What do we want from a second season of a harem anime? Top of the list would be a resolution to the love triangle, but failing that some character development would be nice. Who am I kidding? In the world of anime that is extraordinarily rare, and instead we are drowning in a sea of stories that get started and never finished. It’s a very simply equation, and Nisekoi is a case in point; the second season was shown in 2015, but the manga on which it is based concluded in 2016. Manga readers have it so much better, because they get to enjoy an ending, but for viewers of the anime it’s a frustratingly incomplete picture. By the end of the season we are really no closer to knowing which girl will end up with Raku than we were at the end of the first. We will almost certainly never get a third season to conclude the story.
So if it doesn’t advance the main story, which was set up with such potential in the first season, what does the second season do instead? As is commonplace in harem anime, matters are complicated by the addition of more girls into the mix. It’s a delaying tactic for the writer, and we already saw some of that happening with Marika turning up when we were well through the first season. There are two new girls introduced this time round. Paula is a bit of a pointless character, a former colleague of Seishiro, who stirs things up a bit for one episode and then is little more than an occasional background character after that. Much more interesting is Kosaki’s little sister Haru, who is introduced to Raku when he saves her from a gang of pervy guys. She passes out through stress and it’s all a bit of a blur, so she isn’t sure who her knight in shining armour might be, and as this is a very typical harem anime we aren’t going to get a very simple conversation that will resolve the mystery for her. Instead she ends up in denial about the fact that the boy she thinks is disgracefully hitting on her sister while already in a relationship is the same person who she thinks of as her prince, and predictably that results in Haru becoming another tsundere in the harem mix, despite there being two of those already. It’s supposed to be funny, but much of the tsundere humour centres on the lazy joke of misunderstandings leading to female-on-male comedy violence, something that I consider to be the single most problematic and out-of-touch feature of so many anime shows. The best thing we can say about Paula and Haru is they are very cute character designs, which is something this series excels at.
So what else? The best storyline of the season, and probably the only one that really packs any emotional punch, is the arrival of Chitoge’s largely absent workaholic mother. Every minute of every day is scheduled in detail, and she has no time for her daughter. Raku gets involved and, being the all-round decent guy we know him to be, can’t rest until he has done something to fix their broken relationship. We also find out the significance of Chitoge’s ribbon, which means as much to her as Raku’s locket, and that’s something that is picked up again quite effectively for the final episode, which does nothing to conclude the story, but at least focuses strongly on the most likely relationship to be eventually triumphant in the love triangle.
The rest of the series is pretty much filled with disposable silliness. Episode 5 is about Raku looking after Marika’s pet parrot, which has been trained to say rude things about its owner’s love for Raku. Episode 6 is a predictable Valentine’s Day chocolate story, following plot beats that will be tiresomely familiar to most anime fans. Episode 10 does something different by focusing on Shu and the crush he has on his teacher. It’s clearly designed to make the point that saying nothing to your crush is a bigger regret than getting turned down, which would be fine if that lesson learnt played into the main storyline at all. Without those dots being joined, it seems like a relatively pointless distraction. Episode 11 features another anime cliché that really needs to be consigned to history now: a girl worrying about her weight, and that being used as the basis of some attempted humour. With the character art never deviating from showing all the girls as having ideal figures, distinguished from each other only by their chest sizes, while all having perfectly flat tummies, this kind of story is problematical to say the least. For half an episode (the eighth), we take a bizarre side step into a parallel world where the girls are all magical garment girls, a story that seems to exist only to get them naked. A much better side step is a flashback to middle school, in the second half of episode 11, showing Kosaki trying to get into the same school as her crush.
There are only 12 episodes this season, and then one final OVA episode, which shows some dream scenarios with Raku married to each of his potential love matches (bizarrely, Chitoge is depicted as a dog, which is admittedly quite amusing), and then a bit more of the magical girls nonsense. It has to be said, this was a massive disappointment after the fun and potential of the first season. If funds allow, if you enjoyed the first season and if you want to find out how the love triangle concludes, you might as well skip this and go straight to the manga, because if you sit through these 13 episodes of the show just treading water, you might not care enough about the fate of these characters any more. RP