Raku is a normal high school guy, but his dad is the biggest Yakuza boss in Japan. When a gang from America comes to town, Raku’s father forces him to enter a relationship with the mob boss’ daughter to stop the impending gang war. How will Raku show his love for his longtime classmate while dealing with mob members, assassins, little sisters, and faking this new relationship?
Before we talk about Raku, let’s talk about the show a bit. Nisekoi is a harem show. You know, the shows where the guy, for pretty much no reason, has one thousand girls tripping over each other get him to look at them. The thing is, Raku might be the only harem guy that I can see half decent reasons as to why each girl is interested in him. Raku is a likable guy. He is a great cook, looks out for the girls around him, and works hard in his studies and his tasks. If you tame the hair that he shipped from Yu-Gi-Oh, he’s not even bad looking. Raku has a locket in which he gave the key to the girl he promised to marry when he was a child. He is surprisingly honest about keeping that promise as well, within some breathing room. I would be lying if I said he rushed into finding out who exactly this girl was. Even if he knows three girls that have keys to what we can only assume are for the locket. Raku is not particularly smart, but he is very perceptive of those around him. It feels like this perceptiveness is what makes him particularly appealing. We all want to feel like the people around us care about us, and attentiveness and understanding are the easiest ways to convey that. Where most guys just seem like normal humans, I can see how Raku cares enough to see important things about the people around him.
Chitoge has the personality of an angry dog and the strength of a gorilla. We meet Chitoge as she jumps over a fence like Miyamura from Horimiya, promptly kneeing Raku in the face. Not one to apologize, she does not help him up. Naturally, Raku is opposed to dating someone he finds so masculine and crude. Chitoge is a classic harem addition. The girl who plays coy with her feelings while simultaneously wailing on the protagonist for no reason is prime harem real estate and she owns it. I’ll be forward about really liking Chitoge. I was cheering for her pretty much the whole time. Something in my immature brain really churns when the girl makes it unreasonably hard to express her feelings. But apparently multiple things are hard for Chitoge. She was a model student in America but struggled to maintain her top level status in Japan, dropping all the way to…fifth in the class. Which is apparently a big failure in her mother’s eyes. Talk about rough. She takes a little while to get into the swing of the school culture but it is well liked and makes lots of connections with a little push. Her temper comes out often, but really only aimed at Raku and Shu, the second one more justified than the first… most of the time. I really enjoyed the development that they gave her in relation to her family and her solid role in the plot.
Kosaki plays the almost-a-childhood-friend role. She has known Raku from school for a number of years. Despite them being in school together for all this time, they only got to know each other this past year. Kosaki is a sweet, modest, girl who simply does not have the mental capacity to be a character in this show. Anytime that something romantic comes up, she gets too nervous and cannot function. Anytime something more intimate happens she overheats and freezes up like she was ten years old playing freeze tag again. I could understand someone like Randy liking Kosaki. Sure she is cute, modest, shy, compassionate, and shows Raku lots of affection. On the surface she seems like the perfect girl for him. Also under the surface she seems like the perfect girl for him. He also has a crush on her. If only one of them could gather the courage to say something to the other, that would surely give them an advantage, right?
Ruri is one of three bodyguards in the show. The difference is that she is not affiliated with a gang and it’s not actually her job. Ruri runs interference between Shu and literally anyone else. The shortest of them all, Ruri is a lot like us as viewers in that she can see everything that is happening in the show. Where most of our characters are oblivious to even the most forward comments, Ruri is trying to pull any string that she can so that her best friend, Kosaki, can end up with Raku. It really is a blessing that she is doing all she can because anyone who watches even two episodes of Nisekoi knows that Ruri is the real romantic engine behind Kosaki’s chances. Where Kosaki is incapable of pushing her and Raku’s relationship forward, Ruri has no break and we are not accounting for air resistance in this equation.
I can’t tell if I love Shu or not. Shu is the class clown who privately had this internal emotional battle about his own love interest. He splits his time between making absolute bank as a guy who takes riske photos of girls in his high school and selling them to the guys who have a crush on them. Nevermind, I made up my mind on him after I wrote that line. But he does have a side of him that seems just beyond the laughing face. It is clear that he is simply a comedy character that helps Raku end up in all kinds of situations that he either wants to be in… or not.
I really liked the direction that the show was taking in season one. Each episode felt like it was contributing to a larger story in which we were learning about the characters and progressing towards a goal. Not only that but we got some humor, we got some romance, and we got some classic perverted misunderstandings. Nisekoi was putting itself into a great position to be a solid anime with a solid ending. Once we reached the season two mark however, it felt like the direction turned the show onto an episodic path. We were a beautiful caterpillar in our chrysalis and when we emerged from our slumber into season two, we suddenly realized that we became an ugly brown moth. Special in our own way, but ultimately flying towards a light we cannot obtain. That light is the wonderful closure and proper service to plot. Despite my disappointment with the format shift, Nisekoi has other elements that make it fun. I don’t know why but I will almost always laugh when an unsuspecting protagonist randomly finds their way into a very over sexualized position only to get his bone structure rearranged, studied, and reset by another character’s fist. Why pay for a trip to space when all you need to do is trip behind a girl and wait for her friend to send you there for free? On top of that, the mob characters are a hoot. Raku and Chitoge are so clearly against dating that the fact that the goons swoon over any romance element of the relationship is great. The two could be caught mid screaming match and then nervously feed each other a spoonful of food, only to have the entire room squeal like a stadium of thirteen year olds at a Jonas Brothers concert in 2008. I can’t even tell you how cheeky my smile was when Chitoge first got jealous that another girl came onto Raku. I could hear the TikTok audio going in my head, “Yo bro, who got you smiling like that?” I was on cloud ten. So the comedy does its job, but I could never get past the writing throwing the plot to the wind with Chitoge’s ribbon. At least she got her ribbon back.
