More like FAKE PROGRESS.
Nisekoi Anime (REVIEW)
Youtube Review (Please watch this if you can! It’s a far better experience.)
So, Nisekoi otherwise known as Fake Love… You know, there are some titles that are strangely fitting like Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabu Come wa Machigatteiru (long name I know, but it does the job), and there are others like Nisekoi that are not so fitting. I mean sure, the premise of Nisekoi is a guy called Raku makes a promise with a girl 10 years ago that one day they’ll meet again in the future and they’ll unlock the pendant that he has with the girl’s key. Those fucking keys… Raku then ends up in a fake romantic relationship with Chitoge because both families would kill each other otherwise even though he actually likes Onodera. He doesn’t remember who the girl from 10 years ago is, and the story continues from there. Sounds like fake love so far, right? No, just no. This anime should really be named “Niseprogress.” “Fake progress” because that’s what a lot of this anime consists of. Tons of attempts at making the characters grow closer only to pull them apart at the last moment and cockblock any chance of development. When a show’s genre is romance, even if it may be a romcom, I expect the characters and the relationships between the love interests to grow and evolve over the course of the show at least a little bit.
Nisekoi doesn’t do this; it uses romance to spur on the harem antics and the comedic moments for entertainment purposes only. For the lack of a better term, I’ll just classify the phrase “entertainment side” to mean the harem antics, the cute moments, and the comedic moments for this review. Just remember that I’m not saying that romance in general cannot be entertaining. Anyways, it doesn’t resolve anything romantically even though it constantly tries to. Now, some of you may not be convinced that this can be irritating for some people so let me explain what the show does with its romance that makes me think it’s poorly done. Firstly, the whole ordeal with the pendant is just ridiculous. The anime introduces it as a premise and you’d think that it would be a major plot point from which the characters develop, but it becomes something that fends off any kind of development. A girl would have a key, and she would get close to opening it only for A FUCKING PHONE TO RING. Another girl would have a key and she would literally almost open it ONLY FOR IT TO BREAK IN HALF. By now you should realize that more than one girl has a key. You have to wonder if Raku was a mastermind building his harem 10 years ago or if this is the writer’s way to get more harem members to make more drama with no development surrounding this pendant that probably just has a condom inside. And yes, I’m spoiling things. Trust me though, you’ll thank me later unless if you’re masochistic in which case… sorry?
But okay, even then it should be mostly about the relationships between the characters, right? Yeah. Relationships. So, Raku is the typical male harem protagonist, who’s really just a tsundere more than anything else, that argues with the typical tsundere Chitoge and is all hot for the typical shy girl Onodera and tries to avoid bullets from the other typical tsundere Tsugumi, and you get the point. The personalities of these characters are very typical, but those things in and of themselves are not what break the romance in this anime. As adorable of a character as Onodera is, she is sadly a major problem for the romance in this anime along with Raku and Chitoge of course. Raku and Onodera are both infatuated with each other, but they’re both too shy to tell each other how they really feel. Instead of having conversations that allow them to get to know each other better, they’d just talk about Chitoge. Onodera would bring up Chitoge, and that’s all they’ll talk about. Other interactions just end in contrived situations where somehow nothing progresses when it was supposed to. Some people blame the two for not telling each other how they really feel, and while that is certainly a big deal, I feel the blame has more to do with the stupid situations the anime sets up. There is a moment where Onodera literally said her feelings out loud and… fuck.
Moving on… whenever Raku feels something towards Chitoge, he’d fall back on the thought that he likes Onodera which instantly destroys any sign of progress. The interactions between Raku and Chitoge consist of arguments between each other, and the typical jabs back and forth that you’ve probably seen before in other harem anime. They’d do this all the time except for a few cute moments when they realize that the other isn’t so bad. But every single time this happens, the relationship pushes itself back with another argument. This process just repeats over and over and over again. The situation is so that something happens between the characters, but it’s a façade. The relationships only appear to have changed when in fact the next episode nothing is different between the characters. It’s not like the characters grow more fond of each other and they confess, and they struggle, and they become closer. Things do happen between the characters, but nothing great enough ever occurs to spur them to change the status quo. The anime is trapped in this stasis for the entirety of the twenty episodes. You can imagine what this means for character development. I can’t help but feel that if either Chitoge or Onodera weren’t around, something may have actually happened. But even then, if the writer really wants to delay everything, then taking away a character won’t change anything.
