It took the airing of a sequel to kick my butt into finishing the first season of Nisekoi, a show I had stalled on, then backlogged, back when it first came out at the beginning of last year. Here we are more than a year later in the midst of summer (hooray, June, my birth month!!) and I’m all caught up on the antics. I was sorely disappointed that the ending didn’t bring with it any resolution of the lock-and-key mystery, though that was to be expected with the presence of a sequel. In a way, I felt like I was cheating since I already knew when beginning the original that there was more material to be had and any cliffhanger would immediately be rendered useless.
My feelings towards this show and its characters have been all over the board, and continue to remain in a wobbly state. At first, I was bored with the premise, and had an obvious preference for the only mutual feelings of affection between Ichijou and Onodera. As I was sucked into the rest of the episodes, I slowly warmed up to Chitoge and her bodyguard, Tusugumi. The only person who maintains my disdain is Marika, who I wish would take her unwanted affections and vanish off the screen. Unfortunately, the best girl of the show, Onodera’s best friend Ruri, isn’t part of the harem.
Everything in this series is a re-hash of what has been done before: character archetypes, plot scenarios, conflicts. Nisekoi doesn’t bring anything new to the boards and is ridiculously easy to predict, but it does perform what we already know reliably well.
Forgotten Promises and Fabrications
The seeming crux of this entire show is the mystery that surrounds Ichijou Raku’s locket and his missing memories. The fuzzy images of the locket, a faceless girl, and a whisper of a promise haunts him into his high school days, where he continues to wear the necklace. Multiple times, the possible answer to his questions is dangled in front of him then snatched away either by his own inaction or the interference of others. The locket almost becomes a joke of a device with the number of times we think we’re going to uncover its history only to be rerouted somewhere completely different. Ryou’s continual chasing has you wondering about the oddity that someone his age would still cling to past, forgotten connections. In a way, the pendant is its own lie–a misrepresentation, if you may, about the people of the past.
Then there’s the relationship between our lead and Kirsaki Chitoge. Hailing from opposing factions in the city’s underworld dealings, their parents strike up the fantastic deal that to keep the peace, they’ll have their children, the heirs to their mini kingdoms, date one another. For much of the first series, Ryou and Chitoge’s act of dating is what seals the locket and any chance of Ryou’s feelings for another girl from coming to fruition. Their faked love gives additional credibility to the title of the show; as those emotions gradually change towards affection, they, too, switch stances and continue to parrot their distaste for one another. Ryou lives a lie within a lie, all while glancing back at yet another lie.
The Virgin, the Queen, the Knight, and the Princess
The cast of this series are textbook examples of popular moe archetypes. As such, my feelings about each of the girls didn’t change much over the course of the episodes.
As expected, my favorite continues to be Onodera Kosaki. She’s a wrap of the girl next door and the childhood friend, which clearly meant to me that she would either win by a long shot or lose spectacularly. She and Raku share the only long standing mutual affection for one another, and it upsets me to no end how they are repeatedly blocked by other characters and their own misunderstandings. Her kindness and thoughtfulness know no bounds, yet she isn’t unrealistically untouchable. She has physical desires like any other girl, yet it foiled each time she comes close to acting upon them.
My next favorite took more time to grow on me, but wedge her place into my heart she did. Kirisaki Chitoge struggled at the start to fit in to her surroundings as a normal high school girl. Although she has more than her fair share of weath, beauty, and talent, Chitoge still desires many of the same things as other girls her age, namely a place to belong and friends to call her own. As much as she dislikes Raku at the start of the season, he is the one who pushes open the door and gives her a better chance at connecting with others. I started to like her more with each revealed characteristic. As perfect as Raku and Kosaki seem for one another, I almost feel like he’s more suitable a match with Chitoge. Despite their bickering, they have a genuine trust and openness with one another.
Tsugumi, Chitoge’s bodyguard, also took time to open up, and in turn I’ve come to really appreciate her as a figure for advice. Tsugumi almost always calls things as she sees them. Very little escapes her notice, except for the effect that she can have on others. Her confidence, capability, and honesty put her with Ruri as the show’s most reasonable and likable people.
Lastly, and definitely least, is Tachibana Marika. Marika came in just when I thought the new characters were at an end, and she immediately set herself as the most dislikable addition to Nisekoi. She’s been praised for her outright openness and forwardness, but those traits aren’t enough to make up for her overall infuriating actions.
With the bevy of options thrown at Raku and us, it’s not hard to feel overwhelmed by the flavors that all start to run together. Each of the girls so obviously belongs to a specific role that the interactions come across as scripted. But then there are the golden moments where one of them reaches outside of expectations and acts completely off of the norm, like when Onodera blurted out her desire at the beach, or when Chitoge took Raku’s beach rebuff to heart and avoided him afterward. I yearn for more of these moments, which feel more real than the scripted normalcy.
I’ve also found it surprisingly easy to forget that this is a SHAFT show, though the head tilts and awkward zoom-ins are certainly prevalent. Much of what distinguishes other shows by the same production is oddly lacking or faint in Nisekoi. Gone are the wallpaper symbols and the repetitive camera shots. This is perhaps one of the most normal of the shows from SHAFT that I’ve seen to date, which I don’t find to be a bad thing. As stereotypical as the people and acts are, the familiar comedy is reassuringly dependable.
I realize I’m posting this right at the end of the spring season with the second season having just finished. You’ll have to catch my thoughts on the sequel in my usual season wrap!