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Chihayafuru – 19

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「ながらへば」 (Nagaraeba)
“As the Years Pass”

So I’m thinking if you didn’t love this episode of Chihayafuru, this is definitely not the series for you…

Whatever genre you want to lump this series in with – and I’m past worrying about it – my personal view is that it does an amazing number of things well. That’s been obvious for a while, but it’s pretty remarkable how much the show was able to accomplish this week. This is how you do a sports episode, that’s for sure – it was edge-of-the-seat tension from start to finish, and the emotional peaks were incredibly intense (especially at the end of the Class B match). Not only that, though, but it really involved me in the mechanics of a sport I still don’t understand very well – and even made those mechanical aspects understandable by the end. For the first time and in my own small way, this episode made me feel like I get Karuta.

Both of these final matches were tough to watch, because they involved characters I’ve come to love competing against each other. The results ended up being exactly what I thought they’d be, because that’s what made sense from a dramatic standpoint. They were never tipped off though, and I remained in doubt until the very end of both matches. Of the two, the Class D match was really closer to a “no lose” situation – both players would be advancing, and neither of them probably expected to win the Saitama Tournament. And they both did themselves proud, sticking to their style of game and overcoming their bad habits. Kana relaxed and kept her form fundamentally strong, and Tsutomu never gave up right until the very end, even devising the very clever strategy of grouping all his remaining cards together late in the game, facing an eight-card deficit. The fact that the two of them are as well-matched as any pairing I’ve seen in anime lately softens the blow too, and the affection between them was clear after the match ended.

Though Chihaya wasn’t even paying attention (which broke Taichi’s heart a little) the Class B match was more intense – and ultimately heartbreaking. The stakes were higher, the pressure harsher, and it was as close as possible. The entire match went down to the last card, making it effectively a contest of pure luck – defend the one card you have left and you have a 50-50% chance depending on whose card is read first. Except Taichi didn’t play it that way – he remembered every single dead card that was left, and used that to get inside of Nishida’s head, attacking as dead card after dead card was read the and suspense ratcheted up to unbearable levels. In the end it was Nishida who was, as Sakura would say, “Lucky!” – it was his card that was read, and he who moved up to Class A.

I fully understand the dramatics of the situation, but my heart was shattered for Taichi yet again. I don’t think it’s possible to work harder or want it more than he did, and the worst thing is that he really deserved the win. He was the aggressor at the end, his memory was superior (so was Tsutomu’s, interestingly), and it was his grasp of the remaining cards that would have given him the win if only he’d had a tiny amount of luck. It really feels as if Taichi is destined to be a tragic character start to finish in this story – always to smile, to support the others, to be the gracious loser and get back to work. In Karuta and life, it’s my great fear that Taichi is simply never going to be rewarded for all the hard work he does and the endless time he spends being a supportive friend – both to Chihaya and the team. What’s really sad is that he deserves better – he deserves to be in Class A, and he deserves not to have Arata swoop in out of nowhere and take Chihaya away from him. Yet in the manga if not the anime, I suspect that’s exactly what’s going to happen – because that seems to be Taichi’s lot in life, the good guy who’s always there when you need him. Good on Nishida for fighting his way back to Class A, and for finally calling Chihaya out on the insensitive “Meatbun” and “Desk-kun” nonsense – and for accepting that it’s just how she is. He’s a good guy and a great character – but the way that match ended still gutted me.

