Nisekoi is a romantic comedy manga wrote by Naoshi Komi. The name literally means “Fake Love.” The manga follows the romantic misadventures of Raku Ichijou and Chitoge Kirisaki. Raku is the son of the yakuza faction Shuei-Gumi. Chitoge is the daughter of a rival gang called Beehive. The two are forced to “fake date” for 3 years by their fathers to end the feuds between their gangs. The only problem: they can’t stand each other.
Raku carries a locked pendant from childhood. Ten years ago, he gave a key and a promise to his childhood sweetheart. Raku hopes his crush, Kosaki Onodera, is the one with the key. If only it was that simple!
The high school romance has about 12 love triangles that wrap around Raku. The manga features the usual caste of archetypes. Chitoge is the foreigner and tsundere. The glasses sporting support character (and Kosaki’s best friend) is Ruri Miayamoto. Raku’s best friend, Shu Maiko, is the perverted boy with all the connections and plots. Kosaki is the kind, sweet, and kawaii with the talent of making terrible food despite working in a dessert shop. Even the teacher is an instigator of trouble for Chitoge and Raku.
What romantic manga would be complete without the Japanese hot spring scene, vignettes of cute outfits, and awkward misunderstandings? Nisekoi has these in plenty. The manga has some nudity, but well placed steam and bubbles keeps the scenes decent. I found these scenes quite funny.
While fairly typical, I found Nisekoi entertaining. The characters are endearing. I particularly like Raku. Although he is stereotypically dense and clueless at times, he isn’t as bad as other characters. He tends not to speak about what he notices until pressed.
He doesn’t get a nosebleed at the least sight of skin. In fact, the only nosebleed scene I remember is when Chitoge and Raku appear in their maiko costumes for the New Year festival. I find this refreshing compared to the constant nasal hemorrhages common for boys in this type of story. Raku is a genuinely nice guy and worries about if he is stringing along the other girls who seem to be after him. He is conflicted about fake dating Chitoge when he likes Kosaki.
The locked pendant idea takes the idea of someone having a “key to one’s heart” to a literal mystery. It creates an interesting emotional conflict as well later in the manga.
Chitoge is a fairly typical tsundere. The manga bases some misunderstandings on the fact she is from America and doesn’t speak Japanese fluently. Although some of this is glossed over by the translation I read. The gangs forcing Raku and Chitoge to date feels a little contrived, but luckily it isn’t much of a focus. Their fathers were friends before taking control of rival gangs so it makes sense they would try to find peace and use their children as a means to that end. Chitoge undergoes a lot of character changes over the course of the manga; more than Raku does. These changes and the influence on her personality make her an interesting character.
Kosaki experiences character changes as well. The story doesn’t spend as much time on her as on Chitoge. Kosaki learns to be more assertive and faces difficult emotions toward Raku and Chitoge. She is understated compared to Chitoge and held up as more of an ideal girl. She is heartwarming and shy. She is oblivious to her popularity with the guys. In many regards she is about as dense as Raku, much to Ruri’s exasperation.
Nisekoi is mostly written from Raku’s perspective; however, the manga targets girls more than guys. Outside a few scenes, there is little in the way of fan-service typically targeted toward guys. Even those scenes, like the hot-springs chapter, play more toward the female audience with the jokes.
The scanlation I read had a fair amount of foul language. While I am uncertain if this is a direct translation, the language does reflect how Raku and Chitoge are from gangs operating outside the law.
Nisekoi is enjoyable. The artwork sometimes breaks down to the point it because difficult to see individual characters during action scenes. Most of the time, the artwork is crisp and expressive. The page layouts are visually interesting yet not jumbled. The story is typical, but well done. The manga is not without problems, but the characters are likeable and well designed. I found myself chuckling at the jokes and antics. I genuinely felt for Raku, Chitoge, and Kosaki. Over all, the manga is enjoyable and worth a read if you enjoy romantic comedies.