Love Hina is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Ken Akamatsu. It was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Magazine from October 21, 1998 to October 31, 2001, with the chapters collected into 14 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha. The series tells the story of Keitarō Urashima and his attempts to find the girl with whom he made a childhood promise to enter the University of Tokyo. The manga was licensed for an English-language release in North America and the United Kingdom by Tokyopop, in Australia by Madman Entertainment, and in Singapore by Chuang Yi. Two novelizations of Love Hina, written by two anime series screenwriters, were also released in Japan by Kodansha. Both novels were later released in North America and the United Kingdom by Tokyopop.
The series has proved extremely popular around the world, both commercially and critically. In Japan, the manga sold over 16 million copies; over 1 million anime DVDs were also sold. The English release of the manga has been reprinted many times. Both anime and manga have received numerous industry awards in Japan and North America, as well as praise from critics.
Love Hina won the Kodansha Manga Award for best shōnen title in 2001. It was selected as the “Best Manga, USA Release” at both the 2002 and 2004 Anime Expo conventions. In 2003, the title was among the top ten graphic novels on Nielsen BookScan’s list and one of the first graphic novels to ever appear in the general trade paperback list. The pop culture website ICv2 voted Love Hina “Anime Product of the Year” in 2002.
Initial sketches for the series were created between September and December 1997, after the completion of A.I. Love You. Early storyboards with initial character designs were created between December 1997 and January 1998, and further character designs and location sketches followed between January and April 1998. The last storyboards before serialization were created between April and August 1998.
Around six months before the start of serialization, character designs were still going through several revisions before being settled upon. Several characters underwent complete redesigns and name changes. At one stage the character Naru was named Midori, and she was supposed to fall through a hole in the floor naked, bump her head on Keitaro and lose her memory. Naru’s name was changed many times before the author settled on Naru Narusegawa, and her final design is similar to Saati Namba from A.I. Love You. Mitsune “Kitsune” Konno’s money-grubbing nature and her older, jaded, and more mature personality were originally intended to be used for Kaolla Su. Shinobu Maehara’s nature was settled on from the beginning of the series, however her physical appearance and age were extensively redesigned as the series concept was shaped. In her early design, Shinobu had a similar appearance to Forty Namba from A.I. Love You.
Throughout the run of the manga, the series used digital editing processes. After a rough sketch of a page was created, the page layout and basic detail were drawn and scanned into an Apple Macintosh. The major page elements were then shaded or filled with patterns, and elements that were drawn separately were added digitally to the page. The manga also used a series of “banked images”, which were basic line drawings of locations, such as a characters room. Instead of redrawing a location from scratch every time it was used, these banked images could be used as a base, and extra detail added to them depending on the requirements for the scene.
Both of these techniques lead to characters having white outlines when copied digitally onto the scene. Parts of Hinata Inn and other locations used were inspired by real life locations and designed from photographs collected during research.
The story is a shōnen comedy that takes place in the Kanagawa Prefecture, and centers on Keitarō Urashima and his attempts to fulfill a childhood promise that he made with a girl to enter the University of Tokyo together. However, he has forgotten the name of the girl he made the promise to and hopes to be accepted into the university in order to find her. Having failed the entrance exam twice and with his parents no longer willing to support him, he goes to stay at his grandmother’s hotel, only to find that it has been converted into a female-only apartment. The tenants are about to kick him out when his aunt appears and announces that his grandmother has given him the title to the apartments. Much to their dismay Keitarō becomes the new manager of the family-owned girls’ dorm Hinata House and must now balance his new responsibilities in addition to studying for the university entrance exam.
At Hinata House, Keitarō meets Naru Narusegawa, who is also studying to enter the university. Naru ranks first in the whole of Japan on the practice exams, and Keitarō convinces her to help him study. As the two of them grow closer through their studies, and after Keitarō accidentally reads a small section of Naru’s diary, he becomes increasingly convinced that Naru may be the girl with whom he made the promise. On the second day of the university exam, Keitarō asks Naru about the promise and is stunned when she tells him he is mistaken. Despite their studying, and Naru’s mock exam results, they both fail the exams. The pair then have an argument and independently run off to Kyoto to clear their heads. While on their trip they settle their differences and meet Mutsumi Otohime, who lives in Okinawa and is also studying for the university exams.
After returning from Kyoto, Keitarō and Naru decide to retake the exams. After a while, Mutsumi moves to Tokyo, and the three begin to study together. During this period, Naru becomes convinced that Mutsumi is Keitarō’s promised girl, but Mutsumi states that she made a childhood promise with Naru, not Keitarō. During the next round of university exams, Keitarō believes he has failed them once again and runs away before finding out his results. After learning of this, Naru chases after him without checking her exam results either, and they are followed by the rest of the residents of Hinata House who announce that Keitarō and Naru both passed the exams along with Mutsumi. Unfortunately for him, Keitarō has an accident at the University of Tokyo opening ceremony and is unable to attend classes for three months. After recovering from his injuries, Keitarō decides to study overseas with Noriyasu Seta. As Keitarō is about to leave, Naru finally confesses her feelings to him at the airport and decides to wait for him to return.
When Keitarō returns, he and Naru finally begin to express their feelings for each other. After they deal with new obstacles, Grandma Hina returns to Hinata House and reveals Naru is the girl of Keitarō’s promise. Three years later, a wedding ceremony (with a new girl, Ema Maeda, presented) is held at Hinata House for Naru and Keitarō as they finally fulfill their childhood promise to each other.