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Chihayafuru – 15

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「つらぬきとめぬたまそちりける」 (Tsuranukitomenu Tama zo Chirikeru)
“As Though Pearls Have Been Strung Across The Open Plain”

Team Tacihi is still accepting new members…

Well, that was a jaw-dropping, leg-twitching, GAR-packed, heart-pounding epic of an episode if ever I saw one. Frankly, it pretty much out-shounened any shounen series for ages. Every time I hear someone complaining about how there haven’t been any good shounen sports anime in the last few years I just shake my head, because there’s one right under their noses, even if it gets classified as something else. And this episode had about everything you could ask for – action, drama, rivalry, tears – and a little shoujo romantic drama at the end to tie it all together. It also continued Chihayafuru’s run of providing some of the best-looking animation of the year, especially as regards the faces of the characters.

I regret that we probably won’t get to see the eventual battle royale between Taichi and Arata over Chihaya’s heart animated, because I think it’s going to be a classic. But while much of the episode was a glorious showcase for Bishounen #1, we still had a great deal of superb development in another budding rivalry to start with, that of Chihaya vs. The Queen. And what a fascinating character Shinobu is. As I’d hoped we didn’t get an unrealistic miracle win for Chihaya, but a 20-card stomping by Shinobu, who proved herself up to the challenge Chihaya presented her. Indeed, she seemed genuinely angered at the temerity of another girl in taking five cards from her, but also thrilled – understandable, as she’s probably been unchallenged since Arata stepped away from the sport. No doubt she’ll play even better now that she has a rival on the horizon, and she defeated Sudo by 12 cards (if you’re keeping score, 8 less than Chihaya) for the Class A title.

All things considered, Chihaya took it pretty well. Once she’d proven herself by taking a couple of cards, she seemed to have a little more perspective on the situation, and of how much work she had to do to catch up to Shinobu. Rather than breaking down when it was over, she replayed the match over and over in her head, crying yes – but tears of determination and frustration, not despair. Indeed, I think it might even be possible that she and Shinobu could become friends, as Shinobu seemed genuinely interested in this weird girl who has superhuman hearing and recognized the name of the snowman on her shirt, that she didn’t even know herself.

We saw a bit of the difference between Taichi and Chihaya here, both in terms of empathy and maturity. Chihaya is single-minded to a fault, and still very much wrapped up in her own worldview. It must in fairness be pointed out that while Taichi watched her match, Chihaya didn’t spare a thought for watching any of her teammates – not until Kanade told her than she and Tsutomu had lost in the third round, but that Taichi was playing for the Class B title – at which point he’d played three matches since Chihaya was eliminated. Taichi in contrast nearly missed his own third-round match in his dismay over her defeat – as Taichi noted, he was more upset about her losing than she was – but that’s Taichi, and the difference in their regard for the other is a real issue, in far more important arenas than just the Karuta ring.

As for Taichi, he once again showed why I consider him the true hero of the series. It took longer to get a look at one of the other Mizaswa players in action than I’d wanted, but it was well worth the wait because his internal struggle was epic. Taichi – in part thanks to another remarkable performance by Miyano Mamoru – is an early frontrunner for best male character of 2012. “Desperado” indeed – the kid is a warrior through and through. His way is to work harder, think harder, and never give up – there’s no question he’s getting more out of his natural ability than any of the other Karuta players in the cast. As he plays, he lives – taking the path of greater resistance, plowing ahead, and suffering mostly in silence as he supports the others. When they break down in tears at his three-card defeat, he wills himself – almost but not quite successfully – to hold back his own tears and be strong for them.

The fact that he can’t quite do it is just one reason why this is a watershed moment for Taichi. Driven to succeed or secede by his parents, Taichi has always resisted putting himself in emotional jeopardy, but when he says “this is the day” he doesn’t just mean Karuta. True, his commitment to do whatever it takes to catch up to Arata in the arena is a vital step, because it means accepting failure and learning from it. But even more, I think he realizes he’s going to have to take the biggest risk of all and try to win Chihaya’s heart, despite the deck being stacked so heavily against him – it’s no coincidence that the first card we see in his match is “I recall how my own efforts were in vain”. In my view, Taichi could always see that he’d probably lose to Arata if he openly pursued Chihaya – so in his typical fashion, he longed silently for her and concerned himself with what he knew he could handle. This is the change in him, in Karuta and life – even if he probably can’t win, Taichi has resolved to fight. He’s probably going to lose and it’s gonna break his heart (mine, too) when it happens, but that won’t lessen my regard for the character one bit.

