Nisekoi: False Love
Shounen – Action, comedy, harem romance
25 Volumes (complete)
Raku has two goals. First, he wants to be a normal businessman… despite being from a yakuza family. Second, he wants to reunite with the girl he made a promise with when they were young… despite not remembering her name. Well, both of his dreams may come to a halt when he’s forced to pretend he’s in love with a violent, short-tempered girl to avoid a gang war!
Nisekoi: False Love is one of those series I gave up more than once. It seemed to be a Big Thing for quite a while during its serialization, but it doesn’t seem to be having a lot of staying power.
Why did I drop this series before?
It was boring. And I kept thinking to myself, “Didn’t I read this before?”
Oh, yeah. When it was called Love Hina.
Okay, okay, it’s not exactly Love Hina. Mainly, this is Love Hina with yakuza.
Now, before Nisekoi fans start readying their pitchforks, let me be the first to say Love Hina has its flaws — some severe. But it also concludes its mystery in fewer volumes, and it’s even cheaper now that it’s available in omnibus format. Love Hina is definitely not the first harem manga, but a lot of what it featured ended up cementing the harem genre — including aspects of Nisekoi. And regardless of who did it better, Love Hina can be acquired more cheaply and, due to its length, stops dragging out the whole “who-did-I-make-a-promise-with” storyline with sooner.
There are some other major differences though besides just making Raku (and Chitoge) from yakuza/mafia backgrounds. The ladies surrounding Raku are far more romantically interested in him than the women surrounding Keitaro, and the whole pretend relationship adds a dynamic not found in Love Hina. It’s also more realistic, which is saying something considering Nisekoi is about Raku “dating” a girl he doesn’t know or like in order to avoid an all-out gang war.
Pressure’s on, Raku and Chitoge. Especially since their first encounter was less than ideal.
But getting clobbered isn’t the only reason why Raku is annoyed at having to pretend to be in love with Chitoge, who is a classic tsundere. When he was young, Raku made a promise to marry the girl who has the matching key to his special locket. Currently though, he has a crush on his classmate Kosaki (who, unbeknownst to him, does like him), and Raku starts wondering if she is possibly his childhood love. It’s hard to ask her when Kosaki thinks he’s dating Chitoge, who has now transferred to the class, and several other gang members are constantly watching them. Eventually, several other girls start to vy for Raku’s heart, including Chitoge. Meanwhile, Kosaki’s friend Ruri tries to encourage her friend to confess, and Raku’s best friend Shu — the flirt and voyeur — finds ways to liven up his days, often at Raku’s expense.
Yes, still more slice-of-life-ish than Love Hina.
I’m going to stop all the Love Hina comparisons now, but there is one aspect that Nisekoi: False Love blows Love Hina out of the water. That is the best friends pair of Ruri and Shu. Push everyone else out of the way; these two are the best characters in the manga. Ruri reminds me of early Yue from Negima! (hey, it’s not Love Hina!), as she’s a quiet, analytical bookworm trying to help her very shy best friend confess to her crush. Shu, meanwhile, just goes all-out on being the comic relief, but he also is surprisingly astute when he wants to be.
A major reason I enjoy these two is because they provide some much-needed relief from the main story. Raku’s harem is divided into the main group — particularly the two main girls Chitoge and Kosaki — and an extended harem. The beginning is traditional setup, with one new girl being introduced after the other; Raku interacts with the girls in different ways for quite a while before other would-be suitors (suitresses?) are introduced. Then we repeat the process all over.
Herein lies the problem: Nisekoi is a line of children waiting to see Santa, except Santa is Raku and the children are the same kids who just get back in line after their special time together with the cheery guy. You can almost set your watch by whose turn is up next, each time wishing for
toys Raku’s love. Almost all manga with a group cast rotate who is the center of attention, and in harem romances, this is even more obvious. Here, though, the author doesn’t do much to break out of this pattern for long periods of time, particularly in the middle of the series. You can easily see which girl’s popularity with the fans rose and fell based on who is getting longer arcs. The only way the author knows how to shake up the story is to introduce new girls, and that’s a shame.
In particular, the manga doesn’t take full advantage of its yakuza/mafia setup. Chitoge’s family’s gang, the Beehive, has several prominent members of the cast, but the Shuei-gumi is just a bunch of guys screaming, “Young Master!” and watching Raku go on dates. They aren’t seen doing any real yakuza activities. Even going a step further, I would have expected more action or dangerous situations. Instead, it’s mostly Raku getting hit by his tsundere fake girlfriend. Heck, Marika’s father is a police officer, and yet it’s Claude, a Beehive member, that is more of a threat to Raku… although he disappears for a large period of time.
