It is that time of the season again. Where that legendary anime studio, that every anime fan and their mother knows the name of, Shaft, comes with another adaptation where they put their own technical chops into. Regardless of whatever manga or light novel they want to adapt, especially when Akiyuki Shinbo is head of production, they always want to shift their own spin on it to make it their own unique vision. The results are either really good or very mediocre. Thankfully with Shaft’s recent show, Nisekoi, it is one of those on their filmography that deserves to be on the former side of the spectrum.
There is nothing really much to criticize or praise about Nisekoi’s plot, under the premise that there’s not much that you could regard as a significant plot. While it isn’t magnificent, the show doesn’t really try to build it up as anything but silly and frivolous in its storytelling, which leads into its comedic writing. Even when Nisekoi tries to be serious and heartwarming, it still has an edge where it comes across as pandering silliness to it to, to the point where it comes off almost as parody. What does save the show from being terrible from this angle is the comedic writing being very spot-on and sharp in its dialogue, and how the show presents it in its pacing. Shaft’s idea of comedy come from Shinbo’s great direction, with his recognizable camera angles and his obsession with putting it directly at a character’s face whenever a significant comedic moment happens. The comedic timing has a great hook to it as well. With the experimental editing, it makes the comedic timing and its pacing stand out very nicely.
Directly in-conjunction with the comedy in what makes Nisekoi appealing to watch is the characters. All are very diverse in their personalities, based on their own archetype that they fill in for the plot. Right away, you can clearly see how these roles seem very similar in tropes; the loud-mouthed tsundere, the long-time childhood friend who has a crush on the protagonist, the protagonist’s perverted friend and so on. Like I said before, the self-parodied way Shaft implements its comedy doesn’t necessarily put down the characters from having these cliched tropes, with the exception of the perverted friend who doesn’t leave much of an impression. Most of them still have enormous charm and charisma to their personalities, which make them worthwhile to laugh out loud towards. What does make a harem cast extremely well done is the fact that you find all of the characters likable, and in that respect, you wouldn’t mind whoever the protagonist goes out with. I could consider Nisekoi, along with Sora no Otoshimono and Boku wa Tomodachi, to be one of the few that actually fulfills this aspect quite nicely.
To start picking out characters individually, our main protagonist, Ichijou, actually proves to be a likable character in spite what many might point out how he never seems to bat an eye to how certain girls might see him. Chitoge, the beautiful blonde girl and our main heroine, is a ton of fun to see in many hilarious attempts at being entertaining from her charming personality and studious stature, despite being fragile underneath it. Our childhood friend character, Onodera, might seem like the most uninteresting out of the rest at first, but as she grows onto you, she is in no shortage of getting a lot of laughs and cuteness, thanks in part to Kana Hanazawa’s great performance. The tomboy of this lovely harem is named Tsumugi, who has less screen-time than most of the girls. This shouldn’t knock down the significant aura she ushers in Nisekoi, that and I’m a huge sucker for tomboys. Finally we have Marika, the snooty and conniving girl that promised marriage from a childhood oath to our protagonist. Even though I wouldn’t call her out as being kind of dull and overly conniving in too many places, the writers all did a decent job of adding in some twists here and there to make her at least stand out to the crowd.
The quality of animation brought by Shaft in Nisekoi is absurd and almost incomprehensible in some places to describe from how they portray certain comedic situations. However, whether it goes through those hilarious situations or not, the animation still has that same spark of creativity that Shaft has been known for since their inception. Their ability to transcend all of the characters’ art designs into deformed designs create a very visceral outlook to the insane amount of wacky humor that is present in Nisekoi. On the technical side of things, there are no obvious signs of corners being cut with the budget that Shaft had to work around with. Characters flow fluidly enough to garner some recognition for the animators who worked hard on making the girls look very cute and funny in motion.
Audio department is in no short of brilliance for Nisekoi, besides the fact that the music is nothing too special from the usual synthesizer instrumentation that you typically hear in most anime shows. Nisekoi gathers some of the best voice actors in the business that all work extremely well together, adding to the characters’ distinctive voices. Kana Hanazawa has definitely redeemed herself after a couple of underwhelming shows these past two seasons by playing the lovable Onodera. Her attempts at being embarrassed are in no short of hilarity and cuteness from her brilliant talent. The recent starlet, Nao Touyama, plays the heroine Chitoge, and she is definitely having a ball with playing her in what can be considered her first tsundere role. Needless to say, she needs to play more in her future career. The last one in the main cast is Kouki Uchiyama, who plays harem protagonists that can be hit or miss, but he actually does a pretty nice job with Ichijou in giving him a nice needed level of sympathy and style to his comedic performance.
Observing the overall basis for Nisekoi will leave people feeling that Nisekoi only adds more on the table of bland romance shows in a harem on the drawing board. The strange truth is that it definitely is, but the show doesn’t try to be what it’s not. It’s proud of being another generic harem show and proudly displays itself out of the rest. That might seem like a strange recommendation at first, but when you have the brilliant team behind Shaft that adds so much layers of depth to the show’s comedy and characters, there are very few things not to like about Nisekoi. This and many other shows that Shaft has made that are similar to Nisekoi are living proof that you can guarantee the talent Shaft has in creating a story that is seemingly done before, but adds fresh twists to it to make it feel exciting enough to sit down and watch it from beginning to end.