So now the drama turns to the upcoming Meiji qualifiers, which we know Arata has decided to attend after seeing Nishida and Taichi’s names atop the results from Saitama. I think both names mean something to him – Nishida because he was his rival as a child, and Taichi because- well, you know. I’m not sure if there are other chances for Taichi to advance in rank before the Meiji, and that’s certainly an important element in the plot – Taichi vs. Arata at Karuta would be quite a dramatic highlight. But to be honest I care more about the personal side of things, and what will happen when Arata comes back into Chihaya and Taichi’s life. It was a bittersweet moment (and one that brought this writer precipitously close to a tear or two) when Chihaya took the sleeping Taichi’s head and rested it on her shoulder on the way home, a gesture that contrasts strongly with the prior episode’s scene on the train where Taichi couldn’t bring himself to take the sleeping Chihaya’s hand. He always thinks too much, and she is, as Nishida says, an “airhead”. But in each case those are strengths as well as weaknesses, and it makes me feel as if Chihaya and Taichi are as perfectly matched as Tsutomu and Kana-chan. I don’t care whose card was read first in the match, and I don’t care who wins Chihaya’s heart when the manga ends – as long as Chihayafuru is around, Tuesdays will always be Taichi Tuesdays…

February 14, 2012 at 9:20 pm
59 comments »
  • February 14, 2012 at 9:38 pmEnmire

    I want Taichi to come out ahead so damn much… Just once… Although if he finally snaps at the end from always being second place, that would be a really dramatic moment to watch.

  • February 14, 2012 at 9:39 pmbird

    ;~; Taichi i just. so many feelings. too many feelings.

    chihayafuru really deserves all my love this season.

  • February 14, 2012 at 9:59 pmokgo

    Mannn so many scenes with taichi and chihaya. I’m “okay” with the pairing, but why did the anime have to skip/glance over a few of the Arata scenes in the manga. Is Arata considered a main character anymore? =(

    • February 14, 2012 at 10:12 pmZammael

      Guess not :( The studio has a fixed endpoint while the manga doesn’t.

      Great episode, and great character growth/development. Easily the most consistent show from the Fall season.

    • February 15, 2012 at 3:55 amnagi

      We have the same sentiments my friend (although I haven’t read the manga). Although I root for Arata, TaichixChihaya is also “okay” for me, but knowing now that many Arata parts didn’t make it through the anime I get a feeling that writers are being biased towards Taichi (in terms of screentime at least) :(

    • February 15, 2012 at 4:34 amanon

      What scenes are you talking about? Arata doesn’t appear very often in the manga either, and the anime has been quite a faithful adaptation.

      • February 15, 2012 at 5:19 pmokgo

        Show Spoiler ▼

      • February 16, 2012 at 5:40 amanon

        @okgo
        Show Spoiler ▼

    • February 15, 2012 at 7:44 amKiddie

      When Arata comes back – I wish for him to stay as a character that Chihaya just needs to surpass so that she can become a Queen. Im hoping that the anime adaptation would go with Chihaya and Taichi love line… Unfortunately, to be fair with the anime – they have remained true to the manga and i have this feeling that they are shipping Chihaya with Arata. I wish that they are building our excitement over the love lines just like they do with the Karuta matches … You’ll never know who wins(Or you know but they have this ability of making you doubt your gut feeling).

      • February 16, 2012 at 3:14 amnagi

        Hmm.. try to marathon Chihayafuru from ep 1.. you’d really feel that they’re shipping Taichi x Chihaya all the way. There’s almost no romantic build-up for Arata x Chihaya (which is really sad for Arata shippers like me). Heck, Arata can even be a lesser supporting character than Kana and Komano in terms of screentime. Moreover, Taichi is so much favored with all the strong character developments which I really don’t mind, but I just hoped Arata can also gain something like that just for fair competition.

    • February 15, 2012 at 9:11 pmbanzemanga

      Interestingly, i thought that the anime was perfect as it is since i haven’t read the manga. Maybe i should read the manga, spoil myself and make critics too.

  • February 14, 2012 at 10:26 pmchamelean75

    ah, taichi and chihaya in the car, *sniff. so perfect.

    • February 16, 2012 at 12:31 pmBreedo

      If it was me on Chihaya’s shoulder and i woke up i’d pretend to be asleep the rest of the trip lol. Taichi is clever he probably would too.

