It's a generally accepted rule that you mustn't judge a book by it's cover. Clearly whoever came up with such sage advice had never seen the opening credits of Love Hina. Indeed, if the bouncy, riotous and wholly carefree opening was any more indicative of the show's content, you could probably put it on a 20-minute loop and watch that instead of the episode it precedes. In so doing, however, you would deprive yourself of a surprisingly enjoyable experience.
Love Hina is a series with no delusions of grandeur. It recognises which genre it pertains to and never attempts to stray outside of it; only to excel within its boundaries. The result is something which is about as subtle as a spade to the face and yet every bit as effective when it comes to attracting the viewer's attention. The humour is loud and visual, the characters are simple and unambiguous, the plot is straightforward - in brief, this is hardly the thinking person's anime. Which is why it's so good.
The comedy serves as a wonderful example of how something can, in fact, be funny the umpteenth time. At least once per episode, Keitaro will - entirely by accident - touch a girl inappropriately or perhaps see someone in a state of undress. Then things will pause, allowing the realisation to dawn on him. Then he will be brutally assaulted by one or more of the female characters. What makes this amusing is not necessarily the sequence of events, but rather the constant stream of increasingly unlikely misfortunes that befall Keitaro to land him in these situations and the disproportionate, inconceivably painful results. Through its explicit recognition that "male falls face-first into breasts of female" is a hugely contrived situation, Love Hina is able to exaggerate it mercilessly. As a result, what would have been a stupid and even embarrassing element of the anime becomes a source of comedy.
In fact, most of the humour is equally self-aware and shows a flagrant disregard for the fourth wall. Many are the direct references to stock character archetypes, dating sims and other things which Love Hina's world and protagonists very clearly resemble. This doesn't just serve to generate laughter; it also absolves the show of any criticism it may have incurred for overuse of stereotypes or its formulaic nature. Again, this is a series that knows exactly what it is and is neither afraid nor ashamed to flaunt it.
As a result, it's a pleasant surprise when the hand that so relentlessly pounded on the fourth wall doles out moments that are genuinely touching. In spite of the plot being uncomplicated and frankly thin on the ground, the show contains a sprinkling of scenes which present simple, understated emotion and which belie the raucous energy that characterises the majority of the series. This juxtaposition alone renders the story satisfying, even though its conclusion is disappointingly incomplete, not quite reaching as far as the end of the manga. Whilst there are some episodes which do little to advance the story, there is sufficient magic and madness contained within each for the show to remain entertaining throughout.
In terms of animation, time seems to have been kind to Love Hina, and there are no tell-tale signs to indicate that this anime dates back to the beginning of the century. The character designs are sharp and distinctive, whilst a calculated sufficiency in detail means that nothing ever looks bad, just occasionally unambitious.
The series also makes use of cartoony animation to provide a lot of visual jokes. By way of example, Keitaro's face at one point becomes strangely elastic and Naru is able to stretch it over a couple of metres. Quirks like this are always unexpected and - in an impressive display of variety and creativity - never overused.
Love Hina's opening and ending themes could hardly be more different. In contrast to the irresistibly lively opening, the ending tune is a solemn but memorable ballad of longing. However, as a BGM, and with the addition of an electric guitar, it becomes a powerful theme of both sadness and triumph, bringing each emotion out in the appropriate scenes. At one point, the opening theme is also adapted for use within the show itself, with an a capella ensemble performance that can best be described as some sort of musical fanservice. The rest of the background music fits in with the generally jaunty atmosphere, although it can be a little intrusive in places.
The voicing is well done. Although there are very few moments of emotional complexity, those that do exist are handled successfully by the voice cast. One irritant worth picking out, however, is the sound effect which accompanies the childish Kaolla Su seemingly wherever she goes. Its overuse alone is bothersome, but it is also lost in the proverbial translation. Western ears will recognise it as a wolf whistle, which is wholly inappropriate for her character.
