|Episode:||1: An All-Girls Dormitory with an outdoor Hot Spring (Hot Spring)|
|Dateless and avoided by girls (except for his sandbox love who moved away after they promised each other to meet again at Toudai university), unable to tell apart his dreams (about marrying his childhood love) from reality (that he doesn't even remember her name) - this is Urashima Keitarou who has already failed two times applying to Toudai. When his parents tell him they don't have any more money left to feed his impossible dream he volunteers to look for a part-time job and move out. Right at that moment his grandmother calls and invites him to her inn at Hinata city, a suburb of Tokyo.
At the Sasaki seminar the latest test results are published. Keitarou performs his favourite hobby: Daydreaming he were the best student of all and everyone admired him. Shaking hands with everyone, he happens to meet the real most successfull student of this school, the typical bookworm girl with plaited hair and thick glasses. When this girl learns that Keitarou is only number 27 from the bottom of the ranking list she's afraid that she might get "infected by his stupidity" and gives him a punch so that Keitarou literally flies through the hall.
Then he remembers that he has to visit his grandma at Hinata Hot Spring Resort. Arriving at the bridge three old men appear out of the fog and tell him to "live his dream" - moments later a furniture van runs by and he sees the exact scene from his childhood love's departure again! Quickly he takes out his sketchbook - but cannot remember the girl's face.
On a bench nearby sits a 12 years old girl, crying. Without thinking, Keitarou starts to draw this girl with a charming smile, daydreaming she would thank him and ask for his name. But the old men take away his sketchbook and throw it around, towards the girl's bench; when she sees her picture she weeps even more: "How could you!". Keitarou apologizes and runs away, leaving his sketchbook behind; the girl picks up the sketchbook but when she looks more closely to it she makes a shy attempt to smile like that image.
Running up the stairs towards Hinata-sou Keitarou remembers that he used to be here when he was little. But when he arrives at the inn his grandmother isn't there. Walking through the house he sees two red flags with white Kanjis, one of which reads "Outdoor Hot Spring" - he had better read the other one as well... swimming in the hot spring is fun, but then a beautiful (and obviously short sighted) girl named Narusegawa Naru joins him at the bath, mistaking him for another girl...
And the race is on. Keitarou inadvertenty "steals" undergarments from Mitsune Konno (nickname "Kitsune", the fox), another inhabitant of this inn, and damages one of Kaolla Su's small but powerful toy tanks, so three girls are hunting this "molester" through the house and finally catch him. Just when he is about to be crucified, salvation appears in the person of Keitarou's aunt Haruka who runs a tea house next to grandma's all-girls dorm.
Haruka introduces Keitarou to the girls as being a second year student of the reputed Toudai university (and prevents him from opposing that) who is more than suitable to become the new Hinata-sou manager now that grandma Hina has given up her job and started travelling around the world. Of course Naru objects, but Kitsune is suddenly interested in this Toudai student who might earn a lot of money one day.
So Keitarou is allowed to stay for this night. But he feals uneasy to build up his reputation on such a lie, although this would give him a job and a place to live - just what he needs most right now. Then Kitsune enters his room and fools Keitarou into touching her breast which will allow her not only to spare the rent for this month but establish Keitarou's reputation as molester: Kitsume makes sure to shed a tear or two when Naru happens to walk by.
Keitarou is feeling more and more guilty because of the lie about being a Toudai student. But Haruka tells him that Hinata-sou would have to close without a manager and none of the girls would have a place to live any more: "There are good lies and bad lies in this world". Naru happens to listen through the open door - and now she remembers where she has seen Keitarou before.
The next day Keitarou is cleaning the whole inn just to make up for all the trouble he had caused before. Suddenly the "bookworm girl" from the Sasaki seminar is standing next to him and confronts him with his results there. But when she takes off her glasses she turns out to be Naru who scolds him: Did he expect to be forgiven deceiving the girls because of the work he is doing? But Keitarou tells her he is going to leave anyway. Naru is surprised, and when she wants him to think it over she slips and lands right on the boy - the worst possible moment for another "daydream attack" for Keitarou! But this time it earns him just another Naru punch, and to his surprise Naru still prevents him from telling the other girls the truth. So Keitarou is going to stay for now...
|(2004-04-07, Devil Doll:)
The "promised girl" taking little Keitarou by the hand and running up the stairs towards Hinata-sou together with him - this very first scene of the first episode will be the very last scene of the 24 episodes series as well, so that will be the main storyline of this show.