Inside the arena and out, it’s clear Arata is back, and back to stay. He’s joined the Fukui Karuta Society, and while Chihaya is dreaming of Shinobu, of Arata she says she doesn’t dream – she wants to meet him in real life. And meet they will, at Karuta and otherwise, and it’s sure to be powerful and dramatic when it happens. How much of all that we see in the anime and how much we’ll have to turn to the manga to see, I can’t say – but regardless of where it leaves the story, Chihayafuru is a very special series.

January 17, 2012 at 9:45 pm
48 comments »
  • January 17, 2012 at 9:49 pmbird

    I don’t think I’ve enjoyed tuesdays so much before in my life.

    • January 17, 2012 at 9:52 pmGuardian Enzo

      Taichi Tuesdays…

      • January 20, 2012 at 1:12 amErisetan

        I really love the fact that Taichi is being properly supported in this site. Almost all my friends are pro Arata. In this site, I see lots of comrades…

    • January 18, 2012 at 6:55 amnagi

      Wednesdays for us here.. Wednesday please come soon… T_T

  • January 17, 2012 at 9:59 pmIntricateRadiance

    You’ve got yourself another Team Taichi member, Enzo. I’ve been rooting for Taichi since the very beginning.
    On a side note, this show is one of the best shows I’ve watched in a long time. Thanks for blogging it. x3

  • January 17, 2012 at 10:00 pmBashira

    and recognized the name of the snowman on her shirt, that she didn’t even know herself.

    If you’re talking about the part where someone said “That character actually has a name?” and “People actually know it?” then I’m pretty sure the girls in the background were saying that, not Shinobu herself. So I’m just assuming Shinobu knows the character on her shirt since she knew the character on Chihaya’s shirt too, suggesting that she’s a fan of all these characters.

    On a more discussion-related topic, I wonder if there will be a small timeskip next episode that’s big enough to make the other teammates a lot stronger? I’ve only been keeping up with the anime so I don’t know any better. Can’t wait to see!

    • January 20, 2012 at 1:56 amErisetan

      Shinobu and Chihaya both like Snowmaru and DaddyBear. I guess we could say that birds of the same feather play Karuta together.

  • January 17, 2012 at 10:04 pmAlec

    Tuesday is now my favorite day when it comes to anime. Even though it only has 1 anime worth watching: Chihayafuru. Can’t remember when or what episode in the series that I finally started to get attached emotionally.

    It used to be Thursday, but the line up is full of crappy titles. There are good ones though
    Tues > Mon > Sat > Sun

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:11 pmTSouL

      For me, it’s been love at first sight. The nice pace and allure from the flashback was enough to draw me in, especially when Chihaya took her first card.

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:57 pmGuardian Enzo

      Well, Mondays are just crazy good this season – for sure the best Monday I remember, maybe the best single day. It has the two best new shows of the season in Another (brilliant on many levels) and Natsume Shi (off to a blistering start, best since S1), it has the gloriously fun and retro Ano Natsu, and the best pure comedy of the season in Danshi Koukousei.

    • January 18, 2012 at 7:57 pmricz

      Sat for me…SNS/Senki then Monday followed by Sunday then Wednesday ….Asian time

  • January 17, 2012 at 10:11 pmjames

    I have high hopes for Chihaya x Taichi. Arata is interesting to Chihaya as a good karuta player, and as a childhood friend she hasn’t seen for a long time. However, so far I haven’t seen any indication that she has feelings for him as a boy / man. But at the same time, it would be beautifully heartbreaking for Chihaya to not reciprocate Taichi’s feelings (at least he developed a resolve the fight for things that he wants).

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:17 pmAlec

      Taichi is taken.

      • January 17, 2012 at 10:19 pmjames

        hahah damn, I totally forgot he even had a gf. Maybe he dumped her behind the scenes already? Feel free to spoil it (with tags, of course)

      • January 18, 2012 at 12:32 amCirr

        Ahh, yeah, about Taichi’s girlfriend… Show Spoiler ▼

        I’m so hooked on this now, I just had to buy the manga and fight through the lack of furigana, haha.

