The romcom, harem classic remains memorable to anime fans of the 2000s for its well-executed story and aesthetically pleasing art.
By: Nicole S. Castro on May 05, 2022 at 13:18 PHT
What's sure to bring you back to the 2000s era of anime? Why, classic romcom + love triangle + fanservice, of course!
And what better anime embodies that than the 2000 anime Love Hina?
Love Hina (Japanese: ラブ ひな) began as a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Ken Akamatsu. It was serialized in Kodansha's Weekly Shōnen Magazine from October 1998 to October 2001, with the chapters collected into 14 tankōbon volumes. The manga was licensed for an English-language release in North America and the United Kingdom by Tokyopop.
The manga was then adapted into a 24-episode TV anime by studio Xebec, which aired from April 19, 2000 to Sept. 27, 2000, followed by several original video animations (OVAs) from 2000 to 2002.
Plot and Throwback (anime)
The romcom anime takes place in Kanagawa Prefecture, with protagonist Keitarō Urashima (CV: Yūji Ueda) persevering to enter the prestigious University of Tokyo (Todai) after he made a promise to a female childhood friend that they would enter said university together. The catch is that he can't fully recall her face and name despite holding on to the memory vividly.
Having failed the entrance exam for Todai twice and with his parents no longer willing to support him, he goes to stay at his grandmother's inn, the Hinata House, only to find out that it has been converted into a female-only apartment. He accidentally bathes in the now female-only onsen with Naru Narusegawa (CV: Yui Horie), one of the dormers. With Naru and the other girls about to kick him out, Keitarō is saved by his cousin Haruka Urashima (CV: Megumi Hayashibara) who informs the girls that Keitarō's grandmother has given him the title to the apartment.
With Keitarō as the official person-in-charge, he begins a crazy life of living as the sole male in the female-only Hinata House, with the smart, hot-headed Naru (who is also studying for the Todai entrance exams), the 13-year-old schoolgirl Shinobu Maehara (CV: Masayo Kurata), the cool-headed kendo athlete Motoko Aoyama (CV: Yū Asakawa), the hyperactive Kaolla Su (CV: Reiko Takagi), and the flirtatious freelancer Mitsune "Kitsune" Konno (CV: Junko Noda).
Through a series of life events and interactions, Keitarō develops bonds with the girls who gradually grow attached to him. The drama begins when Keitarō and Naru develop feelings for each other but are unable to confess because they all know Keitarō is still looking for the Promise Girl in his memories.
Because of a childhood photo of Keitarō playing with a girl at the nearby park, Naru starts to think that the Promise Girl is Mutsumi Otohime (CV: Satsuki Yukino), a soft-spoken 20-year-old girl whom Keitarō meets after a brief vacation. Like Keitarō and Naru, Mutsumi is also studying to enter Todai.
Meanwhile, Keitarō is torn between his desire to continue looking for his long lost childhood friend versus confessing his feelings to Naru, who was initially infatuated with Noriyasu Seta (CV: Yasunori Matsumoto), an archaeology professor from Todai who once acted as Naru's tutor.
How did the anime end?
In the anime, the girls cooperate to bring Keitarō and Naru together. Naru and Keitarō admit their feelings at the park that was significant to their dreams of entering Todai. Keitarō, who chooses Naru despite believing Mutsumi is the childhood friend, vows to do his best to study hard and pass the entrance exam. Naru promises to wait for Keitarō so they can be in Todai together. Then, Naru, Keitarō, and cast resume their happy lives at Hinata House.
At the end of the anime, Mutsumi clarifies that she isn't Keitarō's childhood friend, but that she overheard Keitarō making the promise to enter Todai with another girl.
In the manga, it is confirmed that Keitarō's Promise Girl was actually Naru. Keitarō and Naru eventually pass the entrance exam for Todai, however, Keitarō breaks his leg, forcing him to take a leave of absence. During this time, he flies to America with Seta to work as the latter's archaeology apprentice.
By the end of the manga series, Keitarō and Naru get married with the full support of Mutsumi and the other girls of Hinata House.
Love Hina is a 4/5 for us because even though it follows the classic romcom + love triangle formula, it does it so well in such a memorable way (and has an aesthetically pleasing art style that we can still appreciate more than 20 years later). Yes, Keitarō has his fanservice-y harem plus love triangle care of Naru and Mutsumi. Yes, Naru and Keitarō go through the classic, angsty pining stage of thinking the other doesn't feel the same way. But all the characters are so entertaining plus given enough story, screen time, and just a little bit of a chance at Keitarō to keep everything interesting even though we all knew Naru and Keitarō were going to be end game.
If you're up for some absolutely-pinnacle-of-2000s nostalgia, Love Hina is worth your time.
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NICOLE S. CASTRO
Nicole is based in the Philippines and works as a freelance Japanese Translator/Interpreter and copywriter (English). She is a JLPT N2 passer who watches anime to "study" for N1. She has a long career history on LinkedIn (with primary focus on media and translation), but her anime watchlist is much, much longer.