Whilst the characters generally lack depth, they make amends for this by oozing what personality they have at every given opportunity. There is seemingly no occasion which cannot bring their identity to the forefront - be it Kaolla Su smiling like an idiot during a rockslide or the protective Motoko carrying the smaller girls under her arms whilst fleeing danger. Indeed, although the characters are barely conflicted and mostly simple to read, it does not preclude the viewer from enjoying and sympathising with them.
It is also worth giving special mention to Keitaro here. Whilst most male leads in a harem anime are dry, obnoxious, or both, Keitaro is a sympathetic character, all the more admirable for his failings and his attempts to overcome them. He is bold enough to motor the love story yet sensitive enough to not deserve the punches to the face he so frequently receives.
Love Hina will not appeal to everyone. The same is true of any anime. What the show does, however, is recognise this truism and cater directly to the sort of audience who will enjoy a harem-based romance comedy. Resultantly, if you think you won't like this, then you're almost certainly right. But if a simple, energetic, and just occasionally stupid love comedy is what you're after, I couldn't recommend this highly enough. As a pioneer of its genre it's still one of the very best and resembles the product of years of trial and error, rather than an inspiration and originator for what has come since.
Absurd, ridiculous and just plain idiotic, Love Hina is mindless entertainment for those days when you want to turn your brain off.
Love Hina is about a run-of-the-mill wimp named Keitaro who develops a crush at a very young age to his nameless childhood sweetheart. Unfortunately, she has to move away. While running after the moving van, he promises her that he would get into Tokyo University – one of the most prestigious and hard-to-get-into universities of Japan – and find her at all costs. Years pass, and he fails the entrance exams of Tokyo University. His parents kick him out of the house, so he decides to move in with his grandma who manages a hotel. But unbeknownst to him, it has since turned into an all-female dorm. While the female residents are initially not happy with a man moving in with them, they come to accept him. He decides to retake the exams next year and find his lost love. The only problem is that he doesn't remember who she was, but he's determined to find out at all costs.
And that's it for the story! If you expect anything more, run far, far away from this and never look back.
Story: (2/10) While this was an entertaining anime at times, it was also unashamedly shallow and stupid. The extremely thin 'plot' would veer off frequently in favor of pointless side-stories. No, no one gives a damn about a hidden turtle civilization or a doll that comes back to life, just get back to the real story! These filler episodes take up a large portion of the show, and derail any advances to the main plot or character development. While one or two filler episodes are generally forgivable, if a series has more than half its episodes dedicated to these, then there's a huge problem. And even the story itself has numerous plot holes if any amount of logic is added to it. If the male lead had been anyone but the lowest common denominator, Love Hina would not exist at all. No breathing, straight male is desperate enough to get together with a girl they had met once over 15 years ago, when said girl at the time was barely old enough to go to the bathroom by herself. But lo and behold, we have Keitaro and it's thanks to him that this ridiculous story is able to stagger along at all. The main ahem, 'story' decided to make an appearance at the very end, but it was too little, and far too late.
The comedy in Love Hina is juvenile to an extreme degree. If you like dull, childish jokes that get dragged on and on, you'll be right at home here. Most of it depends on Keitaro accidentally touching someone's breasts, or looking at someone in a state of undress, while the rest of the female cast goes berserk and try to kill him. Rinse, wash, and repeat for 24 episodes. And if you're not tired of this brainless joke after the second time watching it (if that's the case, you have the patience of a saint), you'll soon become exhausted by the frustrating, supposedly 'funny' scenarios the characters get into. Oh, look, Keitaro got burned to a crisp by Su's bad cooking. Hilarious! Watch out, Keitaro, a flying mecha turtle is shooting lasers at you! Comedy gold! Worse, the comedy saps out any small redeeming qualities this show might have by making it mind-numbingly painful to watch.
