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

Future Diary – Part 2 Review

future diary part 2 cover

This review will contain spoilers for Future Diary – Part 1

The game to win the title of God is still afoot, and all major players seem to have their eye on eliminating Yuki Amano first and foremost. How does Yuno Gasai attempt to fix the problem? Drugging, kidnapping, stripping and chaining Yuki inside a large abandoned building, setting up traps around them so no one can get in, and waiting it out until all the other players have kicked the bucket. Yuki’s friends plan on rescuing him and getting Yuno far away from him as possible, but our pink-haired psychopath has other ideas which come into full view once the remaining players start dropping one by one.

In the review for the first half of Future Diary I barely mentioned the infamous Yuno, and there were reasons for that. One of them is mostly due to spoilers. Granted; the nature of her being utterly insane is not a spoiler as it’s very clear from Episode 1, but the way she gradually deteriorates over the first half of the series is. There have been series in the past that toy with the idea of a protagonist being a crazy love-struck borderline-abusive person but normally it’s played for laughs and eventually disregarded, or the ‘craziness’ aspect of said person’s character is ‘fixed’ in some fashion or another by the power of love (normally from the opposite sex). Future Diary plays with the latter early on when Aru Akise says that Yuki is Yuno’s only hope to maintain her grip on reality. But Future Diary doesn’t hold onto that for too long and instead goes full throttle with the logical path a crazy person in love with a clueless other half would take: straight up kidnapping and drugging them against their will. This happens just at the end of Part 1, and Part 2 picks up right afterwards.

In a surprising twist, Yuki finally realises that Yuno’s threats about killing others weren’t just a bluff and promises to never go near her again. In another series this would be the turning point for their relationship, with Yuno getting what she deserves (imprisonment or electric chair) and poor Yuki finding a way to move on from his traumatic experience. But of course, this is not what happens, for this is Future Diary where the writing quality is poor and cheap shocks take precedence over actual character development. So despite what happened to him, in the next episode Yuki ends up questioning whether to trust Yuno AGAIN when things get rough, and falling right back into her devilish grip. And it doesn’t stop there; in Episode 19 Yuki goes through a traumatic event that shakes him to the core, and results in the next episode completely changing his personality and motivations, making grand speeches and offing other players like his psychopathic girlfriend. It comes completely out of nowhere and feels really shoe-horned in as if he’s been replaced by a completely different character. Granted; brushing with death every day as he has over the past few episodes would cause a mental strain and eventually snap him, and if the series spent time weaving it into his past actions to see him slowly devolving it could have been a really tragic turn for the hero, but they don’t do that at all. It’s also incredibly rage-inducing when Yuki goes back and forth between whether to trust Yuno or not; there are at least four scenes where he says “You’re insane!” to her over these batches of episodes, like it’s the first time he’s seen her for what she is; dude, if you haven’t accepted it by now than you deserve to be stabbed by the pink-haired teen.

future diary part 2 image 2

The same whiplash effect also affects the plot and side characters. In a violent game such as this, where all players are meant (for the audience) to have an equal chance of winning, sudden story twists and ‘gotcha!’ moments are to be expected. Future Diary loves the execution of them but refuses to do the groundwork needed to make them work. There are plenty of scenes where a character suddenly pops out a major story twist that alters the course of the game or results in someone dying, but they come at the cost of making no sense within context, completely changing a character’s motivations or personality; having characters forget their powerful diaries within the moment, or sometimes all at once. None of the big twists have been built up over time or are particularly clever; rather they’re just ideas that the writers have thrown at the wall and gone with whatever’s stuck, without thinking about the lead-up. It’s all for shock value, and it ranges from groan-worthy to outright laughable.

Going back to Yuno; having her sent to jail and/or the electric chair would be suitable punishment for her crimes but in some odd way it’s a good thing she isn’t because she is, by far, the best character in the show. She’s the most active player and unlike the rest of the cast and plot she’s the most consistently written, having a clear arc across the series. There’s a reason her face is the most recognisable; yes, her wacky actions and bloodlust play a part, yet nevertheless out of all the characters, she’s the best written by leaps and bounds. There are plenty of twists and turns that she brings and then the plot throws back at her; however, they work because it’s clear that the writing from day one has been leading up it. Yuno also has the most volatile personality, so she is able to do wilder things to keep the plot moving without coming across as being out of character.

future diary part 2 image 1

While her character is handled steadily, the way the show (and other characters) treat her is not; it constantly flip flops between painting her as an irredeemable villain and victim of circumstance, while also one minute trying to sell her connection to Yuki as ‘true love’ and the next a horrible relationship that can only end in disaster. It doesn’t help that by the end the show turns itself on its head to try and make her awful actions forgivable. The ending itself, while providing a conclusion to the show for the majority of the side characters and the main plot, will most likely be widely disliked. It wants to have its happy and angsty cakes and eat them too, but can’t seem to get a solid balance to please everyone, much like the tonal imbalance of the show itself. The additional OVA that expands on the ending (Redial) is sadly not included in this set; in fact, the only extras are the clean opening and closing.

Future Diary belongs on the thin line between ‘so bad it’s good’ and ‘just pure trash’; its mileage will vary depending on whether you have the patience and sense of humour to put up with inconsistent tone, wild plot developments that come out of nowhere and badly written characters. Future Diary is a lot of things, but boring is definitely not one of them.

Rating: 5/10

Anime Quick Information

Title: Future Diary
UK Publisher: Manga Entertainment (Kaze)
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Action, Romance, Horror
Studio: Asread
Type: TV Series
Year: 2012
Age Rating: 18
Running Time: 325 minutes