Love Hina Again
After going through all various trials and tribulations, Keitarou and Naru have finally made it to Tokyo University. But is it over? Well, no, especially not when one final rival for Keitarou's affections lands at Hinata Hot Springs and begins to wreak havoc upon the other girls, one by one. What exactly is Kanako's claim to their home
Oh no. Love Hina ... Again?!?
I had a very bad premonition about this series when I first heard it was being made. Ever since Saber Marionette J Again, I've had a distinct mistrust of series with the suffix "Again". Unfortunately, Love Hina Again falls headlong into the traps that other romance sequels (cough, Tenchi) blunder into, introducing one rival too many in a cast already crowded with pretty girls mooning over a lovable loser protagonist who is often absent.
The difference between Tenchi Muyo and Love Hina is pretty simple. Whereas Tenchi was mostly a cipher, and often absent, lending to a story which is largely about the girls (no need for Tenchi indeed!), Love Hina thrives with Keitarou on the screen and starves without him on it. His fantasies, his silliness, and his personality pervade the TV series, and while there are many episodes about the girls, the series itself is definitely about him. Unfortunately, like the soon to be reviewed Spring Special, Keitarou is absent through much of the first half of Love Hina Again, and his physical comedy, and, indeed, his role as mediator and authority figure among the girls is sorely missed.
Now, this wouldn't be so bad if the character introduced in his place, the mysterious rival Kanako, were an enjoyable and worthy addition to the cast. She's not. Bitchy, strident, and underhanded, Kanako takes all the worst attributes of the existing gaggle of girls and multiplies them. I'm not sure I've seen a less subtle or sympathetic antagonist in a show like this in quite a while, especially when you find out her real motivation for what she does. Not to mention she brings along a pointless and underused (but cute) talking cat in a show already crammed with mascots.
The creators seem to have tried to make up for this by taking advantage of the OAV format to reinject the same level of fan service as the manga. While I definitely enjoyed that (why wouldn't I?), it doesn't make up for the lackluster writing in the series. I also noticed a subtle change in the character design, which is a decision I don't particularly agree with. Auntie Haruka now looks like a gangly teenager, and the Hinata girls all seem a bit more like caricatures than they were in the TV series. The animation itself is passable, but the music is simply awful, kinda like running "Sakura Saku" through the washing machine a hundred times.
The one good thing about this series (apart from the fan service, woo hoo!) is that they actually resolve several main threads at the end. But again, the writing fails here, as Keitarou and Naru are run through the single stupidest deus ex machina the series has ever offered, with an ending clear out of left field.
Don't get me wrong, I adore Love Hina. The original TV series had the gumption to take the harem-girl genre and stick its tongue out at it. But this ridiculous and unnecessary extension of the franchise is enough to strain the patience of its most ardent fans, while falling into the very cliche it is supposed to parody. Completists will want to collect this, and it's not all-the-way heinous, but Love Hina Again just isn't as good as it should be.
While not uniformly bad, Love Hina Again is an overdone mix of frustration and fan service that some may enjoy, but few will cherish. Read the manga instead. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: While there is nudity, it's on the same level as the manga, and therefore not very explicit. There are some adult situations, but nothing a teenager hasn't seen before. There's also the usual stupidly slapstick violence which is obviously beyond the realm of reality. Still, it's not something I'd show my nieces.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Full (3/3)
Love Hina Again © 2002 Ken Akamatsu / Kodansha / Love Hina Onsen Association / TV Tokyo
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