Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: A-
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Bandai Entertainment
- MSRP: 34.95
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Love Hina
Love Hina Vol. #1 W/Box
By Chris Beveridge
February 07, 2002
Release Date: February 19, 2002
Love Hina Vol. #1 W/Box
What They Say
© Bandai Entertainment
One of the funniest anime of all time! After being rejected twice from Tokyo University, hapless Keitaro Urashima becomes the manager of an all-girls apartment complex! But will he be able to concentrate on his studies? Could one of his tenants be his long-lost love? Will his tenants leave him alone? Heck! Will he survive the school year?! The Review!
One of the more popular series to be released in 2000, Love Hina has arrived on North American shores rather quickly with the folks at Production I.G. behind its release with the able help of the folks at Bandai Entertainment. What this means is we get a release that's slightly different than most U.S. releases and the ways though small are likely to have people weighing in on both sides.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This is a great sounding TV soundtrack that uses its score to maximum advantage. The forward soundstage is full of sound with the music and with the characters running around. The rear speakers also make out quite well with a lot of the music and ambient sounds making their way there giving this a much more immersive feel than you usually get with a TV series. In the smaller environment of our home theater room, this soundtrack sounded great.
We did give some time to the English track though and came away very disappointed. The audio level that it was recorded at is considerably lower than the Japanese track, to the point where much of the rear speaker directionality is simply gone and the forward soundstage sounds very weak. Just flip between audio tracks during the eye-catch and the differences in the levels is almost shocking.
With this being such a recent release and sporting rather high production values for a lot of it, it's not surprising at all that this disc looks simply gorgeous. 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.
This is probably the most controversial part of the release and in the end, also one of the more inconsequential ones. For the region one release, a new English logo was crafted and since its debut, it's pretty much been slammed left and right with it's 70's "groovy love" style to spell out Love Hina. The logo only appears on the cover and in the menu so it's not that big of a deal, but it'll bother some. I find myself actually liking it, so I'll probably be skinned alive for that. The cover itself features Naru and Keitaro in non-typical looking poses with Naru looking positively mean and Keitaro in fear of her look while the Hinata Inn is behind them. The back cover provides an amusing summary for the show as well as listing the episode numbers and titles. The volume number also appears on the spine, which is a plus to me. Features and technical information is all nicely presented at the bottom as well. The insert provides another shot of the front cover while opening it up provides a detailed look at the Naru piece from the cover as well as other "many faces of Naru". This is a cute piece to be sure. The back of the insert provides the production and cast lists in English as well as the English production credits.
And yes, the cover is reversible. But.... it's not a reversible cover. The back side is a full length shot of the front cover that extends all the way, sort of like a centerfold. I'm not sure what was being intended with this, as you can't use it as a poster (since you'd no longer have a cover) and you can't reverse it in the keepcase. I'd hoped that the reverse would have the original logo to appease those who dislike the new one, but no go.
For the first disc for those who wanted to pay 5$ more, you could get a good sturdy cardboard box that can hold all six of the planned DVD releases. The box is really nice, with one side have a full cast shot with Kaolla looking out while the other side has the girls and Keitaro larger and up close which looks just as sweet. The top has a shot of the turtle and the logo while the spine has the logo going down it with a shot of all the main cast above it. This is a really slick thing to have, and it's a first I believe for the domestic anime companies and definitely for region 1 dvd, to offer it up this way.
The main menu is a variant of the front cover with a shot of the Hinata in the background with the English logo over it. To the right, inside a large red heart, you have all the selections as well as direct episode selection. Little headshots of some of the characters are also here and bouncing up and down with the music. Moving between the menus is nice and fast and the layout is pretty nice. Some of the submenus use Keitaro's sketchbook as the background which I thought was a nice touch.
There's not a heck of a lot included here for the extras. The first one I was appreciative of is the full cast and credits listing, which also pairs up the English actors with their characters (something that's rarely done for a variety of reasons). We get a few pages of Keitaro's sketchbook with some cute SD pictures and other pieces of artwork. The character profiles pages are done nicely, with the first one listing the character and their background and then showing a handful of images, then followed by another character.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Love Hina, while massively popular in Japan, also managed to become massively popular among a small segment of online fandom who managed to use at the time new technologies to reinvent the way shows are sometimes seen early by the select few as opposed to the massive majority of anime consumers. This popularity spread quite well, so anticipation is definitely high for this title and after viewing it for the second time, I find myself enjoying it quite a lot.
