Love Hina has made it over to the UK with a big reputation for tons of fan-service and many Tenchi Muyo!-like situations (the multiple girls swooning for just one guy scenario). So with this preconception sticking in back of my mind, I approached Love Hina #1 with a certain degree of pessimism, unsure of just how much ‘boobs-in-your-face’ humour I could take before my brain switched off. However, I’m writing this now in a surprisingly upbeat mood; Love Hina is everything I’ve talked about above, but also brought other endearing qualities along for the ride too – a likable, ‘imperfect’ cast of characters, striving to grasp at their petty dreams in the real world.
The story of Love Hina revolves around Urashima Keitaro, a 20-year-old kid desperate to make it into Tokyo University due to a promise he made a young girl (he can’t even remember her name) 15 years ago. Despite already failing the entrance exams twice, Keitaro remains determined to make good on his promise.
Problem is, the constant failures have cheesed off his parents enough to kick him out of his home, and when his grandmother Urashima Hina calls him up and asks him to come and stay at her inn, ‘Kei’ is more than happy to oblige.
However, little does he know, the inn is now an all girls boarding house! And thanks to his grandmother’s old age, he has been installed as the new house manager– much to the girl’s bitter disgust!
And so begins the zany ‘slice of life’ anime Love Hina.
I must admit I enjoyed watching Love Hina #1; the story does well to show its intentions straight from the first episode – displaying off-the-wall, slapstick humour combined with a light undercurrent of teenage/young adult insecurity. The jokes are easy enough to understand and the drama is very much straight forward, dealing with the kind of trauma every young person will face in their lives sooner or later. As such, I found it easy to identify with the problematic ambition and feelings many of the Love Hina characters are going through.
The much fabled fan-service is definitely here in abundance, but is presented in such a way that it is more of a running joke rather than being something a little more blatant or gratuitous. I actually feel more uncomfortable when the girls periodically gang up on the submissive Kei – many times of which he doesn’t even deserve it. I’m not really sure what is worse, the girls tendency to bully the retiring personality of Kei or his apparent lack of backbone when attempting to answer back.
The four episodes found on this disc did not feel episodic or pointless, they all seemed to further develop either the key personalities of Love Hina or strengthen the unit of friendship we see grow from nothing before our eyes. I never felt bored by this – and on the contrary, I became quite interested in the likes of Narusegawa (one of the girls boarding at the house) and Kei.
Thus far, the many jokes and crazy (“Carry On’ style) situations haven’t been laugh out loud funny – but they certainly caused me to crack a smirk or two. Despite being billed as a largely slapstick series, Love Hina contains more than its fair share of teen-drama, but such is the strength of this, the comedy doesn’t need to be stellar in order for the series to work.
Love Hina #1 is a promising debut, containing equal shares of fan-service filled fun and realistic ‘teen’ drama; fans of either of these genres would not be disappointed. While not bringing anything new (or compelling) to anime, Love Hina is a surprisingly solid ‘slice of life’ series I can’t help but recommend.