After a surprisingly promising start with an interesting set up for a romance anime, it begins to delve so much into certain episodes and predicable harem moments I’m amazed the title of the show wasn’t supposed to be Cliché-koi…
What They Say:
From The Director Of Madoka Magica Comes The Breakout Anime of 2014! Raku Ichijo is an average high school student. He also happens to be the sole heir to the head of a Yakuza Family called the Shuei-gumi. 10 years ago, Raku made a promise… a secret promise with a girl he met. They promised one another that they will get married when they reunite. Since then, Raku never let go of the pendant the girl gave him.
A rare case for the UK as we get a release with no English dub. Granted this was the case in the US as well, but we have audio tracks in Japanese and in French surprisingly in the standard 2.0 stereo format. Nothing wrong with either track (though I still wonder why there was a French track for a UK release) and no problems with synching with the video and subtitles, albeit not in the potentially best quality – granted the 5.1 releases usually come with the English dubs hence understandable here. It is just a strange case of the choices made – Japanese only would have made more sense despite obviously more cost to add a second audio track so…yeah, good but confusing.
Set on a 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio, watching it on a widescreen format, the video animation was clear and concise. Done by studio animation SHAFT, it definitely has that look of shows like Pani Poni Dash and Negima?!! Despite not having the in-jokes, it has its own unique style. Colourful, there was no problems with any of the animation or the video slowing down in motion or while pausing – though at times the style did feel a bit grainy at times, this more being as mentioned the style of the animation rather than any fault of the video – and in a series like this where it isn’t hugely dark or gritty anyway, it isn’t as noticeable.
There is a very early menu in the Kaze release where you select English or French subtitles, and then the main menu appears (after a trailer for Wolf Children) with shots of the show and openings in the menu with the kaze logo in the top right, and the key motifs on the bottom left. The top left is your selections of Play All, Episodes and Bonus – all easily selectable though it is a strange way to do your language select immediately (though that happens a lot with a lot of movies and box set releases outside of anime, just so much with anime releases). All selections were fine both in menu and in the show (though seeing the opening and it has languages and subtitles for French still boggles me) so no problems there.
The only extras were the 6th and 7th endings clean.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Harem/romance shows really are hit or miss for me – the main problem being is that a lot of the scenarios are all the same, or the fact the girl is obvious if there are multiple choices. Some shows can buck this trend simply because of how the story is told (Clannad being the biggest example, despite the girl choice being obvious it is one of my top 5 anime of all time) or having a unique premise in a harem series – Nisekoi at first seemed to do this, with the idea of two mafia kids being betrothed to keep the peace, the two clearly not liking each other yet are spied on by underlings so have to keep the peace for their respective groups, but you know that there is eventually going to be some affection there. Sadly, whilst there are some moments which are good in the 2nd half, it does fall a lot to harem clichés and trademark episodes which you can predict half the things that actually happen in the respective episodes.
One of the common tropes used is the childhood friend, or romantic rival – and here it is Kosaki. The one thing I liked is that she and the lead female Chitoge aren’t hated rivals, in fact they are friends and the fact that Chitoge has struggled to make friends combined with Kosaki knowing about this ‘romance’ between Chitoge and Raku and yet isn’t hating either one for it, it had at least a better set up than other shows like this (reminding me of the friendly rivals Yue and Nodoka in Negima, albeit Chitoge being more of a tsundere style character) – the first episode in the set is one of the better ones with Kosaki and Raku going out to find presents for Chitoge, after some subtle nudging from Kosaki’s friend Ruri. And this episode also is the first chance to showcase the initial plot from Raku’s perspective, to find the promised girl of 10 years ago with his key (again, reminding me of another Akamatsu work in Love Hina), with hints towards both Kosaki and Chitoge being this girl…yet Raku’s father shows him a photograph of another girl…with another key…
Which pretty much is it in terms of a potential plot or story as the girl in question does get introduced a few episodes later. Unlike Kosaki as well, she is firmly set into the antagonist rival as Marika who at first seems spoiled sweet, but when Raku has no memories of her, she exploded into a more vulgar persona. And then whilst the three keys are in play, most of the episodes then play more like romantic comedy, with a festival episode, an episode where Raku is trapped alone with one of his love interests (Kosaki), and a beach episode, before the last two part arc is which at a school festival. There is some drama with Raku giving Chitoge a relationship charm and her thinking it is a proposal, yet it caused problems when Raku doesn’t seem to feel that way or consider them a couple, which leads to Chitoge actually feeling heartbroken as yes, feelings were being made, which brings a lot of tension when Raku and Chitoge are chosen for the parts of Romeo x Juliet for the school festival…and Chitoge refuses. It is a classic case of Chitoge misinterpreting the words, getting angry, but learns what he met and forgives him – a tried and tested cliché.
