Nisekoi 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Not unpredictably, Nisekoi: decides to wrap things up with “Best Girl” Kirisaki Chitoge. The story of the first half  is simple: she loses and then eventually finds her beloved red ribbon. But because the ribbon carries so much sentimental power for her—due to its connection to both her beloved mother and her beloved Raku—that the time she’s separated from it and worried it could be in some dumpster somewhere is a palpable yawning chasm of near-Mr. Despair-like despair. Even Marika is thrown off by how meek and out of sorts her rival is.

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No one is more worried/concerned about Chitoge than Raku, however. While her predicament makes it easier for him to see her feminine side (though physically she’s still a beast) and he entertains the notion that things might be better if she just stayed like this, at the end of the day he’s a fan of the status quo, which means a cheerful—if sometimes unreasonable and violent—Chitoge.

So he buys a new ribbon for her. She immediately sniffs it out as a brand-new impostor, but because she’s so distraught, her guard is down and she expresses genuine gratitude for Raku’s kindness.

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Then Raku spots the real ribbon atop an electric pole, and the super-athletic Chitoge springs into gear…only to watch in horror as her ribbon catches on the train cable and gets shredded by a train. But at some point in her pursuit, she stopped following the real one and pursued the fake, which is the one that got destroyed. Raku produces the real one, unharmed…or is it?

When she puts it back on she returns mostly to her normal best self, but when she’s back home, we see she’s painstakingly repairing the destroyed ribbon Raku said was the fake new one, but there’s a chance the messed-up one was the real one, and Raku again switched them up to make her feel better. But at this point, she’s happy she has two ribbons, both of which her love Raku gave her at different times in her life.

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The second part is one of the best kinds of Nisekoi segments: those spent primarily in Chitoge’s head as she struggles with precisely what kind of feelings she has for Raku and if, when, and how to express them to him. It’s clear her heart wants her to confess, but her head overanalyzes and sweats over every detail and eventuality and potential effect of her words or actions, all coalescing into a paralyzing effect; no matter what goes on in her head, Raku can’t see or hear anything but the slightest hints; all to easily misinterpreted or simply not noticed.

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Chitoge seeks advice from her dad, who tells her the outrageous tale of how he met Hana. Back then she was a student juggling 17 jobs to pay her tuition, one of which was pizza delivery girl. She delivered a pizza while Chitoge’s future dad was it the middle of a shootout with a rival organization (well, he wasn’t doing the shooting, but directing from a pool lounger). Seeing Hana so confidently stride into the middle of a warzone…it was love at first sight for pops.

But he goes on to say that wasn’t the case for Hana: he had to suffer multiple embarrassments, rejections, and yes, broken bones before Hana finally fell for him. Chitoge may be right that her parents’ tale of coming together is atypical, but she’s wrong that it doesn’t resemble her own romance with Raku in some fashion. The difference is, Raku still keeps their relationship at an arm’s length due to it’s official “fakeness.”

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But he still gets clobbered by Chitoge regularly, and as we saw from the last segment, when she suddenly stops being herself, he not only notices, but worries about her and wants to help. Turns out, the chemistry between her and Raku is so good, the question of how or when to confess to him is more or less resolved by Raku himself.

In talking about how they’ve been fake lovers for more than a year now, reminds Chitoge what she really wants, which is to spend more time with him. And as long as she can do that, there’s no rush to say the words…which is good, because she can barely say them to her stuffed Chitoge gorilla.

The way this episode ended didn’t promise a third season of Nisekoi, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. But would I watch it? While hardly any show beats around the bush as stylishly and confidently as Nisekoi, the lack of deal-closing was just as frustrating this season as it was in the first, and the show show no signs of fixing that.

Fortunately, it rarely has to, as its episodic nature lets us focus on and revel in the colorful variety of love interests Raku has to choose from, which makes us forget for just long enough that he’ll never choose any of them.

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Nisekoi 2 – 11

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I’ve been a little disappointed with the seeming lack of progress on any of Raku’s romantic paths, along with the general scattered format of Nisekoi in the midst of so many more serialized romances. But it’s episodes like this, particularly its B-part, that make me forget about the “Utopian” (perfect, but impossible) Nisekoi in my head and simply enjoy the Nisekoi being delivered to the screen.  

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The first half of his All Kosaki, All The Time episode is comedic, and pegs her as almost too trusting of notoriously inaccurate bathroom scales. (It’s also an opportunity for Hana-Kana to stretch her vocal muscles, as Kosaki does a lot of yelling). Despite being valued by her family for having the best taste buds, buds she trusts when tasting the new fall sweet lineup, she doesn’t trust her eyes when she sees a slim Kosaki in the mirror, and doesn’t trust her fingers when they pinch so very little fat from her belly.

