Love Hina Omnibus, Vol. 4

By Ken Akamatsu. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

I admit I put this volume on the back burner for a while. If ever there was a series that reminded me how much one can change and grow in 10-12 years, it’s Love Hina, which has lost a lot of the luster it originally had. This is an omnibus of three parts, appropriately since it covers three volumes. The first is the best, as Mutsumi helps to draw Naru closer to Keitaro and he heads off to America for a sabbatical. The second volume is all about introducing Kanako, Keitaro’s adopted sister and reader identification figure. Lastly, Keitaro returns and everything goes south for Naru, as the final volume is a chase of epic proportions to try to get Naru to admit her feelings or die. Die being what she’d prefer, really.


I tend to defend Naru a lot, mostly as the people who hate her tend to use sexist, horrible imagery in that hate, like many of the worst bashers in any fandom. Their hate is summed up by “she needs to be more nice to me… I mean him” and multiple uses of the word ‘bitch’. That said, Naru is certainly at her most frustrating here, dragging out the ‘do I really love him’ question to appalling lengths. Naru’s terrified of the future and things going wrong, and I completely identify with that. But add in Akamatsu’s comedic exaggeration and you want to cry at how much she can run away from her own problems. The end of this volume has her literally running away until there is no land mass left, to the northernmost tip of Japan.

Things are not helped at all by Kanako. I’ve mellowed a bit on Kanako over the years, and can see the appeal of a character who is designed to come in and call everyone out on the crap they’ve been giving Keitaro the last few years. Her naivete and hero-worship of her brother comes through quite well, and I liked the bond she forms with Naru (no surprise there, given Naru and Keitaro’s similarities). And given this was written in the late 90s rather than the early 10s, the incest subtext is meant to be creepy and wrong, for once. Kanako also gives us my favorite joke of the volume, where she dresses Mutsumi up as Keitaro to test everyone’s love… complete with ‘attachments’, so to speak. (“My brother’s would be at least that big.”)

I was reading this volume on public transport, which could be awkward at times. After a while, all the fanservice in Love Hina tends to mesh together so much you don’t notice it anymore, which is surprising given it’s everywhere. Characters are nude or near-nude through all three volumes of this, reminding me once more that Magazine skews much older than Jump or Sunday. And that’s not even counting the goth-loli Kanako, or everyone dressed as maids, or the Halloween costumes, or all the other service that’s here. Akamatsu works hard to please his audience, but you feel a little guilty about it all.

Honestly, any chance to read more Mutsumi is always welcome for me, but Love Hina is a classic example of what should have been a nine-volume manga dragged out to 14. Luckily, that means the next omnibus (only two volumes) is the last, and should wrap everything up for Naru and Seta. Oops, I mean Keitaro. Yeah, best save that little issue for Vol. 5’s review…

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