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Chihayafuru – 12

「むらさきのゆきしめのゆき」 (Murasakino Yuki Shimeno Yuki)
“Set These Forbidden Fields Aglow”

Breaking news – Chihaya actually has a Dad. And with that revelation comes the news – not so coincidentally – that someone in her family actually knows she exists.

For my money Chihayafuru and Fate/Zero have been the most consistent new series of the Fall, by far. While it’s an oversimplification to say F/Z appeals to the mind and this show to the heart – there’s plenty of crossover – for me the lure of Chihayafuru is much more of an emotional one. Where this series is really shining is in the depiction of its major characters as complicated, layered and sometimes puzzling people. We’ve seen every major character introduced continue to evolve and grow, becoming more human and more interesting in the process, and that’s even starting to extend to some of the second-tier characters like Retro-kun and Miyauchi-sensei. That should be easier than it is, but the fact that very few series are able to pull it off testifies to the fact that it’s damn hard. Of course there’s more to it than that – the series has a very clever visual style and while it isn’t as slick and polished as F/Z, the backgrounds and character designs are my favorites of any show this season.

It’s pretty heartbreaking to watch Chihaya at home, and not so much for the obvious reason that her family is so consumed with Chitose that they barely seem to acknowledge her – though that’s bad enough – but because she’s so lacking in self-worth that she can’t even bring herself to tell them about the stupendous accomplishment of the Mizusawa team. Not only that, she’s afraid to ask them for money to travel to Omi-jingu for the Nationals. In many ways Chihaya and Taichi are at the polar extremes of the bad parenting spectrum – her family takes no notice of her achievements, and his puts extreme pressure on him and derides him as a failure if he doesn’t win (yet another reason they’re perfect for each other, but I digress). So the payoff when Chihaya discovered that her Dad, Kenji (Ohara Takashi) had found the news story detailing the team win was well-earned – Chihaya had every right to those tears, but it’s still sad as hell that he only knew because he found it himself. Was he discretely following her progress and searching for the article, or did he happen upon it by chance?

It doesn’t help that Miyauchi-sensei – henceforth known as The Empress – seems to have no more interest in the club’s success than Chihaya’s family, even fawning off the “job” of accompanying them to Ume-jingu to a junior teacher so she can attend a tennis camp. That changes when she sees the passion they bring to practice, but the message is clear – everything this team gets they’re going to earn. Karuta is an anonymous sport to most of the population, and inside the small community of the game Mizusawa is a nobody, and everyone will expect them to lose. That’s why I appreciated the very Oofuri-like scenes early in the episode, where we saw what the pain of losing did to Hokuo and Retro especially, and that Retro gave all the team’s research for Nationals to Taichi as an act of support for their fellow Edoites. I mentioned in last week’s impressions that I felt the characterization of the Hokuo team wasn’t Chihayafuru’s best moment, as they were a bit of a stock villain – so those scenes were especially welcome here.

It’s going to be interesting to see if there’s any tension with the Mizusawa team as they grow and develop. While Taichi is the leader and Chihaya the ace and inspiration, the fact is that Nishida is the most experienced and accomplished in the group, and in fact the only one who has experience at Omi-jingu. He’s been happy enough to be a supporting player up to now, but he’s experienced and good and he has an ego (he has a right to one) and we can see that he has very definite views on teaching the youngsters. Taichi sensed at once that his direction to Kanade was probably wrong – while she’d come up with a system that worked for her (organizing the card placement into seasons – adorable) he quickly dismissed it and pushed her back to a more conventional approach. Maybe Nishida’s right that her way can’t work at the Nationals level, but it was working for her – it helped her see the game in the context that made sense to her. The whole poem is important to Kanade, not just the first few syllables. She even quotes her favorite poem which is – gasp! – not one of the “One Hundred”. One size fits all probably isn’t going to work as a training tool in most cases, and certainly not for Kana-chan.

