Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Dec 25th 2002
DVD 3: Secret Lives
Mysteries abound in this volume of Love Hina as the characters have to figure out who stole the rent money from Keitaro's room. On top of that, there's a mysterious woman who keeps appearing in the town. For some reason, Su's also acting strangely, transforming into an older self under the moonlight.
As Love Hina kicks into the third DVD release, it's just as weird as ever, and the hijinks are just as crazy as they were before. Released by Bandai Entertainment, the DVD includes four episodes as well a few extras. Among these is an interview with the director Yoshiaki Iwasaki. Normally, this would be a very helpful and exciting extra. In the format that Bandai put it in, however, the tiny pearls of wisdom that could be garnered from watching it aren't even worth half the time watching it. The interview features an annoyingly condescending female voice over that makes it seem like a children's documentary. In the background is the animated head of the director talking, accompanied by dubbed clips. Overall, the format of the interview is very colorful, highly tacky, and painfully gaudy, making the viewing experience only tolerable for any brief insights he might have on the characters. Another extra is the character photo gallery which, although small, is fun to look at. Another bit of packaging fun comes with the DVD insert and cover, the former featuring a fold-out “guide” to Shinobu, and the latter being reversible to reveal shots of Naru as a pop idol.
Love Hina is one of those series that is able to provide mindless entertainment that is enjoyable to watch either alone or with friends. By the ninth episode, however, all the quirks of the series that made it appealing in the first place are beginning to get very old. It's time for a change. The humor in the series revolves mainly around the slapstick angle of the girls resorting to random bursts of unjustifiable violence. This, unfortunately, stops being funny after a while, and renders some of the girls extremely stupid, hen-pecking, paranoid, and annoying. They don't listen to reason, they have no patience… in short, some of the girls make the viewing experience a truly exasperating one. Another downfall of this volume that decreases the value of the series is the complete lack of coherence or consistency in the plot. While the randomness in the earlier episodes still had a background plot that tied them together, these four episodes are farfetched and outlandish beyond reason. For example, Naru becomes a pop idol in one of the episodes, only to have that incident never to be brought up ever again. With the main element of humor gone, and the story line rendered useless, this volume of Love Hina is one of the worst in the series.
On the upside, there are other aspects of the series that are still able to redeem the quality of this series. One of these is the music. The instrumentals are the same that are used in all the previous episodes, with pleasant melodies and that annoying and unexplained sound effect that always accompanies Su. However, the most pleasing part of the music occurs in the eleventh episode in which Naru becomes a pop idol, along with Shinobu and Motoko. It's fun to be able to listen to a few of the characters sing, especially since they have beautiful voices suited especially well for sugary J-Pop songs and ballads. Thankfully Bandai left the songs alone in the English dub as well, so viewers are spared any potential horror of listening to a swell of dubbed image songs.
As for the dialogue tracks themselves, the Japanese actors perform just as well as they normally do. The chaotic and frantic atmosphere of Hinata Inn is articulated well in their voices, which are able to transition faithfully between sad overtones, angry screaming, and giddy happiness. The English dub, on the other hand, is rather mediocre. The actors themselves perform decently, but the casting is horrendous. Kitsune, with her southern Japan dialect, is cast with a Palmetto Southern voice, which some viewers may find grating to the ears and mind. With bad casting coupled with only-adequate acting, the English dub is as far removed from a Tour de force as possible.
One pleasing aspect of the series that stays true in this volume is the beautiful background work. With gorgeous pastels and almost quasi-Impressionistic landscapes, the backgrounds render the artwork in the series as absolutely beautiful. Just the calm mood that the backgrounds impart gives the series a refreshing air that makes one forget how incoherent the plot actually is. The animation itself is rather choppy though, but considering the characters are always moving so much, it isn't as noticeable as it is when they simply walk down the street. The one nicely animated part of the series is the way the characters' facial emotions change. The transitions between emotions are smooth, and are drawn exceptionally well, enhancing the fast pacing of the series.
Even with the aspects of the series that make it sub-par at times, Love Hina still has a large fan base, and it's understandable why. Despite the downfalls of the series, it's still entertaining at times, and when the overdone chaos dies down, there are calm moments in which the characters can bond closer together and learn more about one another's pasts. If anyone wanted to get into Love Hina, the random nature of the series makes it possible to just jump into the series midway through without missing a beat. With three more volumes to go, people who have already started collecting the series should be assured that the episodes do get much better. Besides, every good thing has to have its slumps every once in a while.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : D
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : B
+ Great chance to hear the characters sing
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