Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nisekoi: Fake Love, True Problems

Nisekoi is not the first romantic comedy to run in Shounen Jump.

However, it does stick out due to how self-aware it is. It shamelessly grabs a bunch of romantic harem comedy tropes and plays them completely straight.

Sadly, that's also the manga's biggest weakness.

I usually don't talk about mangaka in this post, but I'll make an exception here.

Komi Naoshi is the mangaka behind Nisekoi.

He's also the guy behind Double Arts, a short running series in Shounen Jump. He's also done a few one-shots. If you're familiar with his work, then you know the guy can come up with some fairly interesting premises.

If you haven't read anything written by the guy other than Nisekoi, you're probably scratching your head now. Nisekoi is many things, but original isn't really one of them.

Nisekoi is what you get when you grab every harem comedy cliche in the book and put them all together.

You have the childhood promise with a gir, the obvious protagonist, and, of course, the cute girls who like him. There is the tsundere, the tomboy, the sick girl, the shy one, and so on. You have the wacky hijinks and the mystery of who the real promise girl is.

At the same time, Nisekoi is very self-aware as a romantic comedy.

Niseoki is one of those manga that's painfully aware of what it is. This is easy to see in the characters of Shuu and Ruri.

The two of them exist almost outside the romantic comedy. They are both fully aware of everything that's going on and, in a sense, represent two different types of audience.

Ruri is the girl who can't stand the plot she is in. She wants to grab Oonodera and Raku by the throat and tell them they are both in love. She thinks the whole thing is silly and is really tired of dealing with this crap.

Shuu is more romantic. He's tolerant. He sees the whole thing as a necessary step. Sure, he could save Raku a lot of trouble, but then Raku wouldn't grow from it... plus, it's also a source of endless amusement for him. There is that too.

Because Nisekoi is self-aware, it manages to play around the common tropes in just the right way to keep things fun. It knows when to play things completely straight and it knows when to stop to poke fun at then.

Chitoge may be a tsundere but she's not a violent bitch. Far from it really. In fact, the way Raku gets treated by the girls never crosses into annoying or violent. Unlike, say, Infinite Stratos.

However, that doesn't mean it gets to avoid all the pitfalls.                                      

Who could she like?
For starters, Raku.

He's the main character so naturally he's completely oblivious to all the girls liking him.

At the beginning of the manga, it is amusing. As the manga continues, it starts to wear thin, and in these past chapters it's gotten seriously annoying.

However, let's look at it from the other side for once.

What happens when the protagonist knows the girls like him?

It's a Mystery
Picture it. You're a guy. Girls like you.

More importantly, the girl you have a crush on likes you.

If you have anything resembling a spine, you're going to ask her out, because why wouldn't you? She likes you. You like her. She's going to say yes. You both want this. At which point, your romantic comedy is over. Harem leads are usually obvious and/or spineless, because otherwise it'd be porn.

Keeping the status quo is one of the main building blocks of this type of manga. Nisekoi knows this hence the premise of the Fake Relationship.

Sadly, that premise stopped working a long time ago. Nisekoi cannot escape this biggest danger in all harem comedies.

See, every harem comedy has a built in time-bomb. Eventually the laughs end.

Only one girl wins.

We might call them harem manga, but they rarely are. Usually, only one girl wins, and that means all the other girls lose.

Worst girl wins is all too common.

Hell, even when the worst girl doesn't win, the fact remains a harem comedy is a game you know you'll lose more often than not. Only one girl gets to win, which means the girl you want to win almost never does.

Since actual harem endings are, for whatever crazy insane reason, rare, when the comedy ends you know all but one of the girls are going to be heartbroken.

That's sad.

Nisekoi is nearing its end and it's not clever enough to avoid this one common pitfall.

Raku is going to have to choose. This means every girl must eventually go through a rejection. You got to shave them off one by one to leave only the true heroine standing.

It sucks.

Beyond my favorite pairing just not happening, the current chapters just highlight the worst parts of Nisekoi and of Raku as a character. Previously, his obviousness could be amusing.

However, when you have Marika pouring her heart out to him and him being unable to do anything... then, it stops being funny.

It was the same with Yui a couple of chapters earlier. Even if they were never going to win (despite Marika's surprising popularity), an honest rejection is the least they deserve.

It is possible Nisekoi will wrap up thing on a good note, but I doubt it. 

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