be honest about (though it seems like Misaki knows already); he is in love with Yukari. He probably fell for Yukari when, like a white knight, he rescued Yuusuke from a bully at cram school. We understand saying it, committing to it, and coming out as a homosexual has all sorts of other ramifications in this world where the government is taking on a massive social engineering project to just raise birth rates. We are given little information on whether homosexuality is a crime in this universe, but we can imagine it would be taboo and probably carries the same social and economic penalties faced by people who reject the matchmaking system. But Yuusuke still needs to be honest with himself. He needs to let himself be who he is and know that it’s okay to love Yukari. We even get a hint that Yukari might not be against the idea either. He’s constantly getting closer to Yukari but at the same time seeing Yukari move closer to Misaki and Ririna and further from him.
3. Misaki Takasaki
Misaki is a one of the more complex characters in Love and Lies. On the outside she seems like the average young woman who is outgoing and friendly to everyone. She is also very kind. It was an act of kindness toward Yukari Nejima in elementary school that made him fall for her. She has a somewhat odd relationship with Yuusuke, a relationship that seems to have some serious undertones that we aren’t clear about. We are pretty sure that she knows Yuusuke is in love with Yukari. She and Yukari Nejima eventually confess to one another on the eve of him getting his notice. The two decide that despite him having an assigned partner that they would continue their relationship. Misaki also tends to take the lead, pulling Yukari aside in hallways and broom closets for intense make-out sessions. She also develops a friendship Ririna Sanada, the girl that has been assigned to her lover, Yukari. Misaki becomes good friends with both of her rivals and has moods that tend to swing between passion to the point of willing to buck the system and resignation that she and Yukari will have to break it off. We’d guess she has some sort of issue because she says she hasn’t gotten her notice, despite it being long past the time she received one. We are left to think if there is some sort of reason, possibly medical, keeping her from the selection. Misaki just needs to be honest with herself and those around her. If she wants Yukari Nejima, she has to say so and fight for him and not treat it like a temporary thing. She has to tell the other rivals to back off and they can find their own love stories, for in the words of Vonnegut: “There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look.”
2. Ririna Sanada
Ririna is the marriage partner assigned by the Yukari Law to Yukari Nejima. The two had never had any contact until after they got their notifications. Ririna is a little socially awkward. She confesses she’d never had a friend before and is a bit of a bookworm and very naïve. Her knowledge seems to mainly come from books, especially what she knows of love and romance. When she realizes that Yukari and Misaki care for each other, she wants to find a way to help them stay together. Ririna is a little sensitive, most likely from not being well socialized at a youngster due to being hospitalized as a child. The rest of the characters seem as though they might be ready for the beginnings of a relationship that could lead to marriage. Ririna, on the other hand, may not be emotionally equipped to truly understand what love is. She really needs to be honest with herself about being in over her head. Her childlike qualities, no matter how endearing, are a big impediment to her relationships. She also needs to admit that even if she is developing a crush on Yukari, it’s probably because he’s the first boy she’s really spent any time with. Ririna has to face the facts: she is pretty, from a wealthy family, and won’t have a problem finding a match in the future. She also needs to face the truth that Misaki and Yukari should be together and realize she won’t be penalized (since she’s a girl) if she breaks off the engagement.
1. Yukari Nejima
Yukari Nejima is the protagonist of the story. He is a shy kid who walks and stands with a slouch, showing he doesn’t have much confidence in himself. He has also been in love with Misaki since they were in elementary school. He summons all his confidence the day before his 16th birthday, when he would get an assigned partner notification, to confess to Misaki. The two are ecstatic to realize that their feelings are reciprocated. The happiness lasts for less than a minute because immediately following the confessions he gets a text message, a message that makes them both even happier. The Yukari Law notification states that they are to be each other’s partner. The notice then glitches out and two social workers appear and give him the address of another person, Ririna. He and Ririna don’t exactly hit it off so he Misaki and Ririna decide that he and Misaki should continue their relationship. The relationships get more and more tangled from there. Yukari Nejima doesn’t take one truly proactive step in the story, instead he’s pushed along by the other, stronger personalities in the show, namely Ririna and Misaki and Yuusuke. He needs to be honest and commit. He is constantly afraid of what might happen if he makes a choice between Ririna and Misaki. We’d be fine with this decision if he was a harem protagonist, but he isn’t. Yukari needs to stick to his guns and prove that he’s truly worthy of his lover by breaking off the engagement and marrying Misaki. He doesn’t have to worry about Ririna. She will understand and approve with her overly romantic sensibilities about love.
Misaki, Ririna, Yusuke, Kagetsu, Motoi, Shuu and Yukari are all flawed. It is only natural that they are flawed because they’re human after all. We humans are a jumble of conflicting emotions. We can like, dislike, hate and even love the same person at the same time. A binary choice between love and hate isn’t reality for such complex creatures. The idea that the government has asked society to commit to a person chosen by a series of yes/no choices (because that’s how computers work) is flawed. Misaki, Ririna, Yusuke, Kagetsu, Motoi, Shuu and Yukari all need to be honest and trust their own hearts to choose because love isn’t logical. The story Love and Lies asks us to examine the nature of love. Is it quantifiable? Can the extremely abstract idea of love, a feeling and an idea that has been examined for thousands of years, be derived from a set of data points? We see the red string of science get tangled as the feelings of our main characters deviate from the perceived utopian answer of scientific paring like a pair of children handing off a cat’s cradle.
“No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X’s… [and]… No damn cat, and no damn cradle.” Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle