A look at Nisekoi manga (This generation’s Love Hina?)

A look at Nisekoi manga (This generation’s Love Hina?)

As I’ve been blogging for many years now, and have been writing anime and manga reviews since 2003, I often get anime or manga titles recommended to me, or I will see something that catches my eye for one reason or the other.  The latter was the case with Nisekoi, as for whatever reasons, I kept seeing images posted of the various girls, followed by the release of the anime adaptation of the manga. Initially, I thought I might give the anime a look-see, but then I decided that I wanted to give the manga a try.  While I can see the appeal of this series, it isn’t one I’d read again.

Nisekoi manga

***SPOILERS***

The premise of the Nisekoi manga has first year male high school student ICHIJOU Raku, the son of a powerful head of a Yakuza family, painfully encounter KIRISAKI Chitoge, a blonde, half-Japanese, half-America girl who’s just transferred in from America. As a result of her accidentally knocking him down, he loses his locket from childhood, which was given to him by a girl he made a promise to ten years earlier, and who has the key to said locket. As a result, Chitoge and Raku form a fierce dislike of each other. Complicating matters is the gang war that is brewing, causing Raku to have to officially become the boyfriend to the daughter of the rival family’s head. To Raku’s shock, that daughter is Chitoge, and to keep the peace, the two have to pretend to be in love rather than despise each other.

Because this is a harem title, naturally there are going to be lots of other girls interested in Raku. For starters, there’s ONODERA Kosaki, who has a crush on Raku and is the girl Raku has a crush on, but both are oblivious to the other’s feelings. Oddly enough, Kosaki has a key that could fit Raku’s pendant, but then so does Chitoge, who just so happens to have lived in Japan ten years ago.

Then there’s TACHIBANA Marika, who’s the daughter of the police chief and for whom it is said that she was betrothed to Raku as a child. She too has a key.

There are a number of other girls to cover various trope types including Tsugumi (a reverse trap who’s a skilled assassin who’s worked in the States, who now acts as Chitoge’s bodyguard), Haru (Kosaki’s younger sister who thinks Raku is a two-timer and thus she needs to protect her “oneechan” until she starts to see Raku in a new light), and most recently KANAKARA Yui (another childhood friend of Raku’s who’s a bit older than him, so he addresses her as “Yui-nee”; she also has a key and is the head of a Chinese mob group as well as becoming the homeroom teacher for Raku, Chitoge, and the others).

The other two main supporting cast members are Ruri (Kosaki’s best friend who wears glasses and stays fairly level headed) and Shuu (Raku’s best friend who has a keen eye for seeing the truth of things; he also takes candid shots of girls and sells them as a hobby), and both fill the roles they are required to fill.

Upon starting to read this manga, it was very clear that Nisekoi has its roots in Love Hina.  You have the lead male who made a promise to a girl as a child, and for whom he still holds that promise dear.  You have the lead female who is a tsundere, who takes an immediate dislike to the lead male, and who punches, kicks, and otherwise physically (or verbally) abuses the lead male at the mere hint of the possibility of an “infraction” by the lead male.  However, over the course of time, the lead female starts falling for the lead male, but then can’t bring herself to admit it for whatever reasons.  And of course, other females of various trope types in the circle of the lead male come to fall in love with him.

Considering that Love Hina (manga) started in 1998 and ran through 2001, I doubt that many of the younger fans reading the Nisekoi manga (or watching the anime adaptation) have read or watched Love Hina.  From that perspective, I can completely understand and appreciate why Nisekoi is fairly popular, even in the States. Harem titles can be a lot of fun. I should know because I read and watched quite a number of them. People pick the girl they want the male protagonist to end up with, and debate online why their girl is number one.  Fans laugh at the hijinks that always ensue from harem, romantic-comedy titles.

For me, Nisekoi is too much of a “been there, done that” manga. While I like that Raku and Chitoge are on equal footing in terms of social status (both are rich, come from powerful families, and have staffs at home who address them in manners becoming of their status), Raku and Chitoge are too much of a rehash of Keitaro and Naru from Love Hina.  While I still like Love Hina, even back when I started reading that manga, I grew weary of Naru’s flying off at the handle and punching Keitaro into next week for the least nothing.  So when Chitoge started doing the same to Raku in Nisekoi, I quickly got tired of that.

KOMI Naoshi-sensei follows all of the standard rules for harem titles. Raku is a good guy, so naturally the women are going to flock to him, even if they don’t want to. He has the girls cover many of the various harem trope types, sometimes having a girl cover more than one type — tsundere, childhood friend (x4 through chapter 120), half-Japanese, ojousama, tomboy (pseudo reverse trap), protective little sister (to one of the other girls),  worshipful (“Raku-sama”), frail health, “Yamato Nadeshiko” (more of an ideal Japanese woman), and others I’m sure I’ve failed to mention.  For me, Nisekoi just brings these types of girls in just to have them in the mix.

