Understanding Japanese Culture, Humor, and Gender Through Love Hina Part 12

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note on all the image scans: they are correct manga-style so they are read right to left

Spend enough time doing critical readings of media and you come across the assertion that all media tells you about the culture it was written in. Sometimes, as in contemporary media, this is easy to tease out. Other times, as with science fiction, it’s by extrapolation. So I thought it might be interesting to re-read Love Hina, by Ken Akamatsu, as a way to to understand Japanese culture.  Part One can be found here.

Story

Keitaro finally comes back from America. In the last book we learned that Kanako lusts after her brother and in this book Keitaro is confronted with that in a powerful way; we’ll return to this in a later section. Keitaro now looks like Seta and even drives as badly as he does. All the girls at the Inn now see Keitaro as manlier. Pretty much all the girls lust after him now except Sarah and Kaolla. So the dynamic has changed from Keitaro and Naru with Kitsune always open for some sexual play and Mutsumi being ready to grab Keitaro if Naru said no. And, of course, the somewhat disturbing Shinobu – not that she has a crush on an older guy, but that Keitaro occasionally thinks about it. So the book shifts to be a bit more of a harem manga where Naru has some real competition now.

Kanako spends most of the book trying to get Keitaro and it’s assumed he doesn’t know she’s adopted. He knows and still finds it gross. So, for reasons inexplicable other than for plot’s sake, Kanako tries to force Naru to admit her love. So we get another one of those “pursue a character all over Japan” stories. Naru FINALLY admits her love in a genuine way (remember in the past she’s said it to shut him up or shut out competitors) and they finally act on the sexual tension by making out like crazy.

Cultural

I didn’t detect any new cultural ideas communicated in this book.

Sex and Gender Norms

Once again Love Hina has a set of jokes with Kanako and Keitaro that are played for laughs, but would be quite dark if the genders were reversed. Not only does Kanako take not take “no” for an answer and continues to pursue Keitaro, but she also ties him up and has no qualms about forcing her advances on him.

Love Hina #12 - Keitaro finds out about the power of the annex

Love Hina #12 – Keitaro finds out about the power of the annex

The magical annex of the Hinata Inn is magical in the sense that it causes any couple that sleeps within it to be bound together. It’s used deviously by Kanako to attempt to bind Keitaro to her, but Haruka mentions it was closed up because the magic was so strong that it was closed up. To me, I find it (and the love potions that we often see in Western media) to be an interesting subversion of free will. While the magic annex COULD be a great step as part of marital counseling – the fact that Kanako is able to misuse it is a pretty disturbing idea. Obviously, this is not unique to the Japanese and (obviously, I hope) it’s not real. But it’s certainly an interesting idea in which we often overlook the slavery aspect of it. (With the exception of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which the implications are a major plot point)

Just a couple books left! I’ll see you in about a month or two when we explore what Love Hina can tell us about Japanese culture and sex and gender norms.

This post is part of the thread: Understanding Japanese Culture Humor and Gender Through Love Hina – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

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