Today I shall be reviewing season one of Nisekoi. This was one of the shows that I watched primarily to get the most out of my Animax subscription. Oh, and the general synopsis appealed to me.
Background: The source manga is written and illustrated by Naoshi Komi. While it started life as a one-shot in Jump NEXT!, it is currently being serialised in Weekly Shōnen Jump. The studio responsible for the anime is Shaft, who also worked on one of my favourite series of recent years, Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Now, aside from the high school setting, I should probably point out that this is nothing at all like the aforementioned and incredibly dark Magical Girl series. Nope, Nisekoi is in actuality a light hearted Romantic Comedy. The male lead, Raku Ichijo, is the son of a yakuza boss. He’s kind heated by nature, wears a locket given to him by his childhood sweetheart (this is an important part of the plot) and has a crush on his classmate Kosaki Onodera. The female lead is Chitoge Kirisaki, an aggressive half-American half-Japanese exchange student who is the daughter of the boss of another yakuza faction.
The pair first meet when Chitoge leaps a wall and knees Raku in the face, sending his locket flying in the process. Once he realises that they are now in the same class, Raku insists that she help him look for it, and the two start to get to know each other. What they learn during this search is that they are not overly fond of each other. In fact, they begin to hate each other rather quickly. Now, two teens that don’t like each other wouldn’t normally be a problem. Unfortunately for our intrepid duo, they soon learn that their fathers have decided to end the feud between their respective groups by having them pretend to be dating for the next three years
The Good: While the storyline is (at its most base level) not highly original, Nisekoi goes out of its way to make up for this with a strong cast of characters. The two leads are both likeable in different ways, Raku for his general nature and comical denseness, and Chitoge for her well-played Tsundere-esque personality that masks her insecurities and warm nature. The supporting cast play off the two nicely and there are certainly plenty of interesting (if again, not highly original) people for the fake partners to interact with.
The locket is an interesting idea too. The general idea is that, ten years prior to the series, Raku made a ‘promise of love’ with his childhood sweetheart. Unfortunately, he no longer remembers what the girls name was or what she looked like. He does wear the locket she gave him to this day though, and he definitely remembers giving her the key that unlocks it. Without delving too far into spoiler territory, it becomes apparent as the series goes along that there is more than one girl that knew Raku at the time, and each of his potential first loves has a key … oh the complications of young love, eh?
Throughout the series, there are plenty of genuinely funny moments to be found, as well as some heart-warming moments of hinted romance. Both Chitoge and Raku grow as their fake romance continues, albeit Chitoge more so than Raku, and the slow introduction of various new characters means that each person gets ample time to shine alongside the two leads.
Having a few harem tendencies, the show does of course resort to the expected Bath House and Beach episodes. Oddly, these aren’t as overplayed as you’d generally expect from the genre. The Beach episode in particular surprised me because they seemed to get all the usually prevalent focus on fan service over with quite quickly. In fact, it kind of felt like the studio knew it was expected and so tried to cram it all in during the first five minutes so that the important things (such as plot progression) could be the main focus for the vast majority of the episode.
The animation is nice and smooth for the most part, and the characters all have nice, distinct looks despite the matching uniforms. If you want to see the key characters in action, then the FIRST OPENING VIDEO highlights them well enough. It’s also a cool track that fits in well with the generally light feel of the show.
The Bad: Nisekoi, like most series, is not without its problems. Some of these are pretty minor, but one of them is quite glaring in my eyes. Let’s start small though. Remember how I said that the animation is nice and smooth for the most part? Well, there is one particular type of movement that the show is a little hit and miss on: walking. Now, sometimes this done well. When Chitoge is happy and skipping or leaping along for example, all is well in the world of animation quality. When characters are just walking along without any particular effort to put their personalities across, it can get a bit jerky. I don’t know whether the animators used less frames of animation for certain scenes or if they really are just awkwardly drawn. This crops up in a fair few episodes, sometimes multiple times, but doesn’t really last long. For the most part, it seems to happen before characters get talking and move the story along, so I can live with that.
It would be very easy to argue that Raku’s complete obliviousness when it comes to Chitoge could get infuriating for some viewers. For me, he never quite hits that level, but it can be borderline. There were certainly some moments when I ended up thinking, ‘Raku, you idiot.’ Again though, this is fairly minor.
Now, onto the big problem for me: Kosaki Onodera. I can fully appreciate that she is probably a very popular character. In fact, her general personality is such that there are likely many people who find her straight up endearing. My word she bores me though. She’s perfectly nice and well-mannered all the time without wavering, she maintains a non-stop air of indecisiveness and outright fear with regards to acting on her feelings for Raku, and I really feel that she fails to develop much throughout the series. I know that a lot of people will disagree with that, especially as her character type is generally well-liked, but I really struggle if she’s on screen too long without more than one other key character around to keep things moving. The fact that Raku is so infatuated with her means that not only is she on screen a lot, but she effectively keeps Raku from realising that Chitoge is perfect for him, which I am adamant makes her evil.
Subbed or Dubbed: I don’t believe that there is a dubbed version of Nisekoi as yet, so you have little choice in that regard. The subbed version is very good though, to the point that I honestly cannot think of a single bad performance among the cast.
Final View: Nisekoi is not the most original anime that you’ll ever see, but it makes up for that with sheer quality. Both Raku and Chitoge are fantastic as leads and the supporting cast are all perfectly likeable (bar Onodera who, as I’ve mentioned, is a healthy mix of dull and evil). Both the humorous and serious sides of the show are handled well and there are very few things to dislike about it as a whole. In short, if you like your romance light-hearted, then you could do far worse than Nisekoi.
Final Score: 4 / 5