Manga Review – Nisekoi: False Love

Nisekoi: False Love Volume 1

Nisekoi: False Love
ニセコイ
KOMI Naoshi
Shounen – Action, comedy, harem romance
25 Volumes (complete)
VIZ Media

Summary:

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!

Review:

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.

Nisekoi: False Love Sample 1But 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?

Nisekoi: False Love Sample 2Raku 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.

Nisekoi: False Love Girls

Clockwise from Raku: Chitoge, Marika, Yui, Kosaki

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…

Nisekoi: False Love Volume 23Speaking 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.

Translation:

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).

Final Comments:

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.

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28 Comments

  1. Kapodaco

    I made it pretty far into this manga, which I’m proud of because I waded through a lot of garbage. In the end, the ridiculous filler got to me and I dropped it some sixty chapters or so before it ended. Good review

    And yes: Ruri and Shu are best girls.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Ruri & Shu fan! Oh, yeah! *fistbump*

      I’ve seen some of the trash you’ve read, and the fact you dropped it says a lot.

      Reply
      1. Kapodaco

        I’m both offended and flattered at the thought!

        Reply
  2. negativeprimes

    Pitchforks! Just kidding: I’ll need to read Love Hina first. 😸 I thought the positives of Nisekoi outweighed the negs, but I can see your points.

    Just one thing I insist on:

    Ship Chitoge forever!🥂

    Thanks for this thorough review. 😺

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Thanks for putting those pitchforks down! I don’t feel like running from an angry mob today. 🙂 I think I would have enjoyed the series if it had put more emphasis on all its positives — and it did have some very good aspects.

      Love Hina is definitely dated in many aspects, but it’s worth a look if you want to see how the harem genre really got cemented. Or, my personal favorite reason, see Keitaro get blasted off worse than Team Rocket.

      Reply
      1. negativeprimes

        Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check it out!

        Reply
  3. raistlin0903

    Hmm…a bit of a shame. When I read the start of the post and the mention of a Yakuza family I became quite interested…but reading further along …I guess I can say (for me at least) that I will pass on this one. Great post though! 😀

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Thank you!

      Nisekoi isn’t terrible, and the overall idea I think would suit your tastes. But I don’t think you’d like how Nisekoi drags and turns to bottom-of-the-barrel plot ideas.

      Reply
    2. negativeprimes

      I would recommend giving it a shot. It’s not perfect and not for everyone (what series is?), but many people do like it a lot, myself included. One of the first manga I read, in fact!

      Reply
  4. tanteikid94

    Great analysis. What did you think about the anime. I did not like the fact that Shaft was the main studio

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      I’ve never seen the anime, so I can’t comment. From what I remember hearing though, the second season was really poor. That doesn’t make me want to watch it.

      Reply
      1. tanteikid94

        Okay then, I have seen the anime as well.

        Reply
      2. tanteikid94

        Can wait for his next manga

        Reply
  5. kwenzqoatl

    ooh. i remember reading this manga and sorta just dropping off. I liked it but I think it shoulda ended soon.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Nisekoi going on too long is a definite problem. The manga was just trying to stall for time.

      Reply
  6. The Otaku Judge

    I don’t blame you for dropping this multiple times. Back when I reviewed manga I read the first volume. It was alright, but after reading it I had no urge to check out the next book. Just felt like the same old harem plot I got tired of years ago.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      You thought right.

      Reply
  7. dreager1

    I’ve never read Love Hina so that may have helped me enjoy this series more since it was more unique for me. To date this is the only harem that I’ve read I believe. I thought it was enjoyable and the romance wasn’t all that bad. It’s certainly not a manga that would be my first choice to read or anything like that, but it did get some nice action scenes once in a while so that was always cool.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Wow, this is the only harem? That’s a surprise considering how many of them there are.

      Reply
      1. dreager1

        Yeah, I definitely need to read more. It’s just tough finding a harem that doesn’t seem too fanservicey. Granted, Nisekoi certainly did have fanservice, but it was never too over the top compared to what I had been expecting. I have read a lot of reverse harems though, those tend to be pretty fun

        Reply
  8. renxkyoko

    I’m not into harem, though I did attempt to read Nisekoi….. oh, and I shipped Chitoge and Raku from day one…. but the harem really turned me off.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Generally, I think harems work better when it’s focused on the comedy instead of trying to shiptease everyone with the protagonist even though it’s a 99% chance that the main girl is going to win.

      Reply
      1. renxkyoko

        I don’t like the kind where the object of so many girls’ affection actually responds to their advances, like so many animes that I’d watched whose titles I cannot remember. That’s why I love this anime ( sorry I can’t remember the complete title ) Failed Knight or something where the ML ‘s affection for the FL never wavered, and hence the story is able to focus on the main plotline, which is how he ‘s able to rise above his lowest ranked F status at his academy.

        Reply
  9. Leafさんの夢が。。。

    “the manga doesn’t take full advantage of its yakuza/mafia setup.” Yeah, pretty much one of the biggest let downs for me. It’s no seinen manga but you’d imagine with the premise this manga would at least TRY lol. I wasn’t happy with the end girl tbh but oh well. I don’t think harem manga are for me. I’ve tried several types but I’ve only ever truly enjoyed The World God Only Knows (anime, haven’t read the manga). I wouldn’t say Toradora is a harem but it plays with it and I did enjoy that a ton. But true harems I can’t 🙁

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      For as much as Raku talks about living the straight and narrow, his family’s syndicate is really pretty boring.

      As I told renxkyoko, I think harems are better when it’s more comedic instead of trying to play up the “who will win” aspect. I know a little of TWGOK, and I’d probably enjoy it. Toradora is one of those series that seems to be well-liked, but I haven’t read it.

      Reply
      1. Leafさんの夢が。。。

        Haha agreed I came for Yakuza and left with angsty teen boy harem.

        I’d honestly rec the anime for Toradora haha

        Reply
  10. Rose

    Darn… the plot made it sound so interesting and I was really considering on reading or watching it. It’s a shame about the negatives, but at least I saved myself from wasting my time.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Yeah, and it sounds like the second season of the anime was a major disappointment as well. So it doesn’t sound like that could be an alternative to get around the manga’s shortcomings either.

      Reply

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