Love Hina, Vol. 1: Moving In (2000)
Review by Dindrane

Written by Ken Akamatsu
Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki
Character Design by Makoto Uno


Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

Rating: 13+

Anamorphic: N/A; presented in original TV aspect

My Advice: Rent it.

When he was five years old, the main character of Love Hina, Keitaro Urashima, promised his female friend that when they grew up, they would attend Tokyo University together. He may not remember her name, but he remembers his promise. Unfortunately, at age 20, he's taken the entrance exams twice and and failed both times. While in prep school, his grandmother retires from her job as the manager of an all-girl apartment building, leaving young Keitaro in charge. The residents, however, aren't quite sure they agree with this decision...

The characters in Love Hina will seem familiar to Anime fans of any experience: we have the angry, smart girl (Naru), the violent kendo star (Motoko), the shy and sweet Shinobu, the excitable and odd foreigner (Su), and Keitaro himself, a standard male with a good heart and poor self-esteem and worse study habits. These characters seem rather shallow and archetypal at first (a nice way of saying "cliché"), but as the series develops, so do they. This version of Tenchi Muyo with a touch of Maison Ikkoku succeeds in creating an ensemble cast that play well off of each other. They manage to avoid the tedious screeching so common in this sort of Anime, plus the characters actually care about each other, even if they too easily assume Keitaro is up to something risqué when he is not. I am not at all clear on why the creators chose to give Mitsune a Southern accent, but c'est la vie.

The plots are also fairly standard fare: boy has a secret, girl love interest finds out secret and helps him cover up, everyone thinks he's a pervert when he really just has awful timing, and hilarity ensues. Luckily, Love Hina deviates from the formula enough to keep it interesting, such as downplaying the romantic interest a girl might have in Keitaro, and also makes the characters fond enough to seem like old friends and not just hackneyed plot devices.

Love Hina has been mildly derided on the basis that by junior high or earlier, a real Japanese student would know whether or not he or she had the grades and brains to get into Tokyo U. However, if a Japanese creator didn't mind this slight incongruity, and the Japanese audiences didn't mind it, it hardly seems logical for an American viewer to protest. Besides, getting into a good high school and then the "proper" college is legitimately central to a Japanese student's life and their life after the degree. Also, as Browning said, a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for? So Keitaro's grades are lousy...does that mean he'll never have success?

The extras are decent, if not astounding. It is nice to have a small gallery of images devoted to main characters, along with a short bio to go with them. Viewers new to the Love Hina universe, then, have a clear, attractive introduction to the series.

All in all, fans of Tenchi Muyo, Ranma 1/2, and other romantic comedies will appreciate the blend of comedy and drama provided by Love Hina. Long-time fans of Anime will get the in-jokes and also appreciate the types represented by the various characters of Love Hina. People easily irritated by the suffering of an innocent male lead might want to steer clear, however, as should anyone easily offended by something anything like what they've seen before. You'll laugh, you'll shout encouragement at the screen, you'll even want to take the tests for Keitaro--rent it and see.

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