Sunday, January 2, 2011

Love Hina (2000) review

Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: Emotionally deeper than other "harem" genre anime, bettern than usual TV animation, exceptional japanese voice cast, well timed humour, well developed characters, beautiful artwork and character designs

The Bad: Cliched premise, unoriginal plot, over reliance on budget saving animation short cuts, weak final act, some humour borders on the nonsensical.

Current Availability Status: some VCDs available in singapore. DVD not available


Poor Keitaro Urashima, the dude just cannot catch a break. Having Failed the Tokyo university exam twice, Keitaro was kicked out of his home and forced to take up residence at an inn run by his grandmother. Little does he know that the inn has been converted into an all-girls dormitory and that his grandmother has left him as the dorm manager. As expected, the girls are not too happy with the arrangement, but they get a teeny bit more sympathetic once they discover the poor bugger's plight. Madcap wacky boy-meets-girls adventure with a sweet romantic twist follows in one of the better romance comedy anime series out there.

More an ensemble piece than other shows of this genre, its main selling point is definitely the characters. Each of them is given a unique and multi-layered personality making them both easy to relate to and incredibly lovable. Keitaro is THE guy that the intended target audience (single male who wastes his life either studying or watching anime like this) would die to be. He is a bumbling idiot, a complete loser, yet his tenacity and optimistic outlook would either inspire or disgust you; one would not be blamed for wanting to slap some sense into Keitaro. But give the guy a break, he has got a promise to fulfill a promise to a forgotten childhood sweetheart and get into Tokyo university.

Naru Narusegawa is the "main" female protagonist here. Her fierce demeanor toward Keitaro and hot headed attitude (not to mention, hot body) belies a secretly insecure neurotic looking for her place in the world. You see, the girl is studying to get into Tokyo university too. And the fact that she bears a startling resemblance to Keitaro's childhood sweetheart causes some inevitable sparks to fly. It is the "unlikely couple" scenario seen in so many romance shows: he likes her, she hates his guts, she cracks and shows her vulnerable side, he so happens to be there for her. etc. We all know where this goes. But no romance would be right without a proper love triangle and we get that in the form of Mutsumi Otohime, a simple but adorable ditz introduced later, who claims to be Keitaro's childhood friend.

Though the central tale is a little cliched sort of a coming of age thing for Keitaro and the surreal love story, each of the other girls are given ample development of their very own character arcs. Timid little Shinobu learns the value of trust and how to assert herself, carefree Kitsune gets a lesson in responsibility, the icy Motoko learns to open up her heart and even the wild and sprightly Kaolla Su learns to grow up. As said before, all very lovable, all easy to relate to.

Created at the turn of the 21st century, Love Hina was among the first shows to be colored by computer. The result is some beautiful artwork and cute, albeit slightly simplified, designs with a color scheme that uses the unlimited palette offered by software without looking overly bright and saturated. The animation itself is pretty standard anime stuff; it has its decent share of animation short cuts, lazy scene panning, some stiff character motions, but they only crop up occasionally per episode. On a whole, the quality is slightly better than the typical TV series with more attention given to maintaining a consistent high level of detail in the artwork.

In contrast, the voice acting is superb throughout. Veterans like Megumi Hayashibara, Yui Horie, Yuji Ueda, among others, totally sell their characters, playing them with the same diversity that fits their personality. A bit over the top at times, but it fits in with the very nature of the show. A Chinese dub and a USA English dub were released as well but neither can hold a candle to the original language. Though, in comparison, one might favor the English version over the Chinese version purely for the superior acting standard; at least the English version is not downright terrible or miscast like the Chinese one.

The more conservative types would be glad to know that fan-service is only teased and not blatantly tasteless like many recent anime. Comedy is well written, jokes are timely and in good taste with only a twinge if innuendo. Its shortcomings in its animation is forgivable but a hastily written and seemingly lower quality final few episodes earns it a couple of demerits. Definitely "cleaner" and emotionally deeper than other shows of similar genre, Love Hina is a fun filled gem of a series filled with truly emotional drama, romance and crazy comedy complete with giant robot turtles, mysterious island kingdoms and a little bit of magic.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: for a cleaner, better written romance comedy anime that puts the focus on the characters' personalities and not just on the characters' bodies
Avoid it: if you are a staunch "the manga is always better" kind of person

Entertainment: A
Story: B
Characters: A-
Animation: B-
Art: A-
Voice work (japanese): A
Voice work (english): B-
Voice work (chinese): C
Replay Value: A-
"Brains": B-Bold

Did i mention slapstick (or more like slap Keitaro) humour?

Did I mention the giant robot turtle?

Did i mention..........YIKES, wat the hell is this??

Childhood sweetheart, an undying promise

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