      • January 18, 2012 at 1:33 amjames

        thanks! Show Spoiler ▼

  • January 17, 2012 at 11:17 pmRelic

    Yea, what a show! It’s in my top along with Another( both may end up in my top favorites ever if they keep this up) and also Ordinary life of High School Boys. That Queen is one malevolent beast though. Of course Arata would pretty much crap on her. Probably. Speaking of Crap, I hope this SOPA business doesn’t effect my anime watching. Being in the U.S. I have no alternative… Aye yai yai. Anyway I just hope Chihaya’s heart remains with Arata!

  • January 17, 2012 at 11:45 pmSoiyeruda

    Found the opening scene kind of weird, if only because the end of the last episode felt more “this is my chance to come back” and the tone in this beginning seemed like “She doesn’t stand a chance anymore.” Otherwise, well done and I’m starting to like Shinobu more now.

  • January 17, 2012 at 11:50 pmSetsuken

    I totally agree on what you say about Taichi. Honestly, as much as I like Chihaya, I’m really watching this series for Taichi.

    It is indeed sad that Taichi is eventually going to lose to Arata, and all the foreshadowing is really starting to break my heart. In a lot of ways, the emotional pull and pain that this series generates in its romantic triangle really does put it at the forefront of most shoujo manga offerings.

    Either way, In my heart heart of hearts, I’m hoping the mangaka decides to give Taichi the final win, despite my thoughts that it probs won’t happen.

    Great episode and great review Sir! Very well articulated!

    • January 18, 2012 at 12:29 amGuardian Enzo

      Thank you for your kind words, Setsuken. And when it comes to that ugly foreshadowing, I sincerely hope the mangaka turns out to be a troll.

  • January 18, 2012 at 12:39 amThe Moondoggie

    Important Question! Off-topic too…

    Is this site gonna join the SOPA protest tomorrow?

  • January 18, 2012 at 3:57 amSlushiZ

    This episode actually gave me a little hope for TaichiXChihaya “I recall how my own efforts were in vain” along with the hailstorm of other Arata flags that were especially apparent in the beginning episodes made it seem like Arata was the eventual end game hero. I’m starting to think it’s not quite right because to Arata, Chihaya is the childhood friend and something like the ‘light’ that helped him over his issues and to Chihaya, Arata is her goal and eternal rival. Normally (in a Shoujo) this equals love but here it feels like they’re more suited to being rivals which is a love/hate thing centered around SPORTS. Arata and Chihaya don’t explicitly feel romantically drawn to each other. Also Arata’s story,emotions,feelings about Chihaya and personal growth are nowhere near as fleshed out as the time devoted to Taichi. Then there’s the queen…who feels like a complete matched pair for Arata which would make her his fall back girl. She resembles Chihaya’s personality,has queen-level skill and dedicaition, is beautiful (despite having the fashion sense of a rock) and her character design i.e eyes and hair match Arata. Hmm i guess it’s just my wistful thinking but i hope that the author really does decide to troll us and put TaichiXChihaya together if it ever comes to it…

    • January 20, 2012 at 12:19 amDecember’s Landing

      I have to disagree with your statement that “Arata and Chihaya don’t explicitly feel romantically drawn to each other” at least in the case of Arata… just look at this piece of evidence from the manga if you haven’t already:

      http://www.8comic.com/love/drawing-8378.html?ch=6-163
      http://www.8comic.com/love/drawing-8378.html?ch=6-164

      Summary of what the scene means:
      Show Spoiler ▼

      Clearly Arata sees Chihaya in a different light at times, and it can clearly be seen in these panels. XD

  • January 18, 2012 at 6:40 amewok40k

    quote:
    Well, that was a jaw-dropping, leg-twitching, GAR-packed, heart-pounding epic of an episode if ever I saw one. Frankly, it pretty much out-shounened any shounen series for ages
    not bad for a series about traditional poetry-card game…

  • January 18, 2012 at 6:58 amnagi

    What about love for Arata? Well I guess this is a Taichi-moment episode so… *hides*

  • January 18, 2012 at 7:10 amliz

    Sorry Enzo I’m on team arata just because I love his character alot granted I know taichi is more complex but for me arata had come such a long way from the shy and timid boy he when he was a child. He is alot stronger and I’m rooting for him to get back into the game and reconnect with his friends. I do hope to see some romance between him and chihaya in the future since they are both so single minded when it comes to karuta and it would cute to see two clueless fouls start to notice each other.

    • January 18, 2012 at 7:15 amliz

      *since he was a child* wow bad sentence now its fixed.