Although fans of the show will cry out for my blood for saying this, I will say it nonetheless: Love Hina is a terrible love story. The 'romance' (and take the word with a grain of salt) was so forced and contrived I was seriously considering shoving a fork up my nose instead. That's how painful it was sitting through this travesty of a romantic story. The show tried to convince me that Keitaro was somehow in love with Naru, but given her deplorable treatment of him in every single episode, it was really hard for me to find this believable. In fact, it made me angry. Why would he love someone who made him a human punching bag without the slightest hesitation? For a large part of the series, Keitaro would run away and be scared of her, while she would stalk him in a rage. He was less of a convincing love interest, and more like a beaten housewife. No, the fact that the series treated Naru kicking and punching Keitaro as 'hilarious' did not convince me at all. And likewise for Naru's feelings for Keitaro. Her behavior for most of the series frequently crossed the line of funny boyfriend-girlfriend slapstick comedy to the disturbingly abusive. Why on earth would she love a spineless loser whom she thought was a lecherous pervert is really up to anyone's guess. In other words, the couple of Naru and Keitaro had all the charm and plausibility of a used condom. I would roll my eyes every time the anime stopped its wacky hijinks and try to pretend that it was a love story all along. It's really not. Love Hina is first and foremost a zany, out-of control, ecchi comedy and to assume otherwise is laughable.
And finally, we have the ending. The ending was one of the most disappointing aspects of this tripe. It just...ended. There was no half-baked conclusion, or anything resembling a somewhat satisfying ending. The series didn't bother to resolve the flimsy plot threads it still had going on. Nothing. It simply showed the characters smiling dazedly at the camera...and cue credits. Do not expect to find out who the mystery girl was or if Naru and Keitaro end up together or not. It was an insult to viewers who had to watch hours of this pointless drivel and have no payback for all their time wasted.
Characters: (2/10) The characters are all cardboard cut-outs that have been borrowed from many other harem series before it and somehow made infinitely more annoying. Some were better than others, but that's like saying that being stabbed in the arm is better than being shot in the head. Keitaro is yet another useless twit that is so common in this genre, and despite the plethora of negative qualities he has, half the female cast is in love with him. He is nothing but a wish-fulfillment vessel for desperate male fans; he appeases their insecurity. Although he frequently got himself in awkward situations that were blamed on him through no fault of his own, he never stands up for himself or do anything to make him seem less of a pathetic failure that he is. Even though the series tries to portray him as a nice guy that looks out for the well-being of others, it is not enough to redeem him as a whole. These are rare instances in the anime, and do not outweigh the great majority of the time where he is the butt-monkey of the rest of the cast. And while Keitaro is a pitiable human being, his love interest - Naru - is way worse. I will put this bluntly: she is a wholly unlikeable, violent bitch. Undoubtedly, the anime also tries to portray her as an incredibly intelligent young woman that aces every exam, but for all we see of her, she's just as utterly moronic as her friends. She never tries to hear Keitaro out, and opts for physically assaulting him at every instance. She is haughty, aggressive, selfish, immature and a horrible female lead. The secondary characters do not fare any better. They're all unremarkable archetypes that do not even feign to break out of their molds. Shinobu is the painfully shy girl, Mokoto is basically Naru with a sword, Su is the young genius with a perchance for childish mischief, Kitsune is the horny alcoholic, Mutsumi is the well-meaning ditz, Tama-chan is the cute mascot...none of them have any hidden depths beyond this. And if they do, the anime does a damn good job at hiding it. What's worse, they frequently regress backwards by acting like irritating toddlers throwing a tantrum. Character development goes out the window in favor of pointless side-quests that have no bearing on the plot. These characters do not grow, but remain their same brain-dead selves throughout the entire series' run. This is your 'winning' cast of characters.
Animation: (6/10) Animation is decent for its time, and has not aged badly. However, there are times when movement would become very choppy, such as when Naru would punch Keitaro through a wall. Character designs are nothing special, but each one has certain physical traits (like Mutsumi's hair 'antennas') that made them stand out from the others, but they would become disproportionate at times. Backgrounds are standard fare, and not much effort was put into giving them a lot of detail, but they're all decently colored. The anime itself offers no real eye-candy, but it gets the job done.
