In Nisekoi: False Love Volume 19 (“Decision”), Raku has become a full-blown shonen Archie Andrews, not only unable to commit to the girl he loves, but also divided by a double blind of exaggerated comic melodrama: whether to unlock the locket or rendezvous at a sentimental lovers’ locale. However, none of Raku’s romantic geometry has angles that are sharp or soft enough to embed in the reader.

The nineteenth volume of any series should justify the prolongation of the franchise’s conceits, especially a romantic series with couples not as perfectly hewn as Clark Kent and Lois Lane (or even Popeye and Olive Oyl), and pretending at love triangles without the mindbogglingly rare comic chemistry of Betty, Veronica, and Archie. Not to mention the locket that hasn’t been opened in nineteen volumes, so that the reader begins to feel like a sucker for waiting for the other shoe to drop for three thousand pages. Not that the first shoe ever dropped, either, as Raku the romantic chameleon’s affections are hard to pin down. And Raku can’t shoulder all the blame, as too many characters are scratched together in a slapdash manner, and consequently, can’t effectively juggle these comical situations so that the reader cares beyond a “Well, that happened.”

If Nisekoi is stuck in a rut, though, it’s because Raku, delirious with his choices, won’t choose. Which is the difference between Raku and Archie, who is fully content to pick from the women in his circle and weather the storms of the Bettys, Veronicas, and Cheryls that he spurns; because it’s not a hard decision, really, when you get down to it. Which one of these girls is fun, Raku? Not for all time, Raku–just for right now. You’re still a teenager. Should these young women need to kidnap you to their private islands to get your attention (spoiler alert)?

Which is not to say that this volume is horrible; nor, if I was in high school, and Raku a class peer, would I unfriend him for causing me mental exhaustion, though I might tell him to man up. In fact, I am somewhat glad to see Raku draw breath for one more volume, despite the fact that this volume was, as usual, an excruciating exercise in watching him suffocate in indecision. That I can rant about Raku is a clear sign that I am still somewhat invested in watching Raku squirm, even if I’ve resigned myself to accepting that he’ll never really live because he’s entangled in libido. But since Raku will never commit to one of these young women, and live with the consequences for at least a volume or two, I can’t recommend Nisekoi, as it is much too timid a representation of love, whether young love or any other kind.

Nisekoi Volume 19 arrived in stores on January 3rd, and if you find it sold out, you can buy it directly from Viz through this hyperlink.

Viz Media sent the review copy.

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