  • January 18, 2012 at 8:28 am7godeohs

    I would much prefer Chihaya ending up with Taichi over Arata – Taichi has been there supporting her the whole time and you can tell he earnestly cares about her. Sure Arata gave her a dream, but so what? Inspiration shouldn’t equate to romance and the only thing he has beyond that is the old adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ However, that seems to be all the foothold Arata will need to win the girl in the end. Then again, I’ve never been a fan of these kinds of setups.

    The oddest thing for me about this series is the tension that it really build, but for some reason I feel at ease when they start reading the poems. It almost feels as those hearing those poem affirms that I am watching the terrific anime known as Chihayafuru.

    • January 18, 2012 at 10:34 amGuardian Enzo

      Interesting comment, thanks. I really do like Arata as a character, and I have from the beginning – he’s a really good guy and he’s had a lot of pain in his life. I guess the justice-seeker in me feels that Arata doesn’t deserve Chihaya as much as Taichi does. Taichi has been by her side for the whole series, supporting her and building her up and helping her dreams come true, and Arata, well, hasn’t. That’s not Arata’s fault, but really, his main claim to Chihaya is that he’s the other guy – the one who looks great in her fantasies and doesn’t have to prove himself to her every day. When in doubt, I always root for the hard-working guy who stands beside the heroine through good times and bad.

      • January 22, 2012 at 9:08 amhyperborealis

        But this is not how love works. Try the line, “I deserve you” on your girlfriend and see how far it gets you.

        Anyway, I don’t see a romance simply since it’s not in Chihaya’s head at all. Her obliviousness would apply to Arata as well, if he were around to be ignored, as far as romance goes.

        The romance angle is a tease and a hook to the readership, but one that has no impetus upon the plot. It’s important as a driving factor in Taichi’s development, and leads us to appreciate him in the ways you have applauded, and which I share with you. But these romantic elements are not followed up with any narrative development in the story itself. Chihaya is not any closer or farther away to Taichi or Arata as a result of the romance.

        In fact, if anything, Taichi’s romantic longing isolates him from Chihaya, puts him into an altogether different place from her. His love for her is self-defeating.

        Frankly, I think too much of a focus on romance amounts to a misinterpretation of the anime. Romance tends to put Taichi at the center of the story, with the narrative set up as an arc awaiting a resolution of the love triangle. But none of that correctly describes the anime. Taichi is not the central character; Chihaya is. And the plot revolves around not Taichi’s ordinary hopes of going out with Chihaya, but rather Chihaya’s dream of becoming the Queen of karuta.

        By the way, this is all true from Arata’s perspective as well.

        So shippers of all kinds need to ship out.

  • January 18, 2012 at 12:43 pmrufe

    It’s not shounen, but Ookiku Furikabutte is one of the only sports manga/anime I’ve enjoyed in a long time.

    I do like Bamboo Blade B as well, but it’s a relatively new series. The original puttered out to a rather pathetic ending IMO…

    “Mashiro no Oto” is another super exciting series. It’s about shamisen, not sports, but it has all the elements of a sports shounen series.

    • January 18, 2012 at 1:00 pmrufe

      Let me add “Tokyuu” to that list. The last couple chapters were very emotional. Again it’s not technically a sports manga, but it’s closer than Mashiro no Oto.

    • January 18, 2012 at 1:50 pmGuardian Enzo

      I was really hoping for a S2 of Bamboo Blade, as the manga is still going strong (I like “B” as well). I think that’s more like a “real” shounen than Chihayafuru is, both in terms of art and story. And Tama-chan is just about the cutest thing ever.

      As for OoFuri, LOL… I like it a lot, but it’s the most idealized depiction of teenaged males I’ve ever seen. It should tell you all you need to know about the target audience that the most controversy it ever created was when the mangaka gave Abe leg hair…

      • January 18, 2012 at 7:27 pmrufe

        I’m male myself so I’m aware it’s idealized (though I think Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou isn’t any less ridiculous in the opposite direction)

        I’m surprised that was the most controversial thing (actually, I don’t remember when he got let hair…). I remember a chapter where they discuss their preferences in gravure models…or was it porn? Anyway, the games are actually riveting and when the lost the first season it was actually painful, not just “well they had to for character development before the next season”.

        Incidentally bamboo blade is over. The manga ended with volume 14.

      • January 18, 2012 at 11:49 pmGuardian Enzo

        Did it end? I’ve lost touch with it recently, but I used to follow it for a while.