  • February 14, 2012 at 10:31 pmdarkkodiak

    HOLY MOLY were those two matches intense. I agree, this is how good sports anime show off their matches. I definitely feel that Taichi got the short end of the stick but I’m glad he stopped himself from blaming luck and instead looked at what he could have done to prevent it from being decided by fate. Kind of like a phrase in fighting sports, “never leave the winning decision to the judges” or something like that. But in my books, he did get a nice victory with Chihaya let him rest on her shoulder.
    For Tsutomu, even though he lost the match, I hope he hooks up with Kana because if that happens, he’s a winner in my eyes XD.
    I hope we get to see Arata play sometime soon because I really want to see if he is this OP Karuta player that he is perceived to be. Better yet, we get a look at his Karuta play against Shinobu. That would be the battle of the titans that I would love to see.

  • February 14, 2012 at 10:39 pmAlec

    All episodes, excluding the recap (a recap episode is a recap episode), has been amazing so far.

  • February 14, 2012 at 11:01 pmDonyo

    You’ve pretty much summed up my feelings about Taichi’s character in this post. It’s honestly heartwrenching and downright cruel to watch all his efforts come up short and leave him is second place, when everything else about the situation tells you that he should have finished first. Jack of all trades, master of none, indeed.

    Ugh, now I’m just feeling disappointed in the fact that we’ll probably get an open ending with regards to the karuta club’s future in their tournaments/lives.

  • February 15, 2012 at 12:02 aminfo600

    various funny faces aside (there’s WAY too many to list this week, when compared to Rinne)

    I cannot see how Kanade cried for Tsutomu (even when she won)….call me dense but I don’t care, btw…

    • February 15, 2012 at 12:02 aminfo600

      crud, it should be a WHY, not how….

  • February 15, 2012 at 12:13 amJo Jo X

    Taichi got friend-zoned this episode; looks like Arata already won.

    • February 15, 2012 at 12:27 amLin

      To win Arata has to appear on screen, which isn’t going to happen lol

  • February 15, 2012 at 12:34 amDobs

    To see such a genuine smile on desk-kuns face after losing the match put a huge grin on mine. He’s grown so much and now sincerely enjoys this sport.

    • February 15, 2012 at 1:12 amGuardian Enzo

      He does, but I think he enjoys being close to Kana even more…

      • February 15, 2012 at 10:46 amDobs

        HAHAH So true… I’m just really happy he’s discovered a world beyond books <3

      • February 16, 2012 at 5:50 amKarmafan

        I agree… there a definate couple going on there. Hope he snags her heart and does not loose out to some slick basketball player.

  • February 15, 2012 at 12:38 amTracy

    Haha in France it’s Taichi Wednesday !

  • February 15, 2012 at 4:16 amnagi

    I hope I can finally shout “Wataya Wednesdays!” next episode..

  • February 15, 2012 at 5:47 amSlushiZ

    Enzo+Taichi+fans=same wavelength, hang in there Taichi!

  • February 15, 2012 at 6:33 amJ-Luke

    • February 15, 2012 at 9:39 amjubjub

      You are so right. Her facial expressions throughout the episode made me laugh quite a bit

    • February 15, 2012 at 9:48 amGuardian Enzo

      Chihaya is the Queen, but this whole series is stupendous at facial expressions. Without question one of the best I’ve seen at depicting emotion, both comic and serious, through expression.

  • February 15, 2012 at 6:36 amEri

    Taichi Tuesdays!

    My heart broke when I read your post…

  • February 15, 2012 at 7:38 amCarolV

    You know, I’ve been rooting for Arata since ep 1 but as of lately, with each new episode, Taichi is making me want to root for him more and more. Damn you Taichi! That guy needs a hug.

  • February 15, 2012 at 8:13 amZaku Fan

    Like Taichi said, its not luck. He should not have been in the position on depending on luck in the first place. His ability to admit this failure on his part and to also admit that luck and whatnot was just an excuse for failing is good

  • February 15, 2012 at 8:17 amKagura

    indeed its taichi tuesday again!! i love him even if Chihaya did not choose her lastly

  • February 15, 2012 at 1:20 pmgrey

    had so many feelings after this episode. guardian enzo, you really just said it all with your post!

    i was thinking after watching this episode, if i would have enjoyed this series more if i just marathoned the whole thing when it’s completed, or by watching it weekly like i do now. i have come to the conclusion that just having this series exist is good enough for me. i would love it the same regardless of how i watch it.