I think perhaps this is the first time I have walked out of a show and felt like I didn’t find a single idea coming from the show. The plot was fairly original but what do I discuss about it? Three girls have keys, he tries to find out which girl he promised to marry by any method other than just putting their dang keys in the locket. Other than that, Raku and Chitoge are our main characters in a reverse Romeo and Juliet where the families want them together but they aren’t as convinced.
So let’s step out of the show for a bit and just talk about an anime phenomenon. Original video animations (OVAs) are sort of like one off episodes. They can be short or long but they are just episodes that are usually not part of the original plot and aren’t necessary to watch. OVAs are normally super fun, lighthearted, or done in a completely different theme. A Nisekoi OVA has the girls reimagined as magical girls fighting the pervy villain Shu. Nothing on the line, nothing plot related. What bothers me is the OVA where Raku accidentally gets the girls drunk on whiskey chocolates. First reason, the girls don’t act like they would in the show, and this would actually affect the plot of the show. Season two would have been viewed differently by each girl based on what they learned about each other. Where I am normally super open to OVAs, having something that SHOULD affect the plot in one, but for no particular reason does not affect it, feels really dumb to me. In addition to this most major streaming sites don’t have the OVAs, which is a shame. So even if you wanted to see the OVA that annoys me on, for instance, Crunchyroll, you could not do so. I hope that the seas treat you well my dear readers and may your OVAs remain decanonized.
More than denting my book covers, more than opening my freezer to find no ice cream, and more than my dogs asking to go out right after they just were, I dislike when shows don’t go anywhere. As the midwestern regional leader of #TeamChitoge, I painstakingly looked for any sign that Chitoge would be pulling ahead of the other girls. I felt confident going into season two, the plot had moved into a position where answers could be had, the backstories were established and the final fight could be had. Then season two forgot there was any sort of plot to finish. We got funny moments and learned more about new characters, but the show dropped the ball in bringing the viewer in any particular direction. I think a lot of people could say that these types of shows are famous for that, but Nisekoi just stopped even pretending it wanted to find out whose key fit the locket. Heck, I think that Raku just stopped wearing the locket altogether. Why would you bother to find out who you’re destined to be with when you have pseudo relationships with five girls? His answer was that he wouldn’t. But I wanted to know which girl it was, so I was not very happy getting to the last episode of the second season and seeing no way to resolve the story in the next twenty-four minutes. I would be shocked if we get a third season of Nisekoi five years after the second one, so sadly my questions will never be answered and my Chitoge flag will wave quietly in the wind.
Nisekoi has some of the most interesting scene framing. They used styles that made it look like you were reading through a moving comic, they used the giant headed and tiny bodied chibis, they used backgrounds to convey emotion and then cut right back into the scene, and more. Where Ouran High School Host Club had a defined and set style that it stuck to, Nisekoi jumped around with it’s style and was better off for it. A show that is a bit more generic really benefits from creative elements that keep the viewing guessing. Nisekoi also gets the comedic elements down so well. The quick cuts, over exaggerated emotions, and excessive violence for no reason adds a lot of pep to the step of a show that marches in place like its part of a school band. Having elements that are fun enough that they distract from others is a perk in my books, but it also feels like the creativity was used to make up for the overall lack of depth of the animation. Creative and deep is best, but we can settle for just creativity.
Because I really don’t like fan service, I feel the need to talk about it. There is a lot of it in this show. There is something odd about sexualizing minors in the way that some anime does and it is super….uncomfortable. I really wish that they had chosen another element to add to the show, perhaps adding more of the fun variety of elements that they used so often in the first season. I, personally, don’t like having to feel uncomfortable remembering these girls are not only fictional but also sixteen or seventeen years old. If we could skip out on treating them this way, I would be grateful. But I also realize that I may not be the age group that anime is pandered to. So if you are fifteen or so, enjoy this for all the people who don’t.
I was tempted to rate the world lower because we get yet another school scene that really has nothing going for it. But I can’t really say that. Not only is the school oddly large, but it seems like it is a small campus. The boring classrooms that I would normally find pointless settings are made interesting by the mob members constantly peering in on the relationship between Chitoge and Raku, making these mundane settings a place of extreme anxiety for the characters when they accidentally fall out of their dating act. We get to peer inside the lives of Chitoge’s giant mansion that feels as lonely as her character, the action packed frat-esque house of Raku’s yakuza house, and the standard home of Kosaki. Nisekoi did what I will now dub “The Japanese Standard” by hitting settings like the bath house, some festival, the school, a small nondescript cafe, and a shrine. I can’t say these settings really impressed me but they are indicators of the genre and sometimes you don’t break what isn’t broken.
I would not think that on hearing the soundtrack for Nisekoi, I would want to compare it to Laid Back Camp. The whole feeling of the soundtrack feels more like we are on a small and quiet hike than we are dealing with two mob boss’ kids. The violins play a natural kind of tone as the rest of the music follows softly. I enjoy the music overall and there are a couple great themes inside the soundtrack but they really don’t fit the show as well as I think they needed to. I never realized how big the tonal shift between season one and season two was but the music really pointed out that the broken up episodes and lack of continued themes did not go with the music much at all.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||5||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||4||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||1||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||2||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||2||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
It should be no surprise that when two mob kids are forced to date that comedy follows. Nisekoi is a pretty standard story about a guy who attracts a lot of cute girls, but perhaps rightfully so this time. Season one brings the heat with its varied animation styles and progression towards a conclusion, but cools off a lot in season two when the music clashes with the style and animation shines through less. A fun show, for a head empty kind of night.