Love Hina Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: C-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £17.99
  • 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

By Dani Moure     September 13, 2004
Release Date: September 20, 2004


Love Hina Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
Keitaro Urashima is trying for the 3rd time to get into Tokyo University, the most prestigious University in Japan. Why? Because of a promise he has made to a girl when they were both children. But that was long ago and he has forgotten who the girl was. His parents who only see him as a loafer and are constantly nagging him so when his grandmother invites him to visit at her home, the Hinata apartments, he figures he can crash there.

But when he arrives he suddenly finds himself under attack by the all-female residents of the complex. Before they completely destroy him, however, they discover that he's been named the new manager! How will the girls react to a man living in their all girls building?

He's already gotten off on the wrong foot. But as they get to know him, well, he still finds himself at the short end of the stick (and sometimes the katana). Can his good nature and pure heart win out? Will the girls of the Hinata Apartments accept him? More to the point, will his bones ever knit? Welcome to Keitaro's life!

Contains the first four episodes:

1. All-Girls Dorm With Outdoor Bath: Hot Spring
2. The Hinata's New Resident Shinobu: Arrow Signs
3. Kendo Girl In Love?: Swordplay
4. The Tokyo U Promise From 15 Years Ago: Diary

The Review!
After a long wait the hugely popular Love Hina hits UK shores, but is it worth the wait?

Audio:
I listened to the Japanese track for the first two episodes, and really enjoyed the performances. Keitaro comes off as a great mix of a guy who's a bit of a loser but is also a good guy, while all the actresses really seem to nail their characters. The stereo mix comes across nicely, and I noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

I also listened to episodes three and four in English. Unfortunately, and I really hate saying this, but it's a bit of a train wreck in places. The performances are often off, and while David Umansky does a decent job as Keitaro, the only performance thus far that I really felt was nailed was Dorothy Melendrez as Naru. Wendee Lee sounds too old for Su, Ellen Arden doesn't have quite the same feel for Shinobu, and by far the worst sounding performance is Barbara Goodson's Kitsune. Unfortunately, the Southern accent that she's obviously been directed to give just doesn't click at all, and while it's supposed to reflect the regional dialect that Kitsune has on the Japanese track, it just sounds so out of place it falls flat. It's a crying shame because all the actors here are good and with a bit more tightening the dub could have come together much better. On the plus side, I noticed no dropouts or distortions on this track during regular playback.

Video:
This is one are where I found the disc a little disappointing. While colours come across as extremely nice and vibrant, and the show generally looks good with no aliasing, the compression is disappointing. There are a lot of compression atrifacts throughout, especially in the opening and it's high motion scenes, and often around the kanji credits as well. It's a shame as it mars what is otherwise a very good presentation. On the plus side, we also get the opening and ending credits in the original Japanese kanji, but disappointingly there's no on-disc translation of the show's English credits. These appeared on the US release in the inserts, but since I don't have the packaging available I don't know if they'll appear on the UK release.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and are a good, clear size. I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors that stood out throughout the episodes.

Packaging:
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Menu:
Thankfully for the Australian release, Madman decided to go with a different choice of logo and artwork for the series over the US release, and that is naturally replicated on the UK release. There's a brief animated logo that appears before it goes into the main menu, which has a montage of clips of each of the characters in the show playing inside a frame. The show's logo and menu selections appear at the bottom of the screen, while the opening theme plays over the menu. The setup and extras menus are both static with no music playing, but look nice and fit with the menu's theme. Access times are fast, and while it won't blow you away, the menus do fit the tone of the show nicely.

Extras:
There aren't that many extras on this disc, as all we get is a short photo gallery for Naru and Keitaro (basically a brief description of the character followed by a few screencaps), and "Keitaro's Sketchbook", which basically shows a few rough drawings and shows his feelings about the events portrayed in the sketches. It's unlikely that even the textless opening and ending will appear on the TV series discs, as they were on one of the specials discs on the US release. I wouldn't really expect much in the way of extras going forward.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When it first hit Japan in 2000, Love Hina was a massive success, and after the 24 episode TV series it spawned an additional two TV specials and a final three episode OVA series. It was also a huge hit in the US, and proved popular when it was eventually released there on DVD. It also signalled something of a resurgence in the one guy with several girls genre. Because of this, and the simple fact that so many of these kinds of shows are just getting churned out right now, there's a lot of instant hatred to Love Hina, much of which is quite unjustified. Based on the manga by Ken Akamatsu, Love Hina is a wacky romantic comedy that often goes completely over the top, but it has some great characters and interactions, and the first volume is a pretty interesting setup for the story to come.

