Love Hina Again

Make enough sequels, and you'll hit a brick wall. The World Is Not Enough...Scream III...Superman IV...Batman and Robin...after a while, the shtick gets old. In the land of Love Hina, the brick wall is at the 3 OVA series entitled Love Hina Again.

Apparently trying to make a last dollar off the successful franchise, the makers of Love Hina Again believe that the viewing public is willing to spend their cash on one more final attempt to permanently, without a doubt, get the two lead characters Keitaro and Narusegawa together once and for all. If there wasn't enough resolution for you at the end of the TV series, or at the end of the Christmas Special, or at the end of the Spring Special, this is your ticket! Those classy executives realize that you might also pick it up if you knew that there was actual nudity in this one versus mere teasing in the previous incarnations. They want your money so bad that they put the most nudity right in the opening credit sequence!

This, friends, is where I take my luggage from the overhead rack and get off the train.

In the 90 minutes that Love Hina Again travels through, Keitaro goes with Seta on a whim to a new archeological dig. In his absence, his "little sister" Kanako shows up to run the place. However, through the miracle of hazy plotting, technically Kanako is not related to Keitaro; they just grew up together. Kanako is determined that she made a promise with Keitaro years back, and she's willing to do anything to make Keitaro her man. She's a master of disguise, and she repeatedly fools both Naru and Keitaro about her true identity. Naru will finally have to make a decision: will she put her petty fears aside and confess her love to Keitaro so they can get on with their lives, or will she wimp out in the face of stiff competition? Of course, they are more turtles, an ancient spell, and the other residents of Hinata Inn to deal with as well. Shock of shocks.

Although many reviewers have smacked on the Spring Special, I found myself enjoying bits of it. I was happy Naru and Keitaro got into the university after all that time trying to get in during the series. I liked that Naru finally said straight out that she loved Keitaro (even if not to his face). I didn't like how we had to sit through a lame-duck story to get all that, but I could deal with it for the little extra resolution we got. However, my patience has been tried and found wanting after Love Hina Again. We never get to see Keitaro and Naru actually attending college. There is no sense of reality to the proceedings. We never even see our hero and heroine actually affectionate until the last minute of the last episode, by which time I couldn't muster up any sympathy.

There are plenty of shows that keep their leads from completely falling into each other's arms that still work for me. Video Girl Ai, Oh My Goddess, Macross, and Kimagure Orange Road all keep their love triangles open for a while. However, those shows either let their characters express their love for each other and just have events get in the way, or they keep us guessing as the triangles play themselves out. From the moment Love Hina began, you knew who Keitaro would wind up with. As such, it's not been about who gets together but how. And frankly, I finally just stopped caring. The Love Hina series and specials put us through a lot of grief for a minimal payoff, but the ride was OK. Love Hina Again gives us lots of grief, essentially no payoff, and a rather dismal ride.

The fact that this title has a surprising amount of panty shots, lingerie moments, and bare flesh exposed shows that the crew had to know in part how desperate they were to pull in an audience. Love Hina has always hinted at lechery, what with Keitaro getting pummeled in every episode for some accidental mistake where he sees or hears more than he should. However, here we get a lot more in view. Now it's not sexual in the typical sense--Love Hina is incredibly wishy-washy about young people in love, and we'd as likely see fish riding motor scooters through Baghdad as we'd see a romantic relationship consummated in this series. That doesn't excuse the fact that the audience is treated to an ecchi display of skin at every turn. It's not Agent Aika, granted, but it's intentional peek-a-boo to make a fast, final buck.

Unless you absolutely must see every last moment of Love Hina, I recommend even strident fans stay away from this one. (If you haven't been following Love Hina up to this point, there's no reason to start here, since the plot essentially ends before this show begins.) Love Hina has always toyed with its audience, but now it makes us out to be fools ready to buy just one more show. For its enjoyable music score and always-catchy animation, I give the show a grade perhaps slightly more than it deserves to be utterly fair. But if they make any more Love Hina anime, it's going to take somebody else's reviews convincing me before I pop down the funds for it.

Love Hina Again -- brief nudity, lechery, obnoxiously obtuse characters who should have grown up by now -- C-