Review/discussion about: Nisekoi:
Nisekoi: has a strange title when you stare at it. It is the second season of an anime that is quite popular, but instead of giving it a number or some kind of continuation phrase, it simply adds a colon to the end of its name. It seems quite out of place, perhaps making you wonder, “Why is that even there?” Traditionally colons in sentences are used in conjunction with lists or highlighting something specific. Or to put it another way, a colon is used when wishing to speak about a relevant thing or set of things. But Nisekoi: has nothing after its colon, and the reason for this becomes obvious when thought about briefly: there is “nothing” to say about the show. While this spells certain doom for the anime as a whole, it at least provides the audience with an interesting question pertaining to expectations.
Nisekoi: takes place shortly after the first season ended. Chitoge, Onodera, Tsugumi, and Marika are back, with everyone still semi-vying for Raku’s attention.
Nisekoi (the first season) is a series infamous not only for the nonexistence of romantic and relational developments but also for the insane amount of plot stalling it performs. The first season did this so much to the point that the anime had become synonymous with “keeping the status quo.” Nothing ever progressed because the anime did not want it to; expecting it to do otherwise was almost unfair given the direction it purposefully went time and again.
With this in mind, think of a grocery store chain called “Nisekoi:” and determine what it generally contains. There are fruits, vegetables, chips, drinks, meats, breads – a never-ending amount of food can be found within such establishments. A person is allowed to expect this because he or she managed to visit its parent grocery store, Nisekoi, sometime in the past. Along the same lines, it doesn’t generally contain cars, clothes, expensive jewelry, computers, and many other objects because grocery stores focus instead on selling products that pertain to their specialty. Now, this does not mean that a grocery store cannot sell these items; it is just that it is known not to. In other words, a person doesn’t go to a grocery store expecting to find the latest sapphires for sale because that is not what a grocery store was designed to offer.
How in the world does this relate to Nisekoi:, the anime? The second season suffers from what is known as “misplaced expectations.” This is a phrase that is defined as expecting “A” but receiving “B” despite the signs pointing towards “B.” For anime, these signs include the themes, any type of foreshadowing, what the characters represent, genres the show finds itself in, or any other kind of indicator for how the events will unfold. Like someone flabbergasted that he or she did not find diamonds at the grocery store, a person who has “misplaced expectations” when watching a show is not looking strictly at what the anime did but instead what he or she wanted it to do.
“Misplaced expectations” are most often associated with sequels, as it is here with Nisekoi:, because there is already a foundation with which to work off of. Normally a sequel is viewed after the previous seasons have been completed, meaning the audience has already been exposed to certain ideas or details. New projects or unfamiliar territory should ideally be approached with no expectations whatsoever but since sequels have already had some of their signs propped up, it seems as if there have to be some expectations that are simply unavoidable.
Thus a difficult dilemma is raised: what is the audience “allowed” to expect? Certain aspects are easier to agree on: Chitoge’s new romantic feelings towards Raku, a return of the cast, and the same brand of comedy are parts of the anime people can nearly unanimously expect to find in the second season. But what about progression of the plot? As has been said, the first season had quite the array of “convenient inconveniences,” so perhaps one should not expect to see any sort of movement of the narrative or the relationships between the characters. Indeed, the structure of the narrative – how the various tales are segmented in an episodic nature – demonstrates the anime’s slice-of-life-oriented framing and subsequently unwillingness to press forward. Yet one can look at it the opposite way; since there was notsuch progression, one might expect to finally see it after so long. Some of the best episodes this season, such as Chitoge reconciling with her mother, Shuu confessing to his teacher, and the investigation of Onodera’s backstory, were executed so well because they subverted the very expectations the anime had set for itself.
Since expectations vary so wildly in degree and importance, the conclusion is that all anime should be viewed through a lens that holds no expectations whatsoever, with the show being looked at for what it attempted and accomplished. To put it differently, in order to avoid “misplaced expectations” one should abstain from having expectations to begin with. In Nisekoi:’s case – as a slice-of-life construct featuring harem, romance, and comedic elements – it performs at a respectable level. The events are sporadic yet relevant; the characters are given appropriate screen-time to interact in multiple combinations; and the comedy manages to be a mixture of visual gags, misunderstandings, and over-the-top personality quirks. At the same time, the anime fails in key areas: the romance is subpar due to repetition, not all of the new additions to the cast feel as “part of the gang,” and there is very little in the way of themes.
So while Nisekoi:’s plot may not be something worth remembering, the interesting topic that ensues because of it certainly is.
Although this rarely happens – and by coincidence, it has happened twice within the past five reviews – this section will be kept shorter than usual. Per SHAFT ideology, Nisekoi: adopts a less-movement-more-style direction in terms of its art and animation. Characters are often standing still, with multicolored lights and colors surrounding their backs while their faces take on a wide range of reactions. The designs maintain their same flair, with Onodera’s plain yet cute looks, Chitoge’s beautiful blonde hair with accompanying red ribbon, and Shuu’s silly cat mouth signifying his carefree nature, with everyone having both school and casual attire to match the correct occasion.
Due in part to Nisekoi:’s everlasting preventative measures, the characters likewise often find themselves not developing. Being a slice-of-life outing, this is usually the case; characters do not normally experience drama or introspection of the same level as a psychological thriller, so it is understandable that the majority of their character istheir “character.” Onodera is still her extremely shy yet vastly determined self, Chitoge remains as the typical “tsundere” (with more “dere” than “tsun” this time around), and Marika is as overly obsessed with Raku as she has ever been. However, there are moments where the show provides further insight into the cast. These were brought up previously: Chitoge has the relationship with her mother mended, Shuu adds another dimensionality to his person through the heartbreak he embarks on, and Onodera’s past reveals just how genuine and sweet her feelings are for the boy she loves so much. These are the exceptions, not the rule, but divulging beyond what the characters normally offer was a definite boon.
