Love Hina by Lady Sage

Also Known As: LH
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Length: 14 Volumes
Allegiance: TokyoPop
Mangaka: Akamatsu Ken
Vintage: 1999-2002
Intelligence Agency Report by: Djudge
Urashima Keitaro is your typical twenty-something loser. Poor, no girlfriend, and striving to make it out on his own. The only thing keeping him going is a promise to get into the prestigious Tokyo University he made in his childhood with a girl whose name he can’t even remember. After failing the entrance exams to the school several times, Keitaro is given a reprieve by his grandmother who places him in charge of a hot spring inn. However, upon arriving at the given address, Keitaro finds that the inn is now all-girl’s dormitory and he’s now its manager! Will he ever be able to get into Tokyo University at this rate?
Research Agent Report by: Lady Sage
Overall 7.25
(not an average)
In light of recent trends in the anime world, it’s hard for me to see Love Hina as I once did. When I first read it, around its original US release, it was a decent enough series. A little fan service heavy, yes, but it was relatively new and it had mass appeal. It was a series to be read and enjoyed with friends. Instead of discussing the latest fashions or sports developments, I had many locker-side conversations about the events of the latest volume. Little did I know the havoc it would eventually wreak on the anime world by popularizing the harem genre, and the pain it would eventually bring me both directly and indirectly. 

It starts off pleasantly enough. The harem genre, though now a complete dead horse, hadn’t yet had the life completely flogged out of it, so many elements that would seem tired nowadays were still relatively fresh. Keitaro, though a screw-up, is charmingly¬¬ earnest. Naru, though violent and unreasonable, has enough moments to keep her from being completely unlikable. The rest of the cast follows in a similar vein, and there was enough chemistry to make a relatively funny ensemble comedy. The story of working hard and reaching for one’s goals, whatever the obstacles, fleshed Keitaro out more than the typical “lovable loser.” The question of the girl of memories added an element of mystery that was further intriguing. 

Unfortunately, the premise was nowhere nearly strong enough to last 14 volumes. Things began to feel stretched thin at the midway point, and it was all downhill from there. The mystery of the girl of Keitaro’s memories was revisited at least five times, always giving a sense that it was “solved.” And yet, inevitably, the question would pop back up again until the very end. The same goes for Keitaro getting into Tokyo University: after so many times, the tension just isn’t there. Furthermore, the character development turned out to be pretty poorly done. Instead of the characters gradually growing and changing in ways that made sense, they just seemed to have awkward, unsubtle personality shifts in a direction that was convenient for the story or would please the fans and facilitate more fan service. 

It wouldn’t be fair to say I hate Love Hina. It exasperated me, frustrated me, and made me want to smack the characters and Akamatsu upside the head. But when I read that epilogue, I cried. I wept tears of relief from finally being done with such a poorly-executed series…and tears of nostalgia at the culmination of a years-long fandom that I will probably never completely get past.