  • February 15, 2012 at 1:55 pmn0216332

    i like how chihaya put taichi’s head on her shoulder… while this is good…… but when i think about it, it also means that chihaya is not concious of the fact that taichi is a contender for her affection >:(

  • February 15, 2012 at 2:36 pmronbb

    Great review! Chihayafuru is definitely one solid series – each episode is getting better and better at gripping the hearts of the audience. You may say the plot is somewhat linear, but the pacing and character development are really strong at not only pushing the plot forward but also drawing our hearts closer and closer to the characters. This episode is the best so far – we all see the growth in all club members. Miyano Mamoru did a fantastic job portraying Taichi…his emotion upheaval, his internal struggles, his thoughtfulness for Chihaya and the club members, and therefore his personal growth…absolutely logical and reasonable to why so many root for Taichi. I am also happy to see the growth of Chihaya – she is finally aware of the people around her. One interesting thing is that we have been saying “this episode is the best so far” for almost 19 weeks – how surprising and fulfilling that the creator can deliver episodes that top the previous week after week. I don’t have high hopes for an ending that gives any closure, but I don’t think this will take away the glory and enjoyment of the series. With baited breath we wait for the episode to come out each week, till Taichi Tuesdays will be so missed…

  • February 15, 2012 at 3:09 pmR

    Put that end scene together~

    http://i.min.us/icFO1MVgiZhDx.jpg

    Oh how I wish this was the end game…

  • February 15, 2012 at 3:21 pmEnder905

    I’m not sure if it’s been put out there yet, but is it possible that Chihaya could be interested in Taichi, but kept her distance because he’s had a girlfriend for most of the series? I like that idea…

    • February 15, 2012 at 3:50 pmBear

      Unfortunately, I think it’s because Nishida had it right: she’s an airhead, she doesn’t have a clue as to how he feels.

  • February 15, 2012 at 4:09 pmKRILL

    My horse is back in the race, and my a$$ is ALL in! Anyway. If these are Taichi Tuesdays should we be having Mei Mondays? Or something like that? Hell, I can’t think of “another” reason to be happy on dreaded Mondays beside my favorite show being on.

    • February 16, 2012 at 5:52 amKarmafan

      Natsume is on mondays. Thats what I look forward to watching then.

  • February 15, 2012 at 6:01 pmmistress_kisara

    Another amazing episode! best anime show of the fall season! I’m hoping it would win something in the next Best of Anime

  • February 15, 2012 at 9:15 pmanime

    Show Spoiler ▼

    • February 16, 2012 at 3:06 amnagi

      shouldn’t this be put in spoiler tags?

  • February 15, 2012 at 10:20 pmMijiko

    OH DEAR GOD I FELL DOWN WHEN CHIHAYA TOOK HIS HEAD I REALLY COULDN’T TAKE IT
    IT WAS JUST SO SDOHFSODIHFSDOIFJDSIJ
    really, taichi deserves a lot more!
    AND PLEASE
    TAICH + CHIHAYA
    pleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease

  • February 16, 2012 at 6:15 amStar

    Would it really surprise everyone if I said the reason I love Taichi is the fact he just never seems to get his share of reward in the end? If he suddenly started winning, I wouldn’t find him this endearing. He needed this to develop, his character deserved that kind of development-look how much he’s grown since the first episodes, it wouldn’t have been possible without all this humiliation. And although I would love for him to be happy, I want Arata to just come in take it all. Because I’ve been rooting for him since day one, and his absence wasn’t fair to him, gotta make up for it too.
    Eitherway the triangle ends up, I’ll probably be very happy with this series. It was a fun ride, all the characters are loveable.

    • February 16, 2012 at 7:04 amnagi

      +1

      I just hope I can like your comment more..

