Love Hina MMF | Link Roundup 10.16.11 and Closing Thoughts

One final collection of links, plus some closing thoughts on the Manga Moveable Feast.

 

 

 
It’s been a heckuva week and a half here at PLAYBACK:stl Central, hasn’t it? Nine articles right here on the site, plus eleven more from our fellow Manga Moveable Feast contributors made for a whole heap of fascinating reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed pulling the whole thing together. Huge thanks to everyone who contributed to making the Love Hina MMF such an unqualified success!
 
And as for you, dear reader, if you’re new to PLAYBACK:stl, I hope you enjoyed what you saw enough to stick around and continue to check back every Friday, when our reviews section explores the full depth and breadth that comicdom has to offer. Then every Monday, tune in for our regular weekly columns, “Rude Chapbooks” (wherein comics curmudgeon Bryan A. Hollerbach runs down the best and worst of the previous Wednesday’s new comic books) and “Lovefool” (Erin Jameson’s weekly foray into the world of comics romance), and keep an eye out for “Pow! To the People,” a collection of witty comics commentary from Art Brut singer Eddie Argos (and published whenever Eddie gets a spare moment in his always hectic schedule). Add to that our in-depth coverage of music, movies, books (y’know, the kind without pictures), and local concerts and theatre from around St. Louis, and I hope you’ll look to PLAYBACK:stl for all your pop culture needs.
 
All right, enough shilling…on to the last batch of Love Hina links and some final thoughts on the series.
 
Up first, Playback’s own Erin Jameson checks in with a special, day-early edition of her “Lovefool” column entitled “Keitaro Urashima, Accidental Creeper and Luckiest Man Alive,” which explores the dangers of communal baths and the fortuitous situations in which our hapless hero frequently finds himself.
 
“Keitaro seems like a total loser, yes, but also lives this charmed life surrounded by attractive girls who haven’t killed him yet and seem to always be flashing some part of their goodies at him. Without spoiling too much of the future, let’s say that he doesn’t end up too badly after all and certainly manages to make it through the first volume of the re-released omnibus without too much damage.”
 
Over at Manga Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson checks in with a review of the first Kodansha omnibus, which includes a very helpful breakdown of the differences between the re-release and the original English edition from Tokyopop.
 
“I’m not sure the larger size does the story any favors. There are 14 books of this, and they’re pretty formula. Klutzy Keitaro falls down a lot, and he usually manages to accidentally grab some piece of female anatomy on the way. Reading this over and over doesn’t make it any fresher. Plus, I found the bigger book harder to read without damage to the spine. This thing has almost 600 pages, and the thin cover stock seems overpowered by the size.”
 
And finally, ReadsRantsRaves posted a short and sweet summary on her Twitter feed this past Friday: “Oh and can I just say: Love Hina OMNIBUS = AWESOME.” Today, she’s fleshed it out into a full review that serves as the last outside entry into the Manga Moveable Feast.
 
“As I read this title and I kept thinking ‘Shonen (male-action audience) or Shojo (female-romance audience)?’ This title is a hard pick because I’d say there are appealing things for all. I found the possible romance to keep me reading, but could see a guy picking it up for all the girls.”
 
She’s not alone in reaching this conclusion. When I decided I wanted to host a Manga Moveable Feast on Love Hina, one of the things I was most looking forward to reading were the entries from female reviewers, because I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. And sure enough, responses ran the gamut from “I really liked it” to “I could barely suffer through it,” but each proved to be a well thought-out and fascinating read. The ancient Dirk Deppey quotes I fished out for the first link roundup scratched the surface, but what I really think makes a series like this—one made so firmly with male readers in mind and with all the blatant wish fulfillment and fanservice one could possibly imagine—go beyond the typical limitations of its genre all comes down to one thing: character.
 
The “harem comedy” subgenre grew as a logical extension of the “magical girlfriend” subgenre, a typical anime/manga trope wherein an everyday shlub would, by some miracle of plot intervention, find himself with a perfect girlfriend—think Keiichi Morisato from Oh My Goddess! as the most obvious example. Tenchi-Muyo took this scenario to its next logical step: why just one girl, when you could have two magical girlfriends fighting over the guy, and a couple other beautiful alien babes hang around his house for good measure? But where Tenchi still held on some level to sci-fi tropes, Love Hina took the idea even further by surrounding a normal guy with tons of normal girls (one to satisfy every possible reader fetish, natch), and just letting the hijinks ensue on their own.
 
It’s a formula that’s easy to copy, and easy to understand the appeal of: when your primary audience is socially maladjusted boys who can’t get girlfriends, cooking up a story starring a generic socially maladjusted boy who is constantly surrounded by beautiful girls who constantly get naked around him and slowly grow to realize what an awesomely sensitive and sweet guy he is is an obvious recipe for success. And over the last decade, as anime and manga in both Japan and America have moved from being mass market pop culture to niche market obsession, there has been no shortage of creators happy to copy the Love Hina format in an endless series of interchangeable garbage like Shuffle and Girls Bravo.
 
What makes Love Hina succeed where so many of its copycats fail is because the reader can see themselves in Keitaro for reasons beyond him being a faceless blank slate on which to project themselves. He is an actual character, with hopes and dreams and positive and negative qualities. He screws up just as often as he succeeds, but he’s got such indomitable pluck that you can’t help but root for him as he relatably, realistically fumbles his way toward finding the girl of his dreams. And yes, the road to that dream is decorated with plenty of incidental nudity, but it’s the story and characters that always receive top billing. It’s like the difference between American Pie and American Pie Presents: Beta House, the difference between pandering to an audience and telling a story that has some meaning in a crowd-pleasing way. Though it doesn’t quite reach the same levels of raunch as the original American Pie, I think they are in some ways spiritual cousins, and I find that Roger Ebert’s conclusion as to why that film works speak doubly true for Love Hina.
 
“It is not inspired, but it’s cheerful and hard-working and sometimes funny, and—here’s the important thing—it’s not mean. Its characters are sort of sweet and lovable. As I swim through the summer tide of vulgarity, I find that’s what I’m looking for: Movies that at least feel affection for their characters. Raunchy is OK. Cruel is not.”
 
Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the Love Hina discussion, and I hope you enjoyed everything you read. Be sure to tune in two weeks from now for the next MMF, where Lori Henderson of Manga Xanadu hosts a feast dedicated to our favorite horror manga. | Jason Green
 
Click here for the complete link archive for the Love Hina Manga Moveable Feast.

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