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Chihayafuru – 13

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「きみがため」 (Kimi ga Tame)
“For You”

After a long build-up, the circle – or at least the triangle – is finally in place as Arata rejoins the narrative. This time, it looks as if he’s here to stay.

There was certainly plenty of high drama in this week’s episode, though even with Bishie #2’s return there still isn’t much overt romance. Chihaya seems to be the last person in the world to realize that the most compelling love triangle since True Tears exists here – Taichi and Arata certainly know it. The rest of the team members seem to have sussed it out, and the audience is clearly in on the secret. But for Chihaya, there simply isn’t room in her still immature consciousness for an overt acknowledgement of romantic feelings, whatever they might be. And the complicated non-romantic feelings that exist between the main trio (and the other Mizusawa team members) are plenty powerful enough to drive the story forward.

It’s an axiom of sports shounen (which is a big part of this series’ genetic code) that the team can’t go all the way on their first try, so it was no surprise that Mizusawa fell short in their first trip to Nationals. I was a little surprised it all went down as fast as it did, though, with Chihaya falling ill in the first match and the rest of the team not even getting any camera time as they won two matches but bowed out of the tournament. I would have loved to have seen Tsutomu’s first or even second win on camera, for example, but it didn’t happen that way. That certainly represents a triumph for him, establishing him as a contributing member of the team even as they tried to use him as a sacrificial pawn. I’d love to know more details of how the matches played out – who won, who lost, and how – but I doubt we’ll get that. Whatever on-screen drama we get from the tournament will have to come from the individual event, which Arata apparently isn’t entered in.

The team tournament pretty much confirmed what’s been Chihaya’s obvious weakness as a player. She’s simply too much a victim of her own emotions, getting too high and falling too low. When she loses it’s invariably her own doing, and this was another example, as she became so overexcited and anxious that she literally made herself ill. It fits right in with her open, excitable and erratic temperament – as pointed out by the Empress’ observation that “She looks like a beautiful girl because she’s not talking or moving around!” Pretty much Chihaya’s only states of being seem to be either on fire or unconscious, and that’s both her strength and her vulnerability as a Karuta player. With time – and timely coaching from Harada-sensei (and Arata?) she’ll need to grow through that.

As for Arata, we finally closed the loop on his exit and eventual re-embrace of Karuta, and it was every bit as heartbreaking a story as you’d expect. We knew some of the details already, but the fact that it was his Grandfather (Arimoto Kinryuu) that encouraged him to leave him alone and go to the Fukui tournament just makes it that much much poignant and painful. I thought the scenes between the two – and the portrayal of Grandpa’s gradual decline – were really well done. But in the end, whatever guilt he feels, Arata had to realize that his Grandfather would have wanted him to keep playing, and – as his old teacher pointed out – Master Sai’s Wataya’s Go Karuta best lives on in Hikaru Arata, and there could be no better expression of love than to keep playing the game they both love. And it doesn’t hurt that Chihya and even Taichi, who seem like the closest friends he’s ever had, are still a part of that world.

There should be some fireworks in the individual tournament. I assume Nishida will play, but I wonder if Taichi will. We know “Sadist” Sudo is there, as well as The Queen, who made her appearance in a comically epic crossing of paths with Chihaya on the Shrine steps. All of the major characters are going to be tested here, even if not on the tatami – certainly Taichi will, as he watches Chihaya and Arata interact for the first time in four years. The expression on his face as he saw Arata for the first time, then realized he could entrust the unconscious Chihaya to him says a lot about his growth as a person – though that should have been obvious enough already. I suspect he’ll handle himself well, though it won’t be easy for him.

January 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm
50 comments »
  • January 4, 2012 at 4:35 pmeman

    How do you know that was the queen?

    • January 4, 2012 at 4:45 pmstarblacks

      I was wondering that too, I thought for a fleeting moment it was Arata cross dressing

      • January 4, 2012 at 5:30 pmAiron

        I thought it was arata crossdressing too…
        ~_~

      • January 4, 2012 at 9:50 pmSoiyeruda

        Since no one knows, lets assume it was. :x

    • January 4, 2012 at 4:59 pmUmadBro?

      i thought that was Arata’s cousin haha…

    • January 4, 2012 at 5:03 pmpineapple

      She has been introduced in the manga. She’s on the cover of vol. 5:
      http://s1.zerochan.net/600/44/08/727944.jpg

      • January 4, 2012 at 5:11 pmGuardian Enzo

        I actually haven’t read that far in the manga, but I just assumed – it was about as unsubtle as you could get…

    • January 4, 2012 at 5:42 pmMasaka

      Am I alone in thinking that she looks like Izumi Konata from Lucky Star in that screen capture?

      http://cdn.myanimelist.net/images/characters/4/53299.jpg

    • January 5, 2012 at 5:10 amricz

      I blame wiki on that one :/

    • January 6, 2012 at 8:38 pmZero

      You mean besides the crossing hitting you with the force of a brick wall?

