By Naoshi Komi. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz Media.
It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve reviewed a Shonen Jump Vol. 1 from Viz. There have been some Jump Square titles, such as Blue Exorcist or Genkaku Picasso. But I never did read Barrage when it was released digitally, or Takama-ga-hara. The reason being that by the time those series really got going enough to pay attention to them, Japan had already cancelled them. (And honestly, I expect sports manga Cross Manage to meet the same fate.) Shonen Jump Alpha had tried to introduce new series simultaneously with Japan, only to come up against the brutal cancellation process that 75% of all Jump series go through. So they needed to try to find an already successful series to bring in, one that didn’t require much explanation, didn’t need censoring, wasn’t over 20 volumes long already, wasn’t getting death threats in Japan, and wouldn’t give their translators nervous breakdowns. The obvious choice was Nisekoi, which has passed the 2-3 volume death range of Jump titles and become a nice little hit over in Japan.
I admit to being surprised by this one a bit as well, as it requires a bit of a leap of faith from Viz. You see… (whispers) it has no supernatural content. Really! Nor is it about sports. So, for long-time readers of Jump, that leaves two categories. Gag comedy (not gonna happen over here), or romantic harem comedy. Nisekoi fits squarely into the latter, and is Viz’s first attempt at pure romantic Jump since Strawberry 100% and I”s. Luckily, it has a bit more going for it, including a good sense of humor and willingness to make fun of its characters, as well as a yakuza Romeo and Juliet style plot.
Given that a Jump romantic comedy is never going to be hugely original, I was pleased to see the things this series did right. Ichijo is a nebbish, somewhat weak harem hero who nevertheless can stand up for himself and does not automatically fall into cleavage every two seconds. Kirisaki is a tsundere jerk, but most of that is frustration at her upbringing and general poor social skills, rather than it being her default. And the other girl in the love triangle, Onadera, is… well, so far pretty damn cliche. But then she’s a nice sweet girl in a harem genre, so she’s not going to get the guy anyway. In addition, while I’m sure they will come up at some point, it was a pleasure to see a Jump romance that didn’t revolve around underwear or boobs. The comedy stems from the situations and personalities of the leads, which is always a plus.
As for the plot, the series has the subtitle ‘False Love’, which is referring to the fact that, to prevent their rival yakuza families from killing each other, Ichijo and Kirisaki must pretend to be a couple. But there’s also the love issues created by Ichijo’s pendant, which is a lock that his long-forgotten promise girl (anyone who’s read Love Hina knows this plot) has the key to. I’ll bet you two to one there are multiple keys. Ichijo wants to find the promise girl so he can profess his love, but his that real true love? And what about Onadera’s obvious crush?
There’s nothing astoundingly original here. But for anyone who tried the aforementioned Love Hina and found its leads too irritating and its author too obsessed with naked girls hitting the hero, Nisekoi is a more mild alternative. The current chapters are running in Shonen Jump Alpha, with a ‘here’s what happened in the 6 or so volumes before these’ synopsis. I imagine the intervening volumes will come out fairly rapidly to catch up. Digitally, at least. I’ve no idea what the print schedule for this is. In any case, good stuff, and glad to see Viz once again taking a chance on Jump titles that don’t involve demons, ghosts, vampires, or all three.