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Anime Reviews Love Hina

Copyright © Akamatsu Ken, Kodansha / Love Hina Production Committee, TV Tokyo

—by Kenneth Lee

There are certain genres of series that never fail to reappear on Japanese TV year after year: there's always a new "giant robot / mech" show, a new "sentai / hero" (a lá POWER RANGERS), a new anime comedy show and so forth. One genre that doesn't seem to show up as often is the "romantic comedy" genre. After seeing such wonderful classic series like MAISON IKKOKU and KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD, this reviewer has always longed for a new series to fill the void left by them. Imagine my surprise when I watched the first DVD of LOVE HINA, a new TV series that just finished airing in Japan. From the cute and funny moments to the ever-charming romantic events, LOVE HINA is looking to become the next great romantic comedy anime series.
  This DVD covers the first three episodes of LOVE HINA. Essentially, the main protagonist, Urashima Keitaro, made a promise to his childhood "sweetheart" one day that they would both go to Todai (Tokyo University) when they grew up, and since she believed that Todai was a good place, they'd be happy there as a couple. The next day, her family moves away and Keitaro never sees her again. Of course, the worst part about that memory is that Keitaro doesn't remember her name! Flash forward to the present—Keitaro is graduating high school and applying for college admissions. He, of course, applies only to Tokyo University, remembering that childhood promise he made with that girl. He fails to get in, and in the tradition of the ronin Godai (MAISON IKKOKU), Keitaro starts studying up for next year's exams.
  Suddenly his family gets a call from his grandmother, who owns a former onsen (hot springs) resort called "Hinata-so." She has decided to give up running the place so she can go travel the world and have fun. She calls and asks if Keitaro wants to be the manager of Hinata-so—without telling him that it's now an all-female boarding school—and Keitaro accepts. He thinks it'll be the perfect place to study and to get his parents out of his hair about him not getting into college yet.
  Episode 1 then follows Keitaro's initiation into Hinata-so: an accidental run-in with Narusegawa Naru, the main female character, in the hot springs while bathing, and then his mad-cap attempt to escape from the wrath of her and every other girl at the boarding house. Finally, after being chased down, only then does Keitaro realize that Hinata-so has been converted into an all-female boarding house. Then there's Keitaro's Aunt Haruka, voiced by Hayashibara Megumi, who shows up in the nick of time and vouches for Keitaro. Haruka actually lives next door to the boarding school girls and they know and trust her. They finally accept Keitaro as the manager of Hinata-so, and from there the pieces are in place for potential wacky comedy and romantic hijinks.
  While Episode 1 focused on Keitaro's beginning and the introduction of Narusegawa Naru, Episode 2 introduces Maehara Shinobu, a quiet junior high school girl, and her dismal life. Through Keitaro and the rest of Hinato-so's gals, she gains a new perspective on life and when her parents decide to move away, she decides to stay at Hinata-so. Overall, it was a very touching, slightly sad, but cute episode.
  Episode 3 concentrates on the introduction of Aoyama Motoko, a fellow boarder in Hinata-so, and dedicated to the way of Japanese sword-fighting. Indeed the first third of this episode is filmed in a grainy, classic samurai action film method, and the results are hilarious and awesome! It deals with Motoko and her feelings and eventual acceptance of Keitaro as the manager of the place.
  The animation quality is nothing short of stunning. Xebec, the famed studio behind NADESICO, did the animation for this series and it looks to be all digital. By that I mean, it is still 2D, but everything was done on the computer, rather than with cels. But this is far from a negative, in fact the video transfer and resultant image is hands-down the most gorgeous animation quality (crispness, color saturation, etc.) that I've ever seen for an anime DVD! There is absolutely no artifacting, no shimmering (rainbow), or any other blemish. It is simply perfect.
  The audio is great as well, with a wonderful opening song sung by Hayashibara Megumi. It is totally wacky and cute, and complements the anime perfectly. The voice actors are stellar, with Keitaro being the best. His seiyuu approaches the godliness of Kintaro Oe's (GOLDEN BOY) actor, with great expression and depth of exasperation. Naru's voice actress is also great; Horie Yui is an up-and-coming seiyuu and she captures the cuteness and spunkiness of Naru perfectly.
  Finally, the DVD packaging deserves special mention. The DVD case is clear-pink plastic, and it comes with a reversible DVD cover! Both sides feature completely different, but stunning, original art. And then there's the LOVE HINA Pocket Book that comes with the DVD, featuring a nice synopsis, interesting facts about each episode and the characters. The best highlight from the book is a cute and funny diagram of Hinato-so's blueprint. The title of the diagram is "Hinata Self Defense Force Formation," and it breaks down where each of the gals were stationed to stop Keitaro's crazy escape attempt in Episode 1.
  Simply put, LOVE HINA is a blast to watch, combining elements from MAISON IKKOKU, GOLDEN BOY, ORANGE ROAD and some RANMA 1/2 as well. With gorgeous animation (with some great CG motion blur effects that look totally natural), sexy and cute character designs by Uno Makoto (based on Akamatsu Ken's original) and a wonderfully executed story and script, LOVE HINA is on the way to becoming one of the best new anime series out of Japan this year. Simply wonderful.

Product Information

King Records / Star Child
DVD, 65 minutes
KIBA 484
Available now in Japan
Where to buy

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