Sound: (5.5/10) The OP fit the series perfectly. It is an over-the-top, hyper song that wholeheartedly reflected the series' overall insanity and the bizarre situations the equally crazy characters would get themselves into...but it gets obnoxious fast. The ED was its polar opposite – it was a slow, almost jazzy tune. It seemed out of place in this sort of anime, and I had all but forgotten it until I listened to it again. The rest of the music here is composed of artificial synthesizers, similar to the opening song, that made me want to pour acid into my ears. The Japanese voice actors did a good job bringing their characters to life; they noticeably put a lot of effort in capturing what each of their characters would sound like if they became flesh-and-blood people. Unfortunately, their voices grated on me frequently and were very annoying.
Overall: (3.5/10) I do not understand the hype of Love Hina. It completely fails as a love story, the comedy is extremely repetitive and sophomoric, the ecchi scenes are yawn-inducing, and the cast of characters seem have a combined IQ of 60. While it has some hidden appeal underneath all those breast shots, it's ruined by the staggering amount of filler and general stupidity of the series as a whole. I do not recommend Love Hina at all, unless you're a hardcore fan of harem shows and have a couple of hours to waste. And even so, just know that you could do much better. Your brain will thank you.
Animated by studio Xebec, and it’s probably the only above average show they ever managed to make.
Directed by some guy who did nothing but harems in his whole career and this is by far his best work.
Based on the manga of Akamatsu Ken, who prior to this had done a sci-fi romcom called A.I. Love You, which was not bad but surely felt standard. After Love Hina he made Mahou Sensei Negima, which was hardly as good. So in all, this is the best thing all three of the above categories of people ever managed to produce in their whole lives.
When I am to mention quality harem anime, very few exist as far as I care. This is one, Ah My Goddess is another, and if I stretch it Urusei Yatsura from the mid 80’s counts, even if it is closer to a slapstick comedy than a harem. Actually, Love Hina does take many pointers from Urusei Yatsura, albeit it is more mainstream than it. It is by no means an original show but it sure is the first one in its kind to reach an almost masterful level.
Love Hina was also made in a time when the genre was still rather young and it lasted long enough for the reader/viewer to get to know and like the characters. They had personality and goals, so they weren’t completely ridiculed by the bold (for its time anyways) fan service. This is what managed to create the perfect balance of good pacing and erotic humour, something of which 99% of similar shows never get it right.
Let’s dig into this balance by checking out the overall story. A man is trying to enter university while looking for the girl that promised to marry him as kids. He ends up in a place full of pretty chicks but he still strives to head forward as do the girls themselves. There is a main objective, as well as a side story for each girl, and as simplistic as they feel they are still enough to provide an ulterior motive for each one as they try to achieve it. Plus the ending of the main series may be open but if we are to include the various specials and OVAs that followed, by the end of it you feel like there is a sort of closure to all this. Not too secured or amazing but there definitely is one. And notice how it was never about sex, unlike most harems which begin with some lame excuse of a hentai premise that heads nowhere. The quality of the scripts varies from very good to very bad on various occasions but in overall Akamatsu did a fine job to balance the good times with the bad times and keeping you interested.
Then we have the depth of the characters. Each one begins as a typical stereotype but is colorized enough throughout the series to be deemed very interesting as far as romantic comedies go. The girls are not defined by some sexual fetish alone as they are given a demeanour as well as a backdrop, plus some unique quirks that are present and excused as the story goes on. By the end of the show you really feel each one of them is a character that can stand on its own and even starring in his or her own series. Of course that also has to do with it being amongst the first well made harem shows. If it was made today chances are it wouldn’t feel that special as the character archetypes have been recycled over and over to the point you get bored of them in a few episodes. It was amongst the first harems most of my generation watched and loved, without repetition having kicked in yet. Still, going by volume I still remember more scenes of them striving to achieve their goals and less of them doing silly ecchi stuff. That means a lot since I remember them clearly as personalities and not as softporn material. The series was also a full season with lots of extra OVAs so there was plenty of time to get to like them, unlike the half seasons we get today.
