Rating: 4/5 – The Only Thing Missing is Iambic Pentameter.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
At some point in most of our lives, we’re exposed to the work of William Shakespeare. Whether he’s forced upon us in high school or we’re just insane enough to take courses on him in college, escaping the Bard isn’t easily done. For a fortunate lot, there’s a point where the words cease to become flowery poetry and an appreciation for the finer points of his work is born. You realize that Shakespeare was a man of plots, not just words, weaving webs of intricacy into his tales. From the case study in evil that is Richard III to the comedy of errors of…well…A Comedy of Errors…his work abounds in the creation of situations no regular character could escape without some scars.
Which is why I believe Shakespeare would have loved Nisekoi: False Love.
Tell me this doesn’t read like textbook Bard: Two families, often feuding publicly, decide to unify by having their oldest children, gentle soul Raku and brazen bully Chitoge, date each other for the remainder of their schooling. The fact that Raku and Chitoge have already met and hate each other with a passion is irrelevant to maintaining the peace. Uneasily they agree to this arrangement. In the meantime, Raku searches for a girl he’d met as a young child…a girl who possesses the key to a locket he has worn around his neck ever since they’d promised to be “forever in love”. He’s hoping it’s the beautiful Onodera, a girl he’s crushing on (and who in turn is crushing on him), but neither have worked the nerve up to express their true feelings.
All you need to do is change the names, setting, and throw in some iambic pentameter, and you’ve crafted a tale worthy of Shakespeare’s attention.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that Chitoge and Raku will slowly fall in love with each other and the probability is super-high Chitoge holds the key Raku is looking for, in spite of the curve ball of Onodera being everything he thinks he’s looking for. This love triangle, part and parcel to pretty much every high-school romance manga out there, provides the initial thrust of the book, running alongside the aforementioned “false love” Raku and Chitoge must exhibit in public.
Many different stories of this nature are clamoring for your attention (and money) on the bookstore shelf right now, so the real trick is to find a story that plays to the common tropes of the tale while offering you something unique and fun that makes the journey getting there worth the trip. On this front, Niseoki: False Love delivers. Raku and Chitoge are great foils for each other, and characters worth reading about. The situation is fairly unique as well. Often the couple that hates each other and is forced to stay together does so because one is clearly the boss of the other…usually a fiery female shrew that must be tamed (there’s Shakespeare again) by the protagonist, but this is surprisingly absent from Nisekoi. Neither character in this hapless duo seems to hold the upper hand for very long. Chitoge is a hothead, true, but she’s often taken off her guard by Raku’s demeanor and willingness to help her when she needs it. That creates a sense of balance you don’t often get in this type of tale.
It’s a huge leap to compare manga to the works of Shakespeare, but in the pages of Nisekoi: False Love, students of the Bard will find familiar ground being tilled. A plot that promises no easy conclusion, characters you’ll identify with and actually cheer for, and an artfully decorated set to rival anything the Globe could put up, create a book that rises to the top of a long list of high-school romance manga. You may think you’ve come across something like this before. You’re wrong.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – firstname.lastname@example.org
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