The best of the best girl competitions, aka the waifu wars, is back in full swing with Nisekoi’s second season. So is this high-quality cliché-filled rom-com harem for you? Well...Did you like season one?
*Obviously there will be some spoilers in regard to what happens in season one.*
One of the best things going for Nisekoi during its first season was its fun and diverse cast of characters and season two is no different. If you enjoyed the first season with all of its harem hijinks you will find a lot to love about the new situations, continued misunderstandings and impromptu competitions between our four returning girls and the newest addition, Onodera’s imouto Haru. Each of them gets at least a full episode to call her own, highlighting what makes her unique and reinforcing her connection with Raku.
Retaining the smart writing and comedic time that made the first season so successful, there were plenty of times where I had no choice but to laugh out loud at the absurdity that was playing out on screen. Mixed into all of this were some surprisingly honest and touching moments, especially surrounding Chitoge and her very strained relationship with her mother, Hana. We even get treated to the ‘spin-off’ Magical Pâtissière Kosaki where our favorite girls get to play at magical girls and fight none other than the cunning and devious Shu.
BTW, Tsugumi is best girl.
SHAFT does a great job in its presentation of Nisekoi. The color palette is both vast and pleasing to the eye, there are small details in every scene, the animation is consistently smooth and our cast is expressive with both face and body. Include all of the extreme close-ups, occasional head tilts and excellent framing and you will have no trouble knowing which studio produced this show. Boldly moving from one style to another to fit the mood of the moment, the quality of the work put into this season leaves nothing wanting. It just looks really good and the shoujo visual effects exist in such abundance that you may very well suffer a sweetness overdose during each episode.
Along with it’s fantastic look, Nisekoi also has a great soundtrack highlighted by one of the better OPs of this last season with Rally Go Round. Emphasizing each scene duly the sound design and effects lend just the right tone and nuance to each moment allowing the viewer to enjoy it to the fullest. Another touch that I really appreciated was the six different EDs that the show had over its twelve episode cour. The standard ED played after seven of the episodes, but each of the five main girls received an individual ED focused on them and sang by their respective voice actress, this is something I can’t help but acknowledge and is a level of detail you do not often see. I don’t have a favorite out of the five, but the most ridiculous, at least visually, would have to be Haru’s. I really wish I could find a link to it, because whether you are a fan of the series or not, it begs to be watched.
If anyone has a link to Haru’s ED please share it in the comments and I will add it in.
The new characters introduced this season are a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to quality, from stellar to down right annoying. The best would be Ms. Hana, Chitoge’s mother, who steals every scene that she is in by virtue of her overwhelming presence. Anyone that can domineer the yakuza with a glance and calmly deliver a pizza in the middle of a gang war, all the while making it seem the most natural thing in the world, is alright in my book. Providing some of the best dramatic content of the season, her relationship with Chitoge is explored in such a way that it comes across as surprisingly realistic even when played out be such surreal characters. We may only get a couple episodes to enjoy this storm in a bottle, but it is the highlight of the season.
On the flip side to Hana are both Paula McCoy, Tsugumi’s friend/coworker/rival/stalker, and Haru Onodera. Paula as a character is not so much the issue, as I felt that she played off of Tsugumi quite well and the second episode, where she was introduced, was appropriately over the top and included a fantastic spy vs. spy sequence as both tried to steal a kiss from Raku first. The problem comes from how she was used during the rest of the season, and by that I mean basically not at all. She was there and made a couple of additional appearances but was otherwise ignored, which is a shame.
Now to discuss Haru, to any of her fans reading this, sorry, but I am about to offend you. Haru was far and away the worst addition to the cast this season, putting her below even a parrot. Both aggravatingly obstinate and annoyingly possessive of her sister, Haru is still given a place as a harem member, and two plus episodes, by virtue of nothing but the plot and the whim of the author. She does manage to improve during the season to the point of bearability, but replace her with any of the other girls and the show would be improved by it.
I love the supporting cast for this show, they help to make it what it is. So when I got to witness an episode dedicated almost entirely to Shu I could not have been happier, it doesn’t hurt that it was also one of the better episodes of the season. But that was as far as it went and though Ruri was there, like Paula, she was relegated to token appearances and was never given a time to shine, which is sad as I like her even more than Shu. Oh, and those yakuza guys? Yeah, don’t expect to see them in more than one scene all season, as funny as they can be they’re only given about two lines, total.
Much of the drama of this entire series has revolved around one thing, Raku’s locket, which supposedly contains a clue to which girl it was that he made a certain promise to ten years ago. The mcguffin of the first season, it helped push the development and the interactions of the characters, as each of the girls carried a key, but with Chitoge’s key breaking in the lock during the first season it contents were put on hold.
Season two starts off with the return of the locket to Raku from the locksmith hired to fix it. And that is it. After claiming that the lock is broken to the point that the smith can neither fix or open it, a claim I would find dubious from a real locksmith, as I personally know several, but I digress. It is at this point that the locket is all but forgotten and ignored for the remainder of the season. It gets to show up here and there, but even during the one sequence where it may have been able to push some relationship progression it is not used whatsoever, just handed right back. All of which is symptomatic of an even greater problem.
Going into this season of Nisekoi I was well aware of the property’s predilection toward stagnating progress in the relationships between Raku and the now five girls that make up the harem, as any actions that would lead to him making a choice would break the required balance the show needs to maintain the status quo. If this were to happen the show would be forced to become something else entirely or come to an end. Accepting all of this, I was still disappointed in this season. Maybe it was a truly unrealistic hope, but I had expected as least some of the character development that occurred this season to matter, then the last episode happened.
I won’t go into the details as to what exactly happened, but come the close of the finale, events conspired to basically reset everything that had happened during the course of the season. Someone that has never seen Nisekoi could choose to skip the second season entirely, once the inevitable third season airs, and other than the introduction of Hana, Paula and Haru not actually miss anything story development wise. I love rom-coms and am usually willing to forgive then their often slow and methodical pacing, but Nisekoi went too far this time. It is hard to recommend any show that pulls the rug out from under your expectations this hard.
If you are a fan of rom-coms, especially those involving a harem, there is a lot to recommend in Nisekoi, including its high production values and entertaining cast of characters. But it also suffers from one of the greatest pitfalls of the genre, lack of progress and does so to a startling degree. If you liked the first season you will most likely enjoy season two as well, just prepare yourself for nothing of substance to happen.
Nisekoi is adapted from an ongoing manga published in Weekly Shounen Jump and is written and illustrated by Naoshi Komi.
Proton’s thoughts midway through season 2:
UI 2.0’s review of season 1:
If you liked this review how about another?:
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