Nisekoi manga

The other problem I have with Nisekoi is that realistically, the manga should already be over, and that should have happened sometime ago based on the story’s structure. Once the central harem (girls with keys who’d known Raku as a child) had grown to three and the three along with Raku were educated about the nature of his locket and their keys, it should have been over. Instead, we get some BS reasons for making sure this doesn’t happen, followed by the girls agreeing to allow the status quo to remain in effect, so that the manga can continue and shift to a more slice of life setting.

To be honest, some of the more recent chapters have been more entertaining and interesting to me. For example, when quiet, glasses girl Ruri has to enlist Raku to pretend to be her boyfriend and accompany her on a trip to visit her perverted great grandfather, it was both hilarious and touching at the same time. Having Marika challenge Chitoge to a bento making competition allows Komi-sensei to go for the age-old “the girl can’t cook” trope, but he pulls this off quite successfully for me by coming up with wildly unexpected elements to emphasize Chitoge’s lack of cooking skills (her fried eggs still make me laugh even now as I remember them).

While I wasn’t bored with reading the manga and have even enjoyed it a lot at times, I will say that because this manga is just following the numbers of other harem titles laid out before it, especially Love Hina, I find myself realizing that I would never read this manga again. For me, the mark of a really good manga is one that makes me want to reread it to enjoy the good times. Nisekoi doesn’t quite hit that mark with me just because I’ve read all of these other harem titles that came before.

Does this mean I think Nisekoi is bad? Absolutely not. Were I new to anime and manga and this was one of the first harem titles I read, I’d no doubt be all down for this series.  That’s why I understand and appreciate why so many people like it.  Indeed, if you like harem titles, do give it a try.  There are a lot of enjoyable things to be found here.

In the end, Nisekoi is too much of a retread for me and doesn’t have enough unique elements to get it over my “really good” manga threshold, whereby I’d want to reread the manga multiple times and have a space reserved for it in my manga library. It has its good moments, cute girls, and humorous elements, but it needed to be more unique and actually tell a story rather than continually find ways to bring more harem elements into it just for the sake of bringing harem elements into it.

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29 Responses to “A look at Nisekoi manga (This generation’s Love Hina?)”

  1. there were so much manga with Love Hina’s theme after the success of it and many of them goes success too

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Oddly enough, when Love Hina first came out, there were folks who called it a “Tenchi clone” since Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki is considered the father of the modern harem genre and there weren’t a lot of harem titles at that time.

      • well , after a while , i went and actually hitting this manga (at chapter 125 now) and this is what i think :
        The manga is good if :
        1. You didn’t read L.H (like someone said in somewhere , Nisekoi is totally L.H 2) plot of L.H were more linked to each others than Nisekoi (where the author likely put out the events randomly)
        2. You have alot free time (like me , being rich of time nowaday is a sin)
        3. You don’t care about plot or story , just enjoy it
        4. You must be seriously into harem (i’m not into harem in real life but manga is totally fine lol)

  2. andmeuths says:

    I think what happened, was that somewhere along the line, Nisekoi experienced a genre shift ala Negima. But while Negima turned from harem to action Shounen, Nisekoi instead shifted from harem to slice of Life. When people tar Nisekoi, they presume that Nisekoi is still a Harem Rom Com rather than a Slice of Life Manga. But this is why dissonance such as “the Ruri arc is good” comes from, because the really good Slice of Life Arcs challenges the assumption that Nisekoi has to be a Rom Com to be good.

    The truth is, the recent arcs (Haru and Ruki) both are more at home in the Slice of Life genre, in many respects (Haru less so, except we all know she doesn’t have a prayer with Raku and the mangaka makes that clear). And many of the recent chapters wouldn’t be out of place in a Slice of Life gag manga. The harem merely takes backseat to these concerns. Indeed, part of the reason why the status quo holds is a motivation similar to Hagani – the social relationships in Nisekoi have reached a comfortable equilibrium that no-one wishes to disrupt.

    This is why neither Chitoge nor Onodera took the opportunities to advance their romantic cases, even though instory, they had golden opportunities which the Mangaka appears perfectly aware of. They simply don’t want to disrupt the status quo, I think both of them are to a certain degree aware that they are in this unofficial, friendly romantic standoff regarding Raku, and moving risks their friendships with one another, and the comfortable status quo these group of friends have made. Were they to confess, or move more aggressively, that status quo would be broken. That’s why Chitoge refused to confess, a few dozen chapters back – not out of Tsundere pride, but rather, a comfort in the status quo.

