It's Love Hina Again! Welcome back!
With 25 television episodes (24 released in North America) and two full-length OVA specials, the Love Hina canon is a verbose one, and the Love Hina following is a mile thick. Incredibly popular in both Japan and North America, the series has tickled the sexual funny bone of many a youth in its heyday, and now, with the North American release of Love Hina Again, a sequel of sorts, these final three episodes round out the animated series as a whole, and offer an enjoyable if slightly ambiguous conclusion.
Wildly entertaining, with fantastic production values (sans crummy extras), Love Hina Again is still an excellent buy, and a fine ending point for a solid anime.
Facts of the Case
The story, thus far, if you are new to the Love Hina series, is long, complicated, and fraught with scantily clad women. Unfortunately, it would take a long, long time go over the storyline here.
So here is the story so far:
As a child, Keitaro used to play with his childhood love down at the playground near a hotel that was owned by his grandmother. Together, they made a binding promise to get into Tokyo University together, because it is said that if two people can get into Tokyo University, they can achieve happiness.
As he finishes high school, Keitaro is driven by this promise that he made so many years ago, and strives with all his might to get into Tokyo University. However, there are two problems: one, he is a terrible student, and two; he cannot even remember the girl's name he made the promise to.
Failing the exam numerous times, he moves out of his parents' house and goes back to his grandmother's inn. Turns out, however, the inn has been converted long ago into an all-girls dormitory, and when the girls find him there…well, you get the idea.
When all is eventually sorted out, Keitaro is designated the new manager for the dormitory, and he spends his days clumsily barging into rooms where girls are changing, only to get the living daylights pounded out of him for his troubles.
Eventually, all the girls become enraptured with Keitaro, and one in particular seems to be especially drawn to him. Her name is Naru, and she is trying to get into Tokyo University as well. Could she be his childhood love? Or could it be Mutsumi, another resident, whom he feels himself drawn too as well?
Okay. See, that wasn't so bad, was it?
That covers about 24 episodes worth of the series. We'll skip over the specials, and fast forward a bit.
Love Hina Again is a collection of three OVAs that finalize the ending of the series, and act as a finale of sorts. With Naru having previously declared her love for Keitaro, and with both of them getting into Tokyo University, their love appeared to be a done deal. However, in typical clumsy fashion, Keitaro busts his leg up on his first day of Tokyo University classes, and ends up an archeological assistant until his leg heals and he can resume classes. Naru, on the other hand, has developed a strong fear of commitment. Enter a new, super-strict manager at the old hotel, and trouble begins to brew in the air.
When Keitaro returns, he finds his young stepsister, Kanako, in charge of the Hinata Apartments, whom he does not recognize—partly due to her constantly whipping off her clothes off and chasing him around. She is interested in her old brother, to say the least, and makes reference to a "promise" made years ago…
Naru is jealous, of course, but cannot bring herself to commit to Keitaro in strong terms, and insists that they have a business relationship, nothing more. This paves the way for Kanako's romantic advances, and suddenly, Keitaro is in over his head, stumbling around and getting punched a lot for his troubles.
To fans of the Love Hina series, Love Hina Again will be as comforting as a summer breeze. We are on familiar territory here. Though the main story arc has run its course, these three OVAs do an excellent job at weaving humorous situational comedy with romantic tension, same as before.
Of course, there is nothing here that fans haven't seen before, a hundred thousand times before, even—but if repetition bothered you, well, odds are that you never would have made it past the first few episodes, and wouldn't be a fan.
Newcomers can dive into the DVD relatively quickly, despite having missed out on a significant portion of storyline, and appreciate the anime for its other, subtle points—lots of scantily clad girls kicking the crap out of a guy, each other, etcetera. If you have seen other similar-styled anime like Ranma 1/2, Oh! My Goddess, or even Sailor Moon, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect here.
The laughs are first-rate though, if you like this sort of thing (surprisingly, I seem to).
