Tag Archives: harem

Love Hina (Manga)

Mangaka: Ken Akamatsu

Status: Complete (14 volumes/5 omnibus volumes)

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience, mostly for fanservice/nudity

Keitaro Urashima has devoted himself to attending Tokyo University in order to fulfill a half-remembered promise he made with a girl when he was just a little kid. But, being a bit hopeless in general, he’s managed to fail the entrance exams twice now. What’s more, his parents have kicked him out of the house. Lucky for him, his family owns Hinata Inn, which is actually fairly near the university, and he is able to stay on there as the manager . . . only it’s not actually being used as an inn anymore, but rather as a girls’ dormitory. So now, poor Keitaro–who has trouble even speaking with girls–finds himself living in the same building as five girls . . . which should be a dream come true, but with his luck, it’s likely to be more trouble than anything else.

By the author of Negima (which I love), Love Hina is also something of a classic shounen manga, although (in my mind) not nearly so much so as NegimaLove Hina is essentially a new adult romcom, at its core. And yes, the love story between Keitaro and Naru is cute and sweet and funny . . . but a huge part of the manga is these two trying to actually figure out how to tell each other their feelings. It’s kind of too much, especially with all the back and forth about Keitaro’s childhood promise and his insistence on making it into Tokyo University, even without really knowing what he wants to study or anything. Keitaro himself becomes a more interesting character as the story progresses, somewhat, but at the beginning he’s honestly a pretty stereotypical self-insert sort of character. Which I guess fits the ecchi harem sort of story that we have at the beginning. And fair warning, this is definitely an ecchi, fanservice-filled sort of story with lots of hot springs nudity . . . not particularly more graphic than is typical of a shounen manga, just lots of it. The girls in this story are what really makes it shine, though. They are quite the group of characters, with larger-than-life personalities and all sorts of quirks. They’re a lovable group though, and certainly fun to read. I would love to call this a slice-of-life story, and it really is at the beginning; however, the further in we get, the more fantastical things become. You’ve got island princesses and flying turtles and secret sword techniques . . . let’s just say that it gets more bizarre the further you get into the story. And yet, there is definitely content that makes this a proper new adult story as well–the challenges of dealing with complicated emotions, trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, accepting responsibility. These are the sort of things that make this story not just a self-insert harem fest or a quirky fantasy but also a relatable story about growing up. So yes, Love Hina has things about it that I don’t love, but at the same time, it’s still a really good story that’s worth the read.

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Oh! My Useless Goddess! (Light Novel)

Author: Natsume Akatsuki/Translator: Kevin Steinbach

Illustrator: Kurone Mishima

Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World, vol. 1

My rating: 4 of 5

When Kazuma Sato’s sad, shut-in life in modern-day Japan ends abruptly–the one time he actually goes out!–he finds himself presented with a most unusual offer. Proceed to the afterlife or life out the rest of his life in a fantasy-like world with the intention of defeating the Demon King who is plaguing the people of that world. Bonus: he gets to request any one special item to bring along. But rather than choosing a normal item, Kazuma picks Aqua, the goddess who is offering him this choice–surely a goddess has some pretty handy stuff when dealing with monsters and such, right? But rather than the glamorous life of fighting monsters with beautiful girls at his side, Kazuma finds himself working odd jobs in the lowest level starter town, fighting animated cabbages, and looking after three relatively useless (although admittedly pretty) girls. Not exactly what he had in mind.