Instead, she trusts a number (or rather, the silhouette of the farm animal closest to her alleged weight) and begins down a spiraling path of self-destructive behavior to lower it. It doesn’t take long for Raku to notice something’s wrong, but Kosaki refuses to let him in on what it is. But he still wants to help, so makes her favorite food, only exacerbating the situation.

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Now Kosaki feels bad for “weighing too much” and for making him feel bad for making her food. She’s at a loss of what to do, but Raku persists in trying to help her, this time with tea. He’s been worrying about her all this time, and when he remarks that she’s thin and has to eat, the spell the scale put on her is instantly broken, and everything’s fine, because Raku’s kind words are more powerful than any (busted!) scale.

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That unconditional concern and gentle kindness is the segue to the far more serious and affecting second half, in which we get the full story of when Kosaki fell for Raku in middle school. Just as they’re both kind, gentle people, so to was their romance, as both were content with saying “Good Morning!” in the morning and “See You!” at the end of the day.

Those words had power for Kosaki, so when she overhears where Raku is moving on to high school, she decides to make her first real goal in adolescent life to  get into that same school as him. The love is a fuel that drives her to work hard, so she can still exchange those salutations with the object of that love.

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It’s a bold plan for Kosaki, considering both she and Raku are too gentle and shy to just come out and confess to one another. But when Raku spots Kosaki at the exams, he’s filled with elation and tells her they should try their best to both get in. At this confirmation that she may well be as important to him as he is to her, Kosaki swells with confidence.

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Then she FAILS! But, because this is a flashback, we know two things: Kosaki will be getting in the same school as Raku, and neither will be confessing to the other, even in a gorgeous, romantic winter scene perfect for such a gesture…

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…Kinda like this! Well, actually, exactly like this. A romance is certainly dependent on the decisions of its participants, but it also relies on a degree of luck, such as Raku happening to encounter a distraught Kosaki in that wintry park. When she repeatedly declines to take his scarf for fear he’ll catch cold, he proposes they share it, which gets both of them wonderfully flustered.

And just as the gears in Kosaki’s head are spinning like mad wondering if this is the ideal time and place to confess like she should have long ago (it is), Raku pipes up first, only he can’t get it out because luck intervenes in the negative, with Kosaki’s phone ringing. It’s an important call, though: turns out she’s been admitted into the same high school as Raku after all.

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Kosaki is happy. Raku is really happy, and Kosaki is happy that Raku is happy that she’s happy. Get the trend? And the rest is history: a history of kind, gentle gestures and exchanges, of “Good Mornings” and “See Yous”, but also much more substantial conversations and activities and embarrassments and close calls.

But through it all, despite periodic frustrations, both Kosaki and Raku have been happy, even without confessions or official dates or kissing. And in the midst of such happiness, if not full and unequivocal contentment, a mutual hesitation to rock the boat is understandable.

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Nisekoi 2 – 10

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Nisekoi 2’s intense episodic nature means we’re never quite sure what we’re going to get from week to week, and considering the success of other rom-coms with more serialized format, often leave us feeling like it’s taking the wrong approach. But this week demonstrated that when it wants to, Nisekoi can do a lot in just one week.

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Submitted for your approval: four-eyed class clown and horndog Maiko Shuu actually gets DIMENSION, and gets to make more than just sly cat faces! I sure didn’t see that coming, but once it got going I was not complaining.

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While they go way back, Shuu has always been far better at hiding who he likes than Raku, whom Shuu knows full well loves Onodera. All Shuu gives away at first about his love is that she’s an “unattainable flower” who will ultimately break his heart. Raku bounces this idea off of Tsugumi of all people, which is perfect because she happens to be in the very situation he’s presenting to her as a hypothetical.

Fortunately for Tsugumi, Raku is far to dense to pick up on the source of her embarrassment, but Tsugumi ultimately treats his questions with respect, telling him she’d probably never tell that unattainable person how she felt, lest she cause trouble for him; matching Shuu’s position on the matter.

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One can make the case that Tsugumi’s unattainable love is Raku, assuming what she’s feeling for him is love (something she’s not at all sure of). But Shuu’s love is the teacher, Kyoko-sensei, who suddenly drops the hammer that she’s getting married and quitting teaching.