    I am fully convinced that the author wants to tell all three years of High School Life, if he can. As such, I expect much of the real resolution will come in the Third Year, as all participants realize that time is short. Furthermore, because of the three years condition with Chitoge, I anticipate most moves would be in preparation to put oneself in pole position once Chitgoe and Raku’s fake relationship expires. But in the meanwhile, I anticipate that the Second Year would be mostly Slice of Life, with very slow developments in the main plot (the current Yui Arc would probably produce some developments, but judging from Chapter 120, I can forsee it merely creates a new status quo).

    I don’t actually mind – I read Nisekoi once the anime started, and having read everything at one shot, I’ve come to the conclusion that Nisekoi is not meant to be appreciated as a Rom-Com Harem alone, but also on it’s merits as a comedy Slice of Life where the Rom-com plot takes that backseat. And to be honest, I think Nisekoi as a Slice of Life, while nothing terribly innovative is at least entertaining, and I don’t mind the Second year Arc being primarily Slice of Life with very slow romantic development. And to be honest , as the Ruri arc shows, the side slice of life arcs can be very powerful at times. I really think the author could power through 80 chapters, if the next Nisekoi Slice of Life arcs has the quality of the Ruri arcs – he can do it.

    The risk of course, is that Nisekoi rushes towards the ending. There were points in Chapter 120 where I actually was getting “the manga is ending” vibes, until the final few panels demonstrated that the author was preparing to justify why Yui will not further disrupt the status quo, once she settles into that circle of friends, and makes her Rom-com impact.

    But I anticipate after this arc, we will go into several directions – either

    a) More Slice of life Shenanigans. The festival arc will not have developments on the romantic front, but significant focus on the relationship within the girls in the Harem. Yui will try to have the girls recapture some of their old childhood relationships with one another further.

    b) The Festival Arc will focus once again on a permutation of Chitoge and Raku’s relationship.

    c) Following on the Ruri Arc, Nisekoi will shift it’s focus on first developing the Beta Couple of Ruri x Shuu, which could take 20-30 chapters minimum, while putting the main Harem on the back-burner. If the author wants to satisfy the demands for Romance, Ruri X Shuu should theoretically be sufficient to tide Nisekoi into a third year.

    I’m also anticipating the second Christmas Arc for Nisekoi. The first was one of the highest points of Nisekoi, hopefully, the second does not disappoint.

    But really, I don’t anticipate any significant move till Year 2 Valentine. The author has rather convincingly, IMO explained why all parties are currently content to keep the status quo, and only the inevitable end of the Fake Relationship and High School in general would seem to be able to break that status quo.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Indeed, part of the reason why the status quo holds is a motivation similar to Hagani – the social relationships in Nisekoi have reached a comfortable equilibrium that no-one wishes to disrupt.

      I’m only current with what Seven Seas has done with Haganai (I’ve got one more volume to read and blog — the other volumes with blog entries not currently published are in the pipeline). However, with Haganai, while it is a harem situation, at least through the stuff I’ve read, it isn’t harem in the same manner that Nisekoi is, meaning all the girls in Haganai aren’t overtly in love with the protagonist (or denying they are in love with the protagonist). I see Nisekoi as more of a traditional harem title.

      I am fully convinced that the author wants to tell all three years of High School Life, if he can.

      I would agree there. The way the manga has been constructed to date is to prevent there being a resolution of the main plot for as long as possible.

      And to be honest, I think Nisekoi as a Slice of Life, while nothing terribly innovative is at least entertaining…

      I agree. That being said, for me, it is a one time through kind of manga. I like slice of life, but there has to be more than what I’ve seen as a whole from Nisekoi.

      But really, I don’t anticipate any significant move till Year 2 Valentine.

      I don’t seen any significant moves until the manga is about to end.

      Anyway, thanks for writing. I enjoyed getting your perspective on the series. ^_^

    • WMC says:

      Wow. A literate blog entry containing valid, supported logic. Very pleasant surprise. I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up “Nisekoi.” Now I will.

      • WMC says:

        Of course, ANB’s entries always read well, but I specifically referenced “Andmeuth’s” from April 26 above. An unusually good entry.

        Sorry for the ambiguity. I always assume the audience is reading my mind.

      • AstroNerdBoy says:

        It will be interesting to hear what you think about the series.

        • WMC says:

          Read the first volume of “Nisekoi,” and I see similarities with “To Ra Do Ra,” but not “Love Hina,” except for Chitoge’s punches to Raku’s jaw, as with Naru and Keitaro from LH. However, Chitoge isn’t as irrational as Naru. It looks like the usual threesome of high school boy and two disparate girls with all kinds of complications deriving therefrom. Basic scenario of warring gangs as custodians of the kids is good. I like it that the entire plot already obtains, and I see only variations in the future with maybe faint resolutions, but that would be fun. The “Americanized,” posturing street lingo for the gangs runs true for me, and Chitoge actually gives the middle finger salute once to Raku! [Maybe the author doesn’t quite get how serious a taunt that is in the U.S.] I like the protagonist, Raku, much better than Keitaro from LH. Kei was/is too wimpy for me. The two girls Onodera and Chitoge are great, and for once the Japanese Onodera is just as physically attractive as the blond, “half” Chitoge.

