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.