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Love Hina: Spring Special Movie
voice cast: Yuji Ueda, Masayo Kurata, Yu Asakawa, and Yui Horie

directors: Yasushi Murayama, Masakazu Hashida

45 minutes (12) 2004
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
The Love Hina series finishes with volume six but the makers decided to bring further adventures in the form of three specials (which have been termed movies for their English language releases but at 45 minutes a go I think 'special' is more fitting). This is the second of the series.

We rejoin the residents of the Hinata Inn, as Keitaro, Naru and Mutsumi take their final English exam granting them entrance to Tokyo University. Keitaro and Naru are now a couple and, upon being given the exam paper, Keitaro is so happy that he can answer the questions that he starts to fantasise about his future with Naru. Unfortunately, he spends so long fantasising that he only has five minutes to do the whole exam. Assuming he has failed he joins an expedition to a tropical island in order to forget Tokyo U and Naru. Upon discovering where he has gone, Naru decides to go off after Keitaro followed by Shinobu (who has feelings for him too) and the rest of the gang. Once on the island, the other workers chase Keitaro and he befriends the granddaughter of an archaeologist who convinces him to help her find the lost civilisation of the turtles. The gang meet up and discover the turtles but the granddaughter decides she must continue alone and Keitaro discovers that he has got in to university but that classes start the following day so they all rush home.

As someone who discovered the Love Hina series only with the sixth volume, I was quite looking forward to a 45-minute adventure but this was truly disappointing. The plotting is shoddy and lazy. They all go to the Island to find Keitaro who has decided to become an archaeologist but actually he doesn't need to be an archaeologist and isn't really wanted so he runs home. The subplot about Shinobu deciding whether she still loves Keitaro or not is weak because Keitaro and Naru are already a couple... so Shinobu gains nothing from going to the Island and it's not clear what she could have gained anyway without upsetting the Keitaro-Naru romance, which is unlikely as she's supposedly much much younger than Keitaro.

The jokes start strongly with Keitaro's fantasies and the girls torturing two of Keitaro's rivals to discover where he had gone, but they rapidly devolve into comedy running; Keitaro being chased by other workers for no reason then Naru chasing Keitaro across a desert and then everyone running across a desert in order to get back in time for the start of university. In fact, the special starts quite well and gets worse and worse until the end credits where everyone's running across the desert and Naru expresses her love of Keitaro in a cringe-worthy and bizarre way.

Love Hina draws both its romantic dramatic tension and its humour from the structure of its central relationship, namely the will-they / won't-they relationship between Keitaro and Naru. However, by the time the special comes along Keitaro and Naru are a couple, so there's no longer any real tension to be had from the central relationship as it is. This also undermines the comedy element. In the series, Naru's temper is based on a pendulum swinging back and forth between quite liking Keitaro and hating him and thinking he's a pervert. The problem is that if you basically allow Naru and Keitaro to be a couple then Naru's explosive temper isn't funny... it's abusive. So by making Naru and Keitaro a couple, the producers of the series have killed the goose with the golden egg that provided a lot of the show's heart and comedy. There are two ways to resolve this problem... firstly, you can try and introduce a new relationship that will fuel similar tension and humour. Secondly, you can put the couple's relationship under threat forcing them back to the old pendulum. The problem is that the producers try to do both without any real conviction and neither of them works.

The subplot featuring Shinobu's secret love for Keitaro is unrealistic and poorly handled, it simply doesn't work because it would be grotesque for people to root for a relationship between a man and a little girl, especially when it's incompatible with the whole basis of the show. The fact that Keitaro has run away could have been exploited to yield some dramatic tension because the dejected Keitaro might have wanted to leave all of his old life behind him... he might even have fallen for another girl on the Island, so dramatic tension might have been built around Keitaro's desire to be with Naru and his conflicting desire to leave Tokyo U behind him. However, the second Naru turns up it's clear that Keitaro and Naru are still in love and the tension of the relationship failing because of Keitaro leaving sees them separated so they can't play off of each other.

Apart from a few nice lines ("Tomorrow?! But that's Tomorrow!"), and Su's mecha turtle there isn't really much substance to this 45-minute special. The plotting is poorly thought out, the ending is utterly atrocious and the 45-minute run time seems overly long and padded, not least by a musical number so dreadful it makes you want to take a drill to your temple. The only thing that prevents it from being hopeless is the first quarter of an hour, which is more in keeping with the humour of the original series. This is definitely one to avoid unless you're a diehard fan, it's also shockingly expensive for a 45-minute DVD with a disappointing set of extras.

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