Love Hina Volume 4

I approached this forth volume of Love Hina hesitantly- the third volume was the most disappointing yet and the story had shown no signs of improvement to suggest these episodes would be any better- and yet, I find myself filled with enthusiasm for this series again!

The repetitive, heavy-handed humour still dominates the core of Love Hina but we are given more of a personal and thus complex insight into the minds of the characters- endearing the viewer to the shy persona of Shinobu and for once, allowing Keitarou to be more than just a punch bag.

This volume kicks off in the same lackadaisical fashion as the previous few episodes, but the spotlight soon moves onto Shinobu and her young-teenage anxieties about kissing and such things. Naturally, being the most withdrawn of the Hina girls, Shinobu bottles up a lot of her feelings and tends lack self confidence- a polar opposite to the unintentionally blunt Kaolla.
This is a really fun episode which delights in poking fun at the realistic feelings of a shy young kid; a welcome change from the usual hyperbolic adventures complimented by larger than life personalities like Kaolla and Mitsune.

This episode is followed up by the introduction of a new, older character called Seta.
The Hina apartments are in financial trouble and everyone has to get a part-time job to help pay off an ugly looking stack of bills. Keitarou gets a job with an archaeologist called Seta- someone who by coincidence also happens to be a much loved ex-tutor of Naru.
This episode is yet another frustrating chapter of the ‘get a room’ romance between Keitarou and Naru; a long running invisible fling that has been played up since almost the first episode. The humour returns to its derivative best; Motoko needs to be told where to shove that annoying sword!

After Seta’s introduction, we join the Hina gang as they investigate one of Seta’s archaeological digs. Cue loads of weird stuff, including an underground turtle-robot civilization.
Sometimes I wonder how this show can vary from the basic slice-of-life drama of school entrance exams to the zany, unexplained spectacle of a giant robotic turtle and still expect us to take it seriously. We do however reach something of a turning point in the Keitarou/Naru relationship- suffice to say he makes enough of a fool of himself to suggest to Naru that his feelings are in the right place.

This leads to some heavy tension between the two; only compounded when the gang have to go away together to the beach and perform some kind of annual play for the local kids. Of course, with this being Love Hina, the play tends up transforming into a melodrama of uppercuts and swordfights.
We end the volume with Keitarou and Naru standing together on what seems to be common-ground, able to laugh and joke together without resorting to an argument.

Keitarou is obviously still crippled with anxiety and cowardice whenever Naru is around and their relationship could now easily fall back into the same old routine of uptight girl and bumbling buffoon- but I suppose I’m holding out some hope that the next volume will see at least similar progress for them.

The concluding episode also sees a few moments of genuine fun, culminating in a kung fu fight between the much lamented Motoko and the physically talented Seta. In attempting to be a parody of “fighting anime’ like Dragonball-Z (the play the Hina residents are performing is the classic old Chinese story ‘Journey to the West’ on which Dragonball was based!), these scenes are exciting and fun. And besides, I loved seeing Motoko getting her ass kicked for once!

In Summary

And so ends yet another rollercoaster volume of Love Hina, giving us the highs of real development in the Keitarou/Naru relationship and the lows of the continually repetitive humour.

Also of note should be the musical soundtrack, especially during the Shinobu episode- several pieces of classical music are used, giving the teen drama a sense of importance and yet irony; I’m sure to Shinobu, her issues are almost akin to the end of the world but from the outside looking in, we can all see just how trivial the smaller aspects of teenage life really are.

7 / 10


Washed up on the good shores of Anime UK News after many a year at sea, Paul has been writing about anime for a long time here at AUKN and at his anime blog.

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