Title: Love Hina
Published by: Madman Entertainment (Australia), Funimation (North America)
Based on: The Love Hina Manga series by Ken Akamatsu
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Audio: English and Japanese Dubs
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Runtime: 625 Minutes
Cost: Contact your nearest seller of anime
Special Thanks: A copy of this series was purchased out of my own pocket
It has been a little less than a month since the first installment of the “Anime from the Past Review Series”, however as we are getting further and further into the future, there is becoming a greater risk of older titles being discontinued by their current publishers and not all titles will receive the “Digimon” treatment and be re-released ten years later. Therefore, I have over the months collected a sizable pile of older anime series which I hope to review every once and a while – from Azumanga Daioh which was recently discontinued by Madman Entertainment (in ANZ) to Love Hina which despite it coming up to the decade mark still seems to have at least some presence in the anime market. This review is of Love Hina, based off the manga series by Ken Akamatsu… so how does it fare in 2012? Read on to found out!
Attempting to fulfill a promise to his childhood sweetheart, Keitaro Urashima is determined to enter Tokyo University! After being rejected twice, he decides to leave home and stay at his grandmothers apartment complex to study. But when he arrives, his grandmother is gone and he finds himself under attack by the all-female residents Will the girls accept him as their new apartment manager? Will his bones ever knit? More importantly, can he concentrate on his studies when he discovers that one of his tenants might be the promised girl from so long ago?
Alas, we have what could easily be a prime example of the cliche plot device which is a loser guy who is failing in his educational prospects ends up being acquainted with a whole bunch of girls who beat the crap out of him but at the same time have developing romantic feelings for him… yep you know the cliche! While you may have experienced it several times over the years, it is hard to fault it on my part as this was the first series I came across with this sort of plot and you know what…. I really did enjoy it and still do now. The purpose of this series comes down to three main elements: Romance, Comedy and Fanservice and while some would consider the anime series one big filler series which only stops at the half-way point of the manga series (Expanded upon in two OVA episodes and a three-episode season), comes across with enough freshness and ideas to make it one of the more memorable series of the early 00’s.
So the storyline goes that Keitaro Urashima holds a promise he made to a little girl when he himself was just a child that they would meet at Tokyo University, however after failing his entrance exam… twice for the university, he tries again for a third time when he is placed in charge of an all-girls dorm by his “Granny”, and spends time with the dorms many unique personalities, most of who are willing to give him a punch in the face: Naru (Who is herself training to make it into Tokyo University), Shinobu (The only “nice” girl to Keitaro), Motoko (A user of the kendo arts and considers all men and turtles annoying), Kaolla (An upbeat foreign transfer student) and Kitsune (Who is willing to shake things up for her own pleasure).
Having all the girls not fall blindly in love with him from the get go or only doing so to tease other characters was an advantage in lieu of one episode and you have all the female leads fighting over the one guy. However while the romance element is heavy throughout the series, it is usually veiled with plenty of comedy, fanservice or comedic fanservice so it is still barable to those who like myself, don’t particularly fall for romantic dramas UNLESS they involve mecha turtles or a strong plot.
Amongst all the hot springs, entrance exams, university professors who randomly appear in their vans and giving Team Rocket a run for their “Blasting Off Again!” record, the series really shines when it comes to the character development. While the series has essentially five female leads, they each maintain their own unique personalities, get ample character develop throughout filler-heavy episodes and are complemented with a cast of secondary and minor characters, each of who are creatively designed by the guy who in his next series – which involved 31 girls who each had their own unique personalities.
In the end, while the storyline is not perfect, perhaps relying too heavily on filler episodes while not delivering any form of solid plot other than the random prep exams and university ambitions, it has a cleverly thought of character cast and enough slapstick romantic comedy for the 25 episodes included in the set.
While it would depend on your preferences and the degree of modern-day quality animation you have seen recently, but I felt the animation quality of the DVDs were a bit sub-par in comparison to other series released around the same time. However this is only a mild gripe in comparison to the actual quality put into it – which you will notice is improved upon when you get into the OVA and Love Hina Again episodes (Not included in this set unfortunately, but still available from Madman Entertainment). The series has a good level of detail added to the character designs and environments but also drop the detail several times in order to deliver a more chibified or comical style of art when the story requires it. It might take a bit of time to getting used to if you have only recently begun watching anime, but it has a good sense of nostalgia to me and I am sure many of you.
Music is of course an important component of any anime series, and I would say the series overall instrumental soundtrack is pretty good, with a not-so-extensive tracklist but one that somehow manages to have enough variety that it doesn’t sound so repetitive and works with the varying moods and zany locales the characters visit over the episodes. The show has a single main opening entitled Sakura Saku by Megumi Hayashibara which is an upbeat and fairly enjoyable song with animation that features artwork, introduces the characters as well as animated scenes while on the opposite side of the scale is the series ending theme Kimi Sae Ireba also performed by Megumi Hayashibara which is a slowly tuned theme and one I have never really enjoyed.
Voice acting is a highlight of this series and while at times may seem over the top, contributes to the characters individual uniqueness’s and personalities. Derek Umansky and Dorothy Melendrez who play Keitaro and Naru respectively pull off their roles brilliantly, while special mentions also go to Mona Marshall as Motoko and Wendee Lee as Kaolla.
While I would perhaps not be as worried about this series short-term availability as many of the other older anime releases currently on the market, it is one I would recommend to those who enjoy light-hearted or harem oriented comedies. While it perhaps doesn’t live up to the manga series, which mixes the same style of comedy with perhaps a little more plot, it has some good ideas behind it, a creative character cast and just that little something that has helped it stand the test of time. As I said several paragraphs ago, while it is a genre that has been done many times before to the point it could be considered a cliche… it was one of the original sources of it and to me still shines above many of the other similar titles on the market. Of course, if this doesn’t sound like your series after reading this review… there is a considerable chance you will not enjoy it as much as others – but don’t worry as the third installment of “Anime’s From the Past Review Series” is in the works!
Storyline / Character Development: B
Music/Voice Acting: B
Personal Preference: B+
Overall Score: B