What They Say:
“The girl I made that promise with ten years ago… Was it you?” On their way home from buying Chitoge’s birthday present, Kosaki shares her secret scenic overlook with Raku. In the heat of the moment, Raku asks Kosaki the one question that he’s been meaning to ask. Kosaki answers by nodding yes.
“Have you ever heard ‘Zawsze in love?'” After her birthday party Chitoge confesses to Raku that she too owns a key. Raku is shocked that Chitoge mentions a very familiar phrase. 2 girls… 2 keys… Which one could it be?! Raku finds the one photo he took with her ten years ago, but the girl in the photo is neither Kosaki nor Chitoge. She was Raku’s fiancee chosen by their parents. “I’ve missed you all this time!”… Just when things couldn’t get any more complicated, a girl named Marika, who claims to be Raku’s true fiancee, transfers to his school adding 1 more key to the puzzle. Will Raku ever be able to find the one girl? Which girl holds the key to Raku’s locket and to his heart?
The audio presentation for this release gives us a pretty pure version of the show as we get only the Japanese language track in the uncompressed PCM format. The series is one that is largely dialogue based with what it does with a few wacky comedy-action moments along the way to spice things up a bit. There’s a decent bit of placement and directionality for the show in how it moves around and some of the designs to it with the way some of the comedy plays out, but it’s not a huge factor to it. The opening and closing sequences definitely help to bump up the overall presentation well as there’s a good warmth to it with a full sound that works the forward soundstage well. Dialogue is strong throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With five episodes to this release, it’s all on a single disc and definitely looks good. Animated by A-1 Pictures, there’s a lot of really great character design detail and sets/backgrounds that definitely have great color design to it. With a high bit rate throughout it, both in the quiet scenes and the really busy ones, there’s a slick and appealing look here that definitely takes advantage of being in high definition. The colors are vibrant and have some great pop in a lot of scenes and the way you can get into checking out the detail of the backgrounds can be pretty engaging. Visually, it’s a very appealing series and the transfer captures it perfectly.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that has a slipcover that partially replicates what’s on the case. The front cover is another solid piece as we get the detailed and very colorful image of Tsugumi in a playful kind of school uniform with some great detail to it. It’s not the usual school uniform overall but the whole presentation is great with the colors, detail and design. I do like the logo as it uses pieces from the theme of the show within it with the key and locket in a good way as it’s along the lower left. The back of the slipcover is standard, though this time around it’s harder to read with a gold font against the Chinese red background..
We get a decent look at the premise and a few decent shots from the show that plays up the fanservice a bit. The episode count is clearly listed as are the standard features and the extras both on disc and in the box. The technical grid covers the basics in a good way along the bottom as well so you know exactly what’s included. The Blu-ray case has the same front cover but works with a simpler back cover with red, blues and gold that shows off a few shots from the show while breaking down the main cast and staff. There’s artwork on the reverse side as well with the four main characters together with the keys and locket between them. The packaging includes a great selection of postcards with some great detail and a nice three panel poster that uses the Tsugumi artwork from the cover but with a pink background. The case does have some artwork on the reverse side with a rather adorable image of Onodera close-up as she’s really getting a little red in the cheeks.
The menu design for this release uses the colors from the packaging in a very good and engaging way as it’s an all muted blue background with a few colored widgets strewn across it to bring in some blues, pink and white. The right half is made up of a good full faced Tsugumi image that’s very pretty and colorful while below her we get the series logo and volume listing. The left side breaks down the navigation strip with the episode by number and title and submenu selections as needed. It’s a simple menu that pretty much just gets you right to the show and that’s what you really want. With it being a monolingual release, you can turn the subtitles off, but it does default to them being on as it goes right into playback when you first load the disc rather than going to the menu.
The only extras we get here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first half of Nisekoi in the first two volumes proved to be a lot more fun than I expected and even though I could tell that it was basically going to spin its wheels to some degree for awhile, particularly with the manga still ongoing, there’s a kind of polished aspect to it that still makes it fun. Series like this live and die by whether the characters make decisions and the more avoidance of it there is, the longer it can go – provided it can be done well. Nisekoi in the first ten episodes gave us a decent setup and a couple of nice reveals in how people learned of the secret that’s being carried out, and it also made it decidedly unclear as to what happened in the past with who since nobody really seems to remember the exact details.
