“Love Hina” is one of my all-time favorite anime series, and one of the few that ever made me laugh out loud. It has been quite a few years since I visited the girls at the Hinata Lodge, and I am happy to say that the series is just as fun now as it first was when I watched it eight years ago.
At first, glance, “Love Hina” seems formulaic. Lovable loser Keitaro dreams of success, but seems to fail at everything he tries. Out of luck and plans, he goes to visit his Grandmother Hina and winds up the manager of the Hinata Lodge, a fantastically beautiful building with a backyard hot spring that is populated only by beautiful and feisty girls. Keitaro, the incurable romantic, has long be searching for his “promise girl,” the love of his life that he knew back when he was about three years old, and to whom he promised they would grow up and attend Tokyo University (think Harvard) together, and get married. He can’t remember the girl’s name, but he hasn’t given up hope. Just possibly, one of the gals at the Hinata Lodge is Keitaro’s long-lost Promise Girl, and he just might find her if he doesn’t get killed first. Hijinks ensue.
The storyline is pretty typical of “harem”-style anime series, but somehow “Love Hina” does everything right. Series creator Akamatsu Ken (Negima!) knows how to work an ensemble cast, giving each girl a distinct personality and story arc. Sure, much of the hijinks comes from Keitaro doing his best only to wind up with panties on his head, or walking in on one of the girls naked, only to get a swift kick for his troubles. That is standard Akamatsu fare. But “Love Hina” has some serious undercurrents and nuances that makes all the over-the-top stuff just that much funnier.
The animated series differs from the manga, which is pretty common in Japanese anime. I love both, personally, and felt that they did some really creative things with the “Love Hina” anime. One of my favorite episodes features the kendo girl Makoto in the in the flickering, black and white style of old Samurai films. There are other homages as well, to places as various as Godzilla and Pokemon and nods to other anime series.
This release from Funimation is just great, with nice picture and sound. The subtitles can be a little hard to read in spots, when the white fades into the background, but that is my only really complaint. I haven’t listed to the English-dubbing because, well, I just generally don’t like English-dubbing for anime.
This set collects the original twenty-four episodes of the series plus the bonus twenty-fifth episode, which was not included on the previously released Love Hina Anime Legends Complete Collection. The entire series is packed on four DVDs collected in slim cases. I have heard that some people had trouble with the packaging, but mine arrived in perfect condition and is nice and sturdy, so no complaints there. I love the slim-case packaging because, with the size of my anime collection, my shelves can use some relief.
Not included in this collection are the Love Hina Christmas Movie, the Love Hina Spring Movie, or the Love Hina Again OVA series, which have been released separately by other companies and as part of the Love Hina – Perfect Collection. I can only assume (and hope!) that Funimation will be coming out with a follow-up “Love Hina” collection that completes the series.