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volumes 1, 2, 3 |
Love Hina: volume six|
cast: Yuji Ueda, Masayo Kurata, Yu Asakawa, and Yui Horie
directors: Yoshiaki Iwasaki, Shigeru Ueda
100 minutes (12) 2004
MVM DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Excluding the three specials, volume six is the last in the Love Hina series.
It's also the first I have seen. Well... that's not entirely true. I first encountered
this series in the form of a Flash online game. When I first played it, I thought it
was a parody because it was the tale of a teenaged boy who was made the manager of an
all-girl dorm (a bit like putting Jonathan King in charge of a kiddies' football team),
as you went through the game cute teenaged girls would appear and start hitting you.
Obviously I took it to be a sly western crack at the Japanese sense of humour. In truth,
that game was a fairly faithful rendition of what my research tells me is a popular if
divisive series of manga turned into anime. With hindsight, I think judging that game
to be a parody was probably fair enough given that this series is completely and utterly
This volume contains four episodes that centre exclusively on the love triangle featuring
amiable, misunderstood nerd Keitaro, explosively violent cutie Naru and ditsy easy-going
Mutsumi. The volume begins with Keitaro taking Naru out to dinner to celebrate his
improved grades only for her to hysterically insist that it isn't a date. Given that
Naru and Keitaro evidently aren't dating, Mutsumi steps in and asks him out only for
the jealous Naru to break the date up. Matters are further complicated by the arrival
of Mei, Naru's little sister who tries to convince Naru to return home by getting Keitaro
and Mutsumi to fall for each other. Keitaro is now torn between his interest in both
girls and his promise to attend Tokyo University with a little girl he met 15 years ago.
The identity of the little girl isn't clear but Mutsumi also promised to attend University
with a little boy she cannot remember. Initially this seems to resolve the mystery of
the identity of Keitaro's little girl but in reality the situation is far more complicated,
meaning that Keitaro has some difficult decisions to make.
Love Hina is unlike anything produced in the west. Most notable are its drastic
and jarring changes in tone. One minute it's a coming-of-age romantic drama with the
characters quietly introspecting and wondering about their true feelings and the next
it's a bizarre slapstick comedy where Keitaro falls into a pool of naked girls and gets
catapulted over the horizon by Naru's explosively violent temper. It's like having the
plot of Ally McBeal described to you by a gibbering and jawing cokehead. It's
utterly strange but surprisingly enjoyable.
Artistically the programme is really top notch. The art, while never scaling the anime
heights of Akira,
Ghost In The Shell or Steamboy, is better than a lot of the anime I have
seen and it's directed with a real visual flair. The romantic and slapstick components
are so well put together that when they switch from one to the other it is never jarring
and if it is it's only to underline the comic effect.
The series is also excellent musically, boasting the single catchiest and up-beat theme
song of any TV programme I have ever seen. But despite the kinetic J-pop of the title
sequence the end credits are more sedate and the scoring is excellent throughout.
The voice acting is also refreshingly good. There are a few bizarre choices such as
the Texan accent of one of the residents and the dialogue is characteristically Japanese
in its overly expositional good humoured clunky-ness but, considering the kind of resources
that probably went into the dub and translation, it wouldn't be fair to expect Spirited
Away and it's better performed and written than a lot of native English language
The plotlines are sentimental but largely well handled even if the characters always
seem to understand things 10 minutes after the audience has. There are a few clunkers
though such as the fact that Naru's favourite childhood toy has Mutsumi's name written
on it in big red letters but Naru had never noticed this before. Also, it's not really
clear to me why, if three people are all trying to get into the same university and
they could all theoretically get places that only two of those people can 'go together'.
This might well be a question of cultural differences (like the bizarre idea of studying
at a heated table... conjuring up images of students sitting round a hotplate) but it's
the main plot dilemma and frankly I can't see any reason for it. But these are relatively
minor questions and I might just be being uncharitable by drawing your attention to
them. However, if I really had to find bad things to say about this product I'd point
out that for a TV series DVD you're really not getting very much for your money. You
only get four short episodes and the extras are rather stingy too. The plot also moves
quite slowly; the love triangle is set up in the first episode and played out in the
final episode and the two episodes in the middle kind of just tread water, dealing with
the issue of Naru's younger sister. But frankly these concerns are unlikely to prevent
anyone from buying this DVD.
Despite being easily accessible to new arrivals, there are 20 episodes that come before
these four and you've likely made-up your mind about this series already. You either
love the wackiness or you hate the simplistic sentimentality. If you haven't made up
your mind yet then I warmly recommend checking Love Hina. The sentimentality
of the plotlines are made palatable by the sheer visual flair and energy of the slapstick
moments and the plot-holes are easily forgiven because of the sheer weirdness of mad
scientist Japanese schoolgirls and sword-wielding female samurai. The two extremes of
this programme are incredibly well balanced resulting in a series that doesn't seem
overly sentimental or self-consciously zany despite clearly being both. This is so
utterly unlike anything on TV over here that you can't help feeling that this is exactly
what anime watching should be all about.