  • January 4, 2012 at 5:13 pmId

    newtype exist in chihayafuru >_<

  • January 4, 2012 at 5:28 pmdarkkodiak

    Great episode as it gave more background information about Arata’s ordeal with Karuta. I for one really like how Chihaya grabbed onto Arata when she woke up as to confirm that he’s not a dream. Now that Arata has realize that his grandpa is in his game, I really want to see him play now. I wonder if his break has made him rusty or is he such a natural that he will start where he left off. I do wonder though, if we will see a Karuta player that plays in a strange fashion. What I mean is someone who uses both hands because every time I see a Karuta match, only one hand is used to take a card or used strategically. Do we not see that because it is a violation of the rules?

    • January 4, 2012 at 6:20 pmkemkemmers

      Yep, it’s against the rule. Watch episode 2.

    • January 4, 2012 at 8:11 pmskylion

      If he starts off rusty, I think this would be a much more honest form of storytelling, and a more compelling arc for the character. He has to really work to climb back up to his former abilities. If he starts of awesome, it will be such a cheat.

  • January 4, 2012 at 6:08 pmkemkemmers

    If you want to know…

    1st match VS. Takechi H.S.
    Mashima Win
    Ayase Win
    Nishida Win
    Komano Lose
    Ooe Lose

    2nd match VS. Ooto Kawazoe H.S.
    Mashima Win
    Ayase Drop
    Nishida Win
    Komano Lose
    Ooe Lose

    3rd match VS. Kisei H.S.
    Mashima Win
    Nishida Win
    Komano Win
    Ooe Win
    Ayase –

    4th match VS. Yuikawa Izumi H.S.
    Mashima Win
    Nishida Win
    Komano Win
    Ooe Lose
    Ayase –

    Playoff VS. Fujisaki H.S.
    Mashima (unknown)
    Nishida Lose
    Komano Lose
    Ooe Lose
    Ayase –

    • January 5, 2012 at 9:19 amShin

      Where did you get this? If its true, I guess it would have been possible for them to lose in the last round even with Chihaya. But how they got past the group into playoff is pretty surprising.

      • January 5, 2012 at 3:59 pmaria_san

        It’s in the manga…well, even there you don’t see the matches being played. You only see the scorecards which have this information.

    • January 8, 2012 at 12:28 pmMinnako

      Couldn’t you have put spoiler tags on that one?

      • January 8, 2012 at 12:29 pmMinnako

        Oh, it’s already happened by the end of the episode, my bad. Just thought that was about to be some big future manga spoiler…

  • January 4, 2012 at 6:08 pmchamelean75

    ah, True Tears. That was quite the romantic triangle. I can’t wait till the next ep!!!!!

  • January 4, 2012 at 6:09 pmchamelean75

    By the way, could you put up the screen caps for the next ep preview?

    • January 4, 2012 at 6:12 pmGuardian Enzo

      There are no previews in the stream I use, I’m afraid.

  • January 4, 2012 at 6:50 pmEliteF22

    • January 5, 2012 at 9:16 amSOSAnimeBoy

      Arata must be a Morpheus fan!

  • January 4, 2012 at 6:54 pmmizuhii

    I was a little disappointed about not seeing any more of the matches, but oh well… It was still a great episode.
    Just one thing really keeps bugging me… Maybe I overlooked something… But didn’t Taichi have a girlfriend in the very beginning? Did they split up at any moment?

  • January 4, 2012 at 8:14 pmSnuckerpooks

    Love Chihayas silly reactions. Love the characters, but this show is fading for me. I guess karuta isn’t that interesting for me. Loved it at first but got bored quickly.

    • January 4, 2012 at 9:08 pmskylion

      See my reply below: the game is a reflection on who and what the characters are. Kana-chan arranges them by season; because her friendship with the cards is on a much deeper,cultural level. For Porky it’s all about his opponent, he’s working out some deep personal issues. For Taichi, it’s the win, the victory that doesn’t come easy. He has to fight for it, which parallels his friendship and love of Chihaya. For Arata, it’s about living up to a legacy.

