Love Hina - 8: Kendo Girl's Legend Of The Dragon Palace (Is This A Dream?)

Title:Love Hina
Episode:8: Kendo Girl's Legend Of The Dragon Palace (Is This A Dream?)
Keitarou is playing an old computer game on a machine Naru happened to find while cleaning some room at Hinata-sou, and everyone is watching, except for Motoko who isn't interested in this kind of entertainment. Motoko's followers pay her a visit, and one of the girls tells Motoko she has lost her calmness recently, blaming the effect on Motoko's living under the same roof as a 'vile creature' called a 'man'.
Motoko wants to talk with Naru about this matter, and learning that stupid and perverted Keitarou is going on Naru's nerves as well relieves her. Motoko retreats to a temple for meditation. Then she decides to drive Keitarou out of Hinata-sou, but when she runs into him he looks like a zombie - he must have played the video game during the whole night! Keitarou dozes off in her arms - and suddenly the surroundings are changing.
A marvellous Princess Naru invites Motoko to a ball at a castle tonight and tells her a woman's happiness starts being together with a man who can fulfill her dreams. Then the Evil Dragon Emperor takes princess Naru away to make her his wife. Before Motoko can do anything, the scene changes again.
Motoko is standing on a shore where Shirai and Haitani are bullying a turtle who turns out to be a kid version of Keitarou, begging Motoko to save him. Then little Keitarou recruits Motoko as first member of his operation to rescue princess Naru... now Motoko understands: Somehow she has entered Keitarou's dream about the video game! Reluctantly she follows the little boy.
A kid Kaolla Su is riding on a big ostrich which is throwing eggs upon the adventurers' heads before Kaolla joins the rescue team. And while a giant frog is about to swallow little Keitarou, a kid Kitsune carrying a baby Shinobu on her back joins their team as well. When they reach a town looking much like Hinata, the Evil Dragon Emperor tells them they'll have to take Naru from him by force. At the Hinata tea house the group meets the legendary White Mage (also known as Haruka, in a shrinked version) who turns Shinobu into a Magic Girl. She also tells Motoko that everyone knows they're within a dream except for one person - Urashima of course, Motoko assumes.
Now the group has to find the Legendary Triangle Flag which contains a map of the Legendary Dragon's lair, and while they ask the old townsfolk about it, Kitsune explains they have to follow the rules of this old and inflexible computer game. Suddenly they are standing in the desert, and the Evil Warriors Shirai and Haitani aren't willing to let them pass. Keitarou takes on the challenge but his enemies burn him with laser beems emitted from their hands. Now his companions are out for revenge, but Motoko still doesn't understand the rules of the game too well.
At the Legendary Gift Shop the map directs them to Lake Hinata where a maiden has to sing a song as to awake the dragon. This will be performed by two tiny Otohime Mutsumis, and a giant turtle arises from the waters, wearing a sign "Legendary Dragon". The adventurers ride on this turtle until they arrive at the location where the Evil Emperor lives: Hinata-sou! Everyone is running inside the house, leaving Motoko behind.
Motoko follows, but Hinata-sou looks empty at first sight. Then she finds the Evil Emperor feeding little Keitarou who was supposed to be his enemy! In order to end this strange dream once and for all, Motoko now challenges the Evil Emperor, and the bridge to Hinata will see their final battle. Motoko splits the enemy's mask in two, and suddenly sees the face of - her older sister's husband! How could this person be inside Keitarou's dream? "Because this is your dream", Naru explains.
Suddenly Motoko is watching the scene of Keitarou and his promised girl in the sandbox, and she blushes when the little girl kisses Kei-kun and they promise to meet again at Toudai. All the other girls join Kei-kun to play in the sandbox, and little Naru asks Motoko to join them as well. Finally, Motoko shrinks to the same size as her friends and runs towards the sandbox...
...and the real Motoko awakes, sitting in front of the temple. She heads back to Hinata-sou, only to find everyone sleeping there: They all have played this old computer game all night long! And the computer screen shows Hero Keitarou who has rescued Princess Naru - "Happy End".
(2004-04-10, Devil Doll:)
After episode 7 the stage is set for a developing relation between Narusegawa and Keitarou. Now the Love Hina series turns away from this storyline and starts to focus on something totally different: parodies of other genres. We will have to go through several of these parody episodes before we seriously return to the main love story - but on some symbolic layer we will never completely leave it.
On the surface this episode is making fun of computer RPGs (Motoko falling down one "dungeon level" through the "trap door" of Naru's room being one of these scenes), and it also provides the "chibi" versions of the most important Love Hina characters. But when looking at the Love Hina series as a whole, this episode may well serve as a nice summary of the events to come: Keitarou is on his quest to conquer Narusegawa (remember that everyone just learned that Keitarou dreams of dating Naru), and all the girls are helping him, while Motoko is the one most reluctant doing so. And this is because she has her own unfinished business with the marriage of ane-ue, as we can see now. So basically this is a symbolic portrait of Motoko, and it takes the girl (and the audience) the whole episode to become aware of this.
This is the second of the four episodes featuring Motoko (3, 8, 17 and 25). Motoko's follower who blames her for being influenced by men and becoming weaker is a new character introduced in the anime. This girl will remain anti-Keitarou, and we'll see her again in that role in episode 17.
Besides the obvious reference from the quest story the relation between Naru and Keitarou is covered only in the first scene of the episode, the "team effort" of the couple while installing the new entertainment device for Hinata-sou. The concept of Keitarou being the hero on a quest to save Narusegawa will be reused in episode 16 when Keitarou is challenged by a real "competitor" - and Motoko will then be forced to fight on the boy's side again.
In the manga this story's events take place much earlier (volume 2 chapter 13, before the Kyoto journey of episode 5 & 6). Originally it has really been Keitarou's dream (when he caught a cold), not Motoko's - and the content looks much less weird if you know how Keitarou rearranges scenes from recent days in his fever. Without knowing the manga many of the jokes in the anime version cannot be understood (the frog & wart as well as the ostrich egg drink were some medicine the girls made for Keitarou etc.). So I think rewriting the manga version of Keitarou's dream into an anime version of Motoko's dream failed to work in certain aspects - many more changes would have been necessary. I read manga chapter 13 directly before writing this review, and this way it was quite funny.

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