Nisekoi: False Love Vol 1

Nisekoi: False Love Vol 1 by Naoshi Komi

I don’t tend to track trends in English releases of shonen manga as much as I do shoujo manga, but it certainly seems like it has been some time since we’ve seen a shonen romantic comedy set in high school. Raku is the typical shonen protagonist who (say it together with me!) “just wants a normal high school life.” Unfortunately while Raku has set his goal as becoming a reliable civil servant, his desire to be boring and normal is foiled by the fact that he’s the heir to a yakuza clan. Raku also is dealing with the aftermath of an encounter in his youth, when he exchanged vows of love with a girl he cannot remember. He has a special pendant in the shape of a lock, and his faceless beloved is holding on to the key. But Raku doesn’t remember her name!

Raku starts school awkwardly failing to ask out the nicest and prettiest girl in school, Ondera. His romantic ambitions are foiled when a new girl appears in his class. Chitoge is cute, athletic, and brash and she and Raku naturally start bickering immediately. They are assigned desks next each other as well as duties after school and they spend most of their time arguing so much, their classmates start to wonder if they are especially close. Things get even worse for Raku when he agrees to pretend to be romantically involved with the daughter of a rival gang boss in order to preserve peace, only to find out that his new “girlfriend” is Chitoge. Under the watchful eyes of retainers from both families, Raku and Chitoge go through the motions of a weekend date, only to find out that their romantic status has been announced at school as well, leaving them no rest from their charade.

There’s plenty of humor in this title even though it doesn’t reach the laugh out loud heights of Oresama Teacher. Komi frequently draws rictus-like facial expressions when his characters are in the grips of strong emotions. While the love triangle in this book is predictable, it certainly isn’t more derivative than the typical shoujo title. Chitoge and Raku’s similar backgrounds and tendencies to freak out often make them seem like natural friends with something in common, whereas Ondera’s more retiring personality makes her someone that Raku can easily admire from afar even though he doesn’t know her very well. While I didn’t connect with this title the same way I do my treasured shoujo romances, for anyone looking for shonen romantic comedy I think this will be an enjoyable manga to read. The art is well-executed, the personalities of the characters are interesting if a bit broadly drawn, and random yakuza thugs make everything more fun.

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