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"Love Hina: Perfect Collection" Truly Perfect, Despite Problems

“Let’s go to Tokyo U together, Kei!”

Love HinaKeitaro Urashima is your standard, average, and rather pathetic loser aiming to get into Tokyo University. Having failed the entrance exam multiple times, he’s been forced to prove himself by moving out of his parents’ house. Hoping to live with his grandmother at her hotel, he’s surprised to find that Grandma Hinata has left town after turning the hotel into an all-girls dormitory. Chosen to be the new manager, Keitaro’s gotta find the time to balance studying for class with love interests and flying turtle missiles. Ken Akamatsu’s modern romantic comedy classic, Love Hina, is disliked by some, but will hands down be remembered as one of my favorite stories, but is this Perfect Collection perfect as it says?

Episodes included in this set
Love Hina Episodes 1-24 (The Complete Series)
Love Hina Christmas Movie
Love Hina Spring Movie
Love Hina Again Episodes 1-3 (The Complete Miniseries)
Bonus Episode 25 (Don’t know why this is counted as a Bonus)

Love Hina is definitely a polarizing series. People either, pardon the pun, love it or loathe it. Where do I fall? Let’s just say I have all fourteen volumes, first prints, of the manga proudly displayed on my shelf between the Battle Royales and Confidential Confessions (What’s that say about me? A modern Lord of the Flies and the only manga that Lifetime would consider making a show sandwiching a romantic comedy?).

The creation of Ken Akamatsu after A.I. Love You and before Magical Teacher Negima (sensing a trend here? Start off with the “fall in love with unfreaky, unzombie, unporny-bot”, make Love Hina, and currently work on Harry Potter In Love. The man knows his love stories.) Bandai started releasing the series in America a while back, initially releasing the first twenty four episodes, followed by the Christmas movie (and episode 25), the spring movie, and the sequel OVA episodes. Previously, you had to buy the art box with disc one, and the collected movie set if you wanted any semblance of a perfect collection, but for the 2K4 holidays, Bandai decided to repackage the discs of multiple series (Ronin Warriors and Escaflowne as well, among others) in “Perfect Collections”, putting them together for $100.

When Keitaro was just a child visiting his Grandma Hinata’s hotel, he was playing with a girl in a sandbox one day. She told him that if a couple goes to Tokyo University together, they would live happily ever after. They made a promise to make it into Tokyo U together, but the girl soon had to move away. Flash forward to the now, and Keitaro’s been trying to make his way into the esteemed college ever since. Not the brightest bulb in the box, he’s failed the Entrance Exams multiple times, and is now just living with his parents, taking study courses, and generally being a loser. Tired of his situation, he goes to visit his grandmother at the Hinata Hotel, looking for a place to stay while studying.

Well, Grandma’s run off to tour the Hot Springs throughout the world. Kei didn’t know that, nor that the Hotel is no longer a hotel, but an all-girls dormitory. While taking a bath in the hot springs, he accidentally meets the people living at the dorm.

Konno “Kitsune” Mitsune, the drunk. Motoko Aoyama, the samurai girl. Kaolla Su, the foreign tech-goddess. Finally, there’s Naru Narusegawa, the High School senior studying her way to Tokyo University, because of a promise she made to someone she really liked in the past.

Presumed to be a pervert panty-thief, the girls run Keitaro out of the house, until his aunt Haruka, owner of the Hinata Café, vouches for him. Things start to even look up, as a fax from grandma gives Keitaro the title of apartment manager. They make a pact; Keitaro can stay there while studying as long as he manages the dorm, and the girls won’t kill him with turtle missiles, demonic swords, and frying pans. Soon joining the cast of girls is Shinobu Maehara, the typical “blue hair, shy girl” and Mutsumi Otohime, the incredibly ditzy, incredibly klutzy, female Keitaro clone. Thus Love Hina acquires its main cast.

