Nisekoi: (Season 2)

Good

Nisekoi: is a continuation of the story from the first season.  While Nisekoi has never been spectacular, it continues to be solid in its frivolous entertainment.  That said, two of its episodes really stand out – the ones that are actually serious.  This installment firmly solidifies the anime’s genre as a romance/comedy instead of a harem, in spite of the added players to the mix.  With such a large gaggle of girls and lots of liking flying about, it can easily look like the relationships are haremesque, although if you actually chart out the relationships, a different picture emerges.

Purpose: Good.  So why do I say that this isn’t a harem anime?  Many people think it is because you have many girls going after the same guy.  However, the absence of infighting is what makes it a “love polyhedron” instead of a harem.  Harem genres are essentially a “king of the hill” type of spectacle, where the entertainment comes from the personalities coming into direct conflict over an object, our main protagonist.  Nisekoi is an entirely different beast, primarily because of the managed lack of knowledge.  Specifically, the anime manages the characters’ knowledge of other characters’ feelings.  Heck, the protagonist is even convinced that no one really likes him.  This managed, forced ignorance will probably be grating on some, but it’s what sets the stage for an ultimate (sort of) love triangle, with some other attachments.

That aside, the anime pulls a lot of its comedy from increasing the sheer outrageousness of situations.  However, the outrageousness ends up being tempered by some genuine sweetness.

Characters: Good.  For the most part, the characters we knew from the first season were left as they were, with no real growth.  In order to counteract stagnation, the material ended up adding some new characters to the mix to spice things up and forcibly add facets to the existing characters.  Of course, this complicated the situation a bit, so if you chart out the relationships, it ends up making a funny design (but is really somewhat simple).

Basically, you have the protagonist after one girl,  the crush, who likes him back but he doesn’t know.  Then, you have two levels of interference – the fake girlfriend and the crazy childhood friend.  The fake girlfriend is set up to be a potential contender, particularly in this season, which acts as a distractor.  The crazy childhood friend is pure interference, and the closest thing to a villain.  Her crazy antics actually end up taking her out of the running (and everyone knows it) by acting as a unifying factor – “it better be anyone but her.”  Amusingly, the childhood friend is the only one that 1) everyone knows likes the protagonist and 2) knows everyone else likes the protagonist.  If you really think about it, she’s both the only harem character in the anime and the only one that treats it like a harem by actively fighting the other girls.  Main duo and crazy aside, you have the outsiders – the sort-of-platonic friend who wishes for more and the crush’s little sister, who reluctantly likes our protagonist.

One last thing, one of the support characters gets his own full episode, which is really spectacular.

World: Decent.  The world, overall, took a hit in this season, becoming less of a factor in anything.  In the previous season, the craziness of the yakuza and the mafia ended up creating some really odd and fun situations.  This season strayed far away from that, instead replacing it with the fake girlfriend’s crazy (awesome?) mother.    Even at that, she played a fleeting role in the story, serving to boost the fake girlfriend’s endearing qualities.  The only other notable part of the world was the whole setup for the episode entitled “Support.”  You’ll just have to watch it.

Plot: Decent.  I mean, there’s not really much going on.  While some things are growing, for the most part, it’s more of the same.  The best description of the plot is something of a holding pattern, a lateral move.   Really, the whole point of this season was to set up the fake girlfriend as a contender for the audience.  This meant that plot points were focused on bringing out the fake girlfriend’s more endearing qualities.  Then again, for this particular use, the slightly shorter nature of this series was a good fit.

Structure aside, the comedy became a little more situational.  Much of it was spent on throwing the built characters into odd situations to see how they react.

Storytelling: Very Good.  The strong point of the storytelling is that is was much more focused – it gave appropriate weight to the more important points.  This season in particular had a more personal feel since you’ve gotten to know the characters some and are familiar with the situation.  In contrast, the first season treated the viewer as an outsider, watching something of an amusing trainwreck.  Putting it in other words, this season allowed the viewer to settle in and focus more on the characters instead of the situation.  The storytelling is strongly positive, but it does contain its weak points.  The weaker points actually involve the addition of the new characters, which ended up diluting what was going on.  In many ways, they were an excuse to bring in old gags that had lost their place in this season.   Another of the weaknesses involved the “turn-based” nature of the storytelling – the characters got a few-episode focus, to the exclusion of all others.  While it’s not wholly a bad thing, it ended up minimizing the presence of other characters when it wasn’t their “turn.”  So while we got 1 on 1 or 2 on 1 interactions, the others were standing by until later.

Pace: Good.  There were some oddities of pacing, namely how they varied the content of the episodes.  Sometimes you got a couple-episode arc or a single episode dealing with one particular subject or one episode split into two little stories.  This prevented an overall consistent feel for the anime.  That said, they were really strong about manipulating the pace when it counted – wild, crazy, and outrageous antics with a lightning pace serving to contrast with a much slower pace to emphasize emotion.

 

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