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 – 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 – 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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