I know what some of you are going to say. You’re probably going to say that this is the same for most harem anime, and I shouldn’t be critiquing it on the basis of romance so harshly since that’s not the point of this anime. Look, I have absolutely nothing against pseudo-romantic developments in many harem shows. Recent examples include Outbreak Company, and Ore no Nounai. However, there is a huge difference in focus in terms of romance between those two shows and Nisekoi. Outbreak Company and Ore no Nounai have overarching stories that are not deeply rooted in romance. It’s no problem if the romance is a side-factor that’s not too critical to the overall show that it doesn’t develop a large amount in order for the harem antics to continue. But in Nisekoi, it’s all about the fake romantic relationship between Raku and Chitoge and other romantic plot points. When a show like Nisekoi constantly dangles romance in front of the viewer’s faces and lazily throws contrived situations that vaporize any kind of romantic development, it can be quite annoying. It’s like if someone put a piece of delicious looking candy right in front of your face and just before you reach out to grab it, that person pulls it away. You feel a bit ticked off, and think to yourself that you won’t be fooled next time. So the next time, the candy is literally shoved right against your face. You hesitate. You think to yourself, “This can’t possibly be an actual opportunity can it?” You waver, and you succumb to temptation believing that the piece of candy will be yours. You open your mouth to bite it because that’s how close it is, and at the last fucking second, right before you can taste that sweetness, you bite down on air wondering why you even tried. That’s what it felt like watching the romance in Nisekoi.
But of course, it’s not all that bad. The entertainment side is the reason why I continued to watch this show, because I’m not that masochistic, okay? The things that occur are the typical arguments between characters, the typical misunderstandings, and so on. But while those situations may be generic, the comedy is surprisingly good in comparison, so I must give it credit for making the most of its generic nature. There are also certain aspects like the reaction faces and other cute moments between the characters that do stand out. It helps that animation-wise, SHAFT differentiates Nisekoi from the typical harem anime by adding their own style. While some people may not like it, it spiced things up quite nicely for me. And hey, it’s nice seeing a generic harem romcom animated a bit differently for once. SHAFT also adapts the facial expressions very well and stays very loyal to the manga in that regard which is a great thing as it’s one of the best parts of the anime. The two side characters, Shuu and Ruri, are also worth mentioning. Shuu has his own quirky way of invigorating the generic scenarios to make them just a bit more interesting while Onodera’s solid wingwoman, Ruri tries to push things along. She’s a character that you can sympathize with as she’s clearly a bit frustrated that nothing has happened between Onodera and Raku much like how the audience would be as well. The soundtracks fit the scenes very well, and the two openings are by Claris so yeah, that’s good.
What I will also note is the last episode as that steps outside of the generic events and instead creates something quite fitting and clever. It uses the personalities of the characters to create scenes that are both entertaining and symbolic for what’s going on in the show. It’s difficult to describe without spoiling anything, but it’s an enjoyable conclusion that is arguably the best episode of the entire anime. Perhaps if more episodes were like the finale and stayed away from the generic scenes, I would have been more able to overlook the romance. Now, those of you who have watched the last episode will probably say to me, “Hey, isn’t there some romantic development in the last episode? Even though it took so long, didn’t things finally progress?” That piece of candy is pretty damn close isn’t it? Are you going to bite down on air? I’m certainly not. If you really think that the last episode actually matters in the grand scheme of things, you need to read a few chapters of the manga after where this episode takes place. That way, when a season 2 is announced, and it will one day because the manga is popular and the anime selling decently, not to mention the other merchandise (DEM PILLOWS), you won’t be as disappointed. The author has no choice now but to delay the romance if he wishes to keep the harem antics as they are, but he certainly had a choice when he originally made the story. If he wanted to have harem antics that would persist forever, then maybe less focus should have been brought to actually trying to develop the romance. It’s just that when an anime dedicates so much time to try to develop its romance, I expect at least some meaningful romantic progress between the characters. I can’t just switch my perspective and ignore the romance when the show emphasizes it as much as it does. There comes a point when it’s just weak storytelling. And it doesn’t help that the only unique thing about the setting is a supernatural cockblock force that prevents anything meaningful from developing.
In the end, it’s a bit of a dilemma. There’s the romantic side and there’s the entertainment side. For some, the entertainment side of things can overshadow the romance, and for others, the opposite will be true. Certainly, it’s not as easy to ignore the sloppy romance when that’s what this anime mostly consists of. Ultimately, it depends on the individual. I can understand why someone would drop the show due to the poorly done romance, and I can also understand those who stick around until the end and are able to overlook the romance because they enjoy the humor and harem shenanigans. Then there’ll be others who just find the show painfully average and generic. I can understand all those viewpoints, and none of them are wrong. Though, I would hardly agree with anyone who says that the romance is well done. My advice to those of you who want to try it out is that you should tone your expectations of the romance down as much as possible. Don’t expect anything from it. At certain episodes, it’ll seem like something will happen, but don’t be deceived. That way, you’ll enjoy it more. But even then, if you’ve watched a decent amount of romcoms, you may not like it anyways because it is pretty generic. To me, Nisekoi is average at the very best. It was frustrating seeing romance done in such a way, but the harem antics and the comedy do save the show somewhat and provided enough entertainment for me to watch the whole twenty episodes. Is it my guilty pleasure? Sure, and it may just be yours too. (Again, if you haven’t watched the Youtube review, please, please do. I put in even more work than the Gundam Build Fighters one. It really helps if you do.)