Nisekoi – 20 (Fin)

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After all the fun, often loopy entertainment this show has provided the past nineteen episodes, I was pretty much going to be happy with whatever they threw at us for the finale, as long as two characters didn’t end up dead like another Romeo & Juliet episode. Director Shuu seemed just as invested in repairing the rift between Raku and Chitoge as he was with having a successful show.

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To that end, he takes ample creative license with Romeo & Juliet, delivering a product only nominally resembling the Shakespeare play. In this loose adaptation, he exploits the long-sufering fake couple’s “aggressive affection” and capitalizes on their penchant for bickering to entertain the audience.For most of this show we’ve been that audience, so it’s no surprise that it works with the audience of the play.

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Shuu also tosses in subplots that serve as curtain calls for Seishirou, Marika, and Claude, which Raku pacifies one after the other until finally reaching Chitoge, who by then had fully come to the terms that she’s in love with the guy. Their final scene in the play is as moving as the previous ones were funny. Oh, and no one got stabbed!

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Afterwards, Chitoge sits with Raku, apologizes for acting so crazy, and asks for forgiveness and for things between them to return to the way they were. Raku is fine with all of this, simultaneously thrown off and comforted by Chitoge’s adorable face. She doesn’t confess, but that’s okay; it’s not really the proper time to do so. Maybe after they get back into their groove.

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The episode’s final act appropriately features Raku and Kosaki at the after-party. While Raku doesn’t straight-up realize Kosaki loves him as much if not more than he loves her, he does get the feeling she really really wanted to be Juliet. So he invites her on the roof to act out the scene in costume, just the two of them. It’s a lovely, beautifully-lit scene…though I wish we could have gotten a kiss in there somewhere.

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Second Cour Cumulative Average: 8.29
First Cour Cumulative Average: 7.39

Total Cumulative Average: 7.70
MyAnimeList Score: 8.25

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Nisekoi – 19

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It’s telling that despite getting one of the things he’s always dreamed of—the opportunity to play Romeo to Kosaki’s Juliet—Raku can’t stop thinking about Chitoge. He can’t enjoy being closer with Kosaki knowing something is up with Chitoge. And the more he presses Chitoge about what that something is, the more cold stone walls Chitoge puts up in front of her.

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When Chitoge insists she wants nothing more to do with him—despite what it could mean for their families—and worse still, tells him she never once enjoyed being with him. Raku, taking all this as the gods’ truth, responds in kind, telling Chitoge off to the point she slaps him and storms off. Neither are able to say what they’re thinking, and end up at rock bottom, having scorched much earth in their wakes.

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But the show brings them both as low as they’ve ever been so they can be brought back up. As if the universe acted to right all missteps the two have taken, poor Kosaki ends up spraining and ankle, and with her understudy Marika home sick, Raku must beg Chitoge to step in as his Juliet, putting aside the fact they “hate” each other. It’s a great little moment when he takes her spatula’d hand, proclaiming “Found you!”

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This gets them talking again, and rather than exchange more barbs at one another, they say actually say a bit of what’s really in their hearts. Raku realizes he hurt her at the beach, and Chitoge learns he doesn’t hate her (not by a long shot). He’s still convinced they’d make a terrible real couple, but he knows they make a great fake one, which makes her the Juliet he needs in the here and now. Their mutual relief upon “finding” each other, after lifting the veil of mutual scorn, is palpable. Break a leg, kids!

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Nisekoi – 18

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When Shuu arranges a late summer beach trip with everyone, we expected a full-on war between the girls interested in Raku in various ways. But while there was competition, most of the silly stuff was dispensed with relatively quickly, again giving way to Kosaki and Chitoge’s struggles. It would seem Kosaki can’t even when her thoughts accidentally surface into words (blurting out her desire to kiss Raku as they gaze at the moon from a pier), because Raku had nodded off in that moment.

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But while looking for the two, Chitoge does hear her. She somewhat convinces herself she misheard and Kosaki was talking about kimchi, but she’s just as frustrated that it matters. She shouldn’t care if Kosaki likes Raku, because she doesn’t…right? Well, no. When Chitoge confides in Kosaki (passing her problem off as a friend’s), Kosaki diagnoses it as a crush. All the symptoms are there. Even Chitoge knows it, as much as she doesn’t want it to be true.