These three old men will only appear now and then, mostly expressing things that certain characters aren't really aware of but could have been if they cared to think about. They are a nice little element of this series; this time they are bringing Keitarou and Shinobu together, two people that otherwise might never have talked to each other (and despite Keitarou not being aware of this yet, Shinobu will become exactly what he needs most in his current situation: A friend). These men may be not a part of reality; the whole Love Hina series has a certain dose of fantasy and magic (like the scene with the furniture van on the bridge, or how the sketchbook happens to land in front of Shinobu with the page of her picture open - these things are going to happen frequently). In that Hinata location reality isn't always what counts, and noone knows better than anyone else about this than Hina o-baa-san.
One of the technical highlights is the cut from a running Keitarou to the olive green tanks. At first you are just clueless what has happened, but moments later you are back on track. These things are happening frequently as well, and this kind of directing style allows for great effects in the middle part of this series during all the parody episodes.
Urashima Keitarou's first appearance as student-wannabe is full of comical scenes and slapstick humour that is hit-or-miss - I didn't like this episode when I saw it first and still believe I'm not the target group.
For a long time I wondered what made me watch more episodes.
Keitarou is a whimp who runs into every problem he possibly could and is unable to tell his dreams from reality. He is the perfect loser, and in this first episode everything that can go wrong will surely do, like his first contact with Naru at his cram school when he receives the first of oh so many patented Naru punches to come. And what's worst about Keitaro in the beginning is his daydreaming - this will continue to put him into all kinds of messes. I guess this is what annoyed me most about this first episode.
As for the other characters we've seen so far, I truely hated Kitsune after this episode. Haruka will never become really important, Kaolla is left to be explored later, and Naru looked not very promising at first: So the boy has a good-looking enemy, but what's this worth if she prevents him from living there?
Five minutes from the end of the show I still considered this episode to be awful. But then three things happened that made me change my mind:
1. I found the first good trait in Keitarou, his honesty (which will remain a major part of his character throughout the series).
2. Narusegawa turned out much more interesting than she was at first. She is intelligent and reasonable, she is much easier to understand than Keitarou at this stage of the series (but watch Love Hina Again if you want to see something else...). She is the first character that absolutely worked for me (at that stage of the series - this is going to change later).
3. The events have caused the least likely thing to happen: Keitarou and Naru, his sworn enemy, are forced to form an alliance which will give Naru a lot to think about the pros and cons of this arrangement. (And this is very different from the manga version where Naru simply despises Keitarou for quite some time.)
So Keitarou has at least gained time.
There is something interesting about Keitarou right from the start: Whenever he tries to do something actively he fails miserably (at least in this early stage when thinking ahead is none of his skills). On the other hand he does certain things without thinking, just by listening to his heart, like drawing that girl on the bench or not wanting to profit from Haruka's lie - and many of these turn out to work nicely some time later.
But then, Keitarou has a lot to actively do in this story, such as applying at Toudai or being reunited with his "promised girl", or finding a place to live and study in the first place. So I was intrigued how this could possibly work - because Keitarou isn't just a "funny loser", he is very serious and determined about certain things right from the start. This show would have been totally boring if Keitarou didn't change with time - but in which direction might he change? Getting more control over his thoughts (and actually achieving his goals in the end) or concentrating on being good at heart (and having his goals shifting, but achieving something else)? In a way both things will happen because Keitarou's good heart will earn him friends who will help him out when his brains don't suffice...
What I love most in a series is watching the development of characters, and Keitarou is such a loser at the beginning that he must have a great potential for development. And he sure does develop (much more than Hanabishi Kaoru in Ai Yori Aoshi or Morisato Keiichi in Aa! Megami-sama!) - which made this series a success for me.