Title: Hatsukoi Limited aka First Love Limited
Company: J.C. Staff
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 12 Apr 2009 – 28 Jun 2009
Synopsis: Arihara Ayumi is a middle school student, who dreams of one day being swept off her feet by a prince. Reality, though, is vastly different, after she is confessed to by the most intimidating man from the nearby high school: Zaitsu Misao. Ayumi turns to her friends, Enomoto Kei, who is cool yet shallow, Bessho Koyoi, who has a chronic brother complex, the sporty Dobashi Rika and the artistic Chikura Nao, for advice, but things become even more complicated when Ayumi falls for Misao’s much more chivalrous younger brother, Mamoru.
Relationships: Numerous and complicated.
Characters: Just as numerous as the relationships; not very deep, individually.
Character designs: Superb; someone went to a lot of effort.
Structure: A collection of “first love” stories – an interesting concept.
Ending: Delightful; really fitting.
Intuition is generally informed by experience, but it’s funny just how wrong one’s intuition can be sometimes. My intuitive response to Hatsukoi Limited was to dismiss it, since it was based on a work by the same author as the forgettable Ichigo 100%. I was pleasantly surprised that Hatsukoi Limited turned out to be very different from Ichigo 100%, and while it does have its flaws and little in the way of originality or depth in its story, it ended up being a delightfully enjoyable romance series.
Hatsukoi Limited could almost be seen as an anthology of anime’s favourite romance stories. It takes an interesting approach, stuffing its cast with a huge number of characters and using them to create a rather elaborate web of relationships. The obvious downside to this is that, with so many characters and so little time, no-one has much more individual depth than their basic archetype, who they like and who they’re related to. But, it remains interesting because the web itself is so complex. Almost everyone likes someone who likes someone else who has a sibling in the other school who likes someone, etc. I’m not sure what shape this love polygon is, but it almost certainly has sharp corners that hurt to touch.
The fact that half the characters attend the high school while the other half goes to the middle school is an interesting touch and is utilized well. It creates the opportunity to put some distance between the characters, so they don’t feel like they’ve been cooped up in a small space together. That distance becomes integral to the story, which does a good job of exploring the frustration, euphoria and emotional turbulence that comes with young love. The various stories by themselves are enjoyable without being ground-breaking, and I was particularly surprised by which of the five girls in the main middle school group ended up having the most dramatic story.
There’s a decent whack of fanservice in this anime, but it’s tolerable, never becoming excessive or interfering with the mood at important plot points, so it never overstays its welcome. But, it also helps that the character designs are simply gorgeous, as is the art in general, employing a soft watercolour style reminiscent of another J.C. Staff romance series: Kimikiss. In fact, there are quite a few comparisons between how both these series are presented and how they approach romance to the point that it’s almost better to compare Hatsukoi Limited with Kimikiss rather than the more obvious Ichigo 100%. This doesn’t have anywhere near the same character depth and emotional complexity as Kimikiss, but as an enjoyable, and occasionally insightful, collection of naïve romance stories, Hatsukoi Limited delivers. If you’re new to the high school romance genre, this probably isn’t the best starting point, but if you’re already a die-hard romance anime fan, this is almost a must-see… a really well-executed genre piece.
The Rating: 6
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun