ラブひな Omnibus Volume 01
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Love Hina is the second manga series that I started purchasing and reading back in 2003 (after watching the anime in 2002). Back then, TokyoPop's release of the manga began steering me toward the notion of the retention of Japanese honorifics, both in manga and in anime subtitles. (Ironically, the official English release of the anime Love Hina steered me from watching English dubs to watching anime in Japanese with subtitles.) That's because Adam Arnold managed to get the title/honorific "senpai" into the adaptation (though only for Shinobu addressing Keitaro) and occasionally, other honorifics. A few years later, I started longing for a better adaptation of the manga that would include not only all of the Japanese honorifics, but also make proper usage of names. Thankfully, this first omnibus release does that an more.
This first omnibus volume covers the first three volumes of the manga series. From a story perspective, this covers Keitaro's taking over Hinata Inn as the manager for what has become a girl's dorm, through Keitaro's and Naru's studying and attempt to get into Tokyo University (Todai), and concluding with their separate but linked "recovery" trips to Kyoto and beyond, where they eventually meet Mutsumi before being reunited with the other residents of Hinata Inn.
Going beyond my being thrilled at the proper usage of honorifics in the adaptation, I have to say that I do enjoy the story here. Sure, it has Akamatsu-sensei's standard level of ecchiness (because girls have to bathe frequently, especially in large, outdoor onsen-style baths) and the main joke is the hapless Keitaro accidentally walking in on some girl (or girls) undressing, or otherwise accidentally groping them, followed by a vicious beating from said girls, with Naru giving her patented "Naru Punch" that sends Keitaro flying. Some folks will get sick of that, but I see it for what it is -- stupid humor.
For me, the journey of Keitaro and Naru attempting to get into Todai and the hints of romance between the two, with all of its ups and downs, is the more enjoyable part. This is aided by the other residents of Hinata Inn, especially Motoko (my favorite character), whom are now in their adjustment period in getting used to Keitaro. Having Naru and Keitaro go off separately on unannounced trips (despite eventually ending up together) has the other girls come running, showing that they not only cared for Naru, but had begun to care for Keitaro as well. These are the elements that are interesting to me.
This first omnibus introduces us to all of the major characters, save three, two of whom are soon to come (Seta and Sarah). So, after reading this book, if you don't like it, you won't like the rest of the manga series. If you do like it, you'll like the rest of the manga series and should continue to buy future volumes.
Now, if you were like me and were introduced to Love Hina via the anime, providing you liked the anime, you'll like the manga even better. That's because the story flows more naturally and will eventually have a proper conclusion, something the anime never did.
On the Kodansha side of things, I've already mentioned the return of the Japanese honorifics. There are extensive translator notes at the back as well, which is very welcome. Also, you may note that I used the term "Todai" for "Tokyo University." Readers of the original manga or viewers of the anime may or may not remember that "Todai" as a term becomes very important in later volumes as the series is winding down. I suspect that this is why the Japanese short name "Todai" is used in this adaptation, and I for one have no problem with that. ^_^
I wish that the original, color covers had been included as an extra (seriously, what Dark Horse is doing with those various CLAMP omnibuses is awesome), but alas they are not. The end of each original volume does contain the black-and-white version of the original color, book cover note from Akamatsu-sensei, so that's a nice way to end a volume. All of the volume extras are in the back of this book, which isn't a problem.
For me, I highly recommend this harem manga and am glad that Kodansha Comics is doing it right.