Love Hina MMF | Link Roundup 10.13.11

How Shinobu became a grownup, the pluses and minuses of falling, and more in our latest daily collection of Love Hina rants and raves.

Lots to cover today, so I’ll just get right to it. Again, if you have an article of your own to submit for the Manga Moveable Feast, be sure to send a link to yours truly at jason [at] playbackstl [dot] com or via Twitter @PLAYBACKjason.
First comes “It Gets Better,” a wonderfully heartfelt entry on the series from Manga Widget’s Alexander Hoffman. Hoffman comes to the series as someone who loved it the first time around, then revisited the series later and wondered why he ever thought it was a big deal. The third time’s the charm, though, as Hoffman discovered new depths by reading Kodansha’s “revitalized” new edition.
“I know that Love Hina doesn’t have this deep meaning or strong themes to criticize and analyze – but sometimes, that isn’t the point. The point is to empathize and care about the results of the story, to connect, to project, and to become, if only for a moment, a character of another world. I think that is why Love Hina is a series that deserved its own MMF.”
Though Hoffman uses Keitaro’s clumsiness as a metaphor for the real lesson to take from the series (it so succinctly sums up his point that I won’t quote it out of context here), Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf outlines her frustrations with the series by hilariously asserting “it’s not the nudity or the sexual innuendo that really bothers me. It’s the falling.” If you were worried that the Love Hina MMF was going to be nothing but a giant love-fest, your fears have been assuaged thanks to this epic putdown by Beasi, Katherine Dacey, and Michelle Smith at Manga Bookshelf. It can sometimes be difficult slogging your way through a series that is so clearly not your “thing,” as Beasi points out here…
“I have to admit that I nearly decided to abandon this book, when not even half a chapter in, our hero was already getting felt up in the bath by an unsuspecting girl. I looked at the three-volume omnibus in my hands and thought, ‘I’ll never make it through this. Never.’ And I suppose it says something that I actually did.”
…so I thank all three of them for giving it the old college try. Trust me when I say no punches are pulled (Beasi later calls Keitaro “a clumsy, groping, panty-sniffing loser”—ouch!), but the three take great care to parse out exactly why they had the reaction they did to the work, and it makes for fascinating reading. I was particularly struck by Dacey’s take on the character of Naru:
“She may be the only character I actually like in Love Hina (aside from Keitaro’s sardonic, chain-smoking auntie). It’s maddening to think that Ken Akamatsu will find a way for Keitaro and Naru to be together, not least because the relationship is totally unequal: Naru is brilliant and attractive, while Keitaro can barely tie his shoes, let alone solve a quadratic equation. I don’t mean to suggest that book smarts are the only measure of a man’s worth, but when the male lead is so dumb and clueless, it’s insulting to female readers to see the series’ strongest, most appealing female character positioned to become his girlfriend.”
If I can take exception to one portion of the discussion, though, it’s Dacey using the chapter where Motoko takes the lead as a sign of the series’ inconsistency, saying that it “strained credulity” for the “fierce and principled” Motoko to “turn into a puddle simply because she falls on top of Keitaro.” That entire chapter was basically a set up for a gag (the gag—mild spoiler alert!—being that Motoko thinks she’s getting flustered around Keitaro because she’s falling in love with him, but she really has a fever), a gag that parodies the very nature of the kind of stories where strong female characters “turn into a puddle” under various unrealistic circumstances.* Now of course, one could easily argue that Akamatsu is trying to have his cake and eat it too by pointing out the silliness of that kind of story in one panel after telling that exact kind of story for 19 pages, but as evidenced by Akamatsu’s general treatment of his female characters—I’m going to fill my comic with strong female characters! I’m going to put them into moments of weakness around a nebbish nerd! I’m going to restore their strength by having them punch said nerd in the face repeatedly!—it could also be argued that the entire raison d’être of the series is Akamatsu having his cake and eating it, too.
If you’re looking for more on the negative side, Aaron from the blog Manga Power shares a “profoundly negative review” from back in August where he compares the series to “a bad dating sim.”
“The girls in question are little more than one dimensional fantasy objects ‘the foreign girl,’ ‘the shrinking violet loli school girl,’ ‘the drunk, older sister type, ’ etc, etc. Even to the point where every girl at some point has a romantic moment where it seems like she might end up with Keitaro (this was probably done based on character popularity polls [but] that’s just speculation on my part).”
Justin S. from Organization Anti-Social Geniuses offers up another review from a reader giving Love Hina a second go-round:
“Now, most works of this type of nature hardly hold any type of deep meaning—I mean, there’s a killer van in this series (a killer van!)—and this type of work has been done to a tee since, so trying to look at a work that debuted in America 9 years ago can be kind of challenging. However, what made it fun to read then and what makes it fun to read now is the well designed art and the characters.”
And for those who have read the entire series, TWWK of the Christian-themed manga blog Beneath the Tangles explores the one aspect of Love Hina that really stuck with him: “How Shinobu Became a Grownup.” The post spoils parts of the series finale so tread cautiously, but for those who have read the series, TWWK draws some interesting conclusions:
“One of the great things about growing up is changing roles from he or she who needs guidance to he or she who gives it (though of course, none of us are so mature that we can’t use a guide from time to time). In Love Hina, Shinobu is at the stage, by the series end, in which she may be the person helping [a new resident] to become a self-assured young lady, as Keitaro, Naru, and the others did for her.”
That’s all for today! Thanks again to all the contributors, and hopefully we’ll have a few more for you tomorrow. | Jason Green
* I should point out that this joke landed with a surer foot in the anime, where the story was shuffled around so that Motoko discovers the reason for her flusteredness in the middle of the episode, giving her a chance to mete out vengeance on Keitaro for taking advantage of her. They also use this as an opportunity for Keitaro to prove what a nice guy he is, and this is the impetus for the previously furious Motoko to grudgingly accept Keitaro as Hinata’s landlord after previously protesting quite furiously. In other words, they use a silly circumstance to actually provide character growth for both Motoko and Keitaro—fancy that! Now granted, they had the benefit of hindsight, whereas those early chapters of Love Hina have always felt very much like Akamatsu flying by the seat of his pants, and that the character arcs don’t gain that much needed structure until a little further into the series.
Click here for the complete link archive for the Love Hina Manga Moveable Feast.

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