Love works in strange ways when you’re in the mafia.
Before I begin, I should first say that I will be doing something different for Nisekoi. Usually if I’m not familiar with the source material, I just watch the show as is. But this time I will be following the manga as the anime airs, so that way I’ll be able to better discuss how Shaft has been doing with their adaptation.
Flashback to days of yore.
So how did one of my more anticipated shows for the season fare in its premiere? Pretty well, I would say. Shaft is up to its usual visual tricks that we’ve been familiarized with from the Monogatari series. And personally, I think it fits just fine. Obviously Nisekoi doesn’t have nearly as much lengthy dialogue and monologue devoid of motion as Monogatari, so Shaft hasn’t had to insert nearly as much creative imagery for this show. But even so there are several moments sprinkled throughout the show that stand out as very “Shaft-like.” Though perhaps the term we’re really looking for here is “Monogatari-like.” Now we’re getting into semantics and a chicken or the egg debate. In this case obviously Shaft existed and had been making works before Monogatari, but it is that one series which single-handedly put them in the limelight and some might argue also defined their style. But I digress. Whatever you want to believe about the style, I find it only natural to see it in Nisekoi and any other Shaft works to come. Some might argue that it was a poor choice to put Shaft and Shinbo in charge of Nisekoi for these reasons, but I say they’re quibbling.
Extensive use of light and shadow on characters is a Shaft-ism.
Excessive head tilting is also a Shaft-ism.
What Didn’t Make The Cut
This is Onodera. She will be taking your heart.
But enough about the animation. How about that translation from manga to anime? In my approach for Nisekoi, I am watching the airing episode of the anime first and then reading the corresponding chapter(s) of the manga afterwards. This is to hopefully mitigate the usual disappointment that we get from seeing our favorite works adapted into another format. From this, I can say that Nisekoi has so far been adapted very faithfully, though saying this for only the first episode truthfully doesn’t mean anything yet. The premiere covers exactly one chapter of the manga, cutting out only a select few scenes which serve as transitions between more important scenes (the entire school farm caretaking bit is glossed over) or as additional character building. So I’m sure this is good news for those who have been following the manga all along. That said, there is one single moment in the episode which, after reading the manga, makes the removal of some important elements painfully apparent. I’m talking about when Chitoge helps Raku search for his pendant after the classmates tease her about them apparently getting cozy.
This is Chitoge. She will be taking your dignity.
In the anime, the two argue about the importance of the pendant to Raku, with things escalating when Chitoge belittles the promise that he had been holding on to for all these years. Eventually, Raku snaps and lashes out at her as Onodera arrives on the scene for admittedly telegraphed plot purposes (she needed to hear that the wish was still important to Raku). As if on cue, the weather takes a turn for the worse and Chitoge storms off, leaving Raku to reflect on his actions. Now, in both anime and manga, Raku appears to seriously regret losing his cool. Which doesn’t really make sense to the anime viewer as he had every right to be angry at Chitoge for going too far even if she had been willingly helping him. What happens in the manga though, is that we’ve previously seen a brief segment (cut from the anime) about Raku’s upbringing. Specifically, he’s been raised to be a “good man” by acting according to a set of family rules. And from that, we could have inferred that somewhere on that list a “good man” is not supposed to ever yell at a girl. Which, once you know it, sounds pretty minor. But it’s little details like this that can make the progression of a show a lot smoother.
So who truly holds the key to Raku’s proverbial heart? It’s the gimmick of the whole setup so we should expect some twists and turns in that regard, right? At the moment, Onodera’s awfully suspicious behavior and her key makes it all too easy to conclude that she is in fact the mystery childhood crush. But then the OP (I assume it’s been used as the ED only this once) depicts more than one key… Is this some sort of twisted, reversed sexist metaphor that our hero is actually a manwhore whose “lock” can be opened by many “keys?” Seriously though, one has to wonder why the promise matters anyway since Raku is made out to be attracted to Onodera. Would he really abandon her for this mystery crush over a “simple” promise if the two don’t turn out to be one and the same? The only potential development I can see happening in that way is if the mystery crush turns out to be Chitoge, which might serve as the spark for a romantic relationship between her and Raku. But that seems too drastic of a turnaround to be executed properly.