Shuu reacts to the news with a big smile and lots of laughter and hearty congratulations, but inside he’s devastated. And yet, because it was the older Kyoko who told him he was the most mature of the guys in his class, he’s apparently determined never to tell Kyoko his feelings—something he may regret—but will instead live with that regret, like adults sometimes must do.

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Shuu-as-Raku’s-mirror works surprisingly well throughout the episode, especially as the perennial Best Girl Chitoge and clingy Marika are all but absent this week. We can focus instead on the triangle of Tsugumi, Raku, and Kosaki. Raku’s affection for Kosaki is so strong, merely thinking of her being married off to some other guy makes him cough up black stuff and does significant damage to his soul. Heck, I felt pretty awful about that dark fantasy!

Yet, when Raku gathers himself, he can indeed see himself living life under those circumstances, as long as Kosaki is happy. That’s when Tsugumi flags him down, eager to clarify her responses. She maintains that she could see herself never confessing to that hypothetical guy and choosing to live with that, but that doesn’t mean she wants to…nor does it mean she can.

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That settles things for Raku, who clarifies his position to Shuu: he’ll stand by whatever decision he makes, including not confessing to Kyoko. But he’ll also give Shuu a push if asked. Shuu asks, Raku pushes him, and he manages to catch Kyoko right before a taxi drives her out of his life. We can’t hear their exchange, only the pounding rain, but we don’t have to: Shuu gets the gentle rejection he knew he’d get. Even when Raku worries he meddled too much, Ryuu is thankful for his push.

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That push was made possible by Tsugumi, and led to Raku giving himself a push by asking Kosaki, who was looking all over school worried about him, to walk home with him, not because anything is wrong, but because he feels like it. Kosaki is initially shocked by his forwardness, but still accepts, as readily as Kyoko rejects Shuu. You can’t spend your youth wallowing in unpleasant hypotheticals: you gotta enjoy!

That brings us to the final piece of the puzzle this week: Ruri. Frankly, I thought we’d see more of her this week than we ended up seeing, but what we got was still pretty good, as the episode was peppered with moments of her love-hate relationship with Shuu and her status as an attainable—but up-till-now under-noticed—flower in Shuu’s life.

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Nisekoi 2 – 09

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This episode’s super-easy to summarize: Part One: Pool Cleaning. Part Two: Nursing the Onodera Sisters. But both halves paired those basic activities with some welcome, if minor, character development.

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The first half put everyone in swimsuits, which is nice and all, but the part I liked most was the fact that Paula, a seasoned assassin, doesn’t do well in groups, and kept her distance. Enter Haru, who likes Paula and wants her to join in the fun. Interestingly, it’s Haru and Raku who both work, albeit independently, to bring Paula around.

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Sick Kosaki’s reaction to seeing Raku at the door was adorable, as was her not-all-that-reluctant acceptance of his help. Ruri may have set Raku up, but he’s still not going to abandon an ill Kosaki; even if Haru is there to take care of her. And Kosaki vacuuming her room was even more adorable.

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At first, Haru treats Raku as usual: like a two-timing man-monster, constantly casting aspersions or teasing him with her built-in closeness to Kosaki. But then Raku notices Haru is also running a fever, orders her to bed, and proceeds to dote on her, from delicious rice gruel to a cold compress.

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In his care, Haru’s opinion of Raku gradually improves, as his behavior just doesn’t mesh with the Raku she invented in her head and more closely resembles the kind and gentle soul her sis adores so. Her opinion of him improves so much, she decides to give him his locket back, though she still refuses to accept that he was the prince that saved her.

Instead, she’s putting it in his protective custody until such a time as her prince returns, whereupon she’ll ask for it back. It’s quite a roundabout, ass-covering way of non-admitting Raku was and is her prince. Between reaching out to Paula, her devotion to her sister, and coming around on Raku, this was a nice episode for Haru.

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Nisekoi 2 – 08

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Whew, talk about a grab bag. Not only is this week split into two completely different stories, but the first half doesn’t even take place in Nisekoi’s world. Instead, it tries its hand at the magical girl genre, with Kosaki as a pastry-themed heroine, Marika is a kind of magical cop, and Chitoge is a gorilla girl.

The running gag is that their case worker Rurin, who is some kind of mouse thing, not only piles a bunch of bureaucratic paperwork onto Kosaki, who won leadership by rock-paper-scissors, but also seems to take a kind of perverse glee in watching the meek Kosaki transform, which requires a moment of stark nakedness she never really gets used to (though Marika couldn’t care less about being naked).

