What is love? It is a question posed since the dawn of man. It was even the subject of the legendary song ‘What is Love?‘ by Haddaway. But enough references to Trinidadian-German Eurodance songs, this is about an anime and a pretty good one at that – Nisekoi: False Love.
Nisekoi: False Love is essentially a harem series (of the softer variety) based upon a Shonen Jump manga of all things. It deals with the many different shapes and forms love can come in all the while managing to weave its own modern spin on a Romeo and Juliet tale.
What sets Nisekoi apart from the crop of similar series in the genre is that it has a sense of innocence to it that many discard from the get go. Nisekoi follows Raku Ichijou, an every man who just so happens to be the son of a yakuza boss. Raku is somewhat embarrassed by his family as most teens are but things are taken to another level when he is forced into a ‘relationship’ with Chitoge, the daughter of a rival family, in order to mend ties between the families. So how do they take this story and make it have such a sense of innocence and sincerity to it? Well that may very well be the Shonen Jump DNA in the series.
Despite being animated by SHAFT, who have worked on one of the most raunchiest anime series ever put to the small screen, the Monogatari series, Nisekoi is very light on fan-service and sexualized content. Instead the series treats the idea of love almost in a fantastical way. Raku’s quest to discover the key to unlock his literal lock on his heart feels akin to other shonen heroes’ epic journeys. Luffy’s quest to discover the One Piece provides a similar feeling to what Nisekoi is going for here. We don’t exactly know what lies at the end of this path, we have somewhat of an idea but the journey to that point is what makes it. It is in that rather innocent fantasy that Nisekoi gains its heart.
As far as adaptations go, SHAFT’s take on Nisekoi does the series justice all the while instilling it with a rather eclectic vibrancy that is a little bit more over the top than the manga’s original intent. In spite of that it makes Nisekoi a far more visually interesting show than you’d expect considering the manga’s rather simple tones.
The cast of characters are mostly female here and the show does play with the whole wish fulfillment idea with a plethora of girls fawning over Raku for seemingly no reason, but each is given a genuine soul and feel fully formed and more than just another choice for our hapless hero. Each girl is bursting with personality and the show does make a good case for each of them being a valid option for Raku. Where the show succeeds in dispelling tired tropes of the genre is in the way that these girls become more than just that. They are characters that exist for more than just to be in love with the protagonist and the connections they share between one another goes beyond their shared affection for Raku.
Madman’s release of Nisekoi on DVD is rather bare-bones in all honesty, with only the first 10 episodes included in subtitled only format. However if you are interested in streaming the series it is available in its entirety on Madman’s AnimeLab streaming service. Although if you are true collector you are going to want to own this one despite its lack of a dub or any substantial bonus content.
Nisekoi: False Love marks an intriguing departure from the status quo for the harem genre. It’s innocent heartfelt approach to romance and love is a breath of fresh air in a genre that has far too long used sexual content as a crutch for poor story-telling and characterization. Nisekoi is the harem anime that proves that harem still has something thoughtful to offer anime fans. It is well worth the watch and if you’re a Shonen Jump fan you may be pleasantly surprised by how similar this show’s DNA is to your action favourites.
You can pick up a copy of Nisekoi: False Love Part 1 over at Madman’s Online Store.