Produced by TV Tokyo and Xebec in 2000, Love Hina is a slapstick romantic comedy featuring a shy, ineffectual, and clumsy hero (Keitaro), who is surrounded by a bevy of beautiful girls. Based on the popular manga series by Ken Akamatsu that appeared in Shonen Magazine, Love Hina is the logical successor to the 90s hit romantic comedy anime series Tenchi Muyo!. But unlike Tenchi Muyo, where the eponymous hero was beset by alien babes, and much of the action took place in outer space, in Love Hina the activity is earthbound. Keitaro, who is 'studying' for the college entrance exams he has already failed twice, becomes the super at a bathhouse turned girls dormitory, which is filled with beautiful girls who represent a number of female archetypes from the studious good girl (Naru), to the feisty tomboy (Motoko), to the Machiavellian manipulator (Kitsune), etc. Keitaro has a good heart, but terrible timing and a deer in the headlights-like stare that broadcasts his cluelessness concerning the women that surround him. Like Tenchi Muyo!, Love Hina has been able to attract female viewers because of the romantic subject matter, and because in the case of Love Hina, the female stereotypes are all more effectual and interesting than the bumbling hero and his even dorkier buddies.
Amid all the comedic craziness and stock situations there is a hormonal veracity to Love Hina, which pays particular attention to the embarrassments and passions of youth with characters continually blushing and flushing red in the face. Actions are often wildly exaggerated for comic effect -- the heroines, when angered, send Keitaro flying into the stratosphere -- and the characters, true to the solipsism of adolescence, take everything, including a clumsiness-induced 'innocent' grope, way too seriously, but even in its excesses Love Hina is true to its subject. The ineffectual, voyeuristic Keitaro is the perfect reflection of the otaku, visually obsessed and lacking in decisiveness and self-confidence, but certainly not lacking in desire or the capacity for self-embarrassment.
The anime series is rated '13 UP' which makes sense since Love Hina, while it may show a lot of flesh, contains no real nudity. One element that would be edited out if the series were shown on American TV would be the drinking, which demonstrates a cultural difference between a society that has beer in vending machines and a society that tries to enforce a ban on alcohol for anyone under 21.
Bandai has issued five volumes of Love Hina on DVD covering 20 of the 26 episodes and the rest of the series plus the Love Hina Christmas Special will be out by the end of the year. Tokyopop should have half of the 14-volume Love Hina manga series out by the holidays. The manga, which spawned the anime series and a lot of character merchandise in Japan, won a Kodansha 'Manga of the Year' award for creator Ken Akamatsu. Tokyopop's American edition of the manga series should extend through 2003 and keep the property percolating, while a portion of the tsunami of Love Hina merchandise makes its way across the pacific. Diamond Comic Distributors is importing Love Hina Action Figures that are certain to appeal to collectors looking for a unique sore of action figure. The Love Hina Action Figures come with remarkably elaborate accessories, that really help make them collectible (as well as with removable clothes) -- and all at a very reasonable price srp of $12.99. Of course the heroines of Love Hina are nothing if they are not statuesque, and Tokyo Mint is importing a number of fully painted resin Love Hina statues starting with Naru Narusegawa, the almost unwavering object of Keitaro's affection.