Nisekoi – 03

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When a young Raku met that little girl crying about the sad ending to the book she otherwised liked, he didn’t laugh or call her a crybaby. He changed the ending to a happy one. Back in the present, as Onodera lists all the reasons Chitoge (and she, secretly) would fall for him: he’s always helping others when he can. Contrary to the stereotype of the yakuza scion being an entitled prick, Raku is a kind and decent person.

Similarly, Chitoge comes off as a haughty, popular girl who would be the queen of the school, but is actually shy and insecure, unsure of how to make friends. However, since Raku and Chitoge are wound up so tightly by their new forced relationship and all the surveillance that comes with it, neither of them have been able to see who the other person really is. Then Raku, to his surprise, finds Chitoge writing profiles of classmates in a notebook, and to Chitoge’s surprise, tells her he did the same thing, having amassed a wealth of information, and offering to share it.

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So Raku learns Chitoge’s attitude is just as much frustration over the fact her desire to live a normal life as a normal student isn’t working out; while Chitoge learns that Raku can be a kind and generous guy when he’s not putting up a defensive front. Both are under a lot of stress, making it hard to look past themselves and see the other struggling beside them. There’s also Raku’s issue of still being in love with Onodera and Onodera actually being his Happy Ending Dream Locket Girl, but neither being able to say anything on that topic to one another, in large part due to the new situation with Chitoge.

We were hoping there’d be some movement here this week, but even when Raku see’s Onodera’s strange key, he doesn’t connect the dots. So far this is a drama of omission, with both characters being held back by their own hesitation. Doubtless Onodera’s window on Raku will close the longer she hesitates, but as long as she thinks Raku and Chitoge are in love, she won’t budge, as she’s the kind of person to put others before herself. So we’d say the ball is in Raku’s court. If he really loves her, he won’t wait and risk falling for Chitoge. He should take a page from his past self: if you don’t like the ending, change it.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

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Nisekoi – 02

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One would hope that in most political marriages, the participants would at least be given a certain amount of time to think about what it means. Raku and Chitoge aren’t so lucky; within moments of learning they’re to be a couple for the sake of peace between their families, they’re tossed into the deep end, and must immediately prove they’re hot for each other in front of contingents from both sides that are itching to start that war.

Under these circumstances, and in spite of the general…er, simpleness of the assembled soldiers, acting like a convincing couple would be a challenge even if they didn’t rub each other entirely the wrong way. So they aren’t that convincing, and it plants the seed of doubt in Chitoge’s own bodyguard Claude. When Chitoge and Raku are all but forced into their first date out on the town, there’s a wonderful progression of layering struggles the two of them must face.

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For one thing, neither of them have the slightest real-life experience with romance. The closest Raku has is his childhood promise to his mystery sweetheart combined with his ideal date with Onodera which plays out only in his head. When he uses that as a template, but Chitoge’s reactions run totally counter to his fantasies at every turn, from the roast of the coffee beans to the genre of film they go to.

While we’re sure the date is no picnic for Chitoge, the fact remains, Raku is going through all this while still harboring strong affection for Onodera. The girl he wants (and who seems to want him) is slipping through her fingers; in the ultimate torture, he has to at least half-play along as Chitoge pretends to be his honey in front of the gang, the yakuza, and Onodera, lest the date and the whole charade fall apart and war break out.

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It’s an unenviable position, to be sure. We genuinely felt for both him and Onodera: lovers fated to reunite but held apart by cruel forces outside their control. That being said, even if she hadn’t just been told Raku and Chitoge were a couple, we’re not sure she’d have not lied to Raku about the locket, which she kicks herself for later. She should, because there’s every reason to believe Raku and Chitoge will eventually warm to each other. Right now their mutual hate is bourne out of clinging to the hastily-formed ideas about who the other is, supported by cherry-picked observations.

In reality, they simply don’t know much about each other. After one date, that’s changed: Raku learns Chitoge is fine with dwelling on the past if it’s romantic, and sees her for the gorgeous girl she is; Chitoge learns that Raku can be chivalrous, attentive, and contrite when necessary. They’re starting to see things in each other they didn’t see earlier because those things didn’t fit their preconceived notions. Logic suggests the more they learn about each other, the easier their fake relationship will go, until one day, it won’t be fake anymore. That would be good for their mutual sanity, and certainly good for their families…but it would suck for Onodera.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nisekoi – 01

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On the heels of an overall excellent second season to the Monogatari Series, Shaft director Shinbou Akiyuki brings us Nisekoi (“False Love”) which brings his visual flair and theatricality to a more conventional school rom-com. While Ichijou Raku (Uchiyama Kouki…hey Alice!) first meets Kirisaki Chitoge (Touyama Nao) by chance (thanks to a knee to the face), the titular “false love” is a creation of their respective families, both powerful yakuza clans. Now that’s a potentially ridiculous twist, but it works for us.

LBJ’s biographer Robert Caro said that LBJ and RFK were akin to two dogs who, for whatever reason, just didn’t like each other, and never would, despite being in the same political party and sharing a similar vision for their country Long before they know their dads are planning their betrothment, Raku and Chitoge are like this. Raku takes Chitoge’s accidental face-knee as a deliberate attack and quickly condemns her as a vicious, ill-natured, acrobatic gorilla. Chitoge is instantly turned off by Raku’s inability to let things go, diagnosing him with a persecution mania and questioning his manhood.

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Here’s the thing: they don’t just stay away from each other; their upbringings have imbued them with a sense of honor and responsibility for their actions, so Chitoge agrees to help him until his locket is found, even after he releases her in a fit of anger that even he feels bad about. With their clans inching towards war, they’re now being called upon to work together for the greater good, like LBJ and RFK. Those guys never would really like each other, but there’s definitely hope for Raku and Chitoge. But wait, you ask…who’s that second girl on the promo art; the brunette? That’s the third part of the love triangle, Onodera Kosaki (Hanazawa Kana).

While introduced as Raku’s kind, trusty platonic friend and classmate, and someone Raku is currently crushing on, turns out she’s the one with the key to his locket, the symbol of their agreement ten years ago to marry when they reunited. It might’ve been an accord between little kids gradually forgotten by others, but not Raku or Kosaki haven’t. Kosaki now knows Raku is the boy, but hasn’t told him she’s the girl. So as Raku begins a fake romance with the heiress of a rival clan for three years, Kosaki’s choices are limited.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)