The strange thing is, the show itself isn’t actually that bad. At least in terms of the initial love triangle between Chitoge, Kosaki and Raku. Chitoge is a character who has been introduced as basically being friendless before being forced into this betrothal with Raku – yet because of that is able to make friends. On one hand, she has no problems for the most part with Kosaki because she isn’t obvious with her affection for Raku. On the other hand when Marika is involved who is completely obvious, she turns into a clingy jealous girl despite not even wondering why she feels this way until it clicks. There are more than a few hints that she could have meet Raku, Kosaki and Marika at the same time and all three are potential promised girl for Raku – sadly the show ends anticlimactically (though does set up for OVAs/sequel) and no real resolution is shown, though it sets up the main trio still as the real triangle despite the addition of Marika.
And here is the problem – they throw in a curveball and another potential promised girl in Marika, but 2 episodes after her character is introduced? She is barely a factor. She has a police family which could really have brought some real issues between both Raku and Chitoge, but aside from a very awkward meeting with Marika’s father, she is a non-factor through the remainder of the series. She tries to get involved during the Romeo X Juliet arc but ultimately fails. The only real addition she brings to the show is a true antagonist against Chitoge as Kosaki is just too nice, and add a potential third option to the promised girl plot…which still puts her to the back burner compared to Chitoge and Kosaki.
The other problem is there are a lot of fun characters that were introduced even before Marika and again, they seem to be non-factors. The one I have to mention is Seishirou, the bodyguard type character of Chitoge, who is male looking but is a girl and as per harem shows, falls for the lead character Raku despite her trying her best to be manly. She was a lot of fun and despite the obvious trope of her crushing on Raku, she at least made the show entertaining. With the exception of the birthday episode, there was very little of her as well as the two best friends of Raku and Kosaki, Shuu and Ruri. Shuu at least does have a number of comical moments and Ruri is a fun friend who encourages Kosaki, I just wish there had been more of it.
The heart of the show is basically the strength of the three main characters, Raku, Chitoge and Kosaki. Strangely, whilst all three hit particular stereotypes, they do gel well as a trio – Raku is the handsome male lead but at least does have a crush on one of the girls officially in Kosaki, yet still falls into the trap of not realising that Kosaki has a crush on him too – you do wonder if just one of them asked the other out if that would end the series or cause a meltdown…Raku is also not stupid – he basically tries to get photos at one point of him with Kosaki in it, but at the same time isn’t like an accidental pervert – he actually gets a pic of Kosaki in her underwear, but returns it to the teacher instead…this is actually quite rare when you realise the harem shows where the lead male is constantly belittled or beaten up by the females when they see something perverted, and granted Chitoge is like this a little, but certainly not the worst by a long shot. The problem is a lot of clichés are still involved, such as Kosaki or Raku never spitting out the fact they like each other or something getting in the way before one or the other can confess – also the fact whilst I like the fact Chitoge and Kosaki are friendly rivals, it is mostly because Kosaki is a very nice girl, whilst Chitoge seems oblivious to the fact Kosaki likes Raku or vice versa. There is a good element of if things change, it could change the entire series or dimension of the characters, but it could work as a good or a bad thing so if it does set up a sequel, then we’ll see how it goes.
Whilst typing this, I realised I didn’t actually hate the show, not at all – in fact, there are a lot of fun moments – the way the one bodyguard continues to snoop around to try and make sure Raku/Chitoge are a couple as he clearly has an interest in Chitoge borders on both pathetic, yet hilarious (his ‘present’ at the birthday party and Chitoges’ response actually had me in stitches). The set up was enjoyable and the characters being brought in were fun – the problem was it never expanded on them, and whilst the focus on the main three was nice and welcome, and not really an obvious harem (combined with the fact of the promised girl plot at least doesn’t make it that obvious who is going to win despite Chitoge being the favourite) it is still filled with so many things associated with a harem show (the themed episodes, the misunderstanding, the lack of confessions, fanservice though not as much as you’d expect, etc) that a lot of the times I could predict what would happen. And whilst there are some fun and even sweet moments (most of Kosaki and Raku’s interactions, especially in the final episode are adorable) and I like the idea of a sequel at least to see what happens, it only really has its initial set up as something unique outside of similar shows.
Nisekoi whilst continues in a decent direction and focuses well on the three main characters, the fact that the new rival combined with previous introduced characters are put to the wayside removes a fair bit of the fun and potential plot going which is taken a back seat for the most part in favour of the relationship, and setting up a lot of obvious harem clichés. The characters are for the most part enjoyable, and the show certainly isn’t hard to watch – it just becomes predictable a lot of it and nothing groundbreaking after the promising set up. The potential sequel at least gives it something to work towards though.
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK/Kaze UK
Release Date: October 19th, 2015
Running Time: 250 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.