Nisekoi Season 2 Review

Raku Ichijo, only son of the leader of the Shue-Gumi yakuza gang, and golden-haired Chitoge, only heir to the rival gang, have been made – unwillingly – to enter into an ‘engagement’ to bring an end to the rivalry between the two clans. But is Chitoge beginning to develop feelings for Raku? The sudden appearance of Hana, Chitoge’s formidable businesswoman mother, unexpectedly leads to Ichijo attempting to prove himself as her secretary. Can he make Chitoge’s wish to spend Christmas with her mother come true? And if he can, will this change the way the couple feel about each other? He still has not found the key to unlock his pendant – or the girl with whom he made that childhood promise ten years ago. And he still has feelings for sweet-natured Kosaki, the ‘girl next door’, not to mention orange-haired Marika (truth be told, she has feelings for him) and earnest bodyguard Seishirō… and now Kosaki’s younger sister Haru has just started high school and she won’t let Raku anyway near her beloved big sis…

And so we are treated to Marika’s parrot, the arrival of Seishirō’s rival Paula McCoy, the usual Valentine’s Day chocolate shenanigans, a swimsuit episode in which the friends clean the school outdoor pool, and an unexpectedly touching section where Raku’s infuriatingly upbeat friend Maiko reveals hidden feelings for someone at their school.

Raku makes an unusually likable protagonist for a harem series; he does his best, in spite of the many tribulations the adoring girls put him through. Their adulation (or love-hate) is expressed in so many increasingly ridiculous ways that it’s surprising he doesn’t snap and tell them where to get off. He is, after all, the son of a yakuza boss. But this is comedy la-la land and, in spite of the high school trappings of tests, uniforms, sempai and kouhai, Nisekoi is not striving for realism.

But what felt fresh and amusing in Season 1, begins to feel rather tired and repetitive in the second season. Nisekoi relies on the well-worn shtick of ‘which girl will he choose?’ with the all-important locket holding the clue. But as yet more girls are added into the mix, without any substantial progress in the main relationship, the series feels as if it’s spinning its wheels. It still looks a treat, with its bright colours and attractive character designs, and if you love the main girls (and their VAs) there’s a treat for you, as they all have their own Ending songs with kawaii animations to match. There’s even a spoof Magical Girl episode (#8) in which Kosaki becomes Magical Patissiere Girl.

Nisekoi benefits from a talented cast of experienced Japanese VAs (there is no US dub) with Kouki Uchiyama (Yuri Plisetsky in YOI) convincing and appealing as unfortunate hero Raku and a strong performance as Hana, Chitoge’s absent mother, from Megumi Toyoguchi (Winry Rockbell in Fullmetal Alchemist).

This review is about the DVDs (it’s also available on Blu-ray) and there are a couple of little issues that may bother some viewers. Four DVDs, with only three episodes per disc (and textless songs as the only extras). Subtitles in French or English (it’s from Kaze) – and they’re in white which makes them difficult to read against light backgrounds. Nice clear picture quality and sound but there were moments when I struggled to read the subtitles and keep up with the dialogue. Navigation is also a little clunky as you have to choose between French and English before you can proceed to the (always the same!) trailers which lead – eventually – to the main menu.

Tomoki Kikuya (Squid Girl, Hidamari Sketch) again provides the music which is appropriately lively. And I am indebted to the ANN database for the details of the many songs included in these twelve episodes! The main new upbeat OP, “Rally Go Round” by LiSA, accompanies a madcap bicycle-based sequence which soon escalates into flights of comic mayhem, setting an appropriate tone for this second series. The second, “Magical Styling”  by Kana Hanazawa (the VA for Kosaki Onodera) appears in Episode 8.

The cute Ending Themes, using the vocal talents of actresses playing the main female characters, are:

#1: “Aimai Hurts” by Nao Tōyama, Kana Hanazawa, Mikako Komatsu, & Kana Asumi (Episodes 1,3,6,9,12)

#2: “TrIGgER” by Mikako Komatsu/Seishiro (Episode 2)

#3: “Sleep zzz…” by Nao Tōyama / Chitoge (Episode 4)

#4: “Matadō Love” by Kana Asumi/Marika  (Episode 5)

#5: “marchen ticktack” by Ayane Sakura/ Haru Onodera (Episode 7)

#6: “Tōriame Drop ( Shower Drop) by Yumi Uchiyama/Ruri (Episode 10)

#7: “Crayon Cover” by Kana Hanasawa (Kosaki Onodera) (Episode 11)

Nisekoi relies heavily on the ‘will-they, won’t-they?’ variation on the harem scenario, teasing the audience (and the much put-upon hero) with many potential pairings as well as the main false ‘engagement’. By Season 2, patience with the ongoing audience-teasing is beginning to wear a little thin. All the little set-pieces are fine, but do they deliver any significant character development or advance the relationships at all? In summer 2016 it was announced by Weekly Shonen Jump that the manga (by Naoshi Komi) was building to a climax (shorthand for end) but the TV series is nowhere near anything so conclusive, leaving the viewer (well, this reviewer) longing for some proper plot resolution, not just hinting.

In Summary

Nisekoi still looks and sounds good and is a lively and colourful watch. But however fun spending time with Raku and the girls may be, this second season is little more than an entertaining diversion that doesn’t really deliver any answers to the underlying question. I guess we’ll just have to read the manga…

Title: Nisekoi Season 2
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Harem
Studio: Shaft
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Age rating: 12
Running time: 290 minutes

Score: 7/10

Details of We Are X Steelbook release announced

Manga Entertainment have revealed the details and artwork of their release of rockumentary We Are X, about Japan’s biggest rock band X Japan.

