Life is never easy, as Raku Ichijo (the star of Nisekoi: False Love) will attest to. Raku’s aspirations for the immediate future are to graduate from high school, get into a good university and eventually settle down doing a civil service job. The likelihood of that ever happening is however zilch as Raku is the son of a Yakuza (Japanese mobster.) Try as he might he is unable to escape the world of organized crime, especially now that a rival group of gangsters has shown up in town signalling the start of a turf war.
Raku’s pop, who happens to be the head of the Shuei-Gumi faction, has however devised a plan to cease the conflict. Inspired by ancient times, when warring nations would settle disputes by marrying off their monarchs, Raku’s dad proposes that his son begin dating the daughter of the Beehive Gangsters’ leader. Raku is less than thrilled by the idea and even less so when he discovers that the object of his affections is none other than Chitoge Kirisaki – a transfer student who recently joined his class. To say that the two don’t get along is an understatement (Raku refers to Chitoge as Gorilla Girl due to her unnatural physical strength and bouts of violence.)
For the sake of peace the pair must maintain the farce of being lovey-dovey with each other. As long as Raku and Chitoge appear to be in a relationship each of the syndicate’s underlings will halt their bickering and instead cheer on for young love. Should the sham get exposed however you can bet that things will revert back to all out warfare on the streets of Japan. How long the charade will last is anyone’s guess though as Raku and Chitoge are constantly squabbling. It also doesn’t help that Claude, a Beehive henchman who is devoted to Chitoge, suspects that something is amiss. Wherever the couple goes he is close behind observing from the shadows, ready to expose the fraud and free Chitoge from the stifling arrangement.
To complicate matters even further Raku’s heart already belongs to another lady. Ten years ago he proposed to a girl he met during a vacation, although he has since forgotten the face of his summer fling. If genders were an animal men would have to be goldfish. Our memory is so bad that we cannot recall the date of anniversaries or even the facial features of our betrothed! One clue Raku can go on is that his would be fiancée carries the key to the locket he always wears. If Nisekoi’s early chapters are to be believed the owner of said key may coincidentally be his classmate Kosaki Onodera. Kosaki has a crush on Raku, but is unable to confess her feelings to him as to the outside world it appears that Raku’s bogus relationship with Chitoge is genuine.
My final rating for Nisekoi: False Love (Volume One) is a lowish three stars. It has some funny moments, but I couldn’t get invested in the story due to the characters. Raku is the typical bland and weedy male you find in harem shows, which the book seems to acknowledge by nicknaming him Bean Sprout Boy. Chitoge is hard to like, as she is extremely mean to Raku even when he is making an effort to be nice to her. There are a few occasions were she acts sweet, but they feel like a forced effort from the writer to keep the plausibility of the two eventually hooking up alive. As a reader I suppose we are meant to root for Kosaki to whisk Raku away from his plight, but she is infuriatingly passive. From what I have seen thus far she is content to shyly watch from the sidelines as the love of her life gets snatched away by the blonde harpy… erm gorilla.
I am curious to see how the love triangle will eventually get resolved, but given that the series appears in Shonen Jump magazine (home of the never ending Bleach and One Piece) I suspect the writer will string along this tale for hundreds of chapters until the franchise becomes unprofitable. If you have a higher tolerance for comedic harems, than me, you can purchase the paperback from Amazon for £6. Digital readers can buy the Kindle edition for just £3 or subscribe to the Shonen Jump app to check out the latest chapters as they become available.