    • February 17, 2012 at 6:45 amKana

      Nah I’d rather a guy win through persistence and devotion than randomly sweeping the heroine off her feet after several years. I agree with what you said about those reasons for finding Taichi endearing, but I still want him to win her in the very end and feel that relief that comes with that conclusion. Like it all payed off and that it wasn’t useless for him to love her all this time.

      I really doubt its going to happen but hopefully the mangaka surprises me. I like Arata, but I don’t see any reason to favour him right now other than the pity he gets little screen time and preferring his looks.

  • February 16, 2012 at 2:08 pmewok40k

    Chihaya taking sleeping Taichi to her side was simply a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming for me, and this is regardless of who actually ends up with her (if at all).
    The B class final was simply nerve-wracking thriller, for those who like soccer, a penalty shots after a game that was draw in overtime. Kudos to Taichi for trying to get odds a little better with his memory of cards – alas, with no luck…
    Tsutomu-kun and Kana-chan were less even, but still great game to watch. And Chihaya learned all the way which is good for her if she wants to have any chance of beating the Queen someday…

  • February 16, 2012 at 8:59 pmDecember’s Landing

    Dear goodness it feels as though all the Taichi fans have united in this post and most of the Arata fans have gone into hiding… I… am an Arata fan, but all I can really say right now is that… Arata be lookin’ so fine in that last screen shot. *_*

  • February 16, 2012 at 9:40 pmSadness Persona

    I tried to stay away from the anime, after reading the last chapters released from the manga… its not a spoiler but…
    Show Spoiler ▼

  • February 16, 2012 at 10:33 pmBeckett

    So many feels at the end of this episode. If Chihaya was just a LITTLE less dense her putting his head on her shoulder would have made me swell with hope for them, but Chihaya being Chihaya, all it actually did was make me feel more sorry for Taichi.

    • February 17, 2012 at 6:47 amKana

      I know. Funny how good moments like that can just be ruined by the existence of denseness. For some shows its retarded because whenever good things like that happen to characters my first thought is: Oh man you are so going to lose because it’s too good to be true or something along those lines.

  • February 17, 2012 at 7:59 amzani

    Man, why does this episode have to hit me in the gut? Maybe it’s due to all the stress this week, but I almost cried. I could relate to how Tsutumo and Taichi felt. You only have yourself to fight against. We wait for the last minute to do the attack, when in the first place we could have tried to win while we could. It’s no one else’s fault yours. I understand how painful it is for Taichi to always be second but imagine how good it would feel if he beat Arata. I think life is similar in the sense that, we have multiple hurdles to surpass before we can actually reach our goals. No matter how painful it is now, we will eventually get there.

  • February 17, 2012 at 9:57 amFaint Smile

    Can’t wait to see the match between Taichi and Arata (would be nice if there would be one) and the rematch between Chihaya and the Queen..

  • February 17, 2012 at 8:01 pmJason Isenberg

    This is one of the rare shows you’d just love to watch 3 seasons of it and enjoy it like a family show. I watched this not just for Karuta but how well the stories play out. Good times, reminds me of Saki to be honest and I loved that show too.

  • April 12, 2012 at 11:49 amAshen

    Couldn’t agree with you more about this episode’s tension, Enzo. The matches just had my heart in my throat the entire time, and I felt absolutely crushed for Taichi when he didn’t win after wanting it so badly and working so hard.

    I understand that, even with Arata’s physical absence, it’s Taichi who’s the underdog when it comes to winning Chihaya’s heart (or even sparking her awareness in the “contest”). I hope with all my heart that Taichi ends up with her in the end, but also that Arata is able to get a “Good End” as well. I just think Taichi and her have shared more experiences and connected more than their childhood friend and rival has with our airheaded heroine.

    I already want a second season, and hope desperately for the manga to be licensed in English. Like Natsume’s Book of Friends – I want to see Chihayafuru become a sleeper hit and keep warming my heart for years to come!!!

    • April 12, 2012 at 2:16 pmGuardian Enzo

      If only it sold BDs like Natsume deservedly does, additional seasons would be no problem…