That’s the conundrum the team finds itself in. Kanade and Tsutomu are still liabilities, as hard as they’re trying, and even Taichi and Chihaya have a long way to go. Harada-sensei and the #2 player at the Karuta Society easily dispatched them, temporarily shattering Chihaya’s confidence. Taichi set her straight for the moment (he really knows her better than anyone else in the world, it seems) but that lack of experience is sure to breed serious nerves. Basically, in order for the team to have any real chance Chihaya, Nishida and Taichi have to win every match. Unless, of course, one of the chibis pulls off a miracle – and that’s why it’s so nice that Tsutomu and Kanade are really emerging as co-leads more than supporting characters, because they’re going to be critical. Kana-chan’s idealism and love for aesthetics is one of the most genuine parts of the series, and with Tsutomu it’s really a matter of pure desire – he wants to succeed so badly it’s almost painful to see the way he glows with every small triumph and word of praise. He’s a boy who’s not accustomed to failing, and even less accustomed to being treated with kindness. For him, everything about the Karuta experience is new.

The larger plot pretty much took a week off here, with only a brief cameo by Arata in Chihaya’s memory, which makes it all the more impressive that the show didn’t skip a beat. But I have a suspicion that, one way or another, a bishie from Fukui is going to show up at that shrine

December 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm
37 comments »
  • December 20, 2011 at 8:25 pmCarol

    I love Chihaya! She is so genuine.
    Why didn’t Arata answer her emails?!! x(
    I know what Taichi said and everything…but anyways! It was so sad to see her checking her empty inbox and being neglected by her family.

    • December 20, 2011 at 8:35 pmjames

      I’m guessing by the fact that there is at least a chihaya album, her parents just don’t know how much chihaya wants her parents to notice her. To her parents, I think, chihaya is a girl that doesn’t need that much attention, while the audience knows that isn’t the case, she is just too shy and humble to really ask for attention. poor girl :\

    • December 20, 2011 at 8:44 pmEliteF22

      That’s a good question. Maybe, he just doesn’t know what to say. Another is does Arata even have a computer or cell phone? He checked his email from his work computer and hadn’t checked it in awhile, but then he was able to send the happy birthday message to Taichi.

      • December 30, 2011 at 12:41 am9

        Arata does have a computer and a phone (although using the phone is probably not very practical because of cost perhaps, since they’re so far away from each other).
        The thing with the computer is that he doesn’t check very often and didn’t realize that Chihaya had been sending him emails all along as he could only check using the work computer. His computer at home has been “acting up?” or buggy, hence why he could only check during work. As for why he didn’t reply yet, who knows? Maybe he’s already on his way to Omi-jingu :)? Or quite possibly, he doesn’t want to yet, because a few episodes back Taichi mentioned about how they both feel about Chihaya, and/or he doesn’t want to reply to her until he’s ready to.

    • April 2, 2012 at 11:26 pmcshin9

      I don’t know, Chihaya sometimes gets too emotional. It’s great when she’s fired up, but she completely crashes when she’s down.

      On the other hand, I didn’t like Taichi from the second episode. I thought he looked to be an interesting male protagonist in the first episode, but his jealousy fits on Arata made me dislike him a bit. Only after he started helping Chihaya I started liking him more than her.

  • December 20, 2011 at 8:28 pmjames

    there were more than one newspaper clippings in the chihaya album ^___^

  • December 20, 2011 at 9:00 pmShin

    I really don’t think the parents are as bad as you write them off to be. In some ways, they represent parents in real life. Those that push their children too hard and those that give more attention to other siblings. In some ways, parents don’t really quite understand what their children are doing. It seems that the issue is as much her parents not learning what she loves as well as her not telling them because she feels her achievements are always overshadowed by her sister’s. Manga/anime personalities are just more exaggerated than irl.

    No matter how interesting it would be to see Kana play her own way, I don’t understand how you can say Nishida is wrong. When you first learn to play competitive in any arena you need to learn how to play textbook and take advantages that are commonly meant to be taken advantage of. It is funny how you somehow sensed that Taichi agreed with Kana whereas you completely ignored how Chihaya actually agreed with Nishida. I think that Taichi was simply asking Nishida to respect Kana’s feelings towards the meanings of the poems with his words and not actually taking issue with his direction. All Tachi said was “Nishida” whereas Chihaya said we know your feelings about the poetry but we have to learn to play competitive karuta.