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The villain, “Dr.” Maikou, is also motivated by wanting to watch the girls transform fight, and beat him, because he’s a bit masochistic that way. When the finishing move to get rid of his minion requires five straight minutes of nakedness, we never actually see it, and Maikou himself is defeated when the mouse flips Kosaki’s skirt and then punches him into orbit.

To borrow Kosaki’s pastry theme, while the show successfully pokes fun at the maho shojo genre here and there, the whole thing is pretty half-baked and inconsequential, which is appropriate as it only takes up a half-episode. It felt like one long omake.

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The second half of the episode is just as thin, as it rehashes Haru’s determination not to give Raku the time of day, even as he volunteers to fill in at the Onoderas’ sweet shop. At least we see from the girls’ mother that Haru is indeed a “little man-hater” who will only be “cured” if she actually interacts with guys, rather than craft elaborate narratives about them in her head.

Raku wants to play nice, and they even connect over their shared love of and devotion to Big Sis Kosaki, who strategically left them alone so they’d have no choice but to gel more. Raku even thoughtfully praises Haru’s skills, while demonstrating he has some of his own, borne from his past experience helping Kosaki at the shop.

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There are signs, then, that Haru is ever-so-slowly coming around to maybe accepting and even tolerating Raku’s existence, even if she still (rightfully) thinks it’s wrong for him to be going after her sister when he already has a girlfriend. And that’s kinda the pall cast over this whole Onodera situation: Raku has been wrong in spinning all these girl-plates without giving any of them the answers they deserve, and the broken locket is a poor excuse for his continued inaction.

Raku has no one to blame than himself if an outside observer like Haru sees him as a playboy, because he kinda is. Yet, as he gets close and personal with Haru—by necessity—when she tries to carry too much, it seems Haru is on her way to being one more member of the harm; albeit not by choice.

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Nisekoi 2 – 07

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With the show lagging of late, it decides to finally introduce Kosaki’s little sister Haru. However she’s revealed in the source material, she’s possibly the Spring’s worst-kept secret owing to her prominent presence in the OP, and brought with her the potential to shake things up. Too bad she’s a dull, ill-informed, unfair, irritating conclusion-jumping, faint shadow of Kosaki; herself a shadow of Chitoge and even Tsugumi of late.

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Things start off okay, with Haru heading to her first day of co-ed high school after attending a girls-only middle school. She’s so un-used to guys, being confronted by a posse of goons causes her to pass out, but not before she realizes she’s being saved from said goons by an anonymous but possibly dreamy classmate, whom she dubs her “Prince” upon waking up in the nurse’s office.

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When Haru bumps into someone, scattering all her printouts, Raku, the guy who saved her, comes over to help, and she’s heartened to see there are kind and gentle guys at her school. Only when she hears he’s the Notorious Yakuza-Backed Demon School Casanova King Ichijou Raku, she backs way off, warning she won’t let him lay a hand on her sister ever again before an inexplicable wind blows her (extremely short) skirt up, giving Raku a peek at her bear-themed pantsu. Har har.

Granted, Raku makes two mistakes here: First, he doesn’t’ just come out and tell her he’s the one who saved her and carried her to the nurse’s office, which in addition to picking up the papers, means she actually witnessed three kind acts that disprove his seedy reputation. But his second error was not only to not turn around immediately at the sight of Haru’s skirt coming up, but even muttering about the bears like an idiot, killing any goodwill he may have had with her.

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This hallway scene draws attention to itself with its interminable length, but maybe that’s the point: it is used to demonstrate, simply by having all of the other girls in Raku walk through that hall one by one, that Raku is a player, and we can’t fault a relatively sheltered Haru for thinking that, especially with Marika clinging to him as his gorgeous  “girlfriend” stands by (Chitoge actualy finds Haru cute—and she is—but she doesn’t know her yet). But the fact neither Raku nor Kosaki can set the record straight is more frustrating than funny.

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Things take a turn for the absurd when Haru, apparently an animal lover, decides to check out the same club Raku’s in. She overhears him wishing Kosaki was around and uses that as an excuse to yell at him some more about infidelity, before the goose inexplicably flips her skirt a second time. C’mon now, that was lame the first time!

This episode is redeemed by Kosaki’s simple but heartfelt explanation for why she thinks Raku is so sweet, which Haru points out is really an explanation for why Kosaki loves him. Haru is still skeptical, and I imagine she’ll remain so for at least another episode or two, but I’m weary of the fact that every time he demonstrates he’s a good guy, that fucking skirt flies up in his face.