The Blu-ray Steelbook cover features artwork depicting the band’s frontman, drummer and pianist Yoshiki, drawn by Italian-born American comic book artist Becky Cloonan, who is most famous for being the first woman to draw DC Comics’ main Batman series of comics.

The release also features the following extras:

  • An eight-page booklet.
  • A fan video of the song “Born to be Free”.
  • Live video performances of the songs “Forever Love” and “Kurenai”.
  • Extended interviews with all the current members of X Japan.
  • Deleted scenes.

The Steelbook, which is the first Manga Entertainment’s Mondo x SteelBook® line, is scheduled to be released on 22nd May. A DVD release is also out on the same day. The soundtrack to the film is out now on CD and download – and on the first week of its release it topped the UK Rock & Metal Chart, came third in the UK Soundtrack Albums Chart, and 27th in the main UK Albums Chart – making the soundtrack the first X Japan album to chart in this country. It also came fourth in Japan’s Oricon Albm chart.

Click here to read Anime UK News’s review of the film.

Review of Nerima Daikon Brothers

Look at the darkest hit musicals – Cabaret, West Side Story, Carousel – they are exuberant experiences. They send you out of the theatre filled with music.”
– John Lithgow

While anime has covered many genres, one of the genres it has not delved into that much is the musical. Yes, there have been plenty of anime about music and bands such as K-On! and Love Live!, but in terms of a traditional musical, in which the characters often randomly burst into song, this is much rarer. One of the few examples is the comedy musical Nerima Daikon Brothers.

Set in the Nerima ward of Tokyo, the story focuses on a musical threesome. The central figure is Hideki, who owns his own field growing daikon (if you are not familiar with them, imagine a turnip that’s exactly the same shape as a thingy). His ambition in life is to build his own concert dome where he and the rest of his band, the Nerima Daikon Brothers, can perform to the locals. However, he is too poor to do so.

The other members of the band are Ichiro, the band’s straight-man who works in a host club. He is able to make just about anyone fall in love with him by giving them a slap across the face, but his main love is for small furry animals. The other brother is actually a female cousin. This is Mako, a former idol from Okayama (she still has the accent) who Hideki is in love with. Mako constantly points out to him that they cannot marry because they are cousins – although Ichiro frequently points out that under Japanese law, marriage between cousins is legal. Mako is actually in love with Ichiro thanks to his slapping. There is also arguably a fourth member of the band; Pandaikon, a small panda that is constantly eating Hideki’s daikon, but is spared by Ichiro thanks to his love of animals – a love that almost borders on the bestial.

In each episode, the trio are constantly trying to find a way to raise the money to build their concert dome. This normally leads them into conflict with several villains who are trying to make a quick buck (or rather yen) for themselves, so the Brothers are constantly in need of things to fight back and take the bad guys’ money. The person they go to is the owner of a rental shop – who is actually the show’s director Shinichi Watanabe reprising a role he previously played in surreal comedy Excel Saga. He offers the band useful tools in exchange for a song (actually it is always the same tune, but with the words tweaked every time to suit the situation).

The band’s schemes normally cause more damage than they’re worth, and their schemes later fall under the suspicious eye of local cop Detective Yukika Karakuri, a woman armed with all sorts of crazy gadgets. At first she suspects the band of being up to no good, but as the series goes on she ends up admiring the group, and Pandaikon especially, going crazy for him every time he touches her. Ultimately, the roots of all these plans find their way to the very top of Japanese society, including the Prime Minister – by which I mean a direct parody of then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, looking like a lion.

Obviously the music is the main appeal to the show. The music is great, full of funny numbers. These include not just the songs towards the rental shop owner, but Hideki expressing his love for Mako, Mako expressing her love for Dom Perignon champagne, and Ichiro expressing his disturbing love for Pandaikon. Some viewers may get tired of the fact that some of the tunes are used over and over again, but at least the dialogue is changed to suit the situation. The opening title song, “Ma·Ji·Ya·Ba” is wonderful, and one of the extras is the live-action music video performed by the actors. However, on the DVD menu this is seemingly hidden away, accessed by scrolling down the bottom of the menu on Disc 1, and the icon selecting your choice is not over any text. I slightly unsure as to whether this is an Easter Egg or just shoddy menu design. You also get the textless opening and closing, as well as episode commentaries on both discs.

The other main draw is the comedy, which differs from most comedy in anime in that quite a lot of it is satirical. For example, the character based on Prime Minister Koizumi looks like a lion because in real life his hair was described as looking like a lion’s mane and he embraced it. The character’s plans are to privatise the whole of Nerima, a reference to his then-real plans to privatise Japan’s postal service. All these topical references will fly by the average British viewer unless you look everything up, but on the surface there are still loads of laughs.

One example occurs in the very first episode. Ichiro is harassed in his host club by a gay customer who is a band manager, where all of the subtext indicates that he is giving Ichiro a hand job (cue lots of cutaways to sausages as Ichiro groans). Later on, the whole band meet the same manager, where Hideki tries to impress the manager similarly, with his thingy being represented by a daikon. This routine is based on an actual boy band manager, Johnny Kitagawa, who was once subject to claims that he had sexually abused the boys he managed. Thus you can either laugh at the satirical comments made against Kitagawa, or at some gags about wanking someone off.

I would definitely recommend giving Nerima Daikon Brothers a watch, partly because it differs to most anime in several ways: there are very few musical anime, very few satirical anime, and very few anime that can make you laugh as much while also providing you with rather catchy tunes.

Title: Nerima Daikon Brothers
Publisher: Anime Limited
Genre: Comedy, Musical
Studio: Studio Hibari
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2006
Format: DVD
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 9/10