, 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
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
- 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
- Viewer: Yep.
- Narusegawa raises her fist. Keitaro starts crawling away, sweating in fear.
- Keitaro: N..no, 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
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
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.