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Chihayafuru – 21

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「わがころもでにゆきはふりつつ」 (Waga Koromode ni Yuki wa Furitsutsu)
“While Snow Falls Upon My Sleeves”

OK – so what’s with Arata and the pink cell phone??

After the emotional intensity of the last few episodes, it was almost inevitable that Chihayafuru would have a little breather somewhere – and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. While I’ve more or less accepted that we’re unlikely to see a significant movement with any of the three potential romantic pairings in the anime, the tension is sure to be at a screaming pitch for those last couple of episodes anyway. There was a certain calm before the storm feel to this one, and frankly, I needed it – and “calm” doesn’t mean nothing important happened.

For starters (after I did a little spit-take seeing Chihaya looking like this) we had the aftermath of exams, which Chihaya apparently passed by keeping her word about avoiding Karuta until they were done. The Empress was thrilled for her, and I was happy to see the first thing Chihaya did was go to Tsutomu-kun and humbly thank him. We haven’t seen many signs of actual personal growth from her, and this one is significant. However, I thought Nishida more or less stole the intro with his reaction to Taichi’s rather remarkable feat of calling the cards completely by memory. Nishida is still guilty of trying to get everyone to play Karuta as he does, but his advice to Taichi was sound – memory isn’t everything. If Chihaya was guilty of trying to rely solely on her physical skills, Taichi – as is so often the case with those two – was just the opposite, refusing even to practice swinging because it’s not dignified. What really stands out, though, is how much Nishida has come to like and admire Taichi, and how deeply he – like so many of us (and Harada-sensei) – wants to see Taichi’s hard work rewarded. In guy terms, that was a pretty powerful declaration of bro-hood.

But the main focus of the ep was the Eastern Qualifier, and thus Chihaya – especially after Nishida lost to Sudo the Sadist in the first round . While she was susceptible to mind games as ever, letting Sudo distract her (no matter how much is floating around Chihaya’s brain there’s always room for Daddybear) and then bait her into making a bet that whichever of them loses first has to shave their head, the real story was her opponent. That was Ririka (Ohtani Ikue), a sixth-grade prodigy touted as the next challenger to the Queen. In Ririka we have a player exactly the opposite of Chihaya’s last opponent, Sakura – a woman past her prime who relied on timing and experience to win. Ririka even more than the old Chihaya relies on speed alone, and while Chihaya is trying to follow Harada-sensei’s advice not to take cards with speed, she’s in a dogfight. It’s only when he signals her to unleash the beast that Chihaya is able to teach the youngster a lesson and carry the day pretty easily.

There’s no question that Chihaya saw a lot of herself in that little girl, and it was the both of them in tears when the match ended. Again, personal growth is a theme for Chihaya this week, and empathy is a huge part of maturity. Seeing Chihaya bond with Ririka and defend her from the insulting whisperers gives me hope that Chihaya really is growing, and that she might use that newfound empathy to see what’s so obvious to us – that Taichi loves her and it’s killing him not to tell her so. In terms of her Karuta, I still see the same dilemma she had before. Harada says, he wants to give her all the weapons he can – game sense, timing, speed, situational awareness… Only with all those will she be able to challenge Shinobu. Yet it’s clear her speed is still her best weapon in a tight match. The message, it seems to me, is that Chihaya isn’t quite ready to challenge the likes of Shinobu, Arata and the Master. As in any good sports shounen, you have to try and fail a few times before you achieve your goal. She’s already won the “Queen” title when it comes to facial expressions, though – this one would do Sasuke from Hyouge Mono proud.

Lastly, there’s the matter of Arata – and the role he continues to play in Taichi’s psyche. He wins his first match in the Western Qualifier, but his idol Murao-san, formely the strongest player in the Nagumo Society and national runner-up, lost. It’s clear that Murao is drifting away from Karuta and that his chance at glory has passed him by, and this hits Arata pretty hard – perhaps even prompting a thought of his grandfather as he sees another of his heroes fall away. Murao even gives a name to the current Master for what I believe the first time in the series – Suo Hisashi. Meanwhile Taichi is agonizing over what to tell Arata in his email message, aside from “Chihaya won her first match” – and he finally settles on “My goal is to become the Eastern qualifier finalist, so you better become the Western qualifier finalist”. That had to be brutal for Taichi to write, knowing he wasn’t even able to play this year. I don’t think there’s any question that Arata is more important to Taichi than vice-versa, probably to an unhealthy degree – he continues to define himself far too much by the comparison. Where Chihaya is concerned and otherwise, Taichi needs to focus on himself and if not to forget Arata, to stop measuring everything he does against him. It seems to me that this represents a huge step in his journey to be, as he puts it, someone who doesn’t run away.

This week’s survey is a Chihayafuru Character Poll – please stop by and cast your vote.

February 28, 2012 at 9:49 pm
30 comments »
  • February 28, 2012 at 10:03 pmEnmire

    Taichi Tuesdays never disappoint. Those Chihaya expressions…

    • February 29, 2012 at 2:15 amSlushiZ

      “Its okay Taichi you don’t have to be perect” -porkbuns…even if he didn’t memorize all 100 poems perfectly Taichi would still be perfect <3

    • March 2, 2012 at 4:32 amewok40k

      I already feel that I will be missing the TT when the season is over… like in just 4 weeks or so?
      It was nice for a change to see Chihaya as the more experienced and refined opponent to the grade-school prodigy girl!

