Love Hina - 9: Hinata Inn's Missing Money Case (Mystery)

Title:Love Hina
Episode:9: Hinata Inn's Missing Money Case (Mystery)
Kaolla is sitting on the roof of Hinata-sou, playing with a bird and watching Shinobu drying laundry. Naru is searching her room for something; Keitarou is sleeping when Kitsune enters his room and wakes him up. Wasn't Keitarou expected to be learning? The boy explains that he was about to check his money account (as the journey they all made through Japan not long ago made their funds running low); Kitsune blames him for not doing his kanrinin job properly and he shouldn't leave his bank book out in the open like that. As Keitarou is still half asleep. Kitsune drags him along to make him wash his face and wake up.
On his way to the bathroom, Kaolla is greeting Keitarou. From her window Kitsune calls Kaolla to ask Shinobu what's for lunch today. On his way back Keitarou hears Motoko return from her training camp and being welcomed at the doorway by Haruka who is sweeping the stairs there. But when Keitarou returns to his room, his bank book is gone! Searching his room thoroughly doesn't help - it only makes Kitsune see Keitarou's sticker book and the image he took with Naru at Kyoto. As the bank book contained lots of money it couldn't possibly have been blown away by the wind. Has it been stolen then? Kitsune explains her room is next to Keitarou's, she would have heard anyone walking by, and Kaolla was sitting on the roof the entire time, she would have seen anyone climbing through the window! So we have the Hinata-sou Sealed Room Missing Money Case - but Sherlock Holmes (Kitsune) and Dr. Watson (Kaolla) claim they're going to solve this mystery.
Actually, there is a third way to enter or leave Keitarou's room: The hole in the ceiling, leading to Narusegawa's room! Obviously Naru is still searching something desperately, and although Keitarou doesn't suspect Naru, Kitsune suggests to prove the innocence of all inhabitants. But Naru strictly denies anyone to search her room, without giving a reason for her unusual behaviour. At least she can provide some alibi: She couldn't have climbed up through the hole alone. Now all the other inhabitants are investigated, but due to the events Naru soon concludes that they all happen to be able to give each other alibies.
At dinner time everyone seems to be cleared of suspicion - and Haruka has found Keitarou's bank book on the stairs she was sweeping. But this bank book now contains a stack of paper with hand-numbers written on it, instead of real money - why would a burglar do such a thing? Kaolla brings up a new suspect: Tama, the flying turtle! She might have eaten the money and then flown away with the bank book. Actually, some paper is still sticking on the turtle's belly... suddenly Naru grabs the turtle and claims it must be innocent. Now Keitarou believes Naru is guilty - but he takes her hand and makes her run away with him! Soon everyone is chasing them...
...and they are cornered in the Hinata onsen at last. Naru still claims to be innocent - but only when Haruka asks the real culprit to confess the whole mystery is solved. And in the end we even learn what Naru was searching so desperately.
(2004-04-13, Devil Doll:)
Manga volume 4 chapter 26 might be from where the idea for this episode has been taken: Tama-chan likes Naru's wrist watch and flies away with it, making everyone chase her through the house. And in the end Naru scolds Keitarou for having forgotten that it was him who had given her this watch as a present - although she denies this to be the reason why she wanted it back so desperately... instead of such a cold mechanical device the anime version uses a more personal item we already know. And it is a nice idea that Naru is desperately trying to hide her sticker photo, not knowing Kitsune has already seen Keitarou's sticker photo right at the beginning of today's events.
And then they wrote a whodunnit parody around it, using Sherlock Holmes outfit and Hercule Poirot's habit of gathering all suspects in a room to solve the case, while the story of a crime in a sealed room seems related best to Edgar Allan Poe's classic "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (with C. Auguste Dupin, the grandfather of all famous detectives).
Episodes where Kitsune is in command of the events don't provide much about the series' storyline, but they don't give you a lot about Kitsune's character either. This 'fox lady' remains a mystery herself: We never learn where she's working, or whether she has any goals in her life (except for celebrating parties, drinking sake and betting on horses). She doesn't even seriously go for Keitarou in the anime (while in the manga there are scenes where she gives it a try - volume 9 episode 71 for example, after Keitarou has entered Toudai). There will be only one (important) thing that we are going to learn about her past (in episodes 14, 18 and 24 of the anime), but nothing about her future (which is shown in the manga, as the result of events that aren't covered by the anime at all). While at the end Keitarou may be the winner of this series, Kitsune is the loser, I'd say.
This one may be a candidate for the record number of blows poor Keitarou receives in a single episode - maybe one day I'll make a statistic about it. By the way, Naru's alibi is rather weak: She might have used some ladder or something like this, but that isn't ever investigated. Also, noone tried to seriously check the the fake bank notes - someone might have had a chance to identify the handwriting. And Keitarou's reaction, running away with Naru, was absolutely ridiculous... although Naru looked rather touched when Keitarou told her he wanted to "be on her side, no matter what". At least we saw Motoko's and Kaolla's rooms for the first time this way...
What I did like was one line close to the end of this episode. Once again the person who cares most about others at Hinata-sou did ask the right question in the end: What was it that Naru was looking for?

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