To start this review I will reveal that I haven’t read volumes 1-12 of this series. It was a first for me since I usually don’t just jump in on a manga because it can be a headache to get caught up. In all actuality it took me one and a half volumes just to remember who the characters were and after that they threw more characters at me and so I just went with it and stopped trying to sort everyone out… which ended up working out better. I would not start with volume 13 if you are going to throw yourself into this series as I have done. I would start with volume 14. The reason being that 13 is the mandatory festival storyline in which our main male character Raku unknowingly woos a new female suitor. Oh did I mention that this is a harem comedy? It is.
I’m going to pause for a moment on the story and let you know that I have never, never read a harem comedy manga. I watch the hell out of the genre in anime form, but reading one… never. This was strange even to myself and in my head I went back and forth on whether I liked reading a manga of this genre. At times I did, but other times… I really didn’t.
The premise of the story is this: Raku pledged his love to a girl ten years ago when he was a little turd, but of course he has kept that promise and held on to a locket for ten years. He’s forced into a fake relationship with a rival gang leader’s daughter. His father is Yakuza and so there’s a peace treaty of sorts while they date. Raku likes a girl from his class though, but because of the fake relationship he can’t do anything; she also likes him and both women have keys that could open the goddamn locket. Raku is also engaged to be married to the Chief of police’s daughter who has a fucking key as well. The story gets even more complicated as more keys show up and even more fuzzy memories of childhood appear.
Now I will say that the series adds more female suitors rather organically. Each love interest has a friend that is against Raku and his relationships. They dub him a player and they attempt to get their friend to stay away or dive in and whatnot… but then they all fall for Raku as well. My best count is that there are no less than seven women interested in this guy and possibly his male best friend as well… I mean the guy does cat face so it’s hard to rule him out.
As I said, volume 13 is a traditional festival in with Raku ends up paired with Haru, the little sister of the girl he’s actually interested in. She hates him, but after a few times around the square she’s head over heels for this dude. I’m guessing that the series has already spent a lot of time with other characters because Haru gets a lot of page time across the three volumes.
The second half of the volume is spent with Ruri who pulls the classic “tell my dying grandpa I have a boyfriend so he’ll leave me alone, uh-oh I have to produce this boyfriend now?” Of course the boy she randomly picks is Raku… and I do mean randomly since she has a pile of classmate’s photos and that is how she picked her fake boyfriend. It’s a good story, but it was predictable and nothing new.
The 14th volume introduces a new character who is the “childhood friend” character, but not the typical one since she’s “known him longer than you.” She’s also Chinese from what I could gather and in charge of her own gang… but is there to become Raku’s homeroom teacher and win his heart… not run her criminal organization. She reveals that Raku and all of the girls with keys hung out one summer and that she basically remembers everything that happened, but won’t tell them… which is frustrating for them, but really annoying for us as the reader. Not that I think the keys mater, but just get that shit sorted so this dumbass can figure out what girl he actually likes. Not that it matters because you’ve set this up in a way that a mother fucking gang war would ignite if he doesn’t stay with the person he’s with. Her character, Yui, is just whatever. She calls all the ladies out left, right and center which they’re not used to. She also lives with Raku which forces the story to his house a lot.
That’s where the 15th volume picks up as Raku and Yui are left home alone as the Yakuza take a day trip and the rest of the gang show up to keep Yui from getting it on after all of them somehow find out her plan of making Raku hers. Which is just as weird as a dude holding on to a locket from ten years ago and promising his heart to a girl that he can’t remember and not just growing the fuck up and making adult choices, but whatever… whatever. The rest of this volume is spent at the school festival because we had to hit that trope up as well. Haru makes another appearance as her and her sister Kosaki compete in a beauty contest. Don’t worry it’s tasteful with the exception of the worst character in the book who gets DQ’d for wearing a bikini.
My thing with this series is that the keys are an interesting idea if the characters were older and it wasn’t elementary kids that made these promises. That and if you can’t remember shit from that time does it really matter? I mean they all have diaries and shit they refer to, but no one wrote a name down? It’s an interesting premise, but it’s intentionally vague to keep the story going and I don’t like that. It actually works perfect without the keys because of the fake relationship. The keys seem like a carrot that’s being dangle with the possibility of this series actually forcing the main character to pick someone… which it never will. They never do. My point is, the keys could have been cool, but they ain’t.
The art is great for the most part. I had a hard time telling characters apart at first because they were all a little too similar. Mostly because of the festival they were at which is why you shouldn’t start there. Otherwise it’s a really talented style. Very clean, great humor and detail. I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t anything new or different. It’s very “corporate” feeling, but still really fucking good which is probably one of the reasons people enjoy it.
At the end of the 13th volume there’s a popularity vote revealed. I’m sure it’s old as hell, but it was an interesting insight into how the fans of the series see the characters. The character I hated the most and still hate came in second which blew my fucking mind. I don’t even think you’re supposed to like her since she’s only annoying, but hey… it must work for some people or they took pity on a two-dimensional character which is even stranger.
The story teeter-tottered me a lot. I would like to read the next volume because volume 15 was the best in my opinion. There’s only slight differences though so I’m still scoring them all together. What I worry about is that the author is adding too many characters, building too many love interests and that gets tiring because then Raku, the guy everyone loves is reduced to just a few pages here and there. He doesn’t do anything to earn this love and admiration because he’s constantly chased out of the story so that two women can talk about their love for him… which is bad character development all around.
By now you’ve probably already decided to read this or not. I took a chance on it and while I don’t regret it, I don’t know if I’m in love with it. I would give it another volume for sure, but I’m not in a race to track down the other volumes. I’ve been caught up enough on the series that I’m good. It’s trope heavy for the genre that’s for sure, but if you love that then you’ll read it.
Nisekoi: False Love Vol. 13-15 Creator: Naoshi Komi Publisher: Viz/Shonen Jump Price: $9.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital