Nisekoi was a strange anime. A 20 episode romcom manga adapted by studio SHAFT is something you don't see every day.
The premise of Nisekoi, for the unaware, is pretty simple. Raku Ichijou (Kouki Uchiyama), the son of a Yakuza boss, is forced to date the daughter of a rival gang, Chitoge Kirisaki (Nao Touyama). The twist here is that they basically hate each other's guts. It's almost like a fucked up reversal of Romeo and Juliet. Meanwhile, Raku is searching for the girl who holds the key to his locket, who he vowed to marry when he was a kid. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.
For me, Nisekoi really shined through it's characters. Even though it was a generally predictable Harem setup, Nisekoi kept me coming back every week just to see what these crazy characters were doing. Even though many of the events throughout the show were predictable, their execution was top notch. The main complaint I've seen about Nisekoi is how predictable it was, but I really don't see it as a bad thing. Although, I must admit, the harem nature of the show presents some frustrating situations, I've learned to just enjoy it. I wouldn't go as far as to call Nisekoi a deconstruction of the harem genre (because it isn't), but it is very much self-aware of the tropes that define a harem and quite often uses those tropes to make everything just that more funny.
My favorite way Nisekoi fucks with the viewer is through Raku's locket. It is quickly revealed that Raku's classmate and long-time crush, Kosaki Onodera (Kana Hanazawa), has a key which might fit into Raku's locket. As things progress, Raku finds out Chitoge has one too. And then another girl shows up who has a key. Yes, there are three keys that may or may not work in Raku's locket. The first time Raku attempts to try a key, it breaks inside the locket. Thanks, Nisekoi.
There's lots of wacky, sometimes frustrating stuff like this in Nisekoi, but that's why I love it. While watching, it feels like the author knows exactly what he's doing and exactly how to evoke certain emotions with people.
There only times I really disliked this form of comedy was when it stopped the plot from moving forward. Of course, in a harem you cannot have the protagonist reveal his feelings towards his crush, or have someone crushing on him reveal their feelings, but having scenes where it gets so damn close... It can get annoying at times. Nisekoi, and shows like it, are built on this trope. While it can be funny once or twice, after four times it starts to become too much. It is only a minor complaint, since the rest of the show is hilarious enough to keep me going.
Nisekoi also has a few great side characters. Shuu Maiko (Yuki Kaji) and Ruri Miyamoto (Yumi Uchiyama) are Raku's classmates, and they both cause a lot of trouble. Ruri complicates things for Raku by essentially forcing Onodera to become closer to Raku. Shuu, on the other hand, does essentially anything to stir up trouble within the group. More often than not, this leads to a lot of hilarity. Ruri and Shuu keep things interesting when things start to bog down a bit. I particularly enjoyed Shuu's crazy antics. These two brought a lot to the series, and greatly helped stray it towards the realm of comedy instead of pure romance.
In terms of the animation, SHAFT does a really good job. It's got all the head tilts, wide shots, and quick frames that characterize a SHAFT anime, but the subject material is very different from most of their recent works. It's refreshing, to be honest. I love Shinbou's direction, and I think it contributed to the series a lot. One thing I would like to note is the sheer amount of sparkles in this show. Almost every other scene is complimented by a shimmering background filled with sparkling colors and shapes. The sparkles brought an atmosphere to the show which I felt fit it perfectly. I mean, you really can't take anything seriously with the amount of sparkles they packed into this thing. If you've already seen the show, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
The music was also quite enjoyable. There were 2 openings and 5 endings. Both openings were performed by ClariS, which were pretty catchy. Rarely do I find myself watching the opening for a show every week, but Nisekoi's openings were good enough to keep my hand away from the mouse. The endings were also pretty good, my personal favorite being Recover Decoration (performed by Kana Hanazawa). What really struck me, though, was the background music. It always blended into the scenes really nicely, and there were a few recurring songs which I particularly enjoyed. The soundtrack was upbeat and whimsical when it needed to be, but toned down to be a bit more serious during certain scenes.
In the end, Nisekoi isn't a touching romance or deep commentary on anything. It's a comedy. If you're looking for something more than that, Nisekoi is not the right show for you. It's got a great cast of characters who's dynamics resonate very well throughout the show, and I didn't feel like a single one of the characters got too little screen time. Everyone had one or two episodes dedicated to some character development, which always turned out to be great episodes. The final arc in the show was really well done, and felt like a perfect place to end the season. With a second season on the way next spring, Nisekoi did pretty much everything it needed to in a spectacular fashion.