In relation to Chitoge’s small plotline, the show actually introduces four new characters, namely Hana (Chitoge’s mother), Paula (Tsugumi’s friend), Haru (Onodera’s sister), and Fuu (Haru’s friend). What is interesting is that Marika seems to be missing a new connection, which leads to two problems that the anime has in regards to the newcomers: their non-harem presence and their eventual nonexistence.
First, they are not directly related to the harem. Their inclusion seems nonsensical, since their relation to Raku is nearly nonexistent. To an extent this is understandable since there are already four women on the list. But careful consideration reveals that the new characters are there to highlight aspects of the veterans; Hana brings out Chitoge’s more personal and vulnerable side, Paula demonstrates Tsugumi’s transition from tiger to cub, and Haru makes it abundantly clear how kind Onodera is. Fuu is, once again, an exception. She has implied feelings towards Haru, but she is hardly around long enough to discuss. This is all well and good, but the problem is that none of these girls improves upon the harem nature of the anime. In fact, some even regress it; Hana refuses to mention some important detail regarding Chitoge and Raku’s childhood whereas Haru literally forces Raku away from Onodera. Disrupting arguably the most important facet of the show is nothing more than a negative.
Second, their removal from Nisekoi: leaves it in an awkward position. Essentially, the new characters, after being introduced and used for their singular purpose, leave the stage to never be utilized again. Fuu’s case is the extreme, with her making around two appearances at most, but this also holds true for Hana, Paula, and even Haru. They show up, do their business, and are never heard from again. It not only makes it difficult to really care about them but also makes them feel less important, as if what they do manage to take part in while they are around holds no merit since, like them, it is quickly forgotten.
The opening theme is a big bundle of fun. The whistling, the back-and-forth singing, and fast beat keep the song from ever slowing down, upping the playfulness it provides. Alongside the incredible range of the main vocalist, the piece is not only fitting but a joy to listen to as well. The ending theme is arguably stronger than the OP, matching not only its playfulness but improving on overall catchiness. The “la’s,” very simple beat, and various vocalists working individually and in harmony gives the track the feel-good vibe it was undoubtedly aiming for. Beyond the main OP and ED is a bonus opening theme that precedes Onodera’s magical girl romp and a slew of ending themes – nearly one for each girl – to shake up the formula time and again. These pieces are not as impressive but their inclusion is certainly not unwanted.
The rest of the soundtrack is mostly filled with background tracks that coincide with the present mood. Standard fare such as jazzy tracks for the laidback times, weird onomatopoeia pieces for the happy ones, and Nisekoi:’s signature guitar plus accordion for those heartfelt moments can be heard. As an OST, it is not as involved or worthwhile as the large amount of EDs to choose from but they at least serve their purpose well enough.
Voice acting for the anime is somewhere above average. Special shout-outs are deserved for Kana Hanazawa as Onodera for her recognizably cute voice, Nao Touyama as Chitoge for her often frustrated speaking, Kana Asumi as Marika for her super-girly way of talking, and Ayane Sakura as Haru for the perfect younger sister performance.
This anime has another reputation, in that the girls are quite popular. Not just one of the haremettes but all of them are usually seen in a positive light. Sure, everyone has his or her favorite – mine is Onodera – but everyone in the game of love is quite entertaining to see. Onodera’s blushes are the best, Chitoge’s faces are hilarious, and Marika’s calm demeanor despite being downright bonkers would always make me smile.
Yet, there was something missing this season. The characters are the same and so is the comedy, but the “magic” never felt present. The main cause of this was due to the shift in perspective; Raku was almost always in the center with the girls revolving around him whereas the second season felt a bit too all-over-the-place. That is, instead of the girls “competing” with one another it felt more like “taking turns,” defeating the purpose of the harem in the first place. It is even worse since the anime does not and will not fully commit to one path anyway, making individual exchanges feel pointless.
And despite my harping, I liked Haru’s character. Seeing her so evil towards Raku, based on perhaps one of the most ridiculous misunderstandings of all time, was quite comical. In a way, she acts as the anti-haremette, where she does not want anything to do with him but he always seemed to dote on and care for her more so than any of the other girls. Seeing her flustered beyond belief while ever so slightly becoming comfortable with his presence was likewise a lot of fun to see.
Nisekoi: causes people to harbor many valid and invalid expectations when moving from the previous season to the next. Disregarding them entirely, one will find a fun little anime, with some comedic characters, nice music, and stylized art. Unfortunately, the charm from the first season is lost in translation, the plot is lackluster, and the newcomers are rather weak. To summarize, here is what should have been added to its title: “Nisekoi: Not Sure Where to Go from Here.”
Story: Fine, abstaining from “misplaced expectations” leaves a slice-of-life narrative that finds strength in its events and comedy but weakness in its romance and themes
Animation: Fine, okay art style, nice character designs, about average actual animation
Characters: Fine, the originals return, with some receiving extra attention compared to the rest, and newcomers arrive but leave little impact
Sound: Good, good OP, great ED, nice array of other OPs and EDs, okay soundtrack, above average VA work
Enjoyment: Fine, Onodera and the other girls are fun, as is Haru, but the “magic” is no longer present
Final Score: 5/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3