      Dat game. It’s awesome.

      • January 4, 2012 at 9:38 pmryuuzaki

        the game itself is boring, the only thing that keeps this alive is the characters

      • January 4, 2012 at 11:13 pmZammael

        I don’t know why you’re getting neg-repped for a great, spot-on analysis of the characters.

        They’re the best thing about this show, demonstrating the brilliant writing and direction, to date.

        I’m not a fan of Slice of Life genre, besides a few key exceptions, but this is by far one of the best shows from Fall semester. Kudos to the creators!

  • January 4, 2012 at 8:20 pmskylion

    First, it was a great touch seeing more of Arata’s story fleshed out. Much of it could have been assumed and therefor left out; but it would have been a disservice to the one moment that defined the entire sub-story. Grandpa coming back to some of his senses and demanding that Arata go out do the job. I was a bit taken aback that they cut from Chihaya to this sub-story, but that emotional narrative was well worth it.

    Second. OMG it got me so pissed off. They spent several episodes developing the supporting cast; in such a way that I found them all as wonderful and engaging as the principal cast, only to have their defeat at the nationals happen off-f-ing-screen. To have Desk-kun relay his victory as a lame version of the Greek chorus, I was livid. I had to stop watching and walk away and regain my composure. I’m still ticked off as I write this. Unforgivable. Just so f-ing unforgivable.

    In the final analysis, that it ticked me off that much, must be because the are doing something right….

    • January 5, 2012 at 7:32 pmShin

      Not seeing defeat is rather good choice when defeat is inevitable in a tourney without prospects. I mean with Chihaya out of the picture, I believe that it was a forgone conclusion. It reminds me of Slam Dunk handled it, but I think it was much more emotional there because we were with them as they struggled and slowly learned to love the sport. Although I slightly agree with you. I feel like I don’t quite understand their purpose in creating a Karuta club when their main motivation is to see Arata again and they could have played solo.

      This show has been handling this aspect of the story rather well by not getting bogged down in making people watch Karuta matches. If we compare to say Saki, the matches are more the focus by using over-the-top “colorful” opponents, but that style doesn’t fit this series. I think the biggest question to viewers is Taichi-Chihaya-Arata, so I do appreciate how they are just cutting to the chase.

    • January 9, 2012 at 6:31 amhyperborealis

      Initially, I had the same reaction as you did. After all the build-up on becoming a team, it seemed odd that the team matches disappeared off screen. But this just got me thinking about what the writers were aiming at–they are too good to be making a simple mistake. The focus of the episode is on the interaction between Arata and Chihaya, and especially the lesson in dedication Arata learns from Chihaya after she collapses a second time when she thinks she has let her team down. So the importance of the team is still there: the anime expresses it not by showing the matches, but rather by showing us Chihaya’s emotional reactions.

      Chihayafuru so far is only secondarily a sports show: the competition is more a stage where the characterization, the back story, and the traditions related to karuta and the classical poems develop themselves. If you look at the show that way, it’s not too surprising that the episode took the turn it did.

      You might enjoy my posts over at Animesuki about this very issue.

  • January 4, 2012 at 8:35 pmMatroid

    The re-union of Arata and Chihaya is just perfect. The collapse of Chihaya strikes a chord in Arata’s memory of his grandfather. This prepares a very logical foundation for Arata to psychologically transition out of his slump. The incident also gave another opportunity to show Taichi’s leadership under crisis, as well as his subtle emotional struggle against his friend and love rival. The author is really something.

    • January 4, 2012 at 9:02 pmskylion

      This was something else I wanted to touch upon, dat triangle. I agree with you whole-heatedly. As of now, Taichi is coming off as a more complete character. That despite his winning ways, he still has to take some risks. It so very amazing how much this game of karuta displays so many character traits.

      • January 5, 2012 at 4:55 pmMatroid

        Well, for a love story, I think any sports can bring the best (or worst) traits out of a person’s characters. (I’m thinking of another anime Kaiji.)

