Love Hina MMF: How Shinobu Became a Grown-Up

For me, the path from “What the heck is anime?” to “totally hooked on it” can be summed up in six steps, all corresponding to series:

  1. Digimon
  2. Princess Mononoke
  3. Tenchi Muyo!
  4. Neon Genesis Evangelion
  5. Cowboy Bebop
  6. Love Hina

The last series has a special place in my heart, and among those listed is the only one I bring out once or twice a year to watch (at least certain episodes). The Love Hina Christmas Special remains my favorite single “episode” of any series.

On another note, Love Hina was part of my transition into manga. It was the first manga I read with any serious intent on finishing. And as such, this was how I discovered that anime and manga often drift apart at certain points. And although I love the ending of the anime series, one aspect of the manga really stuck with me – the “reveal” of a certain character in a later stage of her life:

Shinobu as a young woman. SPOILERS BEGIN.

Shinobu, who begins the series as a timid preteen, has become a strong and outspoken young woman after the time skip preceding the epilogue of Love Hina. There isn’t space to explore much of the transition in the series (the pages featuring her are more about fanservice than anything…bleh), but still, it’s her change, not Naru and Keitaro’s wedding, that remains in my mind when considering the manga all these years later.

How did Shinobu change? From what we see in the series, it’s based on two important components – those at the inn both a) loving her for who she is and b) pushing her to become stronger. Keitaro often gets a bad wrap for being the model of the “ordinary guy who gets all the girls” – a sort of prototype for all sorts of similar clones in lesser series. There’s nothing special about him (besides his extraordinary tendency to accidentally grope girls and the Wolverine-like healing powers) – he’s just a nice guy.

But what’s wrong with that? To tell you the truth…I don’t really know that many nice guys in real life – the percentages are pretty low. And Keitaro being a genuinely nice guy (in addition to the friendship of the girls) leads to this change in Shinobu.  If we’re being honest, it’s a bit demeaning to consider all these girls aim for Todai because they want Keitaro to date them, but it becomes less cringe-inducing when we think of the quality the quality that best describes Keitaro – his sincerely cares for the girls.

Love Hina Shinobu
Art by 大塚 零

Anime is a great form of escape, but it can also offer us characters whose actions we might emulate. Keitaro’ caring for Shinobu and the rest leads to positive changes for all of them as he’s thrust into a situation he never expected. We, too, are all in certain situations in life in which we are surrounded by people who may be unexpected.  So what do we do with these individuals?

I feel we’re meant to develop certain relationships. Jesus’ teachings are clear that we should help those in need – and most of us probably agree with this creed, Christian or not. My mom would frequently give me this advice when I was in college: Don’t spend so much time at church with all the popular, rich kids. Spend time with the poor Korean kids who are far away from home and are having trouble making friends.

And I did. I don’t think I needed my mom’s prodding to do so, either – I gravitated toward them, probably because like me, many of these individuals were shy and often left out. And despite my frailties, I believe God used me to help each of these guys mature.

One of the great things about growing up is changing roles from he or she who needs guidance to he or she who gives it (though of course, none of us are so mature that we can’t use a guide from time to time). In Love Hina, Shinobu is at the stage, by the series end, in which she may be the person helping new resident Ema Maeda to become a self-assured young lady, as Keitaro, Naru, and the others did for her.

But what about you? Who in your life could use a bit of friendship and guidance?  And are you willing to be Keitaro to their Shinobu?

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