But don’t worry, instead of a lot of gang fights, readers are treated to great literary classics like temporary amnesia and royal doppelgangers. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)
Seriously, it’s a disappointment when Raku’s background could have been changed to just an arrangement for a sick grandfather or something and almost nothing would have changed. Raku doesn’t want to be the next generation leader, so I expected a little more about this aspect — either comedy or drama, but just something more. He’s actually more interesting in the opening chapter. Where’s this kind of passion for the rest of the manga?
Raku is a nice guy, but I wish he could have contributed more to the story than being everyone’s emotional hero and getting his hopes up or dashed by various interactions with Kosaki. I think more interactions with his family (and “family”) would have added both to his character and the overall Nisekoi manga. Again, it’s why Shu and Ruri are so valuable in the story; they’re pretty much the only ones not having their hearts stolen by Raku’s friendliness and kindness. Not that Raku knows he’s making girls fall in love with him left and right. He’s clueless outside of classmate Marika’s outrageous attempts to woo him, even though all these girls (including the one he likes) keep hanging around him.
Regardless, eventually, only one girl can win. The girl revealed to be the one Raku made a promise with may be surprising, but the ending is probably not. The last volume is extra long, and the series does give each girl a fond farewell. It just takes too long to get to that point thanks to the horrible middle-series lag. I am also leaning toward a particular surprise (which is not saved until the very end) as being too convenient, but I won’t go into that any further.
But despite my gripes, I must admit Nisekoi provided healthy doses of laughter at regular intervals. Several running gags are actually funny, like the other boys in Raku’s class always booing him for being surrounded by babes. Others are more eyerolling, like an adult male not realizing the orphan he picked up (whom he named Seishiro) is a girl who now is a buxom beauty. The various failed attempts for Raku’s affection — not to mention the “help” of Ruri, Shu, and the other girls’ allies — mask a lot of the filler nature of the series, but this is not just the kind of series where you could grab any volume and have a good ol’ time. The family drama involving some of the girls was far less entertaining. Several friends like the same guy, that should have served as the majority of the serious parts of the story. Kosaki and Chitoge don’t even realize they’re rivals despite becoming close friends! Seriously, readers complain about shoujo manga having communication problems.
Seishiro has the most dramatic shift in the art style. She definitely looks masculine in her early appearances, but you have to wonder what kind of bandages she was using on her chest…
Speaking of the covers, if you’re not the type who buys or checks out every volume, each volume’s cover very much matches the inside. The volume with Kosaki and Chitoge making chocolate is about Valentine’s Day, and the one with Marika in the center with the whole cast represents how the story has been focusing on how important she is to the group. You really can just look at the front cover and get a very solid idea of what it features. Honestly, I really like this approach. It makes each volume look as if it has a well-suited promotional poster.
Anyway, while Chitoge is often described as a beauty, it’s hard to tell. Why? Well, first, Raku is surrounded by several lovely young ladies, and with very few other (“regular”) females to compare her to, Chitoge appears to be a normal manga character. Second, she and Kosaki tend to have the same face and expressions.
Honorifics are not used. The series likes to do name drops or references, particularly early in the story. It’s kind of odd in English to see so much use of the word “false” in these circumstances though. Stuff like, “We have a false love” or, “He’s my false boyfriend.” In English, particularly for the second one, we’d normally use “fake”. I don’t know if the author picked “False Love” as the subtitle or if the English team did, as I wonder why the more-common “Fake Love” wasn’t chosen. Although maybe “False Love” was picked precisely because it was unusual? What do you prefer?
In Japanese, Raku and Chitoge often call each other “Darling” and “Honey”. In Japan, this is seen as pretty cheesy or doting. The early English volumes tend to pump it up with terms like “Honey Pumpkin” to emphasize how corny and perhaps fake they are. It also is fairly common in Japanese to use these terms in place of names when talking to other people (not so in English), but the adaptation does a good job of not changing things to make it seem as if the two are slipping up. (Although there are a few other mistakes, like Ruri calling Shu by his personal name despite always addressing him by his family name.)
Otherwise, Ojou/Ojou-sama is “Mistress”; “Bocchan” is “Young Master”. Typical translations. “Raku-sama” becomes “Raku dearest”, and both “Rakkun” and “Raku-chan” are “Rakky”. A couple of references to “-chan” are kept but dropped for story purposes. Some footnotes are provided for the coming-of-age ceremony and food items. One character’s name is translated as “Night”, the meaning of her name, despite being Chinese and having a Chinese reading for her name (Ie).
In the end, despite Nisekoi: False Love‘s positives, the length and the combination of filler and new girls means the boring sections end up overriding the good parts. That’s a definite issue sometimes when a series becomes a hit in a magazine: the author and publisher want to ride the popularity, but plot-wise, it just becomes too episodic and repetitive to remain strong. I think Nisekoi is a strong example of that, especially since it has so much competition both preceding and succeeding it.
Nisekoi‘s spin-off, Magical Pâtissière Kosaki-chan, has not been licensed, but a couple of Komi’s one-shots have been published by VIZ.