First Impressions – Nisekoi

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.

Shaft-isms

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.

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Excessive head tilting is also a Shaft-ism.

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These are all Shaft-isms.

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.

Fake Extras

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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.

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A mechanical engineer who spends too much time watching anime and reading manga.
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32 Responses to “First Impressions – Nisekoi”

  1. zztop says:

    Japanese comments on 2channel are positive, but some comments criticize that only the abstract artstyle,visuals and direction leave a positive impression, not the manga story itself.
    http://forums.animesuki.com/showpost.php?p=4972550&postcount=265

    Story descriptions I hear have ranged from ‘bland and repetitive’ to ‘the manga is only continuing because of funny faces manga author Naoshi Komi draws’.

    • Sumairii says:

      Yes, the reception for the source material has been lukewarm at best. One other argument I’ve seen against Shaft picking up Nisekoi is that it’s “a waste of their talent.” To that, I point us to White Fox doing SoniAni this season.

      So far they’ve done an admirable job making that more than just an abysmal failure (though it’s still pretty sad), which is impressive considering they literally have nothing to go on due to Sonico’s origin as purely a Nitro+ mascot. But if White Fox can make do with such mediocre material, surely Shaft can do the same with Nisekoi.

    • Jrow says:

      I’ve read all 105 chapters in the past month or so because I was interested when the adaptation was first announced. The first 20-some chapters are fun (meet characters, hijinx, etc.), but after that, I gotta think that the majority of the chapters are just the same damn thing. It also doesn’t help that some chapters here-and-there just read like worthless filler.

      It’s a little bit like How I Met Your Mother in that there is an element or two of the series to enjoy, but really people are thinking, “let’s hurry up and meet this f’n mother already!” I have no intentions of ever dropping Nisekoi, but it is kind of like that for me.

  2. MR.KLAC says:

    well yea give series so went feel going whole case story of he said vs she said route on raku & chitoge.

    give raku make chitoge go donkey kong barrel attack yet two have to date for 3yrs yea odd couple alert.

  3. JPNIgor says:

    Wish I hadn’t seen that ending. I can see it all just by seeing those two keys. Girl 1 go open the lock and the key won’t fit… =o “WE WERE WRONG!”. Hope it isn’t like this, not because it’s bad, but to have a reason to be surprised.

    Anyway, love the Monogatari-esque animation and light dynamics. I’m not really sure if what I will tell is true, but I guess the style used in Nisekoi can’t really be called shaft’s style. I would say that they have two styles, the one used in Hidamari Sketch and Madoka Magica, and the other that started in the Monogatari Series, so in my mind, I can’t help but think about how it reminds Monogatari.

    Can’t wait for the next episodes. Things are going to hell \o/

  4. HannoX says:

    A decent first episode that I feel did what it had to do. The forced fake couple in order to prevent two yakuza families from a war seems like it could add an interesting element to the high school rom/com story. I hope they play up the yakuza angle because I think that could add considerably to the comedy. But we’ll have to give it some more episodes to see how it goes.

    • Sumairii says:

      The one-shot that Nisekoi stems from is actually all about the yakuza part of the story. I can’t say the same for the future of the manga and anime though as I’m not reading ahead.

      I do find it interesting to note that from the one-shot, Naoshi Komi has sort of split the main heroine (her name was also Chitoge) into the two characters of Chitoge and Onodera. Chitoge retains the “rival gang heiress” role and Onodera might potentially retain the “childhood promise” role assuming she is in fact the mystery crush.

  5. BlackBriar says:

    This was alright. I can tell it’ll be an intense love/hate relationship between Raku and Chitoge though I’m sure she’s the one he made the promise to and is surprised he still aimed to keep it after all these years.

    • Highway says:

      I liked the first episode, but to be honest, I’m not sure if I’m interested in a more jokey Kimi no Iru Machi-style exercise in futility. I know that it’s not really trendy to go against the source material, but this is the kind of series that really needs to end with a resolution, not endless romantic blue-balls for everyone involved.

  6. skylion says:

    I read the first few chapters and lost some interest last year, when this was announced. I was willing to give it a chance.

    Overall, I think SHAFT makes it better. But, as HWY, states above, we need resolution.

    But we all know, we gonna get blue ball.

  7. Rathje says:

    It’s a rule. The girl who drops out of the sky on your face is always – ALWAYS – the one you’re supposed to end up with.

  8. Rathje says:

    I thought the animation from Shaft was really good…

    It just felt out of place for this kind of a story.

    This sort of thing works for something that’s supposed to be symbolic or subtle in some way – like Bakemonogatari or something along the lines of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. In edgy kind of stories like that, all the odd camera angles, creative animation quirks, and unexpected pans work nicely.

    But here, it was kind of off-putting.

    Niseikoi isn’t a profound show. It’s a bog-standard rom com/harem hijinks show. It doesn’t have a deep plot. Unless you consider stuff like “oh, she has a cute side to her after all” and “he can be surprisingly reliable sometimes” to be “deep.”

    I just saying – seriously guys – this isn’t a deep show. And it really shouldn’t be animated like it is one. It’s jarring and disorienting more than cool or stimulating.

  9. elior1 says:

    if they will do a original ending for nisekoi anime with who is the real promise girl then i will be happy

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