I’m hoping Haru isn’t a lost cause, but her long-awaited intro—Adventures in Angry Little Sisterland—bombed. I came away frustrated so much time was spent on her as opposed to, say, any other character…even Paula, who has apparently decided to transfer to Raku’s school.

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Nisekoi 2 – 06

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Ah, the Valentine’s Day episode. When girls torture themselves over when and where to give chocolates they slaved over to the one they like, and the guy worries about not getting any chocolate at all when we know full well the bastard’s getting chocolate from multiple vectors.

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Don’t get me wrong: watching Chitoge squirm and kick herself for not being honest about the situation at all, and watching Kosaki actually muster the courage to present her one-in-a-million delicious chocolate to Raku, only to accidentally fall on it, it all very great to watch, because I’ve been invested with these girls for a while.

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But there were moments during this episode when I earnestly wondered whether, in an anime world where Saekano, Oregairu, and Ore Monogatari exist, I’m actually outgrowing a show like Nisekoi, where romantic progress is always either tentative, temporary, or outright forgotten from week to week.

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At least this was an episode in which every girl had their moment to shine (save Kosaki’s sister, who is still AWOL halfway into the season). But there was a distinct Wile E. Coyote-vs.-Road Runner mentality to their actions that eroded the seriousness and the heart a bit. As amusing as a giant chocolate Michelangelo’s David is, Marika’s angle in particular was a bit too jokey.

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Best girl she may be, but Chitoge’s tsundere-speak reaches new levels of insufferability when she finally deigns to supply Raku with the friggin’ chocolate she spent all night making. To put so much effort and devotion into something for someone you love, only to present it as an act of charity and coincidence, isn’t just dishonest; it’s tiresome at this point in their relationship.

Then again, due to the increasingly episodic nature of this season, it’s hard to pin down exactly where they stand at all, which is a whole other problem.

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Still, one character shows some backbone and perseverance in Kosaki, who at the very end of the day is finally able to present chocolate she can be proud of, which Raku doesn’t have to pretend tastes good. But where Chitoge pretended she was doing Raku a favor, Kosaki is so afraid of making progress that she almost immediately retreats, calling her chocolate “obligatory.”

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Even so, she qualifies her statement to “a special kind of obligatory”, which transcends mere obligation into something more like, her love compelled her to give Raku the chocolate. Such obfuscation will only undermine her desire to make her feelings known to him, however, as even a direct declaration of her intentions may have flown over the painfully dense Raku.

Nisekoi still offers some of the best close-ups in the business. But the emotions those close-ups would be more potent if I knew they were leading to anything other than a dead end.

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Nisekoi 2 – 05

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Maybe it’s part and parcel of the whole harem milieu, but Nisekoi has a tendency to stop a girl’s arc on a dime and pick up another girl’s, whether we particularly want it to or not. Maybe Chitoge’s reconnection with her mother with Raku’s help was a good stopping place as any, but that doesn’t mean you have to kill all the momentum built up between Raku and Chitoge to that point.

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For better or worse, that’s what happens here, as this is a strictly Marika-centric episode. While Asumi Kana’s Marika is button-cute, affectionate, and charmingly crafty, the fact is Marika has a tough act to follow. Marika came in very late last season, and while we fell in love with her in her first appearance, since then she hasn’t brought much to the table besides her brand of kindergarten puppy love complete with gloming and somewhat childish schemes to get closer to Raku.

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In the first half, Marika ranks by far the worst out of the circle of friends (everyone else is 88th or higher, but she’s 185th), but she uses it as an excuse to ask Raku to tutor her for an upcoming math test. Of course, he obliges, and he’s glad to have Chitoge around as chaperone/third wheel. They end up pulling an all-nighter, during which Raku puts blankets on both dozing girls (though Marika only feigns being asleep) and in the morning whispers another confession to the dozing Raku.

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The day of the test, she knows she’s scored enough to not need to re-take it, but erases and changes a couple answers so she does have to, so she has another excuse to ask Raku to tutor her. Her bodyguard warns her that she can’t keep pulling all-nighters what with her inherent frailness, and Marika acknowledges this—which actually puts a darker, more melancholy spin on her schemes. Is Marika simply trying to make the most of her time with Raku while she can? It’s like she knows her shortcomings in the war for Raku’s heart, but keeps fighting anyway.

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Unfortunately, what could have segued into something more interesting turned into a glib farce involving Marika’s pet parrot “Raku-sama”, whom she trains to not only impersonate herself and Raku “up to no good”, but also how to break out of his cage so Raku has to shout out “I love you Marika!” in order to lure him back (while she records it from her limo).