        Anyway, Taichi is playing the game solely for the sake of Chihaya. But every time he helps the team advance, he only pushes Chihaya closer towards his love rival. Since he is the soccer-player type, he won’t lose on purpose. Meanwhile, Taichi still maintains a half-hearted relationship with his girlfriend back at school. All his efforts are only hurting himself and the innocent girl. With so much contradictions going on in his life, Taichi should mentally snap at some point, perhaps soon…

  • January 4, 2012 at 9:32 pmryuuzaki

    somehow chihaya reminds me of KOTOKO of Itazura na Kiss

    • January 5, 2012 at 12:34 amLivingood

      Now that I think about it you’re kind’ve right…

    • January 5, 2012 at 1:01 amzani

      I don’t think Chihaya has the right to be compared to Kotoko. She’s a much better female lead than the latter. Kotoko has no backbone…. everything she does is because of her emotions (mostly pertaining to her love to Irie). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Itazura na Kiss but that anime didn’t have as much depth as Chihayfuru. Itazura na Kiss follows a simple and predictable pattern of shoujo, so the characters particularly Kotoko are just a stereotype. Chihya is different. She might be dense at times but that’s because she focuses on her dream so much. That’s why she gets affected when she doesn’t notice things about her teammates because those are related to her dream. I mean, wouldn’t you get frustrated if things aren’t going your way? Plus Chihaya has this optimism that makes you love her character. It’s not the typical “Oh let’s do better next time” kind but the type that makes you appreciate simple things we take for granted in life.

      • January 5, 2012 at 7:11 amryuuzaki

        i only said chihaya reminds me of kotoko, i never said they are that similar.

      • January 5, 2012 at 3:07 pmzani

        My bad then. Sorry about that. I see why Chihaya would remind you of Kotoko. I’m not saying Kotoko is a bad lead, its just that the plot itself couldn’t flesh out her character.

  • January 4, 2012 at 9:38 pmSlushiZ

    Taichi should just get better then Chihaya at Karuta, then he’s guaranteed to have her think about him 24/7. I was a tad annoyed by how their clearly setting Arata as the ‘main’ guy especially how it ended with Chihaya clutching Arata’s notes and Taichi literally fading into the background like that… Although on the bright side Arata’s back story was beautifully told and he now comes off far less like an over dramatic moody teen. I love how this show uses sunlight (or light in general) with shadows and camera angles its gorgeous to watch <3

    • January 5, 2012 at 7:42 amScruffy

      I’m not sure you can say that at all. Consider what Chihaya said to herself when she saw the present from Arata. She said OUR feelings reached him as in her and Taichi, not MINE, as in her alone.

    • January 5, 2012 at 9:34 amShin

      I really don’t think affection is as simple as being good at Karuta. If the story stays true to itself, Taichi never will have any possibility of beating Arata. The question is if Chihaya has develops any feelings for Arata because of his Karuta play (admiration or similar interests). I do think that Chihaya has a bit more for Arata than simply the Karuta aspect, but its hard to say that it will materialize into love.

  • January 5, 2012 at 12:50 amzani

    I really liked the fact we got to see Arata’s side of the story. It was both sad and beautiful. He realized that no matter how much he denies it or lies to himself, the fact that he loves kurata will never change. I wish there was a Taichi and Arata talk where they’ll contrast the path each have taken. I think that would have been cool…. although the ending of the episode was heartwarming enough as it is. :)

  • January 5, 2012 at 9:13 amunderMebius

    Argh. Did you really have to make a Hikaru no Go referrence? I just finished it and I’m very frustrated and disappointed on the ending, anyways…

    I feel that this was quite a low-standard episode compared to the usual so it’s still quite entertaining to watch. It just feels anti-climatic for the team to lose easily when they worked so hard to get it, and they even lose offscreen. I guess the reason is it has been weeks since I saw the last episode?

    Nontheless, I’m an Arata x Chihaya fan and I hope it finally develops next episode…!

  • January 5, 2012 at 10:57 pmgrey

    HEY! you’re not covering natsume this season? :O such a shame..

    • January 6, 2012 at 12:07 amGuardian Enzo

      I’m covering it over at LiA – coverage here was a casualty to time, as four RC shows is really pushing it for me as is…

  • January 6, 2012 at 8:12 amEri

    I watched this again and again but I did not realize that the girl who crossed paths with Ayase was actually THE QUEEN??? She looks like ARATA! I even thought that she might be related to him!

  • January 10, 2012 at 3:05 pmewok40k

    gotta love Tsutomu’s first taste of victory :)

  • January 11, 2012 at 2:55 amnagi

    OMG Guardian Enzo you have to review episode 14 ASAP! AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME episode! (sorry for shouting ^^)