Not all of it is roses of course. One of the things I always disliked is the indecisive lead archetype. Keitaro is the father of the kind and he is lame as his descendants. I mean, ok, it is funny how he keeps bumping on naked girls and is beaten senselessly for it. That makes the situation funny but not the character. He is of course supposed to represent the comical archetype of the wimp male that is completely incapable to have a normal relationship and at the time the show was made he felt less lame. Otherwise, I hate the guy.
The production values are fine for such a show as there is a lot of vividness and bright colours to easily become eye catchy. The animation part suffers a lot as most motions are jerky but it is meant to be part of the comedy factor. And trust me when I say it is extreme as on each episode the craziest things happen in a most extreme form of slapstick humour. It always has to do with Keitaro getting his ass handed on a plate but he always gets back on his feet and does a form of comeback, because as they said at one point he has infinite hit points. There are huge quality fluctuations amongst the series and the following specials, which may feel bad for some, but I personally didn’t mind it much.
The best thing is by far the OST as the songs are very cheerful and well performed and even after all these years I still remember their tunes. Plus they are part of the story in a way, as the lead girl, Naru, plans to become a pop idol at some point.
By the end of the day Love Hina is the ideal for of a harem. It has a story that heads somewhere, even if it is simple and silly. It develops its characters by providing backdrop stories and different objectives for each one of them. It maintains their interest from the viewer without ever going overboard with the fan service and ridiculing them. And above all at no point it is trying to play out as a typical harem where the lead can’t decide which girl he wants. The chosen couple is secured early on and the rest are there mostly as teasing and fleshing out. Many times their almost hate-love relationship is tested by having Keitaro being surrounded by other women but all that don’t last much as he eventually returns back to his first option. Very bad for shipping wars but who cares, Love Hina managed to become memorable and successful without ever having to resort to such lame methods of attention.
That shows quality and brilliance, a sense of direction and respect for an otherwise archetypical cast that despite having been copied a million times since then, very few manages to get close to it. As far as I care only Ah My Goddess is its equal (although the damn thing doesn’t have a conclusion, unlike Love Hina). You get a sense of fulfilment from this show unlike most other similar ones, as it is very funny, as well as with fleshed out characters and a story that heads somewhere. What more should someone ask for in a harem? … Ok, I know, sex. There isn’t any but nobody’s perfect.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (wacky)
Character Figures 2/2 (memorable)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (silly but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 4/4 (great)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (silly but at times it’s rather heavy)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 8/10
Presence 2/2 (funny/sexy)
Personality 2/2 (wacky)
Backdrop 2/2 (they all have some)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-known)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you are into the genre)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely well done to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
Art 1/1 (looks wacky)
Sound 2/2 (sounds fine)
Story 2/3 (loose but at least it heads somewhere)
Characters 3/4 (they are great as far as a harem cast goes; I still hate Keitaro)
I could just say "The manga is better" and let that be my review.
Seriously, the characters are much more developed in the manga. You don't get to sympathize with characters at all in the anime. And the turtle story arch? At least the opening theme is great (yet the remixes are better).
A well written story and very enjoyable. I especially loved the mix of characters, almost every girl can relate to one of the characters making it so fun to watch and laugh about saying 'thats me!'. I like how the world is so realistic aswell, making it a tiny bit more believable (especially the fight for uni places!) I especially enjoy the special episodes like the dream when theyre all in a game and the festive ones (the scary one was scary too..creepy)
Overall I found it hilarious, interesting and exciting :) it hooks you in straight away, a must watch.