Review: Hatsukoi Limited

Here is my long overdue end-of-series review for Hatukoi Limited. I usually write these reviews right after the series ends, but real-life got in the way. It’s been a few weeks since the end of the show, so this review is more like a collection of random thoughts (that I still remember). Anyways, Hatsukoi Limited turned out to be a very pleasant show that featured the right blend of light comedy and romance, and it was one of my favorite shows of the spring 2009 season.

Animated by J.C. Staff and adapted from the manga by Mizuki Kawashita (Ichigo 100%), Hatsukoi Limited (literally meaning “First Love Limited”) is a romantic comedy series that follows the intermingled lives of several middle school and high school students. Rather than having one central storyline, the show spotlights a different set of characters each episode and focuses on the characters’ experiences with first love.

Before the series started, I was a bit skeptical about Hatsukoi Limited mainly because the manga ended at only 32 chapters, and short serialization, especially for weekly series, is usually not a good sign. The decentralized narrative also poses difficulty to build up meaningful characters and storylines. Fortunately, my concerns were largely unfounded, as Hatsukoi Limited managed to weave its not so limited number of characters and their stories into a web of lighthearted fun.

At the surface, Hatsukoi Limited looks like a collection of archetypes and clichés from the harem comedy genre. There is the intimidating beast, the ugly pervert, the alpha male, the brocon, the siscon, the tsundere…the works. With this potentially-awful mix of situations and only 12 episodes to tell everyone’s stories, Hatsukoi Limited could have easily ended up as a shallow and uninspired mess, but it actually turned out to be well narrated show that delivered substance in (most of) its stories. While each of the episodes have one or two stories as the focus, but J.C. Staff did an admirable job of tying in the other stories so that overall narrative flows nicely between episodes. As for the characters and their stories, it’s true that they are somewhat stereotypical, but on the other hand they are surprisingly well developed. The characters (or at least the important ones) are easily recognizable not only in appearance but in personality. I’m particularly impressed that many of the female characters (the show is more about the girls than the guys) learned something from their first romantic experience and underwent character growth despite the limited screen time allotted to each of their stories. Some of the stories are better than the others, but each of stories in Hatsukoi Limited is unique in its representation of “first love” and enjoyable in its own way.

Hatsukoi Limited is also commendable for keeping a good balance between the comedy and romance. While romance may be the central focus of Hatsukoi Limited, the show keeps itself light with humor and never gets bogged down with too much drama. The comedic nature of the show is easier to watch, because it’s hard to take most of the stories seriously. There is a fair bit of fanservice, but it’s not excessive and actually makes the show funnier. It certainly helps that all of the girls are appealingly designed, but then again I’ve always been a fan of Kawashita-sensei’s art style.

Overall, Hatsukoi Limited turned out to be a pleasant surprise. This could be because I didn’t go into the series expecting a lot, and the show easily surpassed my low expectations. Despite the different focus in each episode, Hatsukoi Limited consistently delivered a blend of light comedy and romance that, while not really thought provoking, was nonetheless entertaining. Hatsukoi Limited may not be the best anime I’ve ever seen, but it was fun little show and it was probably the best show that I watched in spring 2009.

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