          Finally, to attract me a manga must have good graphics, and “Nisekoi” has excellent ones.

          • AstroNerdBoy says:

            Read the first volume of “Nisekoi,” and I see similarities with “To Ra Do Ra,” but not “Love Hina,” except for Chitoge’s punches to Raku’s jaw, as with Naru and Keitaro from LH.

            The promise girl stuff comes up more later, which is where it gets more of a Love Hina vibe.

            Finally, to attract me a manga must have good graphics, and “Nisekoi” has excellent ones.

            Yes, I totally agree there. ^_^

    • the biggest trouble of this manga now is :
      “I can see it… I can see the ending!” -Keima Katsuragi
      i don’t know about you guys but i can see cleanly this manga ending, chaotic gangs fighting that only solved by the old games to find his promised girl , it’s only mate that mangaka pick tsundere or dandere

  3. Aki says:

    i am watching the anime series and started collecting thr tokoban and honestly the relationships get complex in a funny and livablr way

  4. Interesting , I haven`t heard of this manga yet , I`ll go and take a look at it.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Let me know what you think.

      • I just finished the first chapter , It really started off similarly like Love Hina , Some characters have abit similarities to Love Hina , The humor was really good for me , I mean , C`mon , Kirisaki Punch to The Moon ? How could you not ? Haha !! But I look forward to reading this more.

        • AstroNerdBoy says:

          The manga certainly has good elements to it. It is just one I won’t reread. There are a lot of manga titles that are like that for me. ^_^

  5. Maxtor says:

    I decided to read this based on your recommendation. I liked it a lot. I read some message boards to see what other folks say about the manga. I laugh to see talk of filler actually being the plot.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I decided to read this based on your recommendation. I liked it a lot.

      Glad you liked it. ^_^

      I laugh to see talk of filler actually being the plot.

      I’ve done some looking around myself and I noticed this as well. I was actually surprised that a manga with a plot that’s mostly non-existant can garner more discussion than some popular manga with actual advancing plots.

  6. Clyde says:

    I liked the first volumes, but everything that made this manga appealing is now gone : it has just become another harem manga.

    Fake lovers that don’t stand each other ?–>They’re now friends, one of them has obviously fallen in love with the other, their friends know the truth and Claude is no longer watching the MC so they can relax now.
    The mafia/yakuza background–> it’s completely under-used. I was expecting funny events.
    The Pendant–>It cannot be opened anymore with a key, how convenient: then just bring a hammer or a drill! They have nothing to lose anyway…

    Furthermore, the plot hasn’t been evolving at all since the amnesia: 1 chapter = 1 female character. I don’t mind a few chapters focused on other characters, I liked those focused on Ruri, but 7 months of filler chapters without any progress is too much. Chitoge has even become a secondary character during that time.
    At least it seems we’re going to learn something with the new character, but adding another key was completely unnecessary.

    I read somewhere that the author was forced to draw filler chapters to add content to the anime. If that’s the case, I hope it will end soon.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      At least it seems we’re going to learn something with the new character, but adding another key was completely unnecessary.

      It keeps the manga going. ^_^;

      I read somewhere that the author was forced to draw filler chapters to add content to the anime. If that’s the case, I hope it will end soon.

      Possibly. It wouldn’t be the first time that a mangaka is forced to extend beyond where they wanted or what they wanted.

      • WMC says:

        As in “Negima?”

        • AstroNerdBoy says:

          Actually, I was thinking Love Hina. With Negima, some elements at the start were forced on him, but it was Love Hina where he had to devote an entire volume of manga to a retconned adopted sister for Keitaro, then have her in the mix when the manga really should have been coming to an end.

          • WMC says:

            Yes. Kanako in “Love Hina” was so anomalous I always just skipped her parts. And I always wondered what the hell Mr. Akamatsu was doing with her in the mix. Now I know. Some big dog arffed and the rest of the crew rolled over. Apparently.

            I still can’t reconcile the end of “Negima!” with all the other great stuff that preceded it by Akamatsu-sama.

          • AstroNerdBoy says:

            Yes. Kanako in “Love Hina” was so anomalous I always just skipped her parts.

            *LOL* Yes, I hear ya! I do that as well for the volume where Keitaro goes to America and Kanako is in charge. Once Keitaro comes back, I keep reading, even with Kanako in the story.

  7. caroline says:

    i read many of komi naoshi’s earlier works, and they all had interesting and thought provoking plotlines and characters. so when i found out that he’s writing a typical harem manga i felt kind of jilted. i’m glad that this series brought him fame, but i wish he’d write more manga with his own unique plotlines because they were such a great read.

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