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Her affection for Raku has simply progressed to the point she can’t simply continue to be pretend lovers or even friends. The pressure has built up too high, and she needs a release. She posits a question to Raku about whether they’d have (past tense) worked out if they were a real couple. Totally thrown off by the question and Chitoge’s seriousness, the hasty reply Raku utters feels like a total rejection, which crushes Chitoge in the more literal sense.

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Mind you, Raku isn’t necessarily lying when he says Chitoge isn’t his type, but people who really hate each other don’t argue all the time, they simply ignore each other. And neither Raku nor Chitoge have ignored each other during their time together, and it’s seemed to be less about fulfilling their familyt obligations and more about having a true friendship, like they used to have years ago. But after that night, they don’t speak for the rest of the summer.

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The Chitoge that arrives at school next semester is longer crushing on Rake, nor does she appear to want anything more to do with him. Raku doesn’t like this, but perhaps this was the kind of dire situation that was needed to bring about change. Both have already thought the things they need to say to one another. Now they need to say them, without further sarcasm, pretense, or forced insults.

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Stray Observations:

  • The girls are wearing exactly the kind of swimsuits they should be wearing, except for Seishirou, who is wearing a sexy number because Chitoge made her.
  • Kosaki’s sand castles (and sand…Esthar Citys) are pretty boss. Very Shaft thing to have characters building ridiculously detailed, impressive things while chatting.
  • Looks like we’ll be getting a cultural festival for the home stretch…plenty of opportunities both to avoid each other and be together. Shuu wants to make sure of that by casting them as Romeo & Juliet. Talk about bad timing!

Nisekoi – 17

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Inexperienced as he is in matters of love, Raku seeks clarity and guidance in the form of a romantic relationship charm, a popular item at the summer festival, further reinforcing its perceived power. But the charm proves almost laughably unhelpful, taking him on a tour of the vertitable smör-girls-bord before him, one girl at a time.

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The festival and the charm’s “effects” on Raku and the girls also underlines the qualities they have going for them. Luck and circumstance are in Chitoge’s favor, as are looks (at least, she gets the most attention from random folk). Marika is the most romantically aggressive (and politically connected). Kosaki is a blend of intermittent bursts of aggression and/or good luck, typically followed by equal or greater portions of the exact opposite.

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Perhaps it’s the fact Kosaki is something of a complete package—a Kosaki of all Trades, master of none—that makes her the most compelling choice for Raku, and the reason she’s foremost on his mind most of the time, including when he’s going after the charm. But on several occasions this week, Kosaki’s rightful place in his mind was usurped by Chitoge being so darned earnest and sweet.

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Raku would probably fall for Chitoge completely if she was like that all the time, but he only gets glimmers of that side of her, just as Kosaki only has glimmers of righteous aggressiveness or luck. But with a Kosaki-exclusive episode leading into a stock-taking episode with a steady helping of Sweet Chitoge, Nisekoi seems to be reasserting these two as the main contenders for Raku’s heart.

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This is evidenced by there being less emphasis on Marika this week, and what emphasis there was being comedic in nature. At least here, her position looked much weaker than the original two, but of course that could change next week. A charm can show Raku which doors he has to choose from, and even open some of them a crack, but it can’t show him which one to walk through. Ahem…sorry for calling you doors, ladies.

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Nisekoi – 16

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Well, how about that: an entire episode devoted to Kosaki and Raku? I‘m on board. In fact, I’m just as giddy about it as the two of them were at the prospect of spending some time alone together, even if the other doesn’t know just how much the other likes them, because neither of them will ever get the point unless one of them tells the other directly, and possibly draws a diagram – which neither of them will ever do.

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But who cares about that? This week Nisekoi places Chitoge and Marika on the back burner and gives us All Kosaki, All The Time, showing that Kosaki may be down, but she’s not out, and she’s not ready to give up the fight. And one should never count a HanaKana character out. In addition to being almost sickeningly adorable and endearing throughout, the mere fact she asked Raku to come and work in her family’s shop is proof that she’s getting better at looking out for her own interests.

