Nisekoi, Vol. 25

By Naoshi Komi. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Camellia Nieh

Harems are a very popular genre, so popular they’re even called harems, rather than what they actually are – romantic comedy or romantic drama. You have a guy, or a girl, and their various love interests – when it’s more than two, that puts it in this genre. They are popular but also very dangerous to license long-term, especially for the West, where titles can come out in volume format over a year after fans have been shamelessly spoiled on the forums. Because let’s face it: 90% of readers are dissatisfied with the ending. Either the title leaves everything ambiguous (the so-called “no ending”), or the protagonist chooses the wrong one – i.e., the one the reader doesn’t prefer. This is true even if the correct choice has been signposted from the first chapter, so it must be even more frustrating for fans of Nisekoi, which theoretically did a much better job at keeping all its heroines as options till the end. That said, the series is still subtitled “False Love”. The False Love was the plot. And therefore the heroine… is the one we expected.

Therefore, this volume does its level best to shut down all the other pairings and show that, in fact, it’s Raku x Chitoge going forward. Chitoge is not the promise girl that we’ve been wondering about for the entire series – that’s Onodera – but she is the one that Raku decides he is in love with, despite the fact that, similar to Naru in Love Hina, she literally runs away from her feelings until there is nowhere left to run to. It’s very in character for Chitoge, and honestly everyone in this volume acts exactly as you’d expect them to. Tsumugi gets to have a cool fight, and finally show Claude that she is, in fact, a she (was anyone else reminded of that Night Court scene with Christine? No? Just me? OK…). Marika, who has always been the one whose feelings are RIGHT THERE, acts as an audience surrogate in telling Chitoge to man up and admit the truth. And Onodera… well, Onodera gets to cry, and also bake their wedding cake, something so mind-boggling that she has to textually tell the reader that she wanted to do this, and it wasn’t Raku or Chitoge’s idea. The nice girl to the end.

While we are starting to see a few series experiment with polyamory, it’s always in a “fantasy world” setting, and you’re not going to see it in modern-day Japan. And for those who want to ship the OT3 after the wedding… nope, we get a short epilogue showing Onodera’s daughter running into Raku and Chitoge’s son, and it’s obvious they haven’t met each other before. (Which is incredibly frustrating from anything other than a ‘dramatic irony’ perspective – must ALL harems never speak to each other again after the wedding, especially when they’re as close friends as Chitoge and Onodera were?) And so we’re left with a series that I enjoyed for 25 volumes… but is only going to be satisfying if you shipped Raku and Chitoge. This is the curse of all harem series, and it’s why they’re popular but hard to license, because hell hath no fury like a fanboy scorned. Still: Nisekoi was excellent. Good job.

Nisekoi, Vol. 19

By Naoshi Komi. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Camellia Nieh

I was recently called out for spoiling a plot point in a recent review, and had to go back and put in a disclaimer. Regular readers of my reviews will note that I spoil everything shamelessly, often without thinking. It’s rare when I actually try to keep something a secret for the sake of those who haven’t read it yet (which one could argue defeats the point of reviews, but hey). But it got me to thinking about this most recent volume of Nisekoi, which I haven’t actually done a full review of since it began. It’s now over in Japan, and indeed has also ended in North America, being one of the series that ran in Viz’s Weekly Jump magazine. Any big fan of the series knows how it ended. But of course the volumes are about a year behind the chapters, as with most Jump titles. So, when I talk about this new volume, and note how well the author succeeds at keeping the harem balanced so that the reader isn’t quite sure who Raku will end up with… who am I supposed to be fooling?

I will try, however, for the sake of the one or two casual readers of Nisekoi who read my reviews and also don’t wish to be spoiled (there must be one or two, right?) not to give away the ending. I will note that fans of romantic fluff will love this volume, be they Chitoge fans, Kosaki fans, or Marika fans. (Tsumugi does not get much of a look-in, but she’s had big moments before and will again). We open with the resolution of the “Chitoge is moving away’ arc, in which Chitoge’s father, who’s always been pretty cook, gives in at last to his daughter’s demands. Raku defensing her is awesome, even if it is (of course) undercut by his realization of who she is to him… his BEST friend! Yes, Raku is still dense, as otherwise the title would be over. Most of the volume then covers Kosaki and Raku on a date… sort of. Tricked into it by Haru, but not really against the idea, this shows off the shy, blushing, embarrassing aspect of romance, which many Western harem readers prefer to Chitoge or Marika’s more forward brusqueness.

Lastly, speaking of Marika and brusqueness, Raku is literally kidnapped by her and brought to a South Seas island (which he takes far better than you’d expect, as Marika herself notes… Raku is a nice guy almost to a fault). At first this just seems like the usual Marika that we’ve seen before, going too far as always. But Marika’s health has always been in the background of her character as well, and it may finally be failing her. There have been ominous hints that she is, if not dying, at least far more ill than she lets on. In which case, vanishing to a South Sea island, and then getting shipwrecked on a different, more deserted one, may not be the wisest choice. But then, of all the heroines, Marika’s love has always been the most desperate.

So there’s something for everyone here. Fans who know how Japanese harem mangas tend to resolve may have a sneaking suspicion who will eventually win, but Nisekoi does a much better job than most in making the journey fun and heartwarming, mostly as Raku is the type where you understand why they love him. This is still quite highly recommended.

Nisekoi, Vol. 1

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.