NISEKOI: FALSE LOVE, by Naoshi Komi. First published in 2011, and first published in North America in 2014.
Raku Ichijo is the mild-mannered heir to a powerful yakuza family. He has no intention of taking up the family trade, and wants to instead become a civil servant. He also wants answers to the strange locket he wears around his neck. As a child, he gave the key to a young girl he befriended, but he can't remember her face or name. He really hopes that his mystery girl is his shy and lovely classmate Onodera. Those daydreams come crashing down when a loud, rude blonde called Chitoge joins his class. For these two, it's hate at first sight, but it turns out that Chitoge is also a yakuza heir. To foster peace between their two families, their guardians decide to pair the two up as a couple, much to Raku and Chitoge's mutual displeasure. Now Raku has to find a way to juggle his fake relationship with Chitoge with his hope for real one with Onodera, all while searching for his locket girl.
Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ, they were right. Those that don't study their history are doomed to repeat it, and it's certainly true for Shonen Jump. How else can you explain why one of their most popular current titles be little more than a redressed, simplified version of Love Hina?
While strictly speaking it's less of a harem at this point than it is a love triangle, the character types are all too familiar if you know even the basics about Love Hina. Raku is our Keitaro stand-in, and like his predecessor he's a giant dork who exists solely to be the world's butt monkey. If anything, he's less interesting that Keitaro, since Raku doesn't even have his ridiculous levels of self-loathing. Chitoge, like Naru before her, is a massive
The locket girl angle is probably the mostly blatantly stolen idea from Love Hina. No matter whether it's a lost key or a forgotten promise, the purpose of it remains the same: a naked plot device there to stretch out the conflict as long as humanely possible. Here it takes the form of Onodera having a key of her own, as she mutters to herself about telling Raku something vague and important. Now, in the real world such a dilemma could be sold in a matter of minutes with just a few questions and the turn of a key. Here, though, it's being stretched to volume's end and beyond for the sake of cheap and shallow drama, and it's just as tired now as it was a decade ago. Of course, why should the dramatic elements try for anything original when the comedy is just as forced and tired? Thankfully, Nisekoi isn't the sort of story that thinks that punching a guy into the sky Team Rocket-style 20 times over is the height of hilarity. Instead, it thinks that never-ending arguments and passive-aggressive attempts at fake romance are funny. Trying to decide which is the preferable of the two is like trying to decide between a punch to the face and a kick in the crotch. No matter what you choose, the result is painful.
It's manga like Nisekoi that just go to prove that you don't have to be original to succeed with otaku. All you have to do is blatantly recycle a few ideas from something else that was popular, fill it with a few loud, easy-to-digest types, and pad it with enough empty, overstretched drama to keep it going for ages, and you too can have a successful harem series!
Komi's art is round and broad, with lots of soft edges, big moeblob faces, and increasingly ridiculous configurations of hair. Chitoge's hair in particular comes off as almost sentient as it swirls around her scraggly frame in defiance of physics. Their expressions are no less round and broad, with lots of dropped jaws and bugged eyes from everyone involved. The characters' manic energy seems to permeate every page, as if Komi was afraid of the prospect of a single blank space. Thus, he does his best to fill the panels with more faces, more speedlines, more action, and just more STUFF, and it reeks of desperation. While it's far from the worst looking series to currently grace the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, Nisekoi's art feels like it's trying too hard to sell the wackiness of its already broken and derivative story.
This series is published by Viz. This series is ongoing in Japan, with 15 volumes currently available. 6 volumes have been published, and all are currently in print. This series is also serialized digitally through Shonen Jump Alpha magazine, and is available in e-book form through Viz.com.
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