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.
For awhile, Love Hina was considered to be the best harem, a not respectable genre, since it comes down to a power fantasy for teenage virgins. It’s about a worthless piece of shit male idiot who can’t do anything right and constantly bumps onto naked women who then kick the living crap out of him five times per episode. But it’s always nice when a show tries to be more than what it needs to be without messing it up.
Love Hina had a main objective, as well as a side story for each girl, and as simplistic as they were when you seen them from afar, they offered a lot of characterization and a basic sense of urgency. It made the girls far more than one dimensional fap material because despite following an archetype at first, they do a lot and stand out. By the end of the story each one of them can have their own show. Essentially, if you take out all the fan service bullshit, which to be honest are nothing special as you have seen them being done identically in a thousand different anime by now, you still have a functional coming of age story that has a basic closure. But not if you only watch the series, because it’s open ended. You need to watch the various specials and OVAs that followed so you’ll get the whole deal. Not having all that in the main series was a mistake in my opinion, since not that many bothered to look for the extra material and were left with yet another incomplete anime that didn’t stand the test of time as much as it could.
The protagonist didn’t help at that either, since despite being the viewer’s gateway to the show and for many a self insert, he was the usual indecisive idiot who does stupid shit and gets blasted to space by offended women. He was already too much by the late 90s, and nowadays most progressives would bark nonstop every time he’s on screen.
At least he’s not the only source of comedy, since there is a lot of slapstick humor and many episodes have the craziest things happening. The comedy is based on absurd situations and their quality varies from episode to episode. Although there is not much consistency when it comes to the writing, you are at least getting something different each time.
The production values have obviously aged rather badly, and there is a lot of choppy animation during the slapstick moments, but at least the music score is pretty good and the songs are indirectly part of the plot, since the lead girl plans to become a pop idol and she gets to sing them in story at some points. Overall, it’s not a bad production, and it’s actually the magnum opus of the people who made it. By that, I mean the animators and the director and the mangaka. And yes, nobody cares to even remember their names nowadays since they never produced something actually amazing. But again, it’s nice to see the best of what they could make in the sea of passable softporn that is the harem genre, at a time when there weren’t that many good romcoms. I remember how much people still loved it in the early 2000s, because the saturation of repetition hadn’t kicked in yet.
And yes, that also means 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’ll get bored of them in a few episodes. The cream of the crop nowadays is considered to be the Monogatari franchise, and even in retro times most would easily pick Ah My Goddess as the better harem or Excel Saga as the better absurdist comedy.
Despite never being the best of what it was going for, it’s still pretty high on the chart for having a story that heads somewhere, even if it is simple and silly. It develops its characters, gives different objectives for each one of them, and does not succumb to making the girls being unable to exist without an incompetent male self insert. It would definitely be a better show if it didn’t have fan service and the aforementioned waste of space main lead wasn’t a glutton for punishment, but at least the show has a support harem, not a balanced one, because the chosen couple is secured early on and the rest are there mostly for teasing. There are no shipping wars and internet drama like so many other shows do, and at least there is some sort of closure. Not enough for calling Love Hina a must watch, but not also something to avoid for being a waste of your time.
Like any other anime among casual fans and otakus everywhere, this happens to have a massive fan base as it was based on the manga series by Ken Akamatsu. However, I know little of the harem genre of anime, aside from the fact it’s usually a guy living and/or being with a variety of girls or the opposite being the reverse harem, where it’s a bunch of guys surrounding a young lady with examples of shows like Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club, Ranma ½ & Tenchi Muyo.
Keitaro Urashima is determined to be accepted into Tokyo University, the hardest Japanese University of all to get into, because of a promise he made to a girl when he was young... a girl whose name he can't even remember. After failing to get into Tokyo U twice, he is kicked out by his parents and goes to live with his Grandmother at her hotel, but it seems it has been turned into an all-girls boarding house. What's more, much to his surprise and to the tenants disgust, Keitaro is made manager of the boarding house.
So watching all the initial 25 episodes, I am the guy that usually isn’t quick to judge on an anime even before watching it but after a few episodes, my reaction to this show is pure disgust and hatred. Yeah, that’s right, I really hate this show and I mean genuinely hate it from the bottom of my heart.