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This is also one of the funnier episodes of Nisekoi, from the manic energy of Kosaki and Raku during their initial nervousness, to Raku imagining all of the things Kosaki does in her room, calling to mind the final act of 2001: A Space Odyssey, to Raku cursing the typhoon for not being able to “read a room.” We enjoyed the brief appearance by Kosaki’s mom, who is the opposite of Kosaki in that she’s forceful and speaks her mind, embarrassing both Kosaki and Raku, but not saying anything that isn’t true, either.

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Her mom doesn’t have to convince Raku to marry into the family; it’s something part of him already wants to do, and the more fun he and Kosaki have together, the stronger the feeling gets. The only things stopping him are an impending mob war and the ire of the police commissioner, and at least three partially broken hearts.

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The episode ends with Raku going home, both he and Kosaki proud of themselves for the progress they made, but at this point in the game, I still think they should have said a little bit more to each other. Raku at least gets Kosaki’s e-mail at last, and she comes SO FRIKKING CLOSE to texting him that she had a crush on him, but deletes the words, retreating again.

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The divine punishment Kosaki worried about after such a perfect day with Raku is already in effect from what we’ve seen: despite being the perfect couple in so many ways; despite knowing each other so well, and sticking out to each other in photos, neither is capable of believing the other likes them.

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Nisekoi – 15

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Last week I lauded the addition of Tachibana Marika to the cast, and my positive impressions were only reinforced this week. Among the hesitant, dilatory Kosaki and the tsunderes Seishirou and Chitoge, Marika is a breath of fresh air. She’s aggressive about her feelings for (and legal claim to) Raku in a way the others simply haven’t been, and it feels like her approach is already influencing Raku while simultaneously making his choice a lot more difficult.

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The memory of meeting and falling for Raku is still fresh in Marika’s mind, as she tells the story of how he visited and played with her while she was bedridden. Even back then, Raku was a kind, decent fellow. When she brought up the subject of what kind of girls he likes, Raku told her, and ever since then, she’s made herself into that ideal. She put the work in and kept the flame burning, something you can’t say of any of his other suitors.

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Raku also finally gets Kosaki, Chitoge and Marika together to brief them on the situation: there are three keys, but only one locket. Marika doesn’t remember anything about the other two any more than the other girls do, only the memories involving her and Raku, and the locket is still being repaired, so the moment of truth is postponed. But regardless of whose key opens the locket, Marika is working to make Raku hers, even as Raku clings to his certainty that Kosaki is the one he presently loves.

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As I said, she’s succeeding due to her uncompromising devotion and aggression. It doesn’t matter if he hasn’t accepted the engagement; as far as she’s concerned, they’re all but married already. As such, she invites Raku to her penthouse home to meet her father, who is frikkin’ HILARIOUS. In addition to being voiced with gusto by Tachiki Fumihiko, he’s scary as all get-out; far scarier than any yakuza Raku’s met. There’s abundant comedy just in watching Raku squirm, and it’s just as funny how Marika acts naturally through all of her father’s intense outbursts.

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When it comes down to it, though, Marika’s father gets the full truth out of Raku, and turns out to be a fair, perceptive man who obviously cares for his daughter. Whatever Raku has going on, be it another girlfriend or a girl he’s really in love with, he reiterates that at the end of the day he must keep his promise and make Marika happy. There’s no threat in this statement; it’s simply plain words from one man to another, both of whom have staked their honor on this arrangement.

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Perhaps the best part of this episode of all is when Marika asks Raku in the hallway how she could further transform herself to make herself more desirable to him. Taking a page out of her book, Raku is truthful and aggressive, heaping all the praise she deserves upon her, and telling her she’s cute, awesome, and sweet, regardless of her hairstyle or accent. I’m inclined to agree.

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Nisekoi – 14

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Four. Now there are four girls after Raku. Just what the hell kinda pheremones are on this guy? That’s a lot of girls in one show to be after one guy, and the episode seems to acknowledge that by having poor Kosaki fade into the background, as well as limiting Seishirou’s screen time.

