Originally released in 2000 in Japan, Bandai brought Love Hina to America in 2002 with the official DVD releases. Now, seven years later, Bandai has let the license go and FUNimation acquired it, as they have with other Geneon and ADV shows. Does this mean that Bandai is having issues, or just that they didn't want the older show in their catalog anymore? I guess there's no answer right now, but all you need to know is that Love Hina is one hell of a show.
In all honesty, Love Hina is nothing complex and it's not even unique, however, it is easily one of my all-time favorites. It all comes from the mind of the legendary Ken Akamatsu (Negima!, Itsudatte My Santa!), and is more or less your standard harem anime. In other words it revolves around a solitary male lead who inexplicably finds himself in the center of an affection storm from a bevy of female beauties. If you look at Love Hina as a non-science fiction version of Tenchi, then you'd be on the right track. What this show does well though is present a charming collection of characters, fan service, and a great sense of humor. That's a winning combination all around. Oh, and did I mention that the show was produced by Production I.G.? Add another feather into Love Hina's cap.
With 25 episodes, Love Hina's Complete Series release by FUNimation doesn't quite bring everything together, since we're missing the OVA specials, but it's about as comprehensive as you can get. The show's premise is quite simple and right from the very first episode we basically get the gist of it. Everything revolves around Keitaro Urashima, who is an otherwise good-natured, hard-working kid who desires nothing more than to attend Tokyo University. Granted his motives may have more to do with a promise he made to a young girl than anything academic, but still, he has dreams.
Getting into Tokyo University isn't quite as easy as Keitaro thought it would be though. He has already failed the entrance exam twice, and is working hard to do whatever he can to pass. In the meantime he becomes the manager of an all-girls dormitory while he pursues his dream. Now, it's worth mentioning at this point that Keitaro has actually forgotten the name of the girl he made his promise to. Queue up a collection of girls, and one in particular, and Keitaro things he's found the one he's been looking for all along.
While working at the Hinata House, Keitaro eventually falls for a cutie named Naru Narusegawa, who is a resident studying for her entrance exam as well. Naru is seemingly ideal for Keitaro in many ways. She has a seemingly kind nature, is caring, and as I already stated, pretty damned cute. Unfortunately for Keitaro, she also has a short and fiery temper that often explodes on him for sometimes inexplicable reasons. It becomes a running joke in the series, and as you'd expect, it's all basically misplaced affection. Sadly that realization doesn't come until later in the series, but in the meantime it's a hell of a lot of fun and hilarious to say the least.
Joining Naru and Keitaro are other girls such as Mutsumi, Shinobu, Motoko, Kaolla, and Mitsune. Each of these girls brings a certain stereotyped personality to the show that is displayed in several other harem shows. Mutsumi is the quiet type, Shinobu is the young jail-bait girl, Motoko is the athletic one, Kaolla is the exchange student, and Mitsune is the busty flirt. They all could easily be objects of affection for Keitaro, but he continues to focus on Naru, despite the sheer amount of bodily injury that causes him. Again, hilarity ensues.
Throughout the 25 episodes in Love Hina the characters continue to grow in otherwise predictable fashion. There aren't many unique elements here, but what the show has going for it is a great sense of self. It never once tries to do anything it shouldn't, and it never becomes something it's not. Add to that some fantastic writing, solid voice work from both dubbing casts, attractive animation, and some great character development and you have a win-win series that feels refreshing. Sometimes not doing anything new, and just doing things right has its own rewards, and Love Hina is a perfect example of that.
If you missed out on this show when Bandai had the license, consider FUNimation's collection your best opportunity to check it out. This series should appeal to anyone who has ever loved the harem genre, comedies, naughty gags, and romance. It has everything in good supply and the fun times don't stop right up through to the end. Consider this show highly recommended.
Love Hina is presented on DVD with all 25 episodes spread across 4 discs. When Bandai had the license they released them across 6 discs. FUNimation's presentation introduces some light compression artifacts in parts, but they are few and far between. Otherwise the release is solid with a very similar to transfer to what Bandai presented. That means the show is clean looking with sharp visuals, strong colors, and an otherwise clean image. There's very little grain to complain about and no aliasing whatsoever. Love Hina is presented with a 4:3 fullscreen aspect ratio as it was produced with.
Love Hina hits DVD with the original audio mix offered by the Bandai releases from 2002. Technically speaking the quality is very good with clean dialogue, decent enough sound effects, and an overall nice presence on the soundstage. With that being said it's about as good as a 2.0 stereo presentation can be, but then again this isn't really a series that needs a booming 5.1 mix, though that would have been nice to experience with some Naru's freak-outs. The dubbing quality is very good as well with both the Japanese and English tracks performing admirably.
Aside from some trailers there are no real bonus features available on this release of Love Hina.
It may not be the most original show in the world, and it may rely on stereotypes for most of its jokes, but Love Hina is just too much fun not to watch it. Everything from the ground up with this series has been carefully constructed, and it all gels perfectly. If you missed Bandai's release from 2002, or even their Anime Legends Collection, don't pass on FUNimation's release. This is a stellar harem comedy that stands out as one of the best entries in the genre. Highly Recommended
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