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Episode 3

by Theron Martin,

After spending an episode focused on Seishiro dealing with a newcomer from her past, the series' attention now reverts to Chitoge, who gets her own newcomer (technically) from her past to deal with: her own mother. While that still involves plenty of stabs at humor, it also takes some uncharacteristically serious character development turns.

With a daughter like Chitoge, a husband who is a mob boss, and her not being in the scene (or even, for that matter, mentioned) to this point, Hana Kirisaki figured to be either a classic “iron fist in a velvet glove” type or a real piece of work. Nisekoi: takes the latter approach. She is the ultimate anime CEO, a woman who is constantly on the go and intimidating like few others can be; even her husband, who is the master of a criminal organization, is helpless before her. (We'll pass off that a true CEO could never get away with being literally married to a mob boss as typical anime hyperbole.)This is, of course, taken to ludicrous extremes, such as using a skyline to travel in between nearby buildings when going down to ground level to cross over would take too long, but it's the kind of role normally reserved in anime for a father, so in a sense it is progressive. That also, of course, means that she has not been much of a mother to Chitoge, as Raku learns first from speaking to Chitoge about her mother and later from seeing Hana in action when he gets shanghaied into temporarily serving as her fill-in secretary/gopher. That's where the serious aspect comes into play, especially when Hana's remark that she is too busy for Chitoge because other people need her hits in such cuttingly ironic fashion; as Raku observes himself, Hana is so wrapped up in her world that she is completely missing that her daughter is one of those people, too. The episode ends on the franchise's most sobering note to date, with Chitoge divesting herself of the red ribbon she has always worn – the one that her mother once gave to her – after her mother failed to recognize its significance and berated her for wearing something so frayed.

The franchise has played around with visual imagery a great deal over its run, but it shows here that it can handle symbolic actions just as well when it wants to. Exactly how far it will run with this will be interesting to see, as while this episode handles the more dramatic turn just fine, the franchise as a whole does not have the foundation to handle going in a dramedy direction over the long term. Hence my suspicion is that this will be resolved in one more episode and then things will be back to normal. Regardless of how it plays out, though, it does expand further on the greater development of Chitoge seen in the first episode of this season.

The episode also impresses in one other aspect: its fashion sense. The dress Chitoge wears for the reception for her mother is a design marvel, to the point that I have to wonder if a professional fashion designer wasn't consulted on it. Her mother also looks incredibly sharp, though hardly your stereotypical female CEO; in fact, she's the most striking-looking character yet to appear in the series. The background design of the ball room where the reception takes place is no slouch, either. Also keep an eye out for director Simbo's penchant for tossing in blink-and-you'll-miss-it visual gags, such as the alligator being wheeled on a serving tray in one momentary shot.

While far from the funniest episode to date, this is one of the strongest, to the point that it shows that the series can, after all, sustain itself without characters bouncing off each other.

Rating: B+

Nisekoi: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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