    What is confusing is why you think that this series has villains. They said they are going to learn to shout and stuff, but I’m sure you wouldn’t call them annoying simply because you like Chihaya and Tachi. Perhaps you should be watching slightly more objectively.

    • December 20, 2011 at 9:41 pmGuardian Enzo

      Who did I say was a villain? I said the Hokuo team was portrayed as stock villains last week – and I think they were. That was corrected this week. I don’t think this series has any villains so far, and I haven’t said it does. You should read a little more carefully.

      In terms of Nishida being “wrong” well again – what I wrote was “maybe he’s right” so I don’t know what you were reading but it doesn’t sound like it was my post. Fact is, Nishida was trying to teach Kanade as if she were him – and while he knows more about competitive Karuta then anyone else in the group and she’ll eventually have to change her style, what I think Taichi saw was that Kanade was at a fragile time in her development and had found a way to make Karuta make sense to her. Nishida probably was wrong to dismiss that out of hand the way he did.

      • December 21, 2011 at 8:34 pmKarmafan

        Any kid that looks like Retro in an anime is gonna be the villian most of the time. Was surprising he turned out to be a nice guy.

        I’m guessing we have not heard the last of Kana’s system. She needs an edge in the nationals and I would not be surprised if she uses her system in the tournament and the glasses kid figures his own out from all the note taking. Makes no sense storywise if the big 3 always win their matches and the 2 rookies get crushed.

    • December 21, 2011 at 3:31 amStöt

      I’m gonna say this, since Enzo won’t. Nishida is wrong in this case!
      Kana has a system that works for her, is easy to remember and intuitively guides her to the right card. It is also something that will confuse the opponents to hell. They, like Nishida, won’t even remember the remaining part of the cards and don’t have a clue what season it is, and will never understand the system Kana has.
      I too got the immediate feeling that Taichi wanted Nishida to lay off. As in any language, the majority of the meaning of a word is put in the intonation, or the body language, and not the actual word itself.

  • December 20, 2011 at 10:10 pmTSouL

    I’m surprised they skipped an entire month in this episode (unless I am mistaking them visit w/ the teacher to be just a trip to scout the tourney grounds.)

    Also, when we found out Chihaya’s family notice her achievements, it gave me a little teary eye

  • December 20, 2011 at 10:49 pmAthos

    So far there’s been one episode I didn’t like. One. I thought Nishida’s introduction episode was dull and farfetched. This is episode 12. For a series I expected to run out of ideas about Karuta and degrade into romantic drama by now, that’s awesome.

    Chihayafuru may not have Kajiura Yuki for the soundtrack, but it’s got the mood and timing down like nobody’s business. It may not have that much of a budget, but, damn it, it knows where to use it.

    I admit it’s kind of an even match to me so far, and I’m pretty sure Fate/Zero is gonna blow away even that once the final episode hits, but the fact remains that this show is just not getting the attention it deserves. Well, not that I care about that. All I’m worried about now is that it keeps the pace all the way to the end. I just don’t wanna see another Steins;Gate ending undermining an otherwise great series.

  • December 20, 2011 at 11:01 pminfo600

    the reality for the team finally kicked in, at least they’re taking it in stride (ie. Tsutomu does not care about his grades as much anymore – eventhough he scored 5th overall incalss…wait what?)

    btw: there were more clippings other than the tournament for Chihaya. Her dad found some of her yukata ads in the newspaper as well, IIRC…

    …nice, more fun faces.

