Love Hina – episodes 1 to 4

September 28, 2004 on 3:32 pm | In Love Hina | 4 Comments

Warning: Extreme negativity ahead.

This might have come as a shock had I said it four years ago: I don’t like Love Hina. Putting aside the excellent, attractive and hilarious manga, this is not good anime. For me, just as it was all those years ago, the Love Hina anime is the beginning of the end of everything.

Perpetual loser Keitaro made a promise to a girl when he was four years old: that they would, once grown, attend Tokyo University together. Problem is he’s not smart enough to make the grade and is now a ronin training at a cram school. Kicked out by his parents, he goes to live at his Grandmother’s inn – not realising both that his aunt has left him in charge and that it is, in fact, a girls’ dormitory.
Let the beatings commence!
The girls who live in the dorm don’t take kindly to Keitaro’s presence and try to force him out, but for some reason they all love him too. Watch Keitaro as he struggles to study hard enough to get into Tokyo University, maintain a lodge and find the girl to whom he made that promise all those years ago.

This anime does not make a lot of sense. Lies upon lies are built and then, even if unintentional, when found out violence ensues. Keitaro trips over, and violence ensues. The first three episodes are reserved for annoying character introductions. It makes more sense for the Hinata Lodge to be already established as a fully functioning unit rather than recruiting its members as it goes along. It’s harder to imagine a more hostile group of people than the woman populating the lodge. The only one who actually likes Keitaro without hurting him is as meek as all get out.
The second episode for whatever reason attempts hard hitting drama about the politics of divorce and the place of the child within. It’s quite painful to watch, particularly with the whole “running away” aspect, and the typical portrayal of “cruel girls”.

Love Hina is a great example of ugly digital animation; this is not, of course, helped by the fact that it is ugly in the first place. Uno Makoto’s character designs are, not to put too fine a point on it, hideous. The characters boast a sort of “fat” look to their faces and there’s something a bit off shape about them all. They look pasted on top of their backgrounds, and the fan service looks unnatural. Shinobu in profile boasts a head rather too large for her body.
Is anime the only place in the world where people go bathing in towels? It would seem very uncomfortable to do so.
There’s just something artificial about the whole look that makes one ill at ease. Occasionally the animation is so bad that characters reach for entirely the wrong things.

The direction is incredibly weird, with cuts of “WHAT?!” followed immediately by the same character saying “whatever”. The four episodes even feature their own sort of thematic gimmick – the first being laced with fantasy, the second with some horrible, horrible symbolism pertaining to “direction” (ironic, that), the third features an initially well scored “silent film” sequence, which has misjudged artificing and starts to drag. The fourth has a “diary” storytelling method. Each episode probably wants to set itself apart, but it comes across as gimmickry. The dialogue when each episode comes to its realisation also feels quite forced.
The problem with all of this violence is that it doesn’t feel deserved. Keitaro is clumsy and frequently stumbles into the wrong situations, but that does not seem to be justification enough to beat him up. It’s not like he’s one of those anime protagonists who actively caresses the female characters or tries to peek up their dresses. Exaggerated violence isn’t funny if there’s no justification to it. Is there any real way that Keitaro can fall in love with someone who attempts to kill him at, literally, the drop of a hat?

Horie Yui was rocketed to stardom for her role as Narusegawa, but she’s done much better out of nicer characters who aren’t as shrewish. Naru wants to be nice, but she defaults to violence at the slightest provocation. She can’t go a few seconds without giving Keitaro some sort of injury. Horie tries to make the most of it, but she’s been given too much of an extreme to feel any real empathy at this point.
Ueda Yuji, who usually plays toughs or general nice guys, is incredibly weedy and weak as Keitaro. Again, this isn’t his fault. He plays it as it is written – is it his fault that it’s written wrong? Keitaro has no sense of anything and his adherence to the promise made fifteen years ago seems that he hasn’t allowed himself to grow since then. His automatic reaction to everything is to run away.
Right now none of the other characters have done much yet, but Shinobu’s weak nature doesn’t show much room for change, Kaolla is a blow-through and Motoko’s sword-happy nature is grating – even more so than Naru’s own, and that’s saying something.
At this point it’s difficult to see how any of these characters’ anime incarnations grew such fan followings. Hayashibara Megumi’s Aunt Haruka is the program’s highlight, but she’s underused – which is probably a good thing, as it turns out.

The music is awful computer generated stuff that pierces the brain. The OP and ED are both sung by Hayashibara Megumi and are easily the greatest part of the program – the problem being that they’re actually pretty poor edits of good songs.

There’s nothing wrong with Love Hina‘s premise: it’s been done, and done well, elsewhere (not naming any names, but the Love Hina manga is one such place …). Here it’s gimmicky, ugly and annoying. Yet I’m going to watch it through to the end – and even then, there’s not going to be a resolution.


  1. the love hina episodes are not the begining of the end. The story line is kind of girly and that does not interest boys, yes. That might even not interest some girls.

    Comment by Bekah Ash-Cox — December 7, 2005 #

  2. i hope love hina is good

    Comment by nana — January 21, 2006 #

  3. A few year ago I thought I’d investigate anime and the first thing I tried was Love Hina. I think I struck gold ’cause I haven’t seen anything that even comes close since. What can I say? I love it above ALL other anime. The characterisation is perfect and the story contains just the right amount of madness to keep the serious parts relevant. I just wish I could find something else to watch that’s even half as good as Love Hina ’cause so far everything has pailed into insignificance.

    Note: Does the person who writes these reviews even like anime? There’s been nothing good said about any of them.

    Comment by Colinho — January 29, 2008 #

  4. Wait, I know this is a month ago, but was I seriously accused of not liking anime, and never writing anything good about shows? Most of what I wrote on this site over the years was overwhelmingly, ridiculously positive!

    But if I don’t like the one show that you love, I therefore hate all shows.

    Comment by Alex — March 17, 2008 #

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