Keitaro Urashima is a bonified loser: accident prone, failed to get into Tokyo University 3 times, and his hobby is taking pictures in photo-booths... by himself! Having failed entrance exams for the third time, Keitaro decides to pay his grandmother a visit. His grandmother isn't there, and the former inn has been turned into a girls dormitory - which he ends up running.
Keitaro's relationship with the resdents is tenous, but he takes a liking to one of them also trying to enter Tokyo University. For years he's searched for a girl he promised to enter Tokyo U with in his childhood. He lost touch with that girl years ago, but some coincidences suggest it might be Naru. Will Keitaro survive as dormitory manager long enough to find out?
Love Hina distills the harem anime concept down to a formula. At the time of release, this idea wasn't nearly as tired as it is now. Yet here we are over a decade later and Japan is still churning this stuff out. While quite popular for its time, anime fans have seen this stuff repeated so often in the years since. There's nothing special enough about Love Hina to pick it up specifically either. Love Hina is still one of my favorite manga titles, so I'm fairly critical of the anime, but I'm also concious of how it misses many of the good points that made Love Hina good.
It's a bit below average in nearly all aspects. For an anime (mostly) about the girls, the designs are pretty weak, as is the animation. The background music is drab enough to qualify as 80's elevator music. Mind you these things aren't bad, they're just lacking. You're likely watching for the comedy, story and characters anyway. Unfortunately, those are a bit below average too.
The characters are an assortment of generic anime personality templates. They act in accordance with a formula, and this severely gimps the amount of depth they have. The only unusual character is the male protagonist Keitaro. Typically male protagonists of the day were blank slates, but Keitaro is a genuine loser with his own personality. Love Hina fails to get any chemistry going with the characters. It jumbles them together in a dormitory like that's enough, but it doesn't do much with interactions between them.
Love Hina starts with a fluff sitcom feel, where side stories go all over the place. These at least, leverage the strength of the series: comedy. Love Hina is never very clever with it's approach to comedy, it tends to be more gimmicks and slapstick; but if you're okay with that it's quite entertaining. The end plot is more in the romance vein, which turns out fair, but nothing remarkable.
Love Hina is my favorite manga, but if there's one thing I HATE in anime reviews, it's "blah blah blah... the manga". This time I have a hard time keeping it in, so I'll try to keep it short. Love Hina as an anime becomes forgettable because it's just another harem show doing what similar shows have done before and after. The manga however turns into a strange story of personal growth and perseverance. It's not just about Keitaro finding love and getting into Tokyo U, it's about finding himself and claiming his destiny. In fact most of the characters do likewise. Another disappointment comes down to the end plot of the anime distilled down to a love triangle between violent Naru, and spaced out Otome. In the manga it goes from harem dormitory to harem warzone over Keitaro. My favorite feature being being sword slinging Motoko, who was most against Keitaro; turning into Naru's biggest love rival. Lastly, I'll mention short one comic cell gimmicks are more fun in the manga because they happen in the backdrop. When the anime does them, it feels like a joke that takes too long to get to the punchline.
Here we are years later. Reflections on Love Hina typically come down to "Oh, I remember that", and not much else. That says a lot about how this one didn't have staying power as a series. It's not because Love Hina is bad. It simply lacks anything special outside of the usual harem stuff, making it feel very generic compared to its peers. Hard to recommend picking this up, but might be worth the watch.
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