Love Hina - 2: Hinata Inn's New Tenant Shinobu (Arrow Signs)

Title:Love Hina
Episode:2: Hinata Inn's New Tenant Shinobu (Arrow Signs)
Maehara Shinobu is supposed to pack her belongings together as she is going to move the day after tomorrow because of her parent's divorce. But the girl can't stand this situation and runs out of the house, crying. Sitting on a bench near the Hinata bridge she observes a boy drawing her face with a cute smile, as she can see when the town elders throw the boy's sketchbook into her direction. She is even more sad at first, but when the boy has left she picks up the sketchbook. The old men ask her to smile like this drawing, and when she wants to return the sketchbook they tell her the boy went to Hinata-sou. But she is afraid of going there.
The next day at school Shinobu talks to her teacher about leaving this town. She hasn't told any of her classmates yet but she doesn't have any friends there anyway - although one girl Akiko has named her so today.
When school is over, in order to return the sketchbook Shinobu climbs up the stairs to Hinata-sou where Kaolla is bored and wants Kitsune to play with her. Looking out the window she recognizes Shinobu arriving whom she happens to know from middle school - could this be a playmate for her? At least Kitsune and Naru mistake Shinobu for that, but Naru remembers this girl's parents running a restaurant nearby. So Shinobu hands the sketchbook to Naru.
Three girls now curiously eye a book filled with drawings of girls, many of them in slightly ecchi poses! The "Toudai student" Keitarou returns just then and the girls make fun of him; Shinobu understands she had better not shown the sketchbook to everyone... in panic she grabs it and runs away. Kaolla blames Keitarou for having made the girl cry but Keitarou is angry about the girls who "went too far, looking into someone else's belongings".
At home Shinobu tells what happened, but her mother had told her before not to go to that place where girls are living without parents: "Who knows what happens inside?"
Cooking at Hinata-sou is Kaolla's turn today but her spicy exotic curry makes everyone run for water. So they plan to eat out today - what about Hinata Western Food where that girl who visited them today lives? They see Shinobu at the window - but a paper tells the place is out of business, and Haruka has heard about the divorce of Shinobu's parents who can't maintain it any more now. At night Keitarou dreams about the departure of his "promised girl" who has Shinobu's face now...
Right before their departure Shinobu listens to her parents fighting once more about where their daughter should live now. So the girl runs away and wanders through the streets, sad and lonely. Suddenly she feels a hand on her shoulder - Keitarou! When she tries to apologize, to her surprise the boy invites her to a party at Hinata-sou.
But the Hinata-sou kitchen is a battlefield, and most of the food has been spoiled by the three girls who tried to cook a meal. Right when they're about to throw the food away Shinobu objects - and takes over the command at the kitchen! And what a great meal Shinobu is able to create out of this mess for her "farewell party" - only Keitarou notices that Shinobu sheds a tear when she hears that expression. Could it be that Shinobu doesn't really want to move?
Shinobu is praised for the meal she created. But then Haruka tells them that Shinobu's parents are looking for their daughter. Instantly Keitarou offers Shinobu she can stay here - but will her parents allow that? Shinobu clings to Keitarou's arm, and the boy decides she needs time to think about the situation, so he runs away with Naru and Shinobu before the parents can enter the room.
While the girls try to fool Shinobu's parents, Keitarou and Shinobu retreat to the roof of the house, Shinobu's favourite place when she used to come here years ago. Feeling unable to do anything right herself, Shinobu admires Keitarou for being a Toudai student (as the girls named him before) while she considers herself not to be smart and wouldn't ever manage to achieve that herself. But Keitarou tells her she can do anything if she just tries hard enough - and praises the cookies Shinobu has just learned to make.
When her parents find them on the roof, Shinobu has made up her mind and asks Keitarou to let her stay at Hinata-sou. Keitarou is the inn's manager, so Haruka won't object if he takes the responsibility - and finally Shinobu's parents (who see the girl standing on the rooftop's edge) accept their daughter's decision.
The next day Shinobu offers cookies to her classmates - and at least Akiko accepts them.
(2004-03-25, Devil Doll:)
Countless arrows feature this episode - and accompanied by sad music Shinobu mostly moves into the opposite direction until she makes the most important decision of her young life.
Many events are triggered by misunderstandings which is one typical attribute of this series. But despite this and the awful slapstick chase (in a situation where Shinobu's parents might just have called for the police) I like most of this episode, introducing Shinobu who is my favourite character of this series. Thinking of which, this episode also introduces Kaolla Su (always shouting, riding on a mechanical horse through the school, cooking exotic stuff, and always wanting to play or eat), but she is the character I understand least about. For me Kaolla Su is just weird, and probably intentionally so - she is "the outsider" of this show and none of the Japanese staff will ever fully understand her.
In the manga Shinobu is a Hinata-sou resident right from the start but I much prefer the anime version that makes Shinobu owe Keitarou a debt of gratitude - this boy is in desperate need of a friend. So Keitarou's being "stupid but pure at heart" pays out once again: Shinobu now has a place to live (and even a friend at school), none of her parents had to give away to the other, Hinata-sou has won a great cook, and Keitarou gained one fellow-lodger who "ows him one". And you can bet Shinobu will pay back far more than she would have to!
It is interesting to watch Keitarou repeating his "Toudai" lie to raise Shinobu's self esteem. He feels that this can't be the right thing to do (and it will backfire later, although more in the manga than in the anime) - but did he not just learn that "there are good lies and bad lies"? This scene is going to have consequences later on, and Keitarou's protest about Naru reading his sketchbook as well.
Accompanied by two of her patented punches Naru is beginning to tell Keitarou what to do, a trend that will continue for most of this series. And her thought "Why is he doing all this for her...? Not that I care." might well be the first little jealousy scene of a girl who believes to only despise Keitarou right now (which is going to change as well with time). Just watch her read Keitarou's sketchbook at the end of the episode...
After one of these "Naru punches" Shinobu notices "You're pretty tough, Keitarou" - these comments about "indestructible" Keitarou will be one of the running gags throughout this show (watch out for Kaolla's comments about that in forthcoming episodes ;-).

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