First Impressions – Nisekoi

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Take a mediocre WSJ manga, add potentially the most annoying director in anime and what do you get?  It’s become the mantra for this nightmare of an anime season, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.  Nisekoi isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but it beats having surgery without anaesthesia.  And really, isn’t that the first hurdle any anime needs to clear?  And this season, that makes it a Hall-of-Famer.

I think the reason this sort of works is compatibility.  The notion of any WSJ series and Shaft/Shinbou Akiyuki (though Tatsuya Naoyuki is technically listed as Director here, but of course that could be a fabrication and this show is all Shinbou either way) seems an odd marriage, and indeed it is.  But here’s the thing – take Nisio Isin’s spectacularly pompous, vapid and self-aware tripe and combine it with Shinbou’s hyperactive, twitchy auteurism and you get a kind of perfect storm of awfulness.  Nisekoi is, in itself, so generic that it actually benefits from Shinbou’s egotistical direction.  It has very little identity or presence of its own, so any personality Shinbou brings to the table makes it better.

Nisekoi itself is at least inoffensive, but it’s so utterly cliched and recycled that in reading it I was almost convinced it was a satire (if it is, I never got far enough to find out).  Even if you never read the manga I can’t imagine anyone didn’t have deja vu watching the premiere here, or had any difficulty in figuring out what was really going on in M.C. Ichijou Raku’s (Uchiyama Kouki) flashbacks (or what the “surprise” at the end of the episode would be).  We’ve certainly seen Hanazawa Kana’s Onodera Kousaki countless times before, the demure and caring gal pal who shares an undeclared crush with the lead (she reminds me of a less alluring Sairenji Haruna more than anything), and Kaji Yuuji as BF Maiko Shuu could have come out of a McDonald’s carton.  As for the uber-tsundere catalyst Kirisaki Chitoge (Touyama Nao), she may be the least original creation of the bunch.

The thing is, though, that none of that really matters.  Nisekoi is the recessive gene in this pairing – it has so little that’s distinctive about it that it acts basically as a carrier for Shinbou’s restless exploration of how many times he can use the same tricks to make cheaply-made anime visually interesting.  This series is like a cake, and the source material is the flour – you can’t make the cake without it, but no one is going to taste it and say “I like this cake – the flour is excellent!”.  What we’re left with is a kind of free-associative Shinbou take on an incredibly formulaic WSJ premise, and that has a certain level of curiosity-based interest in and of itself.

So, in the end, Nisekoi is moderately entertaining.  The cast is fine – Kaji and Hanazawa make no attempts to diverge from their boilerplate persona, and Touyama does the best she can injecting some humanity into playing someone who at this point in the story is an unrepentant bitch.  Uchiyama’s performance is the most interesting, because he sounds eerily like Kamiya Hiroshi.  Is that an intentional affectation on his part, or is he slowly turning into the Kamiya of his generation and I just didn’t notice until now?

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26 comments

  1. J

    You really put this one through the shredder. but when I looked at the premise and got a taste of what was to come, I couldn't bring myself to even watch a second of this.

  2. Heh, it really isn't as bad as it sounds. Have I said that before?

  3. C

    No you haven't but… It kinda feels that you have.

  4. C

    For me, the OST struck me the most as it blends with the feeling of this animation.
    Though the animation kind of throw me down a bit.

  5. 1

    So from your post I get the vague impression that this is not your favorite series ever. Might be jsut my imagination though. Personally I liked the manga, if anything because of the reasons you hated. It's unabashedly basic and true to the foundations of the harem genre, but at least the character interactions are believable even if their initial motivations are not. It doesn't top my personal fav of this genre (Hajimete no Aku. You should read a couple chapters of that if you haven't) but it's still a nice read every week. Probably not enough to make me watch the series though. :p

    –Proto

  6. As I said, it's inoffensive. I find it absolutely the quintessential average WSJ manga in every sense – which may be the most exceptional thing about it. I agree there's a certain unpretentiousness to it that makes it tolerable – it may completely lack ambition, but it doesn't pretend otherwise. Unlike series that actually completely lack ambition but pretend to be intellectual and cutting-edge.

  7. R

    I feel that had the studio and director been published under pseudonyms, this post would be very different.

  8. I think anyone who didn't instantly recongnize everything about this as Shinbou and Shaft would have had to have had their eyes poked out by crows.

  9. M

    Well. It wasn't any worse than what I expected… The whole locket thing though, so stupidly cheesy… when they're being all serious about it, I couldn't stop cringing. It's sad really. I actually enjoyed the oneshot that the manga was based on.

    This season is seriously looking sad though. Not including Gin no Saji 2, I'm only sure about following two series so far. And one is a short anime…

  10. R

    Monogatari Series Second Season was one of the best anime last year. I'm not seeing how this is "cheaply-made".

  11. e

    the only good points there was for me until now in this show the opening song is singing by claris and the animation style

  12. R

    "This series is like a cake, and the source material is the flour – you can't make the cake without it, but no one is going to taste it and say "I like this cake – the flour is excellent!"."

    Excellent analogy…you cracked me up again.

    I watched the premier for just because I had a little bit of time. Turns out…everything in it feels like recycled materials, and I came out feeling meh. The only thing that caught my attention was, like you said, how much Uchiyama Kouki sounded like Kamiya Hiroshi. Honestly, this show isn't that bad, but it triggered me thinking why we need another one like this and what it says about anime industry in Japan. Oh well, I had no anticipation of this show, and I know that I will have no anticipation of myself continuing with it.

