Love Hina MMF | A Fresh Perspective

Sarah Boslaugh checks in with a review of Love Hina from a newcomer’s point of view.


Love Hina Omnibus 1 (Kodansha Comics)
582 pgs., B&W; $19.99
(W / A: Ken Akamatsu)
I may be unique among the participants of this roundtable in that I didn’t have a manga-crazed period in my teenage years or early 20s. Instead I got interested in J-Pop much later in life, and if I have one regret in this regard it’s that I got started too late in life to even think about learning Japanese. Instead I make do with subtitled movies, translated manga, and Roland Kelts’ Japanamerica, which is one of my all-time favorite books. When I do read manga, I usually go more for samurai adventure stories, although I’ve certainly read my share of high school romances and cooking novels and such. Love Hina is a my first harem story and I found it to be quite an enjoyable read, basically a lot of silly fun with a touch of heart.
The setup is that our hero, Keitaro, has twice failed the entrance exams to Todai (Tokyo University) and has also been kicked out of the house by his parents, who declare that he’ll never amount to anything. That sounds harsh, but when you consider that his reason for wanting to attend Todai is because he made a promise to a girl when they were four years old, and in a more general sense because he thinks it will make him attractive to other girls, you might conclude that maybe his parents are just tired of indulging him. Anyway, he’s gone to live with his grandmother, who runs a hot springs resort. Or she used to, anyway: after Keitaro arrives, he finds that she’s taken off on a world tour and the resort is now a "female residence" (basically a no-men-allowed dorm). Hijinks and fanservice naturally ensue.
If I were to take it seriously, I might be insulted by Love Hina. The dorm is filled with girls designed to fulfill various male fantasies, and there’s a lot of fanservice which is more juvenile than anything. But this series so wholeheartedly embraces its goofiness that it’s impossible to get too upset with it. In fact, it’s sort of amazing how many different ways the author manages to put Keitaro in compromising positions (most just result in him being terribly embarrassed, and then receiving a smack from one of the girls). Between Keitaro’s natural clumsiness and all the abuse he takes from the girls, a normal person would be dead in few issues, so realism is clearly not a goal in this series.
Despite the essential silliness of Love Hina, Keitaro is a likeable character and I found myself identifying with him a bit. He’s in the position of a lot of young adults in that he’s unsure of his place in the world, yet he’s also well-intentioned and hard-working so you have to admire his spirit and hope that things work out for him. I also love the cultural notes: half of my reason for reading manga is for the vicarious trip to Japan, and I often read the notes before I read the stories. The main disappointment in this series is that most of the female characters are just there to reveal their bodies, but my impression is that that’s how things work in this genre so I will fret no more about it. There’s also not a lot of suspense in the story as, when only one female character is developed, you have to figure that she and Keitaro are going to end up together eventually.
I also want to give a shout-out to Kodansha for the omnibus volume. The way most serial manga are paced, reading just one volume at a time is frustrating because it seems like the story is just getting started when the first volume ends. Reading three in a row gives you a chance to get a bit further into it and decide if the series is for you or not. But maybe that’s just one of my peculiarities, because I also like to watch TV shows on DVD so I can see a whole series of episodes back to back. | Sarah Boslaugh
Click here for the complete link archive for the Love Hina Manga Moveable Feast.

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