Oh! My Useless Goddess! was an amusing and funny light novel that I quite enjoyed. It falls into the somewhat ecchi shounen genre, but it kind of parodies a lot of the stuff you typically see in that genre. Instead of a protagonist with a lot of drive who keeps getting better, you get a protagonist who’s lazy and average (but manages to be an engaging character in spite of that, surprisingly, perhaps because he’s relatable). Instead of big, glamorous fights, you get slimy frogs, cabbages . . . and the occasional flashy “Explosion” from Megumin. Instead of your typical shounen “harem,” you get a quirky, weird set of girls who are basically hopeless despite having the best possible qualifications and being from impressive classes–okay, maybe that’s not too different from the typical stories in this genre, but still. Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness do have distinctive (read almost stereotypical) traits, but they manage to be interesting characters in spite of that. The plot is funny, largely due to the character interactions and the impossibility of Kazuma’s task in this new world. Plus it was interesting that, while the basic plot device of having a modern-day teen dumped in a fantasy/video game world, this story used a novel method for getting him there. A couple of things I found interesting on a side note: 1) The author mentions that this originally started as a webnovel, which I thought was pretty neat. It’s cool to see web-based stories get picked up by publishers and turned into physical novels. 2) The chapters in this light novel are weird. Meaning that there are only 4 official chapter divisions in the entire book; however, each chapter is divided multiple times into smaller chapter segments. So it works out as though there were several chapters, it just doesn’t look like it at the start. Weird. Well, this light novel is weird in general, but in a fun sort of way. Recommended for those who enjoy the genre in general, mostly.

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To LOVE-Ru

Author: Saki Hasemi

Illustrator: Kentaro Yabuki

Middle-school student Rito Yuuki is having love troubles–he thinks he’s in love with the adorable Haruna Sairenji, but he’s too shy and awkward to do a thing about it. The truth is, his troubles are just beginning! One evening as Rito is in the bath, feeling sorry for himself, a pretty girl rockets out of nowhere into the tub with him–a girl with a tail and not wearing anything! Turns out, this girl is Lala, princess of Deviluke, and an alien. Lala is on the run from all the “fiancés” who want to marry her because of her position, and she’s decided to declare her affection for Rito, make him her defender, and move in with him and his adorable sister Mikan. Poor Rito–even if he survives dealing with all the scary aliens who want to get to Lala through him, how will he explain the situation to Sairenji?!

I initially picked up To LOVE-Ru because it’s a fairly established and recognized series about which I was curious. Having read it, I have mixed impressions. First of all, I think comparisons with Urusei Yatsura are inevitable as both stories are essentially boy-meets-alien love stories. And there are definitely similarities, like the way poor Rito keeps getting dragged into situations because of people Lala knows or questionable alien tech she brings into the house. But the fact is that Ataru Moroboshi and Rito Yuuki are really different people, which definitely flavors the story differently. To LOVE-Ru ends up being sweet, cute, funny, episodic . . . and really ecchi/harem. It’s probably the most ecchi thing I’ve ever read. Which is honestly just weird, because Rito’s, like, the most innocent, non-ecchi person ever. He just keeps getting thrown in situations beyond his control–a fact that is underlined by the inclusion of a couple truly ecchi people who serve as foils for Rito’s noble but unfortunate self. I’m honestly kind of surprised that I stuck the story out for all 162 chapters because the ecchiness bugged me quite a bit, but I found the cuteness, humor, and relative innocence of the underlying story and the interesting range of characters sufficient to keep me interested in spite of that distaste. Having said that, I’m not sure that most people would concur; if you enjoy ecchi harem manga, To LOVE-Ru is probably a great choice for you, but otherwise, it’s probably best avoided. Your call.

Note: I think the word play in the title is fun; it’s a pun on the Japanese pronunciation of the English “love” (rabu) and “trouble” (toraburu). Fitting for all Rito-kun’s love troubles, ne?

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Gisou Honey Trap

Mangaka: Vanilla Yoshizawa

When his mom rather abruptly goes to join his dad in Paris (that’s just how she is, let’s face it), Keiichirou finds himself staying with his uncle and twin girl cousins in Japan. How nostalgic–he stayed with them like this once before, when they were quite little. Only he can’t remember that time at all. And the twins–Marie and Tomari–are clearly angry at him for not keeping a promise made back then. Which he can’t remember making. And wait, one of the twins is actually a boy?! What on earth is going on?!!!