The show revolves around a simple premise that's quite common in a lot of shows but takes it and executes it masterfully. Our central character is 20 year old Keitaro, a two time failure at getting into Tokyo University. Yet he still tries because he has himself a true goal to accomplish. Back when he was a young young lad, he made a promise to a girl that the two of them would meet again one day at said university, and their lives would start up together properly. As she was being whisked out of town as her parents were moving, it was a nicely done scene that gives the character a good set of motives for doing what he does.
And as expected, he's not quite the man he wanted to grow into, but he still tries. His parents however are trying to get him to face reality and move on, but his dream of this unnamed girl and their promise is strong. So when he gets a call from his grandmother who manages the Hinata Inn, he sees this as a chance to get out of his parents hair, get some freedom, avoid getting a job and concentrate on taking the exams.
Ah, the best laid plans of indecisive and horny anime men. While Keitaro makes his way to Hinata, we flash there and see that his grandmother has decided to resign as manager. It also looks like over the years she changed it from an inn to a dormitory for girls. And without a manager, the dorm can't exist, so she's set it for Keitaro to unwittingly become the manager while she goes off for one last big life experience. The girls in the dorm however don't know about Keitaro or that he's a he.
So when he eventually does arrive and finds that there's an outdoor spring that he doesn't remember at the inn, he immediately takes advantage of it, figuring nobody is around. This sets up the predictable but high-energy meeting between him and Naru. The resulting fight/chase (with her pulling him around by his unmentionables) brings him into contact with other members of the house as well as eventually his aunt who runs a tea house down the street. Things are explained and tensions go down slightly.
The girls in the end find out that if they don't keep a manager, they'll be out on the street. They eventually decide to trust Keitaro after his aunt mistakenly explains that he's a Tokyo University student as opposed to trying to be one. This misunderstanding is normally the running gag of an entire series, but what helps set this show apart is that it deals with it fairly early and in a really good way that works for everyone. That's also seen in a couple of other situations that crop up; instead of dragging it out for more episodes, they're dealt with. This really helps the series actually feel like its moving somewhere.
That's not to say there's no unpredictable moments. With one guy living in a house full of women and an outdoor hot spring, there's plenty of room for miscommunication. Add in that one of the girls is the latest in a long line of master swordsmen and refuses to accept Keitaro, there's some very spirited but predictable chases and fights between the two that end up dragging everyone into it.
But those flashes of creativity and style help set this show apart.
With this show being the first one out with Production I.G. handling most of the work outside of the DVD phase, there are a few interesting choices made here. The first is that the opening and ending sequences are exactly like the Japanese releases with no translated credits. They're not creditless, but in Japanese. Translated credits reside in the extras menu and partially on the insert. This will make some fans happy, but I've gotta weigh in on the side that doesn't like this.
Having seen so much anime over the years and being one of those people that actually does listen to each opening and ending, I've managed to become familiar with the production people behind shows. I'll admit it, much like I do with Hollywood films, I follow cinematographers, series planners, directors and yes, even the sound crew. It just doesn't seem right to watch a series and not see Maki Pro listed for the Japanese titles. Where it'll bother most people probably is the lack of knowing the voice actors. I do give major props for aligning the characters with the English actors, but I'd rather see that after each episode so it'd stick more.
On the plus for the openings and endings, odd episodes have the English lyrics while even episodes contain the romaji lyrics. Definitely appreciated.
We also ended up watching this show the second time in English. Well, for at least part of the first episode. Beyond the problem of the mixing being so low, I just couldn't get into the track at all. The dub I believe was done with K&R Productions which I recall being the ones involved with Pilot Candidate. On the plus side, it's got Wendee Lee doing the ADR direction. On the negative side, they gave Kitsune a truly horrible southern accent. It was the bad kind of accent that my wife, who is from the south, refused to listen to it any further based on how bad it was. With Kitsune being my favorite of the girls so far, this made watching the dub rather hard to do and something we eventually gave up on by the time the eye-catch rolled around.
This first volume of Love Hina is really well put together with only a few very minor things that I'd like to see tweaked. But even if none of it is changed, I'd still rate it just as highly as it's pluses greatly outweigh the nitpicky problems. This is a great release and one I can't look forward to seeing more of. Highly recommended.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Translated Credits,Keitaro's Sketchbook,Character Photo Gallery
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.