While all the parrot-training explains why Marika’s grades have been suffering, and the bird’s voice is kinda cute, the gag grows tiresome, and Chitoge, Kosaki, and Tsugumi are criminally underutilized, and their reactions to the bird’s amorous vocab are predictable.

We even see Kosaki’s sis for the first time, but they do absolutely nothing with her. She’s so prominent in the OP I know she’s coming, but that was a weird intro. The more heartfelt parts of the first half keep this from descending into “fine” territory…but but only just.

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Nisekoi 2 – 04

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I suppose it was predictable that Hana-san would turn out to be a better person than last week made her out to be, so I’m glad I was on the right track in hoping there was love behind her tough, intimidation, uncaring exterior.

A great symbol that Raku and Chitoge were both wrong about her is the cut to her breaking off a piece of her cigarette and eating it. It’s candy she uses for her oral fixation; she quit cold turkey when she got pregnant with Chitoge.

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Even so, Hana is not the world’s best mother, though she provides for her daughter. She said all those harsh things out of the mistaken impression Chitoge hated her, for raising her strictly, as she was raised.

She has a drawer full of personally-chosen Christmas presents for her dating back ten years, but has never found the right opportunity to give them to her, and always asks her age because she’s nervous and isn’t sure how to treat her. There’s no bitterness or apathy here; only a lack of communication.

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Enter Raku, with his most selfless and awesome heroics yet. It’s up to him to get these two very similar women in his lives who love each other deeply to overcome their misunderstandings about each other, while getting Hana to stop hiding behind her job and face her daughter properly.

It’s unfortunate Raku and Chitoge’s entire class, including the rest of his harem, is present when Raku whisks her off to a five-star hotel room, but there’s simply no time to explain. :3

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Not knowing initially what his gesture’s all about, Chitoge is also flustered and overwhelmed, but when Raku explains on the way and asks her to simply “trust in him”, she does so without a fuss, nestling her head into Raku’s back as he pedals with all his might for her and Hana’s sakes.

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Hana almost gets away on her private jet, but Raku manages to catch her on the phone, and puts Chitoge on the line to basically beg Hana to come back. Like any momma, the distressed cries of her young create a powerful urge for her to return to her offsprings’ side.

The resulting reunion on the runway goes from hilarious (Raku and Chitoge have to avoid being run down by the landing jet) to so heartwarming one forgets it’s Christmas and snowing out. Nice work, Raku!

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Raku gives the hotel room to Hana to spend some quality time with her daughter after they go out to eat, and Chitoge finally learns why she treasures her red ribbon so much: it was the same as a character in a book she loved as a child, and ten years ago during the summer they spent together, Raku told her she’d look good in it.

All this time she’s treasured it because it was a connection to her distant mom, but it also connects her to Raku, which combined with her current feelings for him, lends Chitoge an extra layer of destiny to their reunion ten years later.

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With that, Hana tells Chitoge to be a good girlfriend and go to the one who made their wonderful evening of reconciliation possible. Raku really worked his ass of this week like none other, so Chitoge doesn’t wake him up, but puts his head in her lap and enjoys the warmed of the guy she loves.

As for Raku himself, Hana doesn’t offer any revelations about his locket, but does figure out they’re pretend-dating, and wonders out loud if his feelings are really a sham. We know they’re not, and Chitoge’s certainly aren’t, but it’s more complicated than just that, especially in a post-credits scene with Kosaki expressing her relief to Ruri that Raku and Chitoge didn’t really spend the night in a hotel. Kosaki isn’t the best girl right now, but Raku likes her a lot too, so the battle is far from over.

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Nisekoi 2 – 03

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After a brief detour with Tsugumi last week we’re back to Chitoge. Specifically, Christmas is coming around, and she’s not particularly worried about how to spend it with Raku or the rest of her friends or anything else. Rather, her mind is preoccupied with the impending arrival of her mother, Kirisaki Hana, who is so busy Chitoge only sees her about once a year. Still, from Raku’s perspective, the fact she makes it a point to come ever Christmas Eve means her mom can’t be all bad.

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His ridiculously easy defense of Hana would soon be thrown in his face, as Hana is, for all her corporations and billions of dollars and imposing aura, is an emotional deadbeat. Her first question to her daughter is “how old are you”, and while Raku knows Chitoge is wearing the red ribbon her mom gave her years ago, all Hana tells her to replace the ratty thing.