Well, I must say that reading Gisou Honey Trap was interesting, although I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. I think to the extent that I was able to see it just as itself–as opposed to in the context of other manga and genres–it was interesting, touching, and funny, if a bit too ecchi for my taste. The trouble is that it tries to be ecchi seinen romantic comedy/harem (like Negima!  or Papa Kiki!) mixed with gender bender and shounen ai–which ends up being just a bit too sketch, if you follow. And a bit confusing. Still, the basic story was solid and internally consistent, the art was nice (typical seinen romcom), and the characters were solid, especially the twins. The tsundere-yandere double-hit was good for the comedy side of things, although the yandere part got a bit scary at times (which is kind-of the point, but still). I would say that for mature audiences who are interested in a short manga with some weirdness but some cute romance too, Gisou Honey Trap might be a fun diversion from the norm.

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Ane Doki!

Mangaka: Mizuki Kawashita

Kouta Ochiai is a normal thirteen-year-old kid living in a single-parent home with his less-than-responsible dad. When seventeen-year-old Natsuki enters his life abruptly–stealing his ice cream, calling him a pervert for thinking they had an indirect kiss, then announcing she’s moving in to look after him while his dad’s away on an unexpected trip . . . well, Kouta’s a bit blown away to be honest. Kouta’s relationship with Natsuki grows in unusual ways as Natsuki–who seems at times very mature and mysterious and at others quite childish–invades his life in the most supportive way possible. He finds her embarrassing, confusing, maddening, and intriguing all at once. Perhaps it’s love?

Ane Doki! is an interesting, playful take on the ecchi/harem romance story that is too typical in seinen circles. For one thing, it’s technically shounen–intended for a younger audience. Which doesn’t mean it’s not ecchi–it definitely is. And it’s amusing to see poor Kouta’s floundering in the midst of the ecchiness. Told from another perspective, this story could easily be kind of shota and gross, but as-is, it’s pretty cute (in my personal opinion) and funny as well. It wasn’t particularly well received when it was originally published (actually, I’ve heard it was cut short, although it finishes off nicely); however, I think its lack of popularity is largely due to the fact that it’s a bit off the beaten track, particularly for Jump, where it was originally published. I really think that Ane Doki! is worth trying at least.

Note: This is another sad case of no-one-can-be-bothered-to-officially-translate-and-publish. Sigh. Decent fan-translations are, however, available if you look.

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Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!

Story by: Tomohiro Matsu

Art by: Yōhei Takemura

When college student Yuuto Segawa accepts the job of babysitting his sister’s three daughters for the week, he finds himself entranced by the girls. Fourteen-year-old Sora (the tsundere), ten-year-old Miu (straightforward, open, and slightly devilish), and three-year-old Hina (playful, sweet, and warm) quickly make themselves at home in their uncle’s heart. When tragedy strikes and the girls’ vacationing parents are declared missing, presumed dead, all four are left with difficult choices. None of the other family members will take all three girls together, So Segawa impulsively volunteers to take them (against the older family members’ better judgment). Somehow, in the midst of the heartache and the challenges of squeezing four people into a tiny student apartment and living on part-time wages, these four form precious family bonds that will see them through the difficulties ahead.

Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! (typically translated Listen to Me, Girls. I am Your Father!) is a really sweet, cute seinen manga. It’s based off a light novel series by the same name and author (which needs to be translated into English!). The story is full of strong characters who, despite kind of being types, are still truly individual. I’m particularly a fan of Miu; her personality is really interesting. It’s neat to find a seinen story that’s purely slice-of-life–no huge political intrigues or wild fantasies, just the daily complexities of human relationships and circumstances. Do be warned that the visuals are a bit ecchi at parts; in the most innocent way possible, but still. Otherwise, the art is very nice–clear, bold, and expressive. Recommended for older readers who enjoy a good slice-of-life manga.

Note 1: To my knowledge, this hasn’t been published in English yet. Good fan translations can be found, however, if you look.

Note 2: There are several spinoff manga for this series which focus more on specific characters and are written for various (sometimes much older) demographics. I haven’t read any of them yet, but intend to check out at least a few in the future.

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