You can kinda see where the series is going from here. Keitaro constantly attempts to win the favors of the girls, some of which hate him, a few of which harbor secret feelings for him. All the while, Keitaro struggles to get into college while finding the “promise girl”, the one he swore he’d make it to Tokyo University with. It’s hard to completely classify Keitaro as the main character; while you definitely feel the most for him (at least, the guys do), Naru’s easily the female lead. She’s trying to get into Tokyo University also, but appears to be less interested in love than Keitaro. Kei openly has feelings for Naru, but almost as if by law, Naru has to continue to turn him down and deny her own feelings, due to personal insecurities. Their interactions prove to be slightly endearing, slightly annoying. Half the time you’ll be just sitting back, envying Kei… the other half you’ll be yelling at Naru to stop being so hardheaded.

While they take up the most of the time, the big cast all get their moments in. Shinobu’s fallen for Keitaro, but knows that there is a few years between them, and would never want to make anyone mad at her for stealing him. She’s a genuinely sweet character, admittedly one of my favorites (despite the fact that people take my fandom of her incredibly wrong–she’s actually a year older than me, if you look at the years). I know Motoko has her fans, but the warrior’s plots all seem force; we’re introduced to her as a bad mofo who wants nothing to do with men, yet we’re supposed to believe that she falls for Kei in the end? Kaolla Su fills in the series crazy geek component, akin to Ed from Cowboy Bebop (heck, probably the same age, skin color, and incomprehensibility). While it’s fun to see her whip out mechs and stuff to chase down Kei, it’s good to see that she doesn’t fall for him; all of her plots seem to deal with missing her older brother. Kitsune sadly doesn’t get much play, but at least Akamatsu admits it in the manga version that he always wanted to do more with her. There is a very touching scene with her near the end, but I would have loved to see more of the redneck babe. Mutsumi, the lightheaded, anemic gal is good for a few laughs, but you occasionally just want to scream “Nobody’s that dumb and graduates high school!”… apparently there’s a lot of screaming at the TV with this series. Either way, she’s still a fun character, and I was lucky enough to get a picture taken with a girl cosplaying as her at the last Animé Weekend Atlanta.

Gah… is it sad that that makes me incredibly happy?

The series is far from perfect. Some of the humor is just overdone and extraneous; Naru’s constant violence towards Kei borders on abuse, Kaolla’s mechs are not always welcome (and take it out of the realm of realism), Motoko’s too bipolar, and so forth.

There’s a certain charm in the series, despite its flaws. For a guy going to college, trying to get a girl, constantly spazzing, the story just connects. You begin to actually envy Keitaro’s situation (I’d fail out of getting into college a few times if it meant living with all those girls and potentially falling in love). It might just be suckers for love stories like me (As Good As It Gets is a great movie that I just am physically compelled to watch every time it’s on TV), but it hits me in the cockles of my heart, even the sub cockle area. Some parts just get very, well, touching in a way only Deep Impact (“Cities fall. Waters rise. Hope survives”!) and the series finalé of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (So, Zordon and Alpha are dead, the power’s gone, and their base was destroyed!?) have done to me in the past. I really connected with these characters on an emotional level, and it takes a strong series to do that, despite any comedic flaws.

Extras are pretty bland throughout the nine discs. Character bios, credits, and trailers are the most consistent. “Keitaro’s Sketchbook” and “Songbook” are mildly amusing, respectively including translations of Kei’s sketchbook and the lyrics to the Mothra-ripoff song in an episode. We get an interview with the director, Yoshiaki Iwasaki, and a look behind the dubbing with Wendee Lee. A few scans of the Love Hina Fan Art Contest Winners accompany one disc, while outtakes accompany another. For some reason, episode 25 is classified as an extra. And as usual, textless intros and endings can be found throughout.

I will say that they could have chosen a better box. A cardstock slipcase surrounds nine plastic disc holders, which are held together, honestly, by a good piece of tape, attached to another piece of cardstock. If it fell, it’s gone. Be careful with this thing.

Despite the various flaws in this box set, Love Hina truly is a perfect show, one of my favorites. It must be given credit for surpassing all flaws to touch the viewer in the way it does. Love Hina is a great series that everyone should give a chance.

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