Part of the fun is just in seeing the way that the characters interact with each other both as a group and as smaller pairings. The opening for this set works particularly well as we get everyone getting ready to go see Chitoge for her birthday at her house, but events nudge Raku and Kosaki spend time together shopping for her. It’s awkward since Raku is just smitten with her, and even though he’s growing affectionate towards Chitoge, it hasn’t made him turn towards her in a significant way because of everything they have to face while keeping up the charade. So seeing the more uncertain and tentative moments between Kosaki and Raku as they shop, go to various places and spend time together, it works very well. Naturally, things get complicated when they’re actually at Chitoge’s house, but that’s part of what the show has to do to continue on.
What makes it work better though is some of what we get from it. Raku is very perceptive and talkative at the wrong times for others, which is why he makes it clear to Chitoge that as frustrated as she is by how events are playing out, he knows that she’s just thrilled to have a small but increasingly important group of friends. With her family history as gangsters, her inability to have friends really made a deep impact on her and she could be a whole lot worse than she is. Raku’s insightful moments make an impact on her to be sure and that helps to soften the experience overall. Raku doesn’t get off scott free though as he ends up with some time along with Chitoge’s father, which leads to some amusing moments as he talks to Raku and Raku realizes how much her father cares for her and the important role that Raku is playing in helping her. It’s small, familiar material, but it’s what the show needs to really advance and maintain its interest.
The complications of this set are a bit forced as it progresses, and I do find myself conflicted by how I feel about it all. On the first point, we get Raku and Chitoge coming to a real discussion about the locket and keys aspect of the relationship and her revelation of a key in her possession finally – finally – gets one of the girls to try it in the locket. Naturally, she’s so tense and nervous based on her own memories of childhood and that special friendship that it has her using her superhuman strength in a bad way, breaking the key in the locket. That actually works in the longterm through as the locket is sent off to be fixed, which means that there’s no real ability to try anything with it and it’s not just sitting there tormenting them. I’m less conflicted about the fact nobody has pictures from the time ten years ago, though Raku does end up getting one through his father after a good bit of searching, but there’s a kind of semi-senile old man aspect to how he’s playing things that even though it’s familiar, it still makes me chuckle when he has his scenes.
The real frustration for me is that since the picture is someone who is plainly not Kosaki or Chitoge, it means introducing a third young woman to the mix. That comes in the form of Marika Tachibana, a new transfer student that has come to meet her promised husband in an arranged marriage that was set up by their fathers ten years ago. There’s a legitimately goofy reason for it, since Marika’s father is a high ranked police commissioner and you can see Raku’s father doing this in order to secure his own position, but there’s also the awkward as hell aspect of marrying these two families together. The arrival of Marika is also complicated because Raku’s father is obviously aware of the situation he and Chitoge’s father setup and he knew it would be coming. This is a comedy series so you know there won’t be any serious repercussions, but it’s just a messy thing in general that could and should have a lot of blowback across all parties, but especially with Raku’s family.
Marika herself is a big complication since she’s been promised to Raku for ten years and has thought little of anything else but him. She’s not done up in a traditional way, more of a flowy model in some sense, but she’s totally intent on following through with him while keeping aspects of herself away from him that she doesn’t care for. Marika naturally throws a wrench into things, but where it becomes interesting is that we really don’t get either Kosaki or Chitoge getting furious or overacting because of her, but rather it comes mostly from Raku because he’s finally getting closer to Kosaki and feels that this is going to jeopardize everything. And really, at this stage, both Kosaki and Chitoge should just be walking away from everything related to this. So seeing him being the one in a real panic and trying to solve it is a welcome change and puts the onus more on him to deal with things.
As we move into the second half of the first season of Nisekoi, there’s still a lot to like with what’s going on here. The complications are piling up and they’re not ones I’m particularly keen on when it comes to Marika and her inclusion in events in the past, but the first half of this set overcomes that and Raku’s reactions to Marika as well. The dynamic between the group is interesting and I like the little nudges we get here, but also that we mostly get events told from Raku’s perspective and he’s increasingly getting more serious about Kosaki, even though things are growing elsewhere. It’s not all instantaneous and that aspect with Chitoge is definitely nice. With just five episodes here, it is still frustrating, but I’ll admit that it does make the content here stand out a bit more and feel a little more defined rather than the series as a whole. The packaging and the disc itself with its presentation is spot on and definitely beautiful when it comes to the encoding, giving it a whole other level of life.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closings
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: March 31st, 2015
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.