Over the last two volumes (or 8 episodes) of this series, something has subtly clicked into place for me and I now find myself enjoying (even relishing) almost every episode of Love Hina (yes, even those focused on Su!). The strange thing is, nothing in the plot has noticeably changed over this same period- we’re still being treated to the same random little stories, still being bombarded with the same slapstick jokes and yes, Keitaro is still tip-toeing around Naru- and yet, I some how find myself more engrossed in this anime than ever before.
Have I just become attached to the strange personalities of the Hina apartments or has the narrative direction slowly improved? I assume it’s a mixture of both- while I won’t deny that I have grown to enjoy the small, lovable quirks of each of these characters, the episodes are undoubtedly getting stronger too.
This fifth volume of Love Hina contains two fantastic episodes which evoked a great feeling of sentimentality, bordering on sadness. I would never have expected Love Hina to become philosophical, but by gum- the last episode on this volume is an endearing (if rather disturbing) look at unfulfilled promises and sticking by your word, all told through the memories of a human-size doll. Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) would have been proud.
Of course, the amusement and sheer comedy value of Love Hina still remains at the forefront of this series, but it now feels driven by purpose- often showing a raw, sentimental emotion that was absent in it’s early episodes.
It goes without saying, the Keitaro and Naru relationship is as stop/start as ever but it doesn’t feel as blatantly staggered as before. The introduction of a rival has really helped keep Naru on her toes and added a new dynamic to her behaviour- and with the Tokyo University entrance exams rapidly approaching; the climax to their constant fretting over each other is drawing tantalizingly close. I expect nothing but a happy ending, but you never know- especially with the rather blunt precursor to their ‘promised relationship’ this volume concludes with.
So, basically, Love Hina Vol. 5 shows us a series coming into form just at the right time. The fawning, shy Shinobu and dead-pan Haruka are still as fun to watch as ever but I’m now finding myself warming up to the other girls too.
On this evidence, I’m lamenting the fact there are only four more episodes left to go. It’s strange to think, the next time I’ll be writing a Love Hina review; Keitaro and Naru could have finally got it together?! What an epic thought!