Nisekoi is over and the promises made (not to Onodera) were largely kept.
I think at various points I have said elsewhere, maybe not here, that Chitoge Kirisaki from Nisekoi represents for me the pinnacle, the platonic ideal of what it means for a character to be a “best girl” (further research shows that I did say it once, but didn’t explain about Chitoge in particular well). This is not just a fluffy-duff saying; it has concrete meaning for me and the end result is that, yes, I do unironically reserve a place in my top 10 characters list on MAL for the lead girl in a boilerplate harem romcom. It’s pretty much destiny that no anime (heck, no fictional story ever) will come completely free of flaw and irritants, and Nisekoi as manga and anime is more riddled with these than many other stories, but as I spell out in my anime-watching/blogging philosophy on my “About the Blog” page, I’m here for the flashes. The pearls sparkling in the mud.
For me, Chitoge is one such pearl. It happens that every so often characters, episodes, fight scene, whatever, appear in shows I enjoy watching but don’t ascribe any great value to and transcend everything else to arrive in my personal pantheon of “liked stuff.” While I admit that Chitoge’s personal aesthetics of appearance and personality play a large role in this, there’s also the matter of her surroundings and the way I see her as rising above (through?) them, and—likely the most important factor—the layers of personal investment and care I’ve added to her seat in the pantheon over the years. In other words, it’s a circular affection that feeds itself. Whatever the path there, though, the end result is the same. I like Chitoge a lot. Whether she’s a “good” character or not is a non-issue. Despite the overwhelmingly rote nature of the series in which she exists, she is distinctive—if only for how completely she embodies being a “best girl.”
As the title of this post alludes to, the Nisekoi manga is basically finished. Spoilers: Chitoge was the girl Raku picked, a development that you can see coming from the first episode of the anime (and, I assume, the first chapter of the manga). There may be more Komi contortions coming in the following chapters as the manga winds to its conclusion, but for all intents and purposes Nisekoi has completed the mission it first set out on.
Back when I reviewed the first season of Nisekoi, the main positive things I had to say were “looks pretty” and “Chitoge is good,” which I think was enough at the same. Although inconsistent, that first season was still drastically better than the junk that the second season (aside from the arc with Chitoge’s mom) season largely gave us. That is relevant to the point I’m trying to make here because looking pretty and having one character I really liked does not a good show make, which I think the second season proved by flopping once the visuals became less fun and Chitoge’s screentime diminished as more characters were introduced.
But if you had asked me, “Do you like Nisekoi?” I suppose I would have said yes. It may seem like I’m recanting now, but I would point to the picture above from chapter 227 of the manga as representative of the reason I would not necessarily give the same answer now. Why is Chitoge crying? Because the construction of the overall plot of Nisekoi demanded that it be so. I cannot profess to be a fan of that, even though it’s all as promised. No surprises here.
The point I’m trying to get at, I guess, is that until the moment Nisekoi ended, I could hope it wouldn’t do what it ended up doing. I have only read the final handful of chapters of the manga, but reports seem to be that the spunky kid that is one of my favorite characters ever mostly dissolved into a puddle of emotive messiness over Raku in this final arc (consistent with what I saw in chapter 227). That in itself is not entirely annoying (after all, I saw and was fine with a whole lot of Raku crushing in the anime), because at the very least I can appreciate that Chitoge finally having her feelings clearly reciprocated brings her happiness, but the issue of the presentation persists. There is an overwhelming feeling of the generic in Chitoge and Raku’s final conversation. As I read it, Chitoge could have been replaced by any other girl at the end of a harem series (heck, putting Onodera in her place could have conceivably resulted in a nearly identical scene albeit a few personal details). The tears, the last bit of self-derision, the final hug, and profession of love… none of it feels distinctively Chitoge.
Unforgivable? I guess.
But the lead up, at least as far as the show (or the first season) went, was okay! Why? Because non-drama Chitoge basically gets to use Raku as a stage to act out her character on. The fun of all the nonsense almost-confessions and misunderstandings and tsundere punching functions in a different way when the final destination is miles away, as it has been for so long. But when the stakes become real, one thing and one thing only took over at the end of the series—and it was the one thing that was worst about the show: who ends up with Raku? Ultimately, it turns out it didn’t matter. Although the text of the final panels tells me it was Chitoge, it does not feel like a scene with Chitoge in it. That saddens me. If Chitoge’s final destiny was to end up with Raku, I wish she could have done it distinctively as herself. Instead, the dictates of the plot stripped her of everything besides “likes Raku,” and that is what we get in the final chapter.
So I suppose the upshot here is that Nisekoi is bad by virtue of its ending (I mean that mostly tongue-in-cheek, though). The reality of being a Best Girl is not so glamorous as the name would suggest, but that does not make the state of being Best Girl any less good. I will remember Chitoge-as-character, not Chitoge as weeping ball of Raku-love. Ultimately, she didn’t need to “win” to be proven Best Girl. So, speak not to me of Nisekoi‘s ending—I would like to pretend it does not exist, and thus preserve the memory of Chitoge as she was and ought to have been in the end: a Best Girl allowed to be fully herself.