I realize that I’ve taken a very long hiatus since my last post; and I have no legitimate excuse for that. I’ve been lending my efforts to other things, but mainly I’ve just internalized my 50th “milestone” anime review to the point it was just never getting done. And since today is also Otaku Day (apparently), I decided to just go ahead and review the anime that brought me into the realm of anime fandom (err… otakudom?).
Note: this review will be written somewhat differently from my other reviews, in that this is a personal reflection more than an actual review.
Now I have to be honest. In hindsight, Love Hina isn’t as good as I thought it was when I first watched it. Still, it is widely popular (at least with guys) as a romantic comedy, and lends itself to all sorts of ecchi shenanigans that for the rest of my feminist philosophy, will just prove that I am still somewhat of a hypocrite in saying that I love this series. I suppose you could say I did watch it for the plot, but saying that probably means you’re not going to take me seriously.
Now there are a lot of things I can bring up about this gem in the anime library, such as its detail from hand-drawn cel animation from its time
or some of the story details which lend itself to references to Japanese folklore
or details that were placed specifically in the anime and NOT the manga
or even bring up nostalgic things that only people from the ’90s would really appreciate.
But to be honest, the one thing I want to talk about is why this series is held in such high regard, at least for me, as an anime fan. Love Hina may not be the first anime I watched, nor is it the first series I’ve ever delved deep into at a serious fan. But for me, Love Hina is special because of Keitaro Urashima, who believe it or not, was one of many reasons I never gave up on college.
Most of my friends who are anime fans (particularly guys) were first exposed to “cooler” anime such as Dragonball Z, and therefore lend their interests to more action-packed masculine things. I, on the other hand, was a late-bloomer to the anime scene. I didn’t become an active anime fan until watching Love Hina for the first time, and that was about 7 years after its original run, while I was a college student. And while my first exposure was its English variation (as many fans in the US are exposed to anime), the series compelled me to see through it that the series’ main character Keitaro Urashima can fulfill his childhood promise.
Like Keitaro, I was a troubled college student back then. You could say I was a failure, goal-less, and otherwise just not prepared for the experience at all. During this time, I dropped out of the college I attended and tried finding other means to live through part-time work I hated. I especially hated the fact that I never found love that so many others I knew seemed to have had (though I suppose in hindsight, I was coveting something that was a little more superficial than that). I was depressed and often thought of suicide, but never had the heart to follow through. That’s when I picked up this anime.
Keitaro Urashima had a similar persona to me. He was quite the loser, often unlucky with everything, and had trouble just getting into college, let alone being able to maintain his role as a student. Much of Keitaro’s life is reflective of the manga artist Ken Akamatsu’s life, in that he was also a Tokyo University student who never seemed to have fit in with the “cool” guys. A lot of his character spoke volumes to exactly how I felt about my situation, granted I never managed an all-girls dormitory. And yet, even though Keitaro was this loser that seemed to have more trouble being called a pervert than anything else, there were qualities to him that I found spoke to me even more which were much more positive.
Keitaro Urashima has a very high sense of responsibility. He never goes back on promises. Even when things are tough, Keitaro will try to find ways to make things right (granted he often fails at this). He is very optimistic. He is admirable perhaps not in looks, but in his kindness toward others, especially his female residents. And while he does seem to produce romantic results in ways that seem too idealistic, I find that his character was far more important to the story than to some silly promise he made with a girl he can’t even remember.
But of course, we can’t really talk about Keitaro Urashima without talking about his perennial foil character, Naru Narusegawa. Even though Naru appears to hate Keitaro’s guts for most of the series, she continues to inspire him where he falls short of his failures. It is hinted multiple times that she is in fact the girl from his childhood (err… SPOILERS), but again, that’s not very important to what I would like to say about this series. Naru, after all, also aspires to go to Tokyo U; and Keitaro finds strength through her to continue that dream of his. I suppose if I did have an argument to say that this series isn’t as “misogynistic” as others may have said about it, it would be because Keitaro never really takes advantage of Naru. On the contrary, Naru is the one who lends a lot of mental strength to him in many ways.
Say what you will about the foolery to which I have tried to defend, but Love Hina is about more than just sexual teasers for boys, idealistic romance, or even keeping childhood promises. It’s about a guy who never gives up, always follows his dreams, and does everything he can to live a life he will not regret. And in time, he will find love, not just romantically, but have it so that his residents can put their trust in him.
So if you are looking for a good classic anime that ascribes to romantic comedy, give Love Hina a try. And while it is not really as great as some of the other shows I have reviewed, it does hold a lot of importance to me; for like Keitaro, I never gave up on my dreams.