The rating system for anime is slightly obtuse—given the sexual humor, brief nudity, and other adult-related situations in Love Hina, the studio affixes the arbitrary rating of 16+, which, I assume, means the show is best watched with sixteen of your friends. But in terms of an actual rating system, well, there is nothing concrete. And, with anime being the mainstream rage nowadays, and young boys and girls being absolutely crazy about the stuff, one should have a good idea of what animated material children can get their hands on. While there is nothing substantially "naughty" or profane in Love Hina, if you are a cautious parent, I would play it conservative, and set the bar at sixteen. More outgoing parents would have no problem with fourteen or fifteen-year-old children watching Love Hina. But go crazy, I say—as long as they're not my kids!
…Gee, I hope they're not my kids. That would suck.
Technically, Love Hina Again is a fantastic DVD. The video quality is pristine, clear, and sharp, and looks downright spectacular. You can get really psyched about anime on DVD when the picture looks as good as this, let me tell you! Finding flaw is difficult, and the worst criticism is merely a minor gaffe. At high levels of zoom, the picture begins to show slight breakdown and jaggedness. Viewed normally, however, the picture quite excellent, with a nice balance between softness and sharpness in the lines of the character.
Likewise, the sound is most excellent, and there is minimal difference in the Japanese audio track and the English dubbed track, both in a respectable Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that offers a pleasant balance between dialogue and comedic sound effects, which this disc has in spades.
The subtitles are particularly witty and sharp, and feel very well written and on-target, which is great, because the English voice dub is a particularly corny and gruesome one. The feel of the show comes from the timing and the voice actor's screams of fear and shock and embarrassment after stumbling into room after room of naked girls, and try as they might, the English dub fails to capture the heart and spirit of it. Steer clear of the dubbed English track as a whole, and you will be much happier, I assure you.
Extras include an "outtakes" section, which lasts about 20 seconds and is so blindingly bad that it almost instantly erases itself from your memory. It is about as substantial as a "reversible cover" extra feature, which, coincidentally, Love Hina Again has as well. I mean, the only thing worse would be say, a textless opening and ending—that would just be r…oh, wait a minute. Guess what Love Hina Again has?
Bah! It does not matter—I can say that unequivocally. Anime DVD extras are always a mixed bag, with the bag containing things like rocks, twigs, and pieces of dirt. This offering of weak extras is nothing to hold against the DVD as a whole, though this is the disc's only flaw. Still, the fact that any extras are offered at all is something—this is an anime DVD after all.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There isn't much wrong with this disc. Sure, the lack of good extras is annoying, and the especially bad offering this time is almost worse than no offerings at all, in terms of pride and dignity. But, the sound is great, the video is great, the story is funny and amusing, and the packaging case is even a fancy transparent job.
The English dub is awful, of course, but since 99% of all anime is served up this way in North America, it becomes increasingly difficult to put red marks on a disc for this egregiousness. Likewise, for an anime release, the special features even feel fairly plentiful, despite being not.
Just imagine that there was something seriously wrong with this disc, and then you read about it here, and then you got all pleasantly angry about it, but you forgot it right away, and that would bring us to here. Okay? Good.
Love Hina certainly ranks among the funniest of the "sexual comedy" anime genre, and this disc is an excellent close to a long-running, popular series (though the Love Hina series is notoriously vague in terms of what constitutes a "finale," and as always, much room is left for potential sequels.)
However, since this is the (current) summation to a long-running anime series, unless you own all the previous anime (which would be a financial feat indeed) it seems audacious to recommend this as a purchase, since as a fan who owns all the anime in this long-running series, you would have already bought this by now. Right?
For those casual fans of the show, or those merely curious, these episodes
are hilarious indeed, but make a poor starting place in terms of appreciating
the series—and you may indeed want to do some appreciating, after seeing
these hilarious three OVAs.
What—you've got a problem with a cartoon that involves scantily clad women constantly in states of undress, waiting for the hapless protagonist to bumble in and discover them?
The court hereby sentences whomever fits this description to a maximum sentence of watching Love Hina Again, again and again, until the show gets funnier, or the accused gets more funny—whichever comes first.
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