It's still fun, but it's become static and generic. Everything that made it Nisekoi has been scrunched up and discarded.
What happened in Nisekoi season one? Raku Ichijo learned that even though he was in love with the gentle Kosaki Onodera, he was going to have to spend three years pretending to be the boyfriend of the insensitive, violent Chitoge Kirisaki. ("Nisekoi" means "fake love".) Why should this be? Why should anyone today have to put up with the equivalent of an arranged marriage? Answer: Raku and Chitoge are the heirs to rival criminal organisations and if they don't do this to calm things down, there's going to be a bloodbath.
(You might be wondering if now, a year later, those criminal organisations might not have cooled down a bit and got used to the status quo. Do Raku and Chitoge still need to go through all this play-acting? The anime doesn't even raise this question, of course.)
Chitoge was just as dismayed by this as Raku, for what it's worth, and abused him all the time, more or less for breathing in her presence. Kosaki's the one who's in love with him, but neither of them is aware of the other's feelings because they've never said anything and furthermore the whole nisekoi situation is... um, open to misinterpretation.
This was a dynamic set-up. It was funny, especially when the supporting cast showed up, and it felt like a story that was trying to go places.
Now, though, it's just a harem anime. Gangsters? You'll almost forget they're there. Chitoge? She's fallen in love with Raku, but can't bring herself to say so. Kosaki? Still the same. Other girls? Just as Raku-focused. The show's shifted to a harem anti-dynamic, in which none of the girls will ever be allowed to make any progress and so the only reason to watch any random episode is to hope that this static format might still manage to be incidentally entertaining.
Theoretically, of course, there's still an unbalancing factor. Raku's only got eyes for Kosaki. In practice, though, that's been dialled back to non-existence. We hardly meet Kosaki. She's present, but she's not the focus of stories and Raku doesn't even seem to think about her that often. She gets more attention in the second half of the season (i.e. any at all), but that's counterbalanced by the introduction of Haru, her fierce little sister. Haru hates Raku and thinks he's a two-timer. If Raku ever gets near Kosaki, Haru will jump in like a spitting cobra and instantly go to war against logic and rational thinking. In fairness this is funny, but the effect is that apparently Kosaki-centric premises will fall into Haru's gravity well and deform into Haru episodes instead.
Personally, I think Chitoge's become the front-runner. That's mostly me reading the focus of the episodes, but I also think it's defensible as not unrealistic. People's feelings can grow and change, especially if the original object of your affections has been keeping her distance for a year even as you form close friendships with lots of other girls.
Here's a breakdown of who gets the limelight in which episodes:
- 1. Chitoge
- 2. Paula Moore (new character, linked with Tsugumi)
- 3-4. Chitoge again and her scary mother (two-parter)
- 5. Marika
- 6. Everyone (Valentine's Day chocolates)
- 7. Haru
- 8. Kosaki-ish
- 9. Haru
- 10. A rather good side story about Raku's best male friend, Shuu. Also Tsugumi.
- 11. Kosaki
- 12. Chitoge
You'll notice that a third of the season is about Chitoge, including the first and last episodes. In fairness Kosaki and Haru are joined at the hip and we get a lot of them in the season's second half, but frankly ep.6 and ep.11 were the only times I thought Kosaki was even still in the race.
Let's forget all that, though. I'll shut up about what Nisekoi used to be. That was a stronger show, but it's gone now. Let's try to assess season two on its own merits.
I like the new theme music and the badass action title sequence. There are some tough cookies in this cast. Paula Moore and Tsugumi are top underworld hitmen, for starters, even if this is the kind of show where gang killings are an informed attribute and no one in front of us ever so much as hurts a fly.
I think every episode in the show's first half contains something silly, trivial and/or eye-rolling. Chitoge tries to get Raku to notice her lipstick, or else two stone cold killer hitmen have a duel where the winner will be whoever can kiss Raku. The Bad Cooking Error in ep.6 is too stupid for comfortable plausibility. As for Chitoge's mother... yeah, well. Credibility clearly isn't a priority. That said, though, these aren't crippling problems unless you want them to be. One gets used to it and the episodes are funny anyway. Tsugumi and Paula are a hoot in ep.2, then Marika's such a loon that you have to admire her. Realistic? Hell, no, but she's funny.
I can't not talk about ep.8, which ditches the show's format (and indeed genre). For ten minutes, we're not watching Nisekoi, but an adaptation of a real spin-off manga called Magical Patissiere Kosaki in which the regular cast are all magical girls. They have talking animals and fight supervillains. It's brilliant. It's also splendid in principle, giving us versions of all our favourite cast members without any harem formula. Raku doesn't even appear. Delighted. Kosaki's the main character, as suggested by the title, and mostly unhappy about her nude transformation sequence. She gets no sympathy from the others, of course. "Acting so mortified every time you transform... you can't call yourself a full-fledged magical girl!"
Western superhero comics should do this too. Superman could flash his tackle and pose with a magic wand every time he was about to fight Lex Luthor.
Meanwhile Marika is shameless and Chitoge is grumpy because she's Magical Gorilla. She shouldn't be. It's a great look and distinctive, with a badass caveman vibe. She can also pulverise concrete with her forehead. I loved this segment. It's a fun parody, making jokes about nudity and inappropriate villains without actually being as exploitative as, say, some of the swimsuit camera angles in ep.9.
Ep.10 gives minor supporting characters their time in the spotlight and manages to say meaningful things with emotional weight. I really liked it. The question of "am I doing the right thing?" doesn't have a simple answer, while it's also interesting to be reminded of Shuu's intelligence under that deliberately shallow facade.
Random observation: Raku's name in Japanese means "comfort, ease" while everyone's go to Bonyari School, with bonyari meaning "vaguely, idly, absent-mindedly, dim-wittedly". I don't think that's significant, but it seems odd.
Overall, it's quite fun. So long as you're not expecting any more than just another harem comedy, you'll probably find this an entertaining one with a lively cast. It's not outrageous fantasy. The hormone levels aren't too implausible (except for Marika) and indeed the love polygon is probably less of a credibility hurdle than the gangster hitman stuff and some contrived plot points. (Why doesn't Raku just explain to Haru about him and Chitoge? She wouldn't believe him, of course, but she would if Chitoge backed him up. Why does the wind only ever blow Haru's skirt in the air?)
All that I'm fine with. What I regret is the fact that the show's systematically ripped out everything non-generic about itself. Season one I'd recommend. Season two, not really. As an ongoing narrative, it's dead and fossilised. I'd still watch a season three if they made one, though.