  • December 20, 2011 at 11:03 pmRelic

    I couldn’t help but to smile ear to ear at how much the father loves his daughters even though Chihaya felt slightly shafted. Then she discovers her own little scrap book. That is as cute as it gets! What a show! I haven’t liked an anime this much in a while. It is consistently MAGNIFICENT. I haven’t been bored once, and the show always envelops the viewer in the show’s universe. It is easily in my top for my favorite anime ever. It is an unconventional show with an unconventional cast of characters in that I feel this could be happening RIGHT now in real life. These characters are so real and lovable each in their own way. I was really looking forward to this before the season kicked off but I’ll be damned! I’m lucky to find a show this brilliant once a year. The only show this year I can compare it with is Modaka because that too was, just… PERFECT. Anyway I can’t wait for the next episode and entry! Who’d have thought a show about karuta could be so fleshed out and intricate?! Which is how I felt about the seemingly frilly Modoka.

  • December 20, 2011 at 11:04 pmpagan poor

    I’m with you. Chihayafuru and Fate Zero are my truly go to shows right now.

  • December 20, 2011 at 11:44 pmliz

    Oh enzo your really pushing for taichi its really evident in your posts lol Man I felt for chihaya always looking at her email and asking arata what can she do? This show amazes me in how arata is so present by not being there at all. Overall I’m happy chihaya knows that she is noticed and loved its just a matter of communication.

    • December 21, 2011 at 1:58 amSlushiZ

      lol who wouldn’t push for Taichi ;)

      • December 21, 2011 at 11:03 amShin

        people who want her to end up with a karuta nerd who probably wouldn’t touch her unless if it was over a karuta card.

      • December 21, 2011 at 2:10 pmEmcee

        @Shin

        To be fair, she’s as big a Karuta nerd as Arata, if not bigger at this point lol

  • December 20, 2011 at 11:53 pmMitsuba

    if i was the dad with two beautiful girls i’d think i’d go insane from “thoughts”

    • December 23, 2011 at 6:00 amKiwi

      Dude, that is messed up…

  • December 21, 2011 at 12:44 amJin

    To say Chihaya’s parents are bad at parenting is a bit offensive tbh.

  • December 21, 2011 at 1:42 amSlushiZ

    While I don’t think the parenting is HORRIFYING I do feel strongly for all the little (but rather normal) imperfections because of the effect it has on their innocent children. That’s why it was sooo touching to see that Chihaya’s dad knew all along. I’ve actually grown to love Chihaya heaps. When she gets the idea that Tsutomu might leave, the solution that comes to her is to clutch at him and earnestly beg him not to go or otherwise she’ll stalk him with that scary-sad expression on her face haha

  • December 21, 2011 at 3:19 amlftwgr

    I really think Kanade should keep her season-themed layout despite what Nishida says. Why mess with something that works for her? Also when playing competitively, her layout will throw an opponent off, adding a strategic bonus if she is also fluent in how the typical Karuta layout(arranging by syllables) works.

  • December 21, 2011 at 8:00 amStereoman

    I’m wondering where Taichi’s girlfriend is. I don’t really care much about the romance between the main characters in this show but I find it a bit strange that his girlfriend hasn’t shown up again. oô

  • December 21, 2011 at 9:36 ammistress_kisara

    And were off to Nationals! Can’t wait for the next ep.!! Will there be an episode next week? ANN says Ep. 13 is on Jan. 3 not sure if its accurate!

  • December 21, 2011 at 10:41 amewok40k

    I can see them getting off the regionals, but nationals will be enirely new league… I expect great effort and say, good 2nd or 3rd position. I was almost as happy as Chihaya to see her dad notice and cherish her success!
    This is really one of the better animes of the season, and it delivers great value consistently – so, Mi-zu-sa-wa-fight!

  • December 21, 2011 at 11:18 amdarkkodiak

    Great episode. Some may view Nishida’s coaching a bit restricted, but I completely agree with his coaching. Why is that? While Kanade may have a layout that makes sense to her, everyone seems to be forgetting the fundamentals of the game. I do think this applies for any game, that before you play with your own style, you must first understand the fundamentals. For instance, if Kanade understood why you put two particular cards together and why certain cards are placed where they are, she can incorporate that into her 4 seasons layout giving her an advantage. You can’t build your game on a shaky foundation people. If there is anything I disagree with Nishida’s coaching, it would be his tone and lack of sensitivity.

