Understanding Japanese Culture, Humor, and Gender Through Love Hina Part 13

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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

Love Hina Vol 13 - Distracted Motoko

Love Hina Vol 13 – Distracted Motoko

We’re so close to the end, but Akamatsu wants to stall quite a bit. So we mostly get a rehash of previous ideas with a few new twists. Twist number one: FINALLY Naru’s affections for Keitaro have stuck. In fact, the spend so much time with PDA that it continually distracts Motoko from her studies. She also comes to terms with her latent desire for Keitaro. Once again her older sister is in town and so once again it’s time for zany deceptions. In this case, her sister thinks she’s gotten into Tokyo U, but she’s a ronin. Akamatsu has laid low both of the girls who thought they were so much better than ronin Keitaro. Another twist is that this time Motoko decides she’s going to break up Keitaro and Naru.

In another repeat of plot points, Keitaro finally goes to Tokyo U with Naru, but Seta “kidnaps” him and his attempts to attend school with Naru are once againn thwarted. A fax supposedly arrives from Grandma Urashima which just serves as a pretext for the girls to once again to after him in a travel story. However, even though Akamatsu is once again bringing out a tired story, he gives the readers a present. Despite constant clues that Kaolla Su is Indian, it’s been denied throughout the comic’s run. That’s because we find out she’s a princess of Molmol. A country that has the culture of South Asia, but is not the subcontinent.

Love Hina Vol 13 - Seta and Haruka get married

Love Hina Vol 13 – Seta and Haruka get married

A series of chases ensue for two reasons. First of all, the Molmol government is after Seta for taking some ruins. This is a pretty heady commentary in a comedic romance manga. Second, it’s legend that whoever gets married at the Molmol ruins has a great life together so each of the girls wants to marry Keitaro there. Seta and Haruka get married instead. The final scene will be dealt with below.

Cultural

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

Sex and Gender Norms

Love Hina 13 - Naru questions Keitaro's sexuality

Love Hina 13 – Naru questions Keitaro’s sexuality

Earlier in this volume Haruka tells Keitaro that he should do “it” with Naru in order to take their relationship to the next level. Keitaro, being a sentimental kind of guy, assumes that Haruka means he should propose to Naru. When he tries to convey this to Naru she thinks he means sex. She actually is OK with it. But when Keitaro proposes rather than to take advantage of a horny Naru, she asks if he’s gay. When I read this, I made a note wondering if this was a Westernization of some Japanese trope that wouldn’t make sense. After all, the traditional euphemism for sex in Japanese is “this and that”, not “it” – as far as I know. If we take it at face value and it is not a Westernization, it’s yet another in a series of examples of how we may have many differences across cultures, but we also have many things that are the same. In this case, while Naru has constantly battered Keitaro on the assumption he was a horny jerk, when he won’t make advances on her, she jumps to accusations of homosexuality. Either way, Keitaro’s actions do seem to suggest that the idea of a guy putting aside his animal urges for the one girl he truly loves (Keitaro has fantasized about sex with nearly all the girls), is an idea that’s attractive to women around the globe.

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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