    • January 20, 2012 at 4:36 pmrufe

      yea it ended. It was a nice ending, but he was clearly building up for something more. It must have been losing popularity…

  • January 18, 2012 at 12:44 pmpooner

    go go taichi…damn arata barely showed up in like 80% of the series so…I don’t think it makes sense to pair arata with chihaya…in my opinion that feels more like trolling to me than putting chihaya with taichi…just cuz it means that we didn’t waste all that time watching those episodes with taichi and chihaya moments.

    • January 18, 2012 at 2:26 pmnael10

      No No chihaya and porky ^^

  • January 18, 2012 at 2:05 pmmuffinking

    In the beginning I mindlessly rooted for Arata, but when I sat down to think about it awhile back, I hated the thought of Tachi losing to him, or getting another girl instead. That definitely changed my perspective in that area of the show.
    This episode was great though–I loved all the emotions in the characters. The scene where Kana went to hold Nishida’s hand but pulled back when she saw how focused he was really stood out to me, though I can’t pinpoint why.

  • January 18, 2012 at 3:17 pmEri

    I like Arata but its Taichi for me all the way!

    Yes, there’s a high possibility that Chihaya may end up with Arata…there’s also this alternative that she may end up with Karuta (the card game! wah!) but I believe that maybe…just maybe…in the middle of the series…she would recognize Taichi’s devotion and love and that she’ll return it. If I have a faithful follower like him, I’d glomp him everyday!

  • January 18, 2012 at 5:19 pmDayriff

    I may start shipping Chihaya and the Queen, just for the sheer hilarity. “Sorry Taichi, sorry Arata, I guess now we know why she never showed any romantic interest in either of you.”

  • January 19, 2012 at 7:38 ammistress_kisara

    LOL! I just noticed Nishida wearing a Naruto shirt!

    http://randomc.net/image/Chihayafuru/Chihayafuru%20-%2015%20-%20Large%2028.jpg

    • January 19, 2012 at 10:23 amGuardian Enzo

      There’s usually something interesting going on with the T-shirts in this show if you pay attention, right back to the 6th-grade arc.

  • January 20, 2012 at 12:01 amDecember’s Landing

    Freak, I can’t help but open my heart to Taichi after what deep thoughts you materialized in this post of yours. Okay, so romantically I don’t want him o end up with Chihaya, and thats where the tug in the heart comes from in terms of my liking of Taichi. HOWEVER, I agree with you in everything else. He has become a true hero in this series, and his development in maturity is truly one to praise. Not to mention his so freaking good-looking. If Arata wasn’t in this story, my eyes would be all over Taichi. I just have a soft spot for black-haired, blue-eyed, megane-wearing bishies. Seriously. Arata is my cup of tea. But Taichi’s awesome too!

    • January 20, 2012 at 1:58 amnagi

      “I just have a soft spot for black-haired, blue-eyed, megane-wearing bishies. Seriously. Arata is my cup of tea.”

      You have another member here for you tea party, my friend. And what’s up with those who prefer Taichi over Arata just because of Arata’s lack of screentime? Taichi is awesome and he’s surely growing on me, but dumping Arata just because of that? Anyway, we have our own preferences and mine’s Arata all the way! :)

    • January 20, 2012 at 2:54 amAkida

      Take out the funny (even though I know he can’t help it) accent and he’d be closer to my cup of tea. Even though I don’t really have a “cup of tea”.

      But I’m still rooting for Taichi. It’s not so much Arata’s lack of screentime (although that’s pretty much the cause) as it is that Taichi is just much more developed. We know more about his feelings and feel more desperation coming from him. And despite Taichi having everything going for him from the well-rounded bishi to his time spent with Chihaya he still feels very much like the underdog and that itself is something people want to root for. Go get her boy!

      I think Arata can make a come back if he ever does come back…but for now it’s much easier to empathize with Taichi.

      • January 20, 2012 at 12:03 pmnagi

        What? Arata’s kansai-ben is so~~~ :3 oh well NVM. ;)

        (WOW I just realized this is the only series that keep me coming back on the recent review to check for updates! (and yes I have a life and a decent job))

      • January 20, 2012 at 3:10 pmAkida

        LOL I don’t know, even after this many episodes I’m still not used to it. There’s something about the intonation that makes me feel like going, “You’re not talking properly!” every time he speaks hahaha. Funny cause I’ve never really paid that much attention to accents in anime before, wonder why it ‘bothers’ me now.