  • December 21, 2011 at 1:03 pmRandomthoughts

    Honestly, I dont see Kana’s card organization technique working competitively. Maybe I don’t have as thorough an understanding of the Karuta game as some other people here, but as I see it, Kana will be slow in reacting to the readings because she will be looking for two cues while everyone else will be looking for one. First, she will be looking for what season the card belongs to and then the syllable. While everyone else is just skipping to the last part. This type of organization might work with the weaker opponents but I just cant see this working with more skilled players.

    • December 21, 2011 at 2:28 pmbear

      on the other hand, the other players will be expecting a standard layout which may totally confuse them. Sometimes a novice can royally mess up an experienced player that way. Since Kana knows both her layout and the standard layout it might give her an advantage.

    • December 21, 2011 at 8:00 pmkemkemmers

      Right. Actually what Nishida taught is a technique to prevent opponet from memorizing own side. If you find one syllable cards on the opposing top row, you feel like they are shining, just like Chihaya looks Chi-ha card bright red. Seeing like cards on one opposing row feels like they are telling you to try double-hand move. A strange formation will confuse opponent in a way, but in most ways, a defenseless form makes it easier to memorize.

  • December 21, 2011 at 1:19 pmrasone0104

    ugh why did episode had a Last episode feel to it

  • December 25, 2011 at 7:23 amyumeruhime

    I think that Chihaya’s father does take notice of her, it’s just that… you know how fathers are, they sometimes show support silently… With Chitose, it’s different since she’s a celebrity and she gushes about it all the time XD

    anyway, every episode of Chihayafuru is a god-send. I so wish this was more than 2 seasons, the other animes these days cant interest me as much

  • December 30, 2011 at 8:55 pmKentaiyoshimi

    Just marathoned this series, and I have to say, it’s quite good.
    The shoujo art style did initially turn me away from the series, but after hearing a lot of praises about this in the 2011 anime poll, I decided to give this a go.

    One of the things I like are Kanade’s interpretation/explanations of the poems. I find poems to be really interesting, since it offers compelling insight to the thoughts of the poet through a couple of words. And like many people have already mentioned, I think Kanade will eventually end up using her “Four Seasons” approach for card placement. I even thought that the other members would agree to it, since it matches Kanade’s love of poetry so well.

    Initally, I was all for ArataxChihaya, since Taichi didn’t stand a chance with his attitude at that point. However, given ~12 episodes of character development, I am now a firm TaichixChihaya. Taichi’s gone from a somewhat bratty and cowardly kid, to someone who can stand firm and support Chihaya. I think the most telling sign of development was when Taichi decided to show Arata’s birthday message to Chihaya. It shows that Taichi has clearly grown and shaken off his cowardly attitude, all for the sake of Chihaya.

    This show really is intricate, it’s somehow turned a simple card game into something rather complex, while simultaneously interwoven with romance and ample character development. Definitely a gem hidden behind a guise of a shoujo series.

    • December 30, 2011 at 9:42 pmGuardian Enzo

      Great post, thanks for chiming in.

  • January 3, 2012 at 10:37 amSapphirearcz

    That makes 2 of us Kentaiyoshimi, i just finish watching this in 2 days as i initially thought this was just an one season show.

    This is really one of those rare shows that got me really really hooked onto it, who can expect such intensity in a traditional card game! This shows definitely deserves more attention for how good it actually is! There are already too many disappointing animes recently..

  • January 9, 2012 at 1:49 pmErif

    I almost teared up when Chihaya discovered the photo album her dad made for her, and then erupted with laughter when she started bawling like a baby.

    I do agree with Nishida’s approach, though. Kana may have conceived a style that might be ideal for her, but the truth of the matter is, she’ll be playing with opponents years ahead of her in a month’s time. I could become unique to her in the long run, but this is no time to be experimenting. Besides, her approach may not have been the most convenient; she would need to hear a whole line before she could recognize which season the cards falls under. She’d be no match against a player like Chihaya, who can recognize a card after only hearing a word or two, if she played like that.