Thus, out of all the triangles that could be drawn, the one this episode focuses on is between Raku, Chitoge, and the new girl Tachibana Marika, voiced by the prolific adorable-girl-voicer Asumi Kana. That said, everyone had a nice “Are you fucking kidding me” reaction to her sudden transfer into their class.

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As it turns out, adding a new girl puts a welcome charge into the show, especially considering her circumstances: all evidence so far points to the fact that she was the one Raku befriended ten years ago. Marika and Raku’s dads agreed that Raku would Marika. Because Marika’s dad is Police Commissioner, Marika’s claim to Raku can’t be easily set aside without causing trouble for his family.

I liked how Marika obviously maintained her love for Raku all those years, but is also fully aware of the leverage she has over him and the other girls after him. She’s also not above lying to be alone with him, or setting up situations where he’d pity her (the incident in the park when she left her purse, knowing he’d go after her and hear about her frailty, which may acutally be a real thing). It’s also notable that she considers Chitoge gorilla-like, just as Raku does.

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Marika gets more complex still when Raku admits he doesn’t remember her at all and frankly doesn’t know what he did to make her love him so much. Hearing this causes her to erupt into a fit of rage, exposing her Kansai dialect, which in turn jogs Raku’s memory. Looks like she tried to become the ideal woman he described ten years ago, but in the process, became someone he didn’t recognize until she dropped the act.

I like Marika. I also like how well she can spot a tail (her dad’s a cop after all); I like how she’s not as perfect as she initially seemed, and I think she has the best claim to him (assuming she’s not deceiving him). But the ball is still firmly in Raku’s court with regard to which girl to choose. Too often in these situations the girls always go through more than they should because the guy is being indecisive, leading them all on.

Raku’s been able to blame lack of information for his dalliance thus far, but that window is closing. If he can’t pick one girl, and soon, then he doesn’t deserve any of them.

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Nisekoi – 13

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One thing that’s been driving me MAD throughout this whole “mystery girl” thing is, why should it even matter? They were FIVE, for crying out loud. It doesn’t matter who Raku liked then; it matters who he likes now. Or I should say, who he likes the most now. I’d say at this point the ranking goes: Kosaki, Chitoge, Seishirou, Ruri, and lastly, whatever other attractive girl happens to get all up in his space. He is still a teenager after all.

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Sure, it could be argued that he’s kept his promise seriously out of a sense of honor and loyalty to that girl…but if that’s the case, why doesn’t he even remember her friggin’ hair color? No, the mystery is an excuse he’s using (likely not intentionally) to avoid making a decision about the here and now. Even if he and Chitoge have to remain in their false relationship for the sake of their families doesn’t mean Raku can’t be upfront and honest with the girl he/likes (most) at present. …Right? (I’m not asking anyone in particular.) But the fact is, even if Raku wasn’t overthinking or obsessing over the hazy past, he’s still in a difficult situation.

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While it may seem he likes Kosaki the most, Chitoge is definitely making inroads with her adorableness, whether she’s drawing nearer to him so he won’t get wet under the umbrella, or jumping into his arms when lightning strikes, their bond seems to be growing, in fits and spurts. And Raku’s dad continues the trend of the dads saying awesome things by confirming what I said, to Raku and Chitoge’s horror: they’re looking less nise and more koi all the time.

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Thank brings me to this week’s Big Reveal: the famous photo Raku finds, the only one from ten years ago, is neither Kosaki or Chitoge. BOOM. Furthermore, before Raku can ask his dad who the third girl was, his dad announces that she’s Raku’s betrothed (or fiancee), and she’s on her way to see him. And you know what? That’s fine with me. I’ve routed for all three girls at different times in the show’s run. I welcome a fourth, eager to see what she brings to the table…not more futility, I hope!

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Nisekoi – 12

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Aw, screw it, how about if RURI was the one Raku made a promise with?! Her offhand comment about Raku and Kosaki getting on her nerves echoes are own feelings on the matter. Like Banri’s surly neighbor Nana in Golden Time, Nisekoi wouldn’t be the same without Ruri, both to say what we’re thinking and to try her darnedest to nudge Kosaki to where she wants to go.