Let’s start with the storyline and the romance. The show isn’t exactly episodic to an ump, mostly Keitaro trying to get into Tokyo U. just to find his true love he promised to meet but he isn’t exactly the sharpest mind and the same goes to Naru Narusegawa, a girl who looks similar to his crush and also trying to get into Tokyo U. Most of the time, it evolves around as the somewhat couple-to-be and there herein lies the problem. They are a terrible couple, much like a beaten housewife and an abusive husband, only Keitaro the former. I mean, really, Naru has got to be one of the worst female characters in all of anime and for that; I officially take back what I said about Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion. All the time when Keitaro always gets in these awkward positions, especially ones designed to be perverted, he gets the shit beaten out of him…ALL THE TIME and I mean every damn time!!! Hell, every time I think of that, the Kendrick Lamar song, “Swimming Pools (Drank)” comes to mind, only replace the word “drank” with “hit, punch, or ouch”. Hell, if you make a drinking game out of it, you’ll die for sure. Keitaro as a pervert is nowhere near the level of most characters like Desert Punk but he is quite the moron in this show as I don’t know why he has the patience of not only her but the rest of the girls living there and it’s obvious that both have a crush on each other but Naru has the nerve to tell him to be a man and say something about it, while she is definitely worse in the department when she can’t even tell the dork that she loves him, too. She kept talking about how problematic and pervy he is but she’s violent, temperamental, petty, immature and juvenile, just like this show. They are mismatched as a couple as Kim Kardashian and…….anybody stupid enough to marry her (for a couple of days).
I would speak about the other characters but what’s the point about that? Most of the plot involves around the two main characters and I can’t stand either of them (and yes, that includes Keitaro, he’s just a dense moron who often has the IQ of a weed-infused porcupine) and the other characters involve themselves into that cycle and really, that’s the whole other problem. Kitsune, the white-haired resident, is mostly the one who’s doing the meddling in their problems and does manipulate people just for a sick kick. Motoko practices the art of kendo and sometimes uses it to beat and threaten Keitaro, and just about everything, even for something out of his control, it’s “I’ma kill you, Keitaro!!!”. Shinobu is basically the poster child for “I hope Senpai notices me” meme as one of the only character that actually doesn’t rag on him, however, it is obvious that she has a crush on him. Hell, you got to have a neon sign if you’re that dense of the situation. Su basically have Ed (from Cowboy Bebop)-like similarities but the only exception to that is Ed is likable while Su just causes more trouble for everybody and as for Sara McDougal……..the less I say about her, the better as she annoys me whenever she’s on screen. Mutsumi is the ditzy girl who has a crush on Keitaro but Naru kept cock-blocking Keitaro, but we all know she’s jealous of them being together, no matter what she say. Haruka, on the other hand, is actually the only person who actually has a pleasant presence on screen as she’s the only person who’s actually enjoyable to watch but that’s not enough to favor this. As for the two best friends…….FUCK THOSE GUYS…….HARD!!!!
That’s part of the problem of this show. It thinks it’s being funny and humorous considering there is nothing funny about some defenseless dweeb getting beat up over and over again by violent women whose first response is beat the living shit out of them without any explanation. It would’ve been fine if it was some guy who deserves it a lot but apparently, FUCK THAT SHIT!, it’s all about turning the harem genre upside-down, much like Elfen Lied, but like that, it gets too damn tiring and the hype turns into disappointment but here, it goes into hatred.
Now for the animation, it is done by Xebec, a division of the acclaimed animation studio Production I.G. and they mostly do adaptations based off manga while I.G. does original content. However, I watched Kanokon this year and I have more to that about that coming up. It’s actually…..nothing special and I suspect most of it being gag-based especially with the punching Keitaro silly scenes. The character and production designs are passable but still bland compared to better shows. The opening theme is most likely the one to skip because I couldn’t stand it the first time I heard it. The ending theme is not as bad but still I wouldn’t stick around to listen to it. The BGM is alright to a full extent but is very amateurish at best with its clustered style. The dub (yes, I watched the dub with subtitles to know the direct translation) is grating in some areas but not as bad. Wendee Lee, who voices Su, directs the adaptation for this for a dubbing company that’s not Bang Zoom!, but while she’s a fantastic voice actress, she’s no Mary Elizabeth McGlynn when it comes to directing.
FINAL VERDICT: It’s no contest that I really hate this show and all it does is cater to the lowest common denominator of anime fans and what sickens me about it is that people find this to be funny. I cringed every time I watch an episode of this show. I despise the despicable characters and I know there is no deeper meaning of this but really, this is the best? I fear for those people and if I had one wish, it’s to never watch this again.
A very nice love story, just the fact that they barely kissed and never said they loved eachother until the ova "Again".
Really recommend watching this!