  13. J

    It's so refreshing to see someone that is actually willing to call out some of the names you mentioned in this post. I agree with pretty much everything you said here from Shinbo's overbearing and kitschy direction style to Nisioisin's insufferable pretention to this shows mediocrity right down to this entire season being something of a bad fever dream version of anime.

  14. K

    Lemme just say senpai, you don't know the secret to the lock. I don't know the secret of the lock. No one knows who has the true key to the lock. You wanna know why no one knows the secret of the lock? Because Bakuman clearly explains what happens when authors have to keep WSJ series going for all they're worth.

    Nisekoi is my least favorite Komi Naoshi work. In my opinion, the man was way better off doing fun adventure manga, but they all never got past the one shot stage or got cancelled, like his Double Arts. Basically, Nisekoi sold, so Nisekoi he got stuck with.

  15. K

    Also the one shot was a much more enjoyable and simple story, or so I remember from when I was younger anyway.

  16. Well, I freely admit Nisekoi is the only one of Komi's works I've read. But as a fan that frustrates the hell out of you, I'm sure – it would be as if Tanto! was the only Ashirogi Muto series I'd read.

    That said, I can only judge Nisekoi because that's all I know. C'est la vie – of his other works are available in English I'll check them out.

  17. K

    He's hardly the most amazing mangaka even without Nisekoi, but it pretty much is him at his worst even so. He had some good sense of fantasy, at least for young readers, but if it wasn't getting read, he was in a bad place. It pretty much is his Tanto! yep. Trying to sell without using his strengths, it doesn't fare well. T-T Honestly I read Nisekoi out of old loyalty to the love I had for his old stuff as a younger reader. It can infuriate me, IT JUST NEVER ENDS SWEET JESUS ON A POGO STICK.

  18. m

    Yeah I dropped the manga bc it wont just end, and ur right Enzo it's not ambitious enough to even attempt to advance the story in any way at all. In all likelihood for fear of having to come up with a new plot device. But I held on for awhile b/c reading 19 manga pages takes 2-5mins a week. I feel like the reason Togashi takes such long breaks is to plan out the entirety of his next storyline so that he doesn't make random stuff up as he goes along to stretch it out. Which makes it work so much better….tho could be wishful thinking.

    As for Nisio's writing being pretentious I can't attest to that bc I don't speak Japanese or read it and don't know for sure how the translations go exactly. I've never heard of pretentious writing in any context other than using too many word/too many difficult sounding words in order to give your work a feeling of importance. Not speaking Japanese sort of makes that hard to pick up on. If you're referring to the too many words, I think that's just the point of a dialogue heavy show. Though I haven't read the original work either, so I can't say for sure there either. Though it does feel more like taking something you don't personally find to suit your sensibilities and going a bit overboard on your reaction bc of how popular it is.

  19. i

    I just can't, not even with it being shafted for the better. Nisekoi is literally only in SWJ because To love ru or Ichigo 100 aren't. Theres no other moe shounen romance so theyre making do with it. My honest opinion is that it is the story of a oneshot, like one from the love fest in Bakuman, being extended endlessly for 100+ chapters by a man with the comedic sense of a giraffe and the writing capabilities of a norweigian forest cat.

    Winter has come and there will be a storm to weather.

  20. Will, if Kairi says he's a good writer I believe her – she has excellent taste. Occam's Razor suggests he's doing this to pay the bills, this is not his area of strength, and WSJ won't let him end the manga. It's his Tanto!.

  21. B

    hugh i hate watching this kind of show, not that it wasn't entertaining mind you, but when i can pretty much tell how a show is going to do things from the very start, i find it annoying. I've seen this plot done like 50.0000 times

  22. S

    I really like Komi Naoshi as a mangaka and Double Arts being cancelled so early still makes me rage. It's a little sad that after so many great oneshots (like Island), the not-so-great Nisekoi was the one to get a chance in Jump. I just hope Nisekoi makes a lof of money for the magazine, so when it ends, Komi-sensei could write something amazing like he used to.

  23. K

    I'm pretty sure I signed petitions to get Double Arts back at some point in the past; it was such a disappointment seeing it get cancelled.

  24. e

    if they will do original ending to the nisekoi anime then it will be the best way to end such kind of endless manga adaption

  25. D

    I keep up with the Nisekoi manga, and while I don't really care for how it's stagnating, I recognize filler when I see it, and I know that the publishing business isn't always interested in giving an author with a serialization the opportunity to end something when it reaches its natural conclusion.

    But to be honest, I just don't feel like the anime adaptation of the work is up to snuff. I admit that Nisekoi isn't exactly prize-winning material to begin with, but even so, the anime takes what little soul the manga had and flushes it down the toilet somehow. I can't tell if it's the only-average voice acting or the over-the-top manner of direction. I've never really stopped to analyze an anime before, so I don't know how to take it apart and figure out where it went wrong.

    All I can say about it is this:

    I will keep reading Nisekoi, despite the filler, because the art and story were good enough that I want to know how the author's story ends. I will probably not keep watching Nisekoi, as the adaptation has taken the things that got me attached to Raku 'n' Friends and somehow made it.. not worse… just less, somehow.

  26. Well, I watched the second ep and didn't find it worth continuing to blog, so I more or less agree that it isn't anything special. Neither the manga or the anime quite work for me, though for somewhat different reasons.

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