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But now that Raku has been told by both Kosaki and Chitoge that they both made a promise to a boy ten years ago (and each have a key), things are more complicated. Not to mention while Raku continues to crush hard on Kosaki (and she him), there’s no denying there’s a totally different (and no less mutual) romantic dynamic between him and his fake girlfriend.

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His quandary now is, how come there are two girls and two keys? Note to anyone trying to discover the truth about the past regarding a girl or girls you know: ask your damn parents! They weren’t five at the time, after all, and are likely to remember a whole lot more about ten years ago than you. Raku learns this entirely by chance by bumping into Chitoge’s dad (who seems like a decent guy) who confirms Raku not only knew Chitoge ten years ago, but that they got along famously…and the Onodera kid hung out with them, too.

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Now it could be that both of them made a promise to Raku, but each of them is missing the specific memories to be sure. Or maybe he gave the correct key to the girl he loves and the wrong key to the other…which would be f-ed up thing for a five-year-old kid to do! Hell, maybe they all work. In any case, perhaps Raku will learn more when he goes through the photos from that time his dad has stored away…and when the locket comes back repaired. We hope so!
7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

 

Nisekoi – 11

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Jeez-o-Pete…is it really that common for five-year-old Japanese kids to make these kinds of promises? At least two girls seem to be convinced (or hopeful, in Kosaki’s case), that Raku is the one they made the promise to ten years ago. But of course, it can’t be both of them.

The sorting out once-and-for-all is put off though, due to two big events: first, Chitoge’s sixteenth birthday, and second, Ruri’s pairing up of Kosaki and Raku to go out together to find gifts for her. About the first part: the first sorta-not-really date between them is lovely to behold, the starting with Kosaki making sure she looks correct in the reflection of the same cafe window Raku is sitting behind.

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The two are still under the mistaken impression that neither is interested in the other, until Kosaki finally exhibits some initiative, first by showing Raku her secret vantage point of the city (which is gorgeous and calls to mind the end of Whisper of the Heart, of all things), but also calls him by name. Flustered by all this sudden affection, rather than ask what Kosaki’s birthday is, Raku accidentally asks if she was the girl from ten years ago.

Her affirmative response shocks him even more, along with us: we don’t know what’s gotten into Kosaki, but we like it: no longer mincing words or hiding her feelings. She and Raku come so close to embracing when Raku’s phone rings, which is incredibly lame, but that’s okay; some progress has been made. Not as much as we (or Ruri) would hope for, but some.

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That brings us to the ridiculous party Claude and the rest of Chitoge’s yakuza family have prepared, complete with Claude’s Claudey, gaudy gift of a Maybach Excelro, which is indeed quite exclusive; we love how the license-less Chitoge could care less. We also like how Raku’s gift of a gorilla doll that looks kinda like Chitoge moved her much more.

When the two end up on her balcony, she asks if he still likes the girl he made the promise to, thinking it was her, and he says yes, thinking it was Kosaki. But it isn’t as if he doesn’t like Chitoge too. Slowly, information is being distributed to various parties, but the matter of who made a promise to whom back then remains a vexing mystery.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nisekoi – 10

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If we had to choose a girl we wanted Raku to choose, we’d have to say we’d still choose Kosaki, even though she’s unfathomably inept at expressing her feelings for him as he is, and even though she may not even be the girl he made a pact with when younger. It’s hard not to root for any Hana-Kana-voiced character—unless she’s trying to kill all the other characters, or is simply annoying.

However, we have to say Chitoge probably won this week’s round. All Raku wanted was to be paired with Kosaki for the test of courage, during which they’d have to hold hands the whole time. As it happens, all Kosaki wants is to be paired with Raku. When the show decides not to pull a fast one and actually pair them up, it’s almost too good to be true; and it’s another case of the two being virtually paralyzed by their mutual (but oddly not fully mutually detected) attraction.

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But the moment Raku learns that Chitoge is lost and alone in the dark woods with a broken flashlight, he grudgingly abandons Kosaki’s soft, warm, possibly nervous hand and goes to his fake girlfriend’s aid. Kosaki loses, but nevertheless Raku’s actions reinforce why she loves him: he won’t stand by while a friend is in trouble. Raku can deny caring or worrying about Chitoge all he wants, but we know better, and so should he.

