|Episode:||7: First Date, Keitarou's true feelings (Nowadays)|
|The scene on the beach with Naru and Keitarou is replayed, but suddenly the role of the boy changes to some good-looking guy we have never seen before. What's going on here? Naru is asking the same question because she has a head-set on which allows to play her thoughts on the video player, and all the Hinata girls are the audience! Yet even Naru doesn't seem to know who this guy might be. But today is her graduation ceremony at school, her last day as high school student, and she should be off already... moments later a space ship lands in the middle of Hinata-sou, and the guy from before invites Naru to come with him - and off they go. Sakata Kentarou, whose father's company developed this flying machine, is the class representative of Naru's class and the most popular guy there.
Kitsune and Keitarou are buying food and drinks for the cherry blossom party to come. In the tram they meat Kimiaki Shirai and Masayuki Haitani, Keitarou's former cramming buddies who mistake Kitsune for being Keitarou's girl friend. These guys are working part-time for the Kanagawa Neverland theme park that will soon open; when Kitsune envies them (because she doesn't have tickets for the Asian Wine Exhibition that is going to be held there soon) they take Keitarou aside and sell him two special invitations for the opening celebration. The next thing he can see is that Naru promises to meet that Sakata Kentaro guy who invited her on a date - with tickets for Kanagawa Neverland! Instantly Keitarou turns to stone.
When they return to Hinata-sou Keitarou recognizes that Naru is looking lonely but he doesn't get a chance to ask her out with his Neverland tickets. Haruka questions Keitarou about his future, and he confirms his intention to remain the manager of Hinata-sou and applying for Toudai again next year. Naru hasn't made up her mind yet, and Shinobu has recognized as well that Naru is acting strangely these days. All inhabitants wonder what's up with Naru, and when Keitarou suggests they all might be wrong Kaolla forces her head-set on him to read his mind.
Now the audience is watching "Urashima mind TV" about a virtual date between Keitarou and Narusegawa at Neverland. But right when Naru wants Keitarou to kiss her the show is interrupted: Sakata Kentaro has entered Keitarou's delusion (using a second headset of Kaolla), lecturing him about the mistakes he made. Kentaro has brought flowers for his date with Naru and explains that he has meticulously planned this action for three years, back when Naru had a crush on her tutor, classifying Naru to be "type 2-C, finding her own identity by depending on someone else" - love is just a game for him.
So Kitsune has them compete for a date with Naru using Kaolla's mind-reading head sets... and we're back in Keitarou's dream about dating Naru. But whatever he tries it won't work while Kentaro leads Naru from event to event with incredible perfection. Finally Kentaro steals a kiss from Naru, and the game is over. Keitarou still isn't willing to give up - Naru isn't that kind of girl, he insists. But right at that moment Naru appears, and when she recognizes Kentaro she asks him to come with her...
Totally defeated Keitarou retreats to his room, watching the sticker photo he made with Narusegawa in Kyoto. But the ending of this episode will hold a surprise for him, and for Kentaro as well...
|(2004-04-03, Devil Doll:)
I tried to take this episode as a massively exaggerated version of Naru's thoughts and doubts about her current situation (not being sure what to do next or whether to apply for Toudai the next year). If so, then what remains of these painful 20 minutes? All Hinata-sou inhabitants consider Naru and Keitarou to be more or less a couple - okay, got that. Keitarou isn't that masculine - not really a brand-new information either. So I could have done without another 10 minutes filled with humiliation of poor Keitarou. But there is one important line from Naru at the end of the episode: "You can't figure out my feelings already?" This is exactly what Kentaro didn't even try, and so his "strategy to conquer Naru" failed.
It is an interesting point that the first girl to defend Keitarou against Kentaro is the one girl who used to despise talking about these things - Motoko! Does she begin to develop already? She doesn't want to "go out with Keitarou" but accepts to go together with everyone. She will feature the next episode, so we will see more about her then. Of course Shinobu is on Keitarou's side as well, but this isn't here playing ground for sure - yet she does all she can, questioning Kentaro's methods.
Sakata Kentaro (who doesn't even appear in the whole manga) is nothing but a cardboard character in this episode. He isn't even despisable - he is just boring. Maybe this episode tried to be a parody on something I haven't seen yet - but I totally miss the point here. And why should Naru dream of him, something we never heard anything about before? Kentaro is going to change a lot later, and watch out for his short appearances in episodes 21, 23 and 29 where he is playing important roles! But before that he has to 'become human' - for now he is only the stereotype of arrogance. And I consider it a bad thing that the anime author can't make up his mind whether Kentaro is wealthy (like in this episode, the Love Hina Winter Special and the Love Hina Spring Special) or poor (all appearances where he has to work for a living). But his analysis of Naru's character is really interesting at that point.
Shirai and Haitani are the symbol of "bad influence" and "stagnation" for Keitarou. They caused Motoko to punish Keitarou for what only they did wrong in episode 3, they symbolize "the enemy" in episodes 8 and 16, and they are going to cause serious trouble in episode 17. They aren't going to improve a bit during the whole series and we will see a clear contrast between them and Keitarou in this aspect (watch episode 26 to see no other than Motoko say that right into their faces!). This time their "bad influence" is coined into their words "Forget about your promised girl", something that Keitarou isn't willing to do so easily.
Narusegawa mixes up the names of Keitarou and Kentaro although they couldn't be more different - this was a nice idea. And when even Kentaro himself makes a mistake about that once I had one good laugh in this episode. Then again, I have a little problem with the number of tickets: If Naru did manage to get enough tickets for all Hinata-sou inhabitants (and it looks like that on the screen) then Keitarou's tickets aren't being used at all - but nobody seems to notice that.
In the anime both Keitarou and Naru have already decided to retake the exam the next year, and the next episodes are going to leave the main storyline and serve other purposes. In the manga things go a different path from here on: Both Naru and Keitarou are not sure what to do next for several months, questioning their dreams and motives - and on top of that Seta will appear at this stage already, putting their undeveloped relation to the test right after the Mutsumi intermezzo. So the manga is much more focussed on the main storyline while the anime... you'll see what the anime will be focussed on. At least Keitarou has learned about Naru's tutor crush today...
I kept my biggest complaint about this episode until the end. Okay, after Naru's and Keitarou's journey through Japan it is quite understandable that the other inhabitants of Hinata-sou are curious about their relation. But this doesn't justify that kind of "mind rape" done to poor Keitarou! Sorry, folks - but this isn't funny any more in my opinion. And having this kind of technology available, why not apply it to any other character then? Because this would destroy the whole world of this series - but that's what they actually did this time already. Speaking of technology, this isn't going to be the last episode Kaolla is spoiling with her gimmick collection - I'll have to rant about this stupid mindless girl (the "shortie" Sarah will be ten times more sensible than her!) again in episode 13. Kaolla doesn't do any good to this anime series except for a cheap laugh now and then - but if I wanted this I'd have enough supply from Keitarou already. And this is even more sad because her character works well in the manga, playing an important role there: She is the first Hinata girl who is actively looking for (playful) physical contact with Keitarou (and she even teases him now and then, mostly when Naru is watching - in the anime this has become Kitsune's role). The anime version made her simply an irresponsible outlandish freak, a magic girl with super powers that could easily change the whole world... and why does Kitsune never even try to make money out of that?