I am a huge fan of Naoshi Komi’s Nisekoi romantic comedy manga and have been reading it since the international release of the Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine. Of course, I was absolutely ecstatic when an anime adaptation was announced – especially as it was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (which I absolutely love!) and it was premièring a mere eight days before my birthday. With each new tidbit of news, my excitement would increase ten-fold until the day when the anime would finally begin and now that it has, I may as well give some of my thoughts regarding its first episode:
For those of you who don’t know, the story of Nisekoi revolves around Raku Ichijo who is the son of a yakuza boss – except he doesn’t want to take over the “family business”, he wants to study hard and become a salaryman (which is apparently the Japanese dream). Raku treasures a locket he wears around his neck, which was given to him by a girl he made a promise with ten years ago – that he would take the lock and she the key, then when they reunite they will open the locket and get married. While on his way to school one day, Raku has a run-in with Chitoge Kirisaki, who is in a hurry – in fact, a more apt description of the “run-in” would be that she jumped over a wall and kneed him in the face. The two already got off to a rough start, but even Chitoge transferring into Raku’s class was nothing compared to the revelation that she is the daughter of a rival mafia syndicate and to avoid a war between the two families, the two will have to pretend to be lovers for three years!
This first episode basically sets that scenario up, slowly introducing the viewer to both Raku and Chitoge and emphasising their interactions together before the big bomb-shell is revealed at the end. From their first meeting it is clear that these two simply do not get along (in fact, Chitoge hit Raku in the face after he called he compared her to a primate) and the negative reactions when one is made to help the other is mutual. The fact that we get to know the pair before the bombshell is dropped on them really adds to the absolute hilarity of the situation, as we can already see how mismatched they are!
I love the way the anime opens with the original “Zawsze in Love” scene, showing it with a flickering border and dialogue written across the screen as if it were a silent movie, with the only colour coming the nearby scenery, such as the glowing orange sky and green grass.
After that brief introduction, the episode opens up with Raku Ichijo in a dark room preparing a meal in a wonderfully choreographed scene that is given an unusual atmosphere from the prominent green lighting. Honestly, I do have to question the choice of lighting as really…who would want to cook in the dark?
The animation for this series is absolutely stunning – which should come as no surprise from SHAFT, whose recent shows are done no real justice unless viewed on blu-ray. As with Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Mitakihara Middle School, the school in Nisekoi is given a unique and impressive design. In fact, the episode as a whole features such a high quality of animation that it’s already set the bar pretty high for the year and it’s only January!
The first episode stays extremely close to the opening chapter of the original manga with only a few deviations (the scene where the pair are asked to take over of the school’s animals is cut drastically short compared to the manga, but the scene was hardly important in the grand schemes of things. There was one line that was cut short that really shouldn’t have been though: when Raku flips out at Chitoge, in the manga he says “I did it, I yelled at a girl. I really, didn’t act like a man” while in the anime, it’s cut short to simply say “I did it, I yelled at a girl” which really mixes up the signals and could give the wrong intention to those unfamiliar with the series and Raku as a character.
As a fan of the manga, I was worried about whether the voices I imagine in my head would match those chosen in the animation, but I am extremely happy to say that the voice cast for the Nisekoi anime is easily one of its greatest strengths. Kōki Uchiyama is the perfect Raku, being able to show his emotive range with such precision that it sounds incredibly natural. Nao Toyama may sound a bit too perky at first to be Chitoge, but the way she can quickly change into the more hot-headed “barbarian” (as Raku calls her) shows a similar familiarity with the character that suits Chitoge perfectly. The most stand-out though, has to be Kana Hanazawa as Onodera. Onodera’s character may not be as multi-layered as Raku and Chitoge, but Kana’s resume of past characters make her a perfect fit for Onodera’s more timid demeanour. Even Yūki Kaji’s brief appearance as Shū Maiko in this episode shows the playful wit of the character in a tone deep enough to make his more wiser words later in the series not feel out of place. Whoever was in charge of selecting the cast needs to be paid more money for such a fantastic job!
My only complaint would be that at times, I think Shinbo has forgotten that isn’t directing Puella Magi Madoka Magica as often, scenes are very oddly coloured, with some of them as if they were meant to be a witch’s labyrinth and whoever designed the animation for the opening theme really pressed the “invert colour” option too many times.
There is one thing that does make me think though – in the series’ opening theme, the characters Tsumugi and Tachibana are obscured, shown only as silhouettes. I can understand Tachibana to an extent because of the role she plays, but Tsugumi doesn’t really play any significance in the story and there’s also the fact that both characters have already been revealed, with footage of them shown at JUMP Festa (seriously, way to spoil the surprise!). At least this implies that the series is possibly going to last for more than a single season though, with the first half of the series establishing the Raku-Chitoge-Onodera love triangle and the other characters being introduced just before the second half of the series, or if it is to only be 12/13 episodes long (which would be a huge shame), they’ll simply be uncovered upon being introduced.
To be honest, the first time I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after watching the episode for the first time due to the classic SHAFT weird designs (a part of me still wonders if maybe AIC Build who animated Oreimo might have been a better choice for animating the series), but on a rewatch I absolutely loved it. The year has only just begun and Nisekoi certainly has raised some high standards for the rest of 2014!
If you want to read the original manga, Viz Media is serialising it at the same time as the Japanese release with the Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine, if you wish to explore the romantic comedy from the very start, the full volumes have been available digitally for a while now and the first volume will be available in print from next week (so expect a review of that!).