As a child, Raku Ichijo made a lover’s pledge to his squeeze with a key and locket. Ten years later, he can’t so much as remember one discerning feature, and tries to find the key to fit his lock. Being the son of a Yakuza family was bound to throw up problems for the lovelorn fifteen year old, no least when Chitoge Kirisaki, the daughter of a rival mob family, transfers to Japan. To save face and set aside their rivalries, their families force them to masquerade as make-believe lovers, gloriously tapping the tsundere archetype. Not only is Chitoge a candidate with a key and a would-be tale, there’s also Kosaki Onodera, Raku’s true crush with similar circumstances, and a third girl enters the fray.
As it’s from Studio Shaft, Nisekoi packs all the typical trappings albeit with a lighter touch, but there’s still plenty of head tilts and wisps of the avant garde. Admittedly, Madoka Magica and the Monogatari series can seem impenetrable and heavy handed to new comers, and Madoka director Akiyuki Shinbo offers a more gentle entry into one of the most idiosyncratic production studios around.
Based on Naoshi Komi’s rom-com manga, the series sets up its central ideal and lets it play itself out as series of embarrassing encounters and side-splitting visual gags. The second half is more of the same. Straightforward as it may be, the quirky slice-of-life styling and honesty – the gawkiness, insecurity, and obsession of adolescents in love – make it a relatable romp. All the complexities of teenage dating are in tow, and it hasn’t gotten any easier. Perhaps it’s the quality of the characters themselves that makes the harem aspect of the show seem that much more subversive than some of its counterparts.
Despite the ample suspension of disbelief needed for the set-up, the quality writing and candid characterisation pulls you in. The rival families do play up to that most classic star crossed lovers’ story and it’s fitting that the series should end itself with a ditsy and affectionate homage to Romeo and Juliet. Chucking some of the Shakespearean cliché out the window makes for rewarding watch for the second half of this predictably impressive series.
Special Features: Opening and ending
NISEKOI: FALSE LOVE SEASON 1 PART 2 / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: AKIYUKI SHINBO / SCREENPLAY: FUYASHI TOU / STARRING: YUMI UCHIYAMA, MIKAKO KOMATSU, KANA ASUMI, AYANE SAKURA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW