What’s it about ?
High school romantic comedy. (Adapted from a manga series.)
Raku, our male lead, wants to become a honest and productive member of society. That’s a bit hard when he’s the heir of a yakuza gang and there are dozens of henchmen expecting him to succeed his crimelord of a father. (For now, those are family-friendly mobsters whose only visible mischiefs are feuds with other gangs, but that may change later on.) They do respect his wishes for the time being, but they sure hope he’s gonna change his mind.
Kosaki, the nice girl in his class. It’s heavily hinted that she owns the key to the locket he exchanged with his childhood love 10 years ago, and she’s been testing waters in attempts to confirm that… but actually, that’s so obvious I’m expecting some kind of swerve.
Chitoge, the new half-American transfer student. It’s antipathy at first sight ; it doesn’t help that she has a terrible personality and accidentally stepped onto his face while jumping the wall into the school. They do mellow a bit after a while (an evolution nicely underlined by chapter titles progressively shifting from calling her “Monkey Girl” to her actual first name). On the other hand, they’re both taken aghast when their respective fathers order them to (at least pretend to) be lovers for three years, in order to broker peace between the two gangs. Hence the title.
It’s impossible to forget Akiyuki Shinbo & studio SHAFT are at the helm here : weird angles for shots, editing used as punctuation, text hidden in the background, the trademark head tilts, some great use of colour… heck, even Kouki Uchiyama often sounds like he’s doing a Hiroshi Kamiya impression.
It helps that the show has enough budget to animate lavishly the rare actions sequences. Nice music, too.
Let’s not mince words : this series’ key selling point is the presentation. The plot and characters are serviceable, and there are some good jokes, but it’d be instantly forgettable in lesser hands. I’ve seen an interview of the manga creator being delighted that SHAFT would adapt his series, and I can believe it. This is way better than it deserves, if the series is as pedestrian as a quick browse through a few pages lets me think.
But while this is certainly a great-looking (and -sounding) anime series, it doesn’t really add up to anything. It’s still a generic romantic comedy with a formulaic hook. It’s not like, say, Sankarea, whose impressive execution added tons of atmosphere and edge. We’re firmly into well-trodden territory here.
But hey, I’m such a Shinbo fanboy I’ve watched through aggressively terrible SHAFT series (hello, Maria+Holic !) ; there’s no way I’m skipping this. After all, it’s perfectly okay.