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When her umpteenth secretary keels over from over-work (clearly she isn’t even the best manager of people, if she expects everyone to go at her literally peerless pace) Hana conscripts Raku as a kind of test to see if he’s worthy (with the promise of a five-star hotel suite for him and Chitoge to spend Christmas Eve if he succeeds).

Raku is a capable fellow, so he manages to get by by the skin of his teeth. When he finally gets a break he calls Chitoge up, worried she may be feeling down. After spending the day with Hana, he feels she should try being upfront about wanting to see her, not Raku, on Christmas Eve.

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There’s no inner monologue mention of Chitoge’s present feelings for Raku, and at least on the outside this week she tries to keep a distance from him in the affection department, but it’s nice to see that even in an episode where her love life is on hold due to family issues, Chitoge still can’t help open up to her real/fake boyfriend, and is clearly heartened and grateful by his advice.

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But the pace of this episode just didn’t indicate to me this was going to be resolved with a nice happy lovey-dovey ending with Chitoge and her mom. Chitoge tries to grab hold of the swirling tornado that is Kirisaki Hana, but ends up recoiling her hand, burnt by the sheer winds. Chitoge could maybe be clearer and more emphatic, but her mother cuts her off and hangs up, leaving her feeling like just another of her thousands of twenty-second calls with underlings.

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Raku is there in Hana’s office when she rejects her daughter, and gosh bless him, he braves her wrath to call her out. Hana’s noblesse oblige self-defense is thin, and a little pathetic. Sure, there’s no one else who can do what she does quite the way she does it, and she’s needed everywhere all the time, but she’s also the only mother Chitoge has, and Chitoge needs her most of all.

If Hana’s corporate empire is so delicate that a month or a week or even a full day in which she’s not intricately involved in every facet of it will cause it to collapse, then it’s not much of an empire, is it? I get it; she had Chitoge when she was very young; maybe a part of her sees her as a mistake; a living breathing symbol of the failure she narrowly avoided. But I want to think somewhere in that cold, micromanaging heart of hers there’s some genuine love mixed in with that bitterness.

Still, Hana doesn’t deserve a daughter like Chitoge. She deserves Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees. Well, Xan’s “bad-girl” persona, anyway.

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Nisekoi 2 – 02

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Unlike the kind yet shy Onodera and the confident, aggressive Marika, Tsugumi and Chitoge are actually pretty similar characters, with strong tsundere tendencies. But while Chitoge seems to be coming to terms with the fact she has real feelings for Raku, Tsugumi is still in denial like a past version of Chitoge, but with the added wrinkle of guarding the girl who is with the guy she likes.

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Tsugumi is a professional, so she can live with Chitoge and Raku as a false couple, especially since she’s unaware of Chitoge’s own feelings for him, leaving us with a love triangle in which Chitoge has the distinct advantage. But it’s also because of Tsugumi’s profession, and her past in America, that Raku ends up in the middle of a different triangle: one of score-setting and acknowledgement. Tsugumi’s challenger: her fellow hitman and former partner, Paula McCoy.

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Paula has been watching Tsugumi for a while now, and believes she’s gone soft, and has come to finally beat the girl who always beat her in jobs, pay, efficiency, and everything else one keeps score of in the hitman business. She also rightly suspects Tsugumi likes Raku, though considering Tsugumi’s reactions, Paula would have to be pretty dumb not to suspect that!

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But Paula sees Raku, and guys in general, as Tsugumi’s kryptonite, and gets her to accept a challenge before she knows what it is: whoever steals a kiss from Raku wins, and if Paula wins, Tsugumi goes back to the U.S. Cue suspension of disbelief, because we all know Tsugumi isn’t going anywhere in the second episode.

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I kinda also suspected neither Paula nor Tsugumi would actually lock lips with Raku, who aside from delivering some solid compliments to Tsugumi early in the ep, has very little to do other than not get shot by the resulting spray of bullets. Sure enough, Tsugumi gets Raku into position but can’t pull the trigger on the  only weapons that matter in this challenge: her lips.

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Paula gets away and ties Raku up in an abandoned warehouse (why is no one renting that place?!) where Raku tells Paula flat out he doesn’t want his treasured first kiss to happen under such circumstances, and even though Paula claims to not care when, where and with whom her first kiss is with, Raku protests for both their sakes.

The debate gives Tsugumi time to stew in the suffocating dread of knowing somewhere out there Paula might be kissing Raku, the guy she likes even if she won’t admit it to herself or anyone else, until she finally blows, instantly  pinpoints Paula’s hideout, and scared the bejesus out of her by fully unleashing the “Black Tiger”.

