Love Hina

This is the quintessential example of the 'harem' subgenre of seinen romance.

The hapless everyman character, Keitaro, needs work, and his grandmother, Hina. who is seen only in flashbacks, provides. The problem is, the work is managing a private all-womens dormitory, the Hinata Apartments, all of whose residents distrust not only him, but the very idea of a male manager. But that's not Keitaro's only problem: he has failed the entrance exams to Tokyo University multiple times, but clings to the apparently hopeless ambition because of a promise made in childhood to attend Tokyo U. with a little girl he was very taken with, so they could live happily ever after, and worse, he no longer knows who the little girl was.

The cast of women--the thing on which a 'harem' romance stands or falls--includes such jewels as Naru, the beautiful, hot-tempered but otherwise sympathetic young woman who turns out to also be a student at the same cram school; Mitoko, the swordwoman with hidden fears beneath her stern exterior; Kitsune, a slightly older woman, given to drink, gossip and meddling; Shinobu, a junior-high girl, taken in by the group so she can stay at her old school after her parents divorce: Koalla Su, a foreign princess (literally) who has been sent to attend junior-high in Japan, and displays an amazing fondness for turtles and an even more amazing prowess with robotics; and Mutsumi, a lovely, sweet, but preternaturally clumsy young woman from Okinawa.

There is a fair bit of slapstick--Keitaro has the unfortunate habit of falling onto women in suggestive poses or avoiding falls by grabbing the nearest thing, which more often than not ends up being someone's breast. His mishaps are always interpreted as intentional by Naru whose right hook sends him flying into the wall or into the sky, or Mitoko who deals with him summarily with a magical shockwave from her bokken. Koalla Su's absurd inventions provide more levity when they aren't endangering the characters.

Gradually, each of the women, each in her own way, develops some kind of affection for Keitaro. If only he knew, as he eventually suspects, that Naru is the girl he made his promise to, Keitaro could admit to himself he is in love with her. If only she could stop seeing him as a pervert who throws himself on women, Naru could admit she loves him.

Of course, the course the course of true love never runs smooth, particularly in anime--old flames return, tunnels are discovered, giant turtle-shaped mechas threaten destruction, and the entrance exams don't seem to get easier on the retakes.

Very nicely animated, the voice acting in both the original and dub is good, though not stellar, the music is, well, catchy. It's hard to get the opening title (which comes back in more subdued versions as part of the background music) out of your head, although it's equally impossible to hum or whistle. Good light entertainment.

The series also has associated a Christmas Special (which integrates well into the series plot), a Spring Special, which is kind of an addendum, and a genuine sequel Love Hina, Again.

Except for the slightly risque falling-on-women gags, there is nothing really objectionable in the series--the women even wear towels in the hot-springs on the Apartment grounds.

The sequel is a bit more problematic. A new character, arrives, impersonating Naru, and molests several of the other women in an attempt to alienate Keitaro's affections from Naru. Worse, it is revealed she is his step-sister, who has developed a jealous romantic attachment to him, raising suggestions of incest.

Ratings (out of 5, 1 being worst, 5 being best)

Plot 3.8
Voice-Acting (original)4.5
Voice-Acting (English dub)4.3

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