Anime Meta-Review


Mail: Love Hina


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Aarsen , Extremely Violent Charming Romantic Comedy?

How many of you were laughing your asses off when Asuka was being mind-raped by the 15th Angel in EVA? How about when 6-year-old Seita Soujiro was running from his "family" in the 55th episode of Kenshin TV, screaming for help and begging them not to kill him? The creators of "Love Hina" must have thought these were the funniest things on Earth, for they took the familiar concept of "slapstick violence", and went so far overboard with it that the other end surfaced somewhere around San Francisco.

Well, when I first saw Narusegawa punching Keitaro through a thick concrete wall I thought "Here comes another Ranma flashback", but this went beyond Ranma, beyond unfunny, and into the realm of the disturbing. Another show that I recently saw is "Gatekeepers", which has its share of guys being punched into orbit by angry female classmates, but that was actually funny, and you know why? Because by the end of the show none of them were reduced to terrified, dribbling emotional wrecks, trembling at the very sight of their fiancees. On the other hand, Keitaro Urashima is and does, demonstrating even less character than the perennial champion, Shinji Ikari - something I wouldn't have thought possible if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

Of course, if he simply kept getting his face bashed in like Ranma, I would have left it at that, since after all that's what slapstick violence is all about. It's the sheer level of psychological violence in Love Hina that threw me off. Toward the end, there is a scene where Keitaro is walking on the street with a different female character, when he suddenly trips and bumps into her. He then immediately drops onto his knees, shielding himself with his hands, eyes wide with terror, and screams, "No, Narusegawa.. I... eh... ah..." As the person he was with looks at him, astonished, he gets up and says "Ah, sorry.. conditioned reflex."

As the series progresses, all the characters that hated him in the beginning warm up toward Keitaro - even Motoko, the kendo girl that spent much time in the opening episodes trying to kill him - and in the end there's only Narusegawa Naru that would blow up and send the poor guy flying through the atmosphere on the slightest pretext. And in the end of the series, when he had the choice between her and a girl who loved him and would actually say so, and who would take time to think before flying off the handle and causing him grave injury at the slightest misunderstanding, guess who he goes back to? At that point I really kept expecting Keitaro to say, a la Goldenboy: "Yes, mistress! Enslave me forever!"

Now, even if someone actually finds the above funny (sickos), I have serious doubts as to whether they would manage to keep laughing for 24 episodes. About half of all the "jokes" in Love Hina go something like this:

Keitaro and Narusegawa are walking/sitting/doing anything that brings them within 4 feet of each other. They are enjoying a romantic moment (or at the very least, no one's getting his limbs ripped off). Sudden pan to a stone on the ground/a person holding something/a car driving/an airplane flying, etc etc.

  • Viewer: Gee, I wonder what's gonna happen now.
  • Keitaro stumbles/slips/falls/is tripped/is hit by car/plane and sent flying. In doing so he touches Narusegawa's head/arm/shoulder/torso/leg/hair/breasts/ankle /hand/face/dress/finger.
  • Viewer: Yep.
  • Narusegawa raises her fist. Keitaro starts crawling away, sweating in fear.
  • Keitaro:, Narusegawa, it's not like... that.... I can expl...
  • Narusegawa: You pervert/stalker/criminal/nympho/rapist/necrophiliac!!!
  • Narusegawa punches Keitaro, he achieves escape velocity, and all we see is his figure receding in the sky.
  • Viewer: Didn't see this one coming... [Yawn]

So, you're thinking that I really hated Love Hina, right? Nope! Actually, it was one of the most enjoyable shows I've seen since Excel Saga. The other half of the jokes was incredibly funny, so that I spent a disproportionate amount of time twitching on the floor in spasms of laughter. Everyone in the show is ultra-cute, and there are some unique characters, like the not-of-this-world Otohime-san and the ultra-genki mad grade-schooler tech genius Su-chan (my favorite). There's great character development, and (mostly) surprising story twists. What's more, I loved almost all the characters in the show (with the exception of you know which two). Even the only one that I abjectly hated at first, the nightmare-pest-torturer- demon-from-hell-masquerading-as-a-little-girl Sarah MacDougal, ended up more than redeeming herself in the end, and even (gasp) Keitaro himself resembles a normal human being when Narusegawa is not around. The voice acting was excellent - everyone shines without exception, and I liked Kitsune's accent so much that I rewound and watched all of her appearances twice.

Overall, Love Hina is an above average romantic comedy, with great animation and music, talented voice acting, good direction and character development, mostly likeable characters and lots of romance. The only thing that keeps it from perfection, in my eyes, is the creators' quasi-sado-masochistic take on the relationship between the two lead characters. Now if you can digitally edit out all of the scenes that have both Keitaro and Narusegawa on screen at the same time, then Love Hina gets a full 10. As it is, every time I am about to press the "1" and "0" keys, I remember that scene from episode 23, and the involuntary shudder makes my hand hit "0" and "7" in quick succession.

Oh well, there's still the Spring Special, plus the extra two DVD only episodes. Maybe there's hope, after all...

No arguments here from me, the violence casually inflicted on Keitarou is sufficiently prolonged and intense that it at times is disturbing. And it's not just Narusegawa who's doing the inflicting either. Combined with Keitarous impressive lack of positive character traits it is very close to being cruel.

Of course there is a reason behind it. For one thing it keeps the story flowing. If the two leads simply became good friends and eventually partners about ninety percent of the plots in Love Hina would vanish. Likewise there's also the possibility that Keitarou is punished so that we (males watching) can imagine ourselves doing much better if placed in a similar situation. After all, being the sole male in a hotel full of cute young women with a `bathing' addiction has got to be pretty high on the male fantasy index.

And when it wants to be cute, generally when we are not watching the main couple, I agree that it works pretty well. And even if there are some characters you dislike (I didn't like Su-chan, or her stories) there'll be others who do interest you (Shinobu's so cute, and thankfully immune from romantic considerations due to her youth). While it's not a classic, and it's some weak writing that makes things like Aarsen's criticism so valid, there's sufficient fun to make it well worth a watch.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:51 WST 2009