Episodes 1 & 2
by Theron Martin,
Note: Because I fully commented on episode 1 in the Spring Preview Guide, this review will focus almost entirely on episode 2.
In my review of the first episode I expressed concerns about the series going down a worrisome path with Chitoge realizing her feelings for Raku. This episode dodges that entirely by simply never having her appear at all. In fact, episode 2 is literally a three-person show: only Raku, Seishiro, and new character Paula McCoy (the pale-haired girl in the opener) appear in it. Even background characters never appear, as the venues where the action take place might as well be happening in a setting otherwise devoid of people. That doesn't mean the potential problem with the series getting bogged down by Chitoge's new feelings has gone away; it has just been delayed.
Perhaps because of that, though, the series is back to its regular spirit of fun. The plot here was probably was not fresh even back when Ranma ½ used a version of it in the early '90s: a figure from Seishiro's past, a young woman who had idolized and worked with Seishiro before she up and left for Japan, has tracked her down and become disgusted with how placid she now seems. Eager to see the return of the old “Black Tiger,” Paula forces Seishiro into a fight, only to get more than she bargained for, because when Seishiro's buttons are pushed, she can become a force of abstract terror (rather literally). Raku gets roped into this (again rather literally at one point) because he happens to be on hand when Paula issues the challenge, and Paula figures that if she can beat Seishiro at anything, it's in winning a kiss from Raku – by force, if necessary. And indeed, that is a problem for Seishiro, since unlike her mistress she has yet to come to terms with being in love with Raku. Lots of slapstick humor results, including comically overblown duels between Seishiro and Paula, and Paula's extremist interpretations of what Seishiro was like back when she was known as Black Tiger and good for laughs, too.
All of this, of course, utterly fails any kind of realism check, but the whole “teen assassin” thing is supposed to be absurd, as Raku recognizes himself. What matters is that enough of it is actually funny for it to be entertaining. The artwork supports this with some nicely-chosen abstracts which resemble Post-Impressionist artistry and other dramatic distortions of Seishiro, although simpler shots like an elaborate lighting system on the ceiling of Seishiro's (fortress-like) apartment are also interesting touches. The choreography of the initial fight between Seishiro and Paula is also quite involved, although the animation isn't quite good enough to fully keep up with it.
Nisekoi has always been a bit more artistically ambitious than most other harem series, and this episode is probably its most ambitious. It certainly runs smoother than episode 1, but can this be taken as a sign that the series is now back on track?
Nisekoi: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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