When Keitaro Urashima fails his entrance exams to get into Tokyo University for the second time, he’s officially an unemployed and uneducated slacker. To make things worse, his parents have kicked him out of his house. Fortunately, his grandmother owns the fabulous Hinata House and Keitaro is going to be the new caretaker. What he doesn’t know is the lodge is actually a girls’ dorm and he’s the only guy around! Most guys would kill to live with five cute girls, but if Keitaro’s not careful, this job will kill him.
It has basically been 10 years since mangaka Ken Akamatsu unleashed his unbelievably popular Love Hina manga upon us and to this day it remains as one of the most popular harem genre titles ever. Thanks to the anime’s worldwide success, there is guaranteed to be almost no otaku who hasn’t heard of the Love Hina universe before.
Love Hina Volume 1 is where it all began and this volume introduces us to the loser ronin Keitaro, a boy with probably the worst luck (and student ability) in the world. Of course, seeing as he is our hapless hero, a lucky break does come along his way every now and then, but usually only after he has been beaten up, humiliated and completely trod into the ground – which is usually at the hands of the five girls he now shares the Hinata inn with. In this volume Keitaro uninvitedly moves into Hinata house, has his first disastrous interactions with Naru Narusegawa, completely embarrasses and then tries to win back Shinobu’s trust and then finds out firsthand the dangerous consequences of messing with Motoko and her sword.
Essentially this is a romantic comedy at heart, but it is heavily disguised as a no-holds barred comedy with a lot of physical and situational comedy and often features completely absurd elements and physics to drive home an almost ridiculous comedy element. It tends to lean more towards the humorous than dramatic in the storytelling department, but Ken effortlessly switches between story tones through the book and there are more than enough emotional scenes to satisfy any girl or mature guy reading it.
The story is sweet and fun, and guaranteed to keep you laughing from the first to the last page as Keitaro stumbles from one hilariously embarrassing situation to the next. This is a harem genre story with a major twist – none of the females living with him actually like him!
On the art front, Ken has always been known for his super cute female characters and in Love Hina he certainly doesn’t disappoint – something that probably directly contributed to the series’ success in the first place. His characters are instantaneously likeable and his constant switching from real world to the ridiculous and highly exaggerated in his art style comes across as highly entertaining and helps bring about a lot of the humour in the story. Exaggerated facial expressions are probably the most striking aspect of his work and you’ll quickly see that he is indeed a master at portraying character emotion with almost no effort at all.
His linework is pretty clean and his backgrounds (when he decides to put them in) are pretty good looking. Good use of half-tone patterns and effective, simple lines make this manga easy on the eyes and will keep you turning page after page.
Love Hina is one of those classic manga works that every Otaku should make an effort to pick up and get in contact with, even if you aren’t a huge fan of the harem genre in the first place. It’s a little naughty in places but nothing lewd or ecchi and is genuinely one of the funnier titles you will ever lay hands on.
A recommended piece of work and a classic in the manga world without a doubt.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Hina