Love Hina Omnibus, Vol. 5

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

When I reviewed the first omnibus of Love Hina, I noted that one of its major faults was that, compared to the pacing of the end of the series, it seemed glacially slow. Now we’ve gotten to the final volume, and I’m starting to see the opposite problem. Akamatsu has discovered he can do fast chases well, so after an entire volume spent chasing Naru to the north of Japan, we get another one devoted to chasing Keitaro around the MolMol Kingdom, with all the wacky hijinks that entails. Indeed, reality, which always had a tenuous hold on this series anyway, seems to mostly go out the window here.


As you can see, Kodansha spoils the entire volume on its cover (I have this image of Angry Naru haters replacing her head on the cover with Motoko or Kitsune or whoever and giggling). Yes indeed, the series does end with a wedding. But before that, we have to run through the pick of the best of some of Love Hina’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2. Which means archaeological ruins, chase scenes, the girls all trying to stop Keitaro and Naru simply because the plot requires it – indeed, Su basically admits she’s only doing this for fun. Speaking of Su, turns out she’s MolMol’s princess, which probably gives some justification as to why she acts the way she does. Motoko gets a lot of stuff to do at the start of this omnibus, even if most of it is a repeat of a previous volume (notice a pattern?). Shinobu less so, but at least she gets out a confession. And Seta and Haruka get married, in one of the fastest weddings you’ll ever see, barely giving Haruka a chance to turn red.

As for Keitaro and Naru, well, life continues to conspire against them. A popular fan theory is that the universe LITERALLY does not want to see them together, and constantly sends disasters their way just to prevent it, and you see a glimpse of this sort of thing here. Things aren’t helped by Naru, who clearly loves Keitaro, wants to become more intimate with him (she takes him to a love hotel here)… but still has issues that lead to disaster and Keitaro getting whacked. (I’m a huge foe of the “Naru is insane and needs therapy” fandom block, mostly as it rarely comes from sympathy, but I will admit I do wonder if something in her childhood happened that led her to be this twitchy.) As for Keitaro, by now he’s accepted his lot in life, freely admitting his supposed immortality and going with the flow provided the flow takes him back to Naru.

The title ends with an epilogue showing the Hinata Inn four years later, with the arrival of a new girl who’s heard it’s legendary for helping hopeless students get into Todai. She’s essentially a female Keitaro, so it’s no surprise that she runs into the residents of the inn (now older) naked, accidentally screws something up, and ends up in a giant chase scene. And if she’s Keitaro, then who does Keitaro get to be? I think most of the “Keitaro turns into Seta Mk. 2!” fan displeasure came from this epilogue, where admittedly he pretty much does act like Seta. But then again, a relaxed Keitaro who’s resolved his Todai and love life issues may very well go in that direction… we’ve seen how Seta and Haruka parallel Keitaro and Naru to begin with. More likely, he was Seta’d up to make the situation funnier, because this is still a manga.

And so in the end I think I have finished unleashing all my inner fandom demons at Love Hina, and can appreciate it for what it is; an intermediate work of Ken Akamatsu’s, filled with memorable characters, sweet moments and a lot of humor, but also poorly paced, about 5 volumes too long, and over-relying on physical comedy. His next series, Negima, gets better at all of these, but still has the same essential weaknesses. Luckily, his strengths also get even stronger there. So let’s leave Keitaro and Naru, married now, living at the Hinata Inn and no doubt spawning a new generation of comedic misunderstandings that could be worked out if only anyone would stop for two seconds.

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