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Origin

Keitaro making his promise to Kanako

Kanako Urashima was fostered at a young age by Keitaro’s family, which was famous for their sweet shop. Her foster parents gave her some of their sweets to try; unfortunately Kanako hated sweets. Her adopted family were decent people, but the only one who seemed to understand her was her new brother Keitaro. As young children, he saw that she liked Hinata House and promised her that one day they would run the inn together. Keitaro would eventually forget this innocent vow; Kanako would not.

Creation

Kanako was created by Ken Akamatsu and she first appeared in Volume 11 of the Love Hina series. It was always intended that she be Keitaro’s younger sister and her personality stoic. During the design process Akamatsu played with making Kanako look more Chinese, and originally she sported a more mature look, before settling onto a more gothic lolita design.

Character Evolution

When she first appeared, while Keitaro was studying archaeology in America, Kanako had a very antagonistic relationship with the residents of Hinata house due to her desire to turn the dormitory back into an inn. After Keitaro returned Akamatsu shifted the focus of the plot from Kanako’s frosty relations with the Hinata residents towards the love triangle of Kanako, Keitaro and Naru. During this time her relations with the residents softened somewhat. By the end of Volume 12 Kanako ultimately chooses to help Naru get together with Keitaro, rather than see her deny her feelings, and lends Motoko some of her clothes after she is defeated by her older sister Tsuruko and chooses to retire from kendo in Volume 13.

Major Story Arcs

Kanako’s Arrival

Kanako appears six months after Keitaro has left to study in America, disguising herself as Naru to learn more about the Hinata residents. After choosing to remove her disguise and stating her plans to revert the Hinata women’s dormitory to an inn and threatening to tear Hinata House down, she earns the ire of the other residents. They stage a protest, but to no avail. Fortunately it turns out that Kanako wasn't demolishing Hinata House, she was just renovating Hinata House before officially opening the Hinata Inn.

She institutes a bizarre and tyrannical regime that turns the residents against her even more. The only resident who really gives Kanako the benefit of the doubt is Naru. The other residents eventually discover that Kanako has romantic feelings for her brother and, humiliated, she fires all of them and orders them out of the inn. Kistune takes charge of the remaining girls, forming the Hinata Liberation Front, and ousts Kanako in a coup.

Retaking Hinata House

Kanako and Naru, Kanako’s only friend after the coup, regroup at Haruka’s tea house and begin planning to retake Hinata House. During their conversation Mutsumi appears, letting slip a remark slip about Keitaro's promise girl. Kanako believes that Keitaro’s promise to that girl stole his chance at happiness and, convinced that her brother's promise girl is at Hinata House, threatens to destroy the person whom she considers to have ruined her brother’s life, unaware that her friend Naru is that girl.

Kanako and Naru (joined by Mutsumi Otohime) manage to retake control of Hinata House. Reasoning that only Kitsune is old enough to be Keitaro’s promise girl, Kanako ties her to a rocket and prepares to kill her. Naru confesses the truth to Kanako to save her friend; Kanako is crushed. She threatens to detonate explosives that will destroy Hinata House once and for all, but the House and its residents are saved by the timely return of Keitaro.

The Hinata Annex and Naru’s Flight

Naru and Kanako become rivals for Keitaro's affections, despite Naru's protestations to the contrary. Matters are complicated when Keitaro asks Naru to meet him at Hinata House's sealed annex. The annex was notorious for its powerful magic in bringing couples together, causing it to be sealed years ago. Keitaro arrived at the annex and, thinking he was speaking to Naru in the dark, gave his sister Kanako a ring.

After Keitaro and Naru fail to counteract the Annex’s magic with the magic of their Tokyu University promise, Naru leaves Hinata House and decides to journey north. Kanako accompanies her brother in his attempt to follow Naru, but instead of helping she keeps coming on to him despite his protests. Watching Keitaro while he sleeps, Kanako hears him murmur Naru’s name and realises her brother really likes Naru. Filled with guilt she tries to figure out what to do when Su's Naru detection radar goes off. Kanako follows the radar and attempts to make Naru publicly declare her feelings for Keitaro, but the other girl remains indecisive. When Keitaro and his entourage appears, Kanako bonks Naru on the head and runs off with her, buying her rival time to sort out her feelings.

Kanako admits her defeat

When Keitaro and his friends find them again, Kanako and Naru disguise themselves as each other. Keitaro runs after Kanako, who is disguised as Naru, catching up with her. He explains to her that he knew she was disguised and thanks her for helping Naru. After discussing his feelings and clarifying that they’re just siblings, Kanako returns the ring to her brother and helps him find Naru.

Molmol

After Grandma Hina faxes a letter for Keitaro promising to give him Hinata House if he has a wife, Kanako is part of the group (including Shinobu, Motoko, Kitsune and Su) that goes to Molmol to bring Keitaro back and marry him. After Su reveals that she is the princess of Molmol she imprisons Kanako and the other residents in her airship so that she can marry Keitaro. Ultimately Kanako, Su and the other residents decide to allow Naru to have Keitaro.

Powers and Abilities

Kanako Urashima has shown an incredible ability to disguise herself as others and copy their voices and mannerisms; however she is incapable of perfectly mimicking Naru’s smile. Haruka Urashima claims that Kanako inherited this ability from her grandmother. Motoko also calls her the successor to the Urashima Martial Arts. Kanako appears to be skilled in this, holding her own against Motoko in a fight; however Kanako is defeated in her only on-panel battle.

Other Media

Kanako and Keitaro in Love Hina Again

Although Kanako didn’t appear in the Love Hina television series, she did appear in the Love Hina Again OVA sequel in a loose adaption of Volumes 11 and 12. Kanako first appears impersonating Naru before revealing herself and taking over Hinata House, however the residents attempt a coup that is only stopped with Keitaro’s arrival. Naru, trying to push the siblings closer together, lets Kanako go to the Hinata annex where Keitaro accidentally proposes to Kanako. After Keitaro admits to Kanako that she will always be his sister, the annex magically calls them to prevent its spell from being broken. Realising that Keitaro is in love with Naru, and after Naru has fought through the magic of the annex to be with Keitaro, Kanako willingly allows Naru and Keitaro to be together.

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