Keitaro Urashima has been trying to get into Tokyo University for a couple of years, and has thus far failed. He's won't give up though, because 15 years before he made a promise to a childhood friend, who just happens to be female, that they would meet again at Tokyo U because she was moving away. But since he's not been able to get in, he's always wondering if he'll get to meet her again and is always on the look out for her. When he fails to get in to Tokyo U again, his parents are fed up of paying for him so he agrees to get a part-time job. But his grandma just happens to have decided to go on a round the world trip, leaving the occupants of the apartments she owns and manages in the lurch.

Enter Keitaro, who is picked by his grandma to be the new manager of Hinata Lodge. On his first visit, he has an unfortunate run in with a young girl, Shinobu, and gets into plenty of trouble with Kitsune and Narusegawa who live in the Lodge. When they find out that Keitaro is supposed to be the new manager, none of them are happy until his aunt Haruka mentions he's actually a Tokyo U student. Naru finds out the truth but keeps it a secret from the others so they agree to let him stay.

Of course, not everyone is happy about it. Naru uses Keitaro as her constant punch-bag, while Kitsune has a tendency to come on to him when she's drunk. Young Su simply attacks him with her strange toys, and the swordswoman Motoko is simply not happy about his presence, mainly because she's attracted to him and doesn't want him to be. Then there's Shinobu, who moves into Hinata Lodge and who Keitaro ends up accidentally upsetting on more than one occasion. But it's all OK, as long as the girls keep on thinking he's a student at Tokyo U.

The story of Love Hina is a little contrived in places, and isn't even particularly original. It's all basically set up so that there will be several girls living with Keitaro in the one residence, and they'll all fall in love with him in their own way. Except Keitaro himself is in love with Naru, and thinks she is the girl from his childhood with whom he made the promise, which adds an interesting mix to the goings on since she spends so much of her time beating him up. But it still amounts to quite a lot of fun when all the other girls are in the mix as well.

So it's just as well the other characters are a lot of fun. Motoko is a bit of a riot, running around with her sword after Keitaro as she desperately tries to hide her true feelings from him (and she gets to go for it in episode three!). Shinobu is the sweet and innocent little girl who looks up to Keitaro and has feelings for him too, but is far too timid to ever admit them. And she's a great cook to boot. Then there's Kitsune, who's always drunk and never against coming on to Keitaro when she's had a bit to drink. And finally you have Su, who is by far the most crazy, running and jumping around constantly and somehow making some heavy artillery which she's not against using on Keitaro.

But clearly it's the Keitaro and Naru relationship that provides the real hook for the series, especially with the first volume. While the constant attacks from Naru can get a bit tiresome and repetitive, there's a few sweet moments between that are interesting enough to make me want to see how the relationship will develop, whether Naru really is the girl he promised, and whether they will actually get together or not. Of course, I already know the answer but for those who've never seen anything of Love Hina before it's certainly something to keep watching for.

In fact the biggest criticism that can be hailed at Love Hina (and it often is), is that like many other shows of this type it can get very repetitive very fast, and it really needs to be something special to carry it through. After the first volume it's difficult to say, but on the strengths of the characters and the fun premise, it could happen.

The animation for the series is pretty good for a TV show, and it's certainly consistent over the first four episodes. There's quite a lot of movement throughout, and so it doesn't suffer from talking head syndrome like so many other series often do.

In Summary:
Love Hina is a hugely popular series, but it's not one that will set most people's flames alight. It's a lot of fun, and within the opening four episodes there's a fair amount of promise that the series' relationships could develop and really prove interesting along the way. Of course, it could go the other way and fall into the genre's usual traps, but that's true of any series after the opening few episodes. For now it's good fun and keeps me entertained, and there's little to disappoint with regards the presentation of the UK release. If you like the harem genre and don't already own Love Hina, it's a no-brainer for a recommendation. If not, you could do worse than give the show a try.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1 & 2.0),English Subtitles,Photo galleries

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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