In the last of our look at anime adaptations of manga published by popular boys’ comic Weekly Shonen Jump, we move to “harem” genre of anime, where one character tends to be surrounded by lots of other characters of the opposite gender.
Nisekoi, which literally translates as “Fake Love”, began in manga form in 2012, and has since had two anime series adapted from it, the first going out in January 2014 and the second in April this year. It mixes romantic comedy with an element of crime, and manages to keep the relationships in the series nicely even.
The main protagonist is 15-year-old Raku Ichijo, the heir apparent to the Shuei-Gumi yakuza clan, although he himself wants nothing to do with the criminal life, wishing to become a respectful civil servant when he gets older. Ten years earlier, he met a girl who gave him a locket to which the girl has the key. They shared a promise that they would marry each other once they met again and opened the locket. However, Raku no longer remembers the girl’s identity.
On the way to school one day he is accidentally kicked in the face by a new transfer student, Chitoge Kirisaki. After she runs off Raku discovers he has lost his locket, and is unable to find it for several days, even with Chitoge’s reluctant help. The two end up despising each other, but after finding his locket Raku returns home to learn that Shuei-Gumi has been getting into fights with a group of gangsters called Beehive. Raku’s father has decided that to stop the violence from escalating Raku must pretend to be in love with the daughter of Beehive’s boss – who turns out to be Chitoge.
Thus Raku and Chitoge have to pretend to adore each other when in fact they cannot stand to be in each other’s presence, something made even worse by the fact that Raku is already in love with another classmate, sweet and shy Kosaki Onodera, who in turn loves him but is too timid to admit it, and by strange coincidence also happens to possess a key that might just be the one for Raku’s locket.
Not surprisingly some people doubt the authenticity of Raku and Chitoge’s relationship straight away, especially Claude of the Beehive gang who has been constantly overprotecting Chitoge for years. Thus Claude is determined to do anything to disprove the relationship; a relationship which becomes increasingly complex with the arrival of more characters and the discovery of more keys, all of which could be the one to Raku’s locket.
Amongst the other characters to arrive they include the androgynous Seishiro Tsugumi, a hitman trained under Claude who is hired to disprove the relationship and is constantly being mistake for a boy when in fact she is a girl; and Marika Tachibana, the daughter of the city’s police chief who claims to be Raku’s fiancé. Other supporting characters include Raku’s somewhat pervy best friend Shu Maiko, and Onodera’s pushy best friend Ruri Miyamoto.
While the cast of characters and their relationships are the key to any harem anime, for me personally it is the art which is a big selling point for Nisekoi. Out of all the Shonen Jump series that have been covered so far in this column, Nisekoi is the one that stand out in terms of animating in a different style, rivalling Food Wars! (No. 115) in terms of art quality. The use of colour, scenes in which the dialogue is conducted using just on-screen subtitles, and the differing styles of architecture that range from Raku’s traditional yakuza hideout to the modernist school he attends, all combine to make this series perhaps the most visually appealing of the Shonen Jump anime.
As said the relationships are also good, especially the central one of Raku and Chitoge. While the hate each other intensely at the start of the series, by the end of series one they become slightly more friendly, and even Chitoge admits that she is starting to actually fall in love with Raku. Meanwhile Raku is still besotted with Onodera, Tsugumi is too stubborn to admit that Raku is actually a nice guy; and Tachibana will go to any lengths to try and marry Raku.
If there is one major downside, for us in Britain at least, it is that this series is released by Kaze in the UK, both in terms of DVD/Blu-Ray sales, and in streaming via their website Animax. As Kaze is considered the least popular of all the anime distributors, many UK anime fans refuse to buy Nisekoi for this reason and instead have decided to purchase the Region A Blu-Ray instead.
In conclusion, we return to point of examining these series, which was to see if any of them could fill-up the missing gaps to be left by Bleach (No. 15) and Naruto (No. 95), two of the “Big Three” anime alongside One Piece (No. 6) which are ending soon. Out of the five anime covered in the past few weeks; Gintama (No. 113), World Trigger (No. 114), Food Wars!, Haikyu!! (No. 116) and Nisekoi; it would probably be fair to say that Gintama is the most likely to take up a slot as it is already the longest-running of the five. While Food Wars! and Nisekoi have the artistic quality and Haikyu!! a highly dedicated fan-base, World Trigger has the plot structure to make it a long-running series, although it has the worst art of the five.
However, there has recently been a development. A few days ago World Trigger was recommissioned, so it will be continuing even longer, and hopefully its earlier mistakes in terms of production will have been learnt. If so, then it will most likely be this series that could possibly take over from any of the “Big Three”.
The first ten episodes of Nisekoi are out on Blu-Ray and DVD from Kaze. Both series can be streamed on Animax. The series is also released on Region A Blu-Ray from Aniplex.