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With Paula thoroughly subdued, all that stands in the way of Tsugumi’s victory is that kiss, and she creates a workaround by touching Raku’s lips than her own, thus “stealing a kiss from his lips” without her lips ever touching them. Paula is in no position to protest, scared as she is Tsugumi might do to her what she did to a giant concrete pillar (don’t mess up that cool warehouse!)

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Tsugumi may be aethetically the most masculine of Raku’s girls, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have an adorable feminine side, nicely demonstrated on her good-winner lap, as she embraces, comforts, and praises Paula, giving her the acknowledgment she wanted all along.

Before returning to the U.S., Paula asks Tsugumi if she’s really okay with Raku dating the young mistress, and Tsugumi is responds with a very professional, warm domestic bodyguard smile, claiming not to know what Paula’s talking about. It’s kind of sad, but what else can Tsugumi do right now?

Paula discovered a lot more sides to the Black Tiger she thought she knew, and also learned that her skills haven’t dulled; on the contrary, she’s tougher than ever. And part of that toughness is having to perform all her official duties while bearing the pain of not being in Raku’s crosshairs. I’m sure Paula will root for her, and this week at least, I was in her court, too.

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Nisekoi 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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To be honest, I didn’t NEED a second season of Nisekoi, but this first episode gradually sucked me in and now I’ve totally bought in anew, emerging late as the best striaght-up romantic comedy I’ve seen this Spring. I accomplished this by delivering more of what we loved about the first season, but also by subverting expectations along with Chitoge’s.

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The premiere also struck a good balance between re-introducing the series premise, and later focusing on one girl exclusively. I say “good” because the first third of the episode was a high 7, tops. The locket is back in play as a plot device, but it inexplicably still can’t be opened, which seemed a bit of a cheat. In any case, the significance of its contents have grown far less important compared to the development between the various characters.

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I preferred if the show moved on from the damn locket, and to its credit, it does at least move on in this episode. CHITOGEISTHEBESTGIRL is a popular refrain on the interwebs, and after a Chitoge showcase like the final two-thirds of this episode, it’s pretty damn hard to argue with that group of smushed together words.

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We’re given unfettered access to every thought and insecurity in Chitoge’s strawberry blond head, from her newly-acquired self-honesty with the fact that yes, she is in love with Raku, to the anxiety and suffering she endures trying to get Raku to notice changes she makes to her appearance in order to engender compliments.

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She’s well aware, as we are, how dense Raku can be about such things, and she was hoping against hope that he’d surprise her, but it’s nothing doing. The episode also does a great job accentuating her changes, be it her lip gloss, shampoo, nails, or ribbon (she thankfully stops short of wearing special panties…this ain’t Punchline!). This makes Raku look all the denser and more idiotic for failing to notice any of it…not to mention make us angry at him for frustrating Chitoge so.

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We wouldn’t be so pissed at him if we didn’t know exactly how hard Chitoge is trying and how futile it all is, which is underscored by Nisekoi’s trademark tremendous close-ups, showing Chitoge’s face in increasing levels of contortion and torture at the sheer cluenessness of this boy. When she asks “why did it have to be him”, I can’t help but agree with her, at least after all this. Chitoge may be being petty and superficial, but that’s her goddamn right, as far as I’m concerned. Call me old-fashioned if you must!

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Was Nisekoi simply going to torture Chitoge for the final two acts and keep the wall up between Chitoge and Raku? No, and that’s what really made this episode for me: the subversion of all of her expectations. It’s all well and good to paint a picture of Raku as a villainously clueless twerp when we’re constantly in Chitoge’s head.

But not only did Raku really notice the gloss and the shampoo and the nails, but he also noticed a lot more, like when she was hungry, or when she changed her lunch choice from beef to ham (he is a chef, after all). If anything, he’s acting more like a dutiful husband, a domestic partner; something even deeper than a casual boyfriend, since he’s so comfortable with her he assumed he was beyond dishing out embarrassing compliments.

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Perhaps he’s learned that even someone he can be himself with wants a little bit of superficial praise now and again, just for the heck of it…because, well…just look at that face! And maybe he’ll keep his eyes open in the future for things such as the new ribbon he failed to notice. Hey, nobody’s perfect. Neither was this episode, but it was pretty great nonetheless.

Now, let’s see if the show makes us shift our allegiance to another girl next week, as it tended to do its first season!

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