And just as Kosaki was as enthusiastic about being with Raku as he with her, Chitoge is just as hopeful the boy who loves her will come to her rescue. Raku arrives on cue, and while the two exchange forced gestures of indifference towards each other, the fact Chitoge insists she and Raku start addressing each other by first name is less about being seen as a more convincing fake couple, and more about unwittingly becoming a real one.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nisekoi – 09

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Chitoge’s interest has been piqued by the mystery of her first love, but further investigation is put on hold by “open-air school.” Maiko fixes it so their team consists of him, Raku, Ruri, Kosaki, Seishirou…and her. Once again, Nisekoi shows that nobody airing can match its close-ups of characters’ faces—not even Kill la Kill.

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Whether its everyone’s reactions to learning they’re in the same group (and have to share the cramped bench in the back of the bus), or their hapless attempts at poker faces during a game of Old Maid (which had just as much intensity and pressure of a karuta match in Chihayafuru), this episode was a veritable cornucopia of heated emotions, not the least of which because Chitoge is starting to entertain the notion that Raku could be her first love. He’s got a scar, after all.

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And in Anime Land there are few stages better-suited for the proliferation of high-level discomfort and tension than a hot spring inn, which is ironic, because in real life they’re probably exactly the opposite. Thanks to Claude switching up the gender-specific curtains the the bath entrances (which shouldn’t be that easy to do in the 21st century), Raku ends up in the enviable but potentially disastrous position of being a boy in the girl’s bath.

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There are many obvious ways of proceeding with such a scenario; many of them involving much physical punishment and social ostracism being exacted upon Raku. To it’s credit, the episode doesn’t make Chitoge a conclusion-jumping idiot (this time at least), and not only doesn’t blame Raku, but even does everything she can to get him out of there without being seen. Despite some very close calls (and an accidental kiss to Raku’s upper backside), she even succeeds!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Nisekoi – 08

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This episode was probably a bit of a slog for those not enamored with Tsugumi Seishirou. Fortunately, we like her just fine, and we also liked this very Seishirou-centric episode, in which odd changes in her body start to occur and she seeks answers and advice from her acquaintances. Her description of her “symptoms” are so precise and clinical, both Chitoge and Claude initially recommend she seek medical attention. Thankfully Seishirou doesn’t stop with those two, and eventually the common refrain of more normal people is that she’s suffering a bad case of love.

Seishirou may claim to not know anything about love, but we know that’s bullshit from the way she devotes herself to Chitoge and enjoys being by her side. She’s just never met a guy who has caused these reactions, and is totally at a loss for how to process them. Nothing Raku does to her deserves the harsh physical reprisals she visits upon him—on the contrary, he’s nothing but a decent, sweet and chivalrous fellow to her—but in the absence of any guidebook or roadmap or training in matters of love, she goes to her default assassin setting.

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Knowing her odd upbringing and years of conditioning meant to erase her femininity, suddenly becoming a slave to her heart is akin to being faced with an unknown enemy, so it’s logical and understandable for her to lash out, as offense is the best defense in her normal workings. The many closeups of her expressions as she wrestles with these strange emotions are enough to illustrate the intensity of her internal dilemma, as is her complete loss of concentration in assembling her gun at the mere mention of Raku by Claude. She’ll only be able to hide her compromised state from her mentor for so long; though Claude is a pretty dense fellow, even if he’s more suspicious than the other people around the fake couple.

But while Seishirou is growing into an interesting, if somewhat frustrating character in her own right, she also serves and important purpose in the central “fake” romance: she is the link to a past Chitoge has forgotten. Seishirou again betrays the fact she does indeed know at least something about love since she witnessed it betwen Chitoge and her first love, and waxes nostalgic about it, to the point Chitoge’s interest is sufficiently piqued that she digs up her old diary from the time and discovers that not only did she fall in love and make a promise to a kid with a distinctive scar, but that the diary also contained a key that looks very similar to Raku’s locket.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)