Nisekoi: False Love Volume 1

There’s nothing new in Nisekoi: False Love, but the elements are assembled with a lot of heart and charm.

Raku had a childhood love, marked by the padlock pendant he wears. He doesn’t remember her face, but he’ll know her by the matching key she carries.

Now, he’s the only son of a Yazuka boss — only the tough guys in the criminal gang are mainly comic relief, not scary violent. Raku isn’t a fighter, though, so he wants to become a civil servant. He’s studious and meek, with a crush on nice-girl classmate Onodera.

Then Chitoge, a boisterous new half-American exchange student, arrives. She and Raku spat and yell and smack each other around. They don’t get along, and then comes the punchline: Raku’s dad and a rival crimelord have arranged for their kids to pretend to be in love in order to prevent a gang war. And of course, the other kid is Chitoge.

All of these elements — the arranged “marriage”, the opposites paired up, the kid trying to escape family expectations, the long-lost love, the tough chick with a secret tender heart, even the suspicious family retainer trying to prove Raku and Chitoge are lying about their feelings — will be familiar to readers of manga, particularly those who read titles like Weekly Shonen Jump, where this is serialized. It’s full of mistaken assumptions and the inability to tell those you care about the truth for external, artificial reasons.

The art is similarly exaggerated, with lots of broadly expressed emotion, and standard-looking characters, also typical of action comedy manga. Of course, it’s male-centered, as Raku struggles to choose between the two girls, the prettier and more outgoing of which he has to be in close contact with. Yet I found it entertaining and light-hearted enough to finish the book, because the leads both mean well and I found myself rooting for them.

Nisekoi: False Love is due out in January. (The publisher provided a digital advance review copy.)

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