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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Love Hina

Love Hina Christmas Movie

By Chris Beveridge     December 09, 2003
Release Date: November 19, 2002


Love Hina Christmas Movie
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
It’s Christmas at Hinata Inn, which means gifts, parties, and utter chaos! While sneaking around for gifts, Su and Sara discover a letter in Naru’s room, "I always loved…", What does this mean? Who does Naru love?! The plot thickens as Keitaro is spotted going out with Mutsumi! A day of celebration! A night of miracles! The holiday spirit is in the air and there’s gonna be a whole lotta lovin’ goin’ on!

The Review!
Not too many series manage to get OVA’s and specials once it ends, but Love Hina managed to spawn several of them, and we get both the direct to video episode 25 as well as the Christmas special.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This track has a solid sounding stereo mix with some minor directionality across the forward soundstage at times, but nothing terribly heavy. Dialogue is nice and clear and we noted no dropouts or distortions.

Video:
This transfer comes out great here due to some excellent source materials. The vibrancy of the colors is stunning in many places with flesh tones being one of the more prominent ones. Backgrounds at times are just lush with no noticeable artifacting or pixellation. Cross coloration is non-existent and there's hardly any issue with jaggies during camera panning sequences. This is a transfer that will please just about everyone as its one where you quickly just fall in love with how it looks.

Packaging:
After six volumes of the TV series, we finally get a top of the line cover here that features all of the girls and Keitaro together in great looking Christmas outfits set against the tree and a snowy background. The back cover is designed similar to the past TV releases but with a number of Christmas touches such as bows and ribbons and wreaths throughout. This cover is also dual sided like the TV series releases, and through the keepcase you get the image of the girls in their new years yukata’s, as well as Mutsumi and Tama. The insert folds out to provide on one side the more traditional image we’ve seen used in Japan for the Christmas special with the cast partying by the tree while the reverse side provides a 2003 Love Hina mini calendar, complete with all the cast members birthdays highlighted.

Menus:
The menus here move away from what we got during the TV run and provide a very Christmasy theme with blinking lights along the top and bottom while the characters are all dressed up nicely in the center. Selections are quick and easy to load and access times are nice and fast.

Extras:
There’s an odd mix of extras here, depending on your definition of an extra. One of them is the textless ending of the Christmas special, which is far easier to watch this way than with the credits rolling over it. The other extra is an entire episode, which is considered TV episode #25, but was never aired and released in Japan as an OVA. This episode plays out just like a full episode with opening and ending, eye-catch and all, but it’s only accessible via the extras menu. A strange choice.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It figures, but at near the end of the series, I finally start liking Motoko. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to go back and get more out of the episodes I’ve already seen, but I’m definitely enjoying her more in these later episodes and specials.

The most obvious one is the OVA episode #25, which is essentially a big Motoko episode. This episode kicks off with Keitaro seeing Naru off as she’s going to visit relatives and a burial site in Kyoto. He’s feeling a bit lonely and all, but comes across Motoko on his way home, or so he thinks, as it’s someone who looks and dresses a lot like her. It’s not terribly surprising that we soon learn that it’s Motoko’s older sister. She’s come to the Hinata Apartments to bring Motoko back home, as it’s time she took over the school.

Motoko is completely unready for this when she finds out about her sister and immediately claims she can’t do it because she’s engaged to Keitaro. Yeah, you can pretty much see his eyes bug out by at least a foot here. Motoko and Keitaro start getting all friendly, though she can’t bring herself to kiss him. The two keep up this act until it gets spoiled and Motoko gets told that she’s effectively disowned from the family and from being a swordswoman.

With some surprising comfort from Keitaro, Motoko them moves on to try and become a regular girl, and changes her ways to adapt to it. This provides some amusing results, and I will admit that I enjoyed the entire maid outfit segment. But you know that this isn’t the life meant for her, so a compromise with her sister must be reached, which leads to some really engaging moments of action and comedy. And you can definitely tell this is an ova since not only does Keitaro at one point fall down and pull down her clothes, he pulls her panties down all the way, getting a nice cheek shot.

Mmmmm. Motoko…

But that’s just the bonus episode. The real meat of this disc is the effectively double-length episode OVA that is the Christmas Special. And it’s quite a good special at that. The premise is pretty straightforward, as it’s a fairly typical plot of a Christmas episode. Keitaro, Naru and Mutsumi are all studying hard for a practice exam that takes place on December 24th, so much so that Christmas is pretty much ignored. No Christmas Cakes mentioned here! But among the other residents of the Hinata, as well as apparently most of the city, this particular Christmas Eve is going to be special. A rumor has circulated that if you profess your love to someone on Christmas Eve, that person will love you forever.

And so the wheels turn as the various relationships work to try and come to some sort of balance here. Shinobu still harbors her feelings for Keitaro, so she has the potential to do it. Mutsumi certainly looks to take advantage of it as well. Add in the scheming of Kitsune with the help of Kaolla and Sara and you have a recipe for a lot of people going in opposite directions to achieve the same goal.

It’s not an original plot, and it’s been done in many other anime series over the years. And like a lot of those, it works exceptionally well. The characters here are well tailored to this situation, where you have the hapless Keitaro working side jobs to make extra money to get Naru that perfect expensive present, even after she comes down hard on him for professing his love to her. You have the situation of the two leads being in completely different areas of the city and frantically trying to find each other while the rest of the cast is looking for them as well. But it all just works so wonderfully well.

Do stop it when the final hot spring sequence comes up though, as the two minutes that it runs there does nothing but reset the series. I absolutely loved this OVA up until those final two minutes.

The look and feel of this special is several notches above the TV series, which is already one of the best looking TV series out there to date. The characters here look slightly different than normal, with some better depth to the colors giving them a more full look. Several of the girls appear to have gotten implants as well, such as Mutsumi who looks like she’s going to snap in half carrying breasts of that size around, to the slightly strange poses that Kitsune takes to keep her rack from dragging her down to the ground. Also, it looks like Shinobu got aged up a bit, as she looks a bit more mature and taller in a number of her scenes, making the time spent with Keitaro seem a lot less awkward.

This was a really good disc all around, and one of those episode that really merits watching on Christmas Eve itself with a special someone. The quality level of these episodes is definitely higher than the standard and is a good reminder of what OVA quality can mean. Definitely an easy pick-up if you’ve bought and enjoyed the series.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending,Bonus Episode

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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