  • February 28, 2012 at 10:12 pmGX-9901

    for awhile there, i thought chihaya looked like madoka from lagrange. top knots really bring the best out of anime characters noh?

  • February 28, 2012 at 10:46 pminfo600

    @ Enzo: Cheap cellphone?

    seeing Chihaya mimicking Madoka (La-Rinne) is rather amusing indeed, but what’s more endearing was the fact that she is appreciative of Tsutomu’s tutoring…

    …and the head-shaving banter and the match between Chihaya and Ririka, those have my fill of funny faces (o wait, it’s overdose now after La-Rinne)…

    …and the mouth miming…that was gold.

    At least we know Taichi’s specific Karuta strong- and weak- points…

    • February 28, 2012 at 11:37 pminfo600

      o ya…can we rename Taichi tuesday to A & T tuesday? Cause it looks like Arata is finally getting the emotional screentime that he REALLY deserves…

      • February 28, 2012 at 11:38 pmGuardian Enzo

        Not on my watch, sorry.

        Arata can have 11-1130 AM Thursdays.

      • February 29, 2012 at 6:23 amDecember’s Landing

        Ahahaha~ let’s just have Wataya Wednesdays since in some countries, the series occurs on Wednesdays. And Arata’s last name is Wataya so that matches well. :)

  • February 28, 2012 at 10:47 pmronbb

    Thanks Guardian Enzo for the post…was waiting for it to come out…

    “I want to get better with you” is what Nishida is wishing for…love the growing bond there. I like this episode–-it’s heart-warming and a change of pace to the two emotionally intense episodes of the past weeks. Chihaya’s maturing. Miyauchi sensei had warmed up a lot more to Chihaya and the team. I like the Chihaya-Taichi parallel that’s drawn out here, and I like the text message that Taichi sent to Arata–-it’s an encouragement, a sign of the return of the close-bond that the three once had, and another declaration of Taichi’s determination. Another great week…and what more could a viewer want from a series like Chihayfuru?

    BTW, did the poll :).

    • February 28, 2012 at 11:17 pmGuardian Enzo

      Thanks for voting. Somebody vote for poor Retro already!

  • February 28, 2012 at 10:52 pmKusabi

    Everytime I watch this show, time always passed by quickly. The match is very intense.

  • February 28, 2012 at 11:51 pmKagura

    Sure Chihaya always flashbacking Arata cause he is not with her. Okay i wanna see her reaction when Taichi does the same as him, not being by her side. I swear she will lonely even though there is Arata with her that time. Whatever I watch this for Taichi Tuesday

  • February 29, 2012 at 1:32 amBentoboxd

    Again we see, Arata driving Chihaya’s play, among other things. People will continue to sleep on Arata, but that’s fine, people will see whats really going on soon enough.

  • February 29, 2012 at 2:11 amSlushiZ

    LOL’d so hard when Chihaya was collapsed on the floor with her butt in the air but then her head slid upwards with that facial expression and accompanying noise when she was told Taichi had just randomized the 100 poems in his head perfectly.

  • February 29, 2012 at 3:26 aminfo600

    very late observation:

    anyone notice how the other 4 members of the high school karuta club has nicknames attached now?
    note the following:
    Taichi Mashima – Eyebrows-kun
    Yusei Nishida – Meatbun-kun
    Tsutomu Komano – Desk-kun
    …and now…
    Kanade Ōe – Forhead-chan

    and if I heard it correctly, kanade’s nickname has the first few pronunciations similar to her last name, in a SIMILAR MANNER as the other three…

    even if I’m wrong, it’s still funny how Harada-sensei just use a nickname on people without any consent…
    (remember Arata Wataya – Glasses-kun?)

    • February 29, 2012 at 5:41 amReika

      Mashima = Matsuge-kun
      Nishida = Nikuman-kun
      Tsutomu = Tsukue-kun
      Wataya = Megane-kun
      Oe = Odeko-chan

      • March 1, 2012 at 3:22 aminfo600

        Sorry, I was going by translation only (ie, zero japanese)

        thx for going the other way too

  • February 29, 2012 at 4:57 amHungryKoala

    Anyone else think Chihaya really looks like Koizumi from Lovely Complex when she has her hair up?

  • February 29, 2012 at 5:30 amCirr

    From the manga: Arata’s cell phone is pink because his mom bought it for him, and she’d gotten all excited talking with the shop attendant about how she’d actually wanted a girl. Also, “It’s cute!”

    They keep cutting Arata’s little slice of life moments, baaw. This happened right after Arata imagined Chihaya in a bikini.

    • March 1, 2012 at 1:55 pmStyxounette

      wtf her mother is kind of cruel @_@ But thanks for pointing this out I like Arata so I guess I’ll read the manga if only for these tidbits of information.

  • February 29, 2012 at 8:43 amMikako

    What is the ‘third pairing’, Chihaya x Sudo maybe? ;p

    • February 29, 2012 at 9:30 amGuardian Enzo

      Chihaya x Taichi
      Chihaya x Arata
      Tsutomu x Kanade

  • February 29, 2012 at 10:04 amStereoman

    CHOCOLATE!

  • February 29, 2012 at 10:34 amZaku Fan

    I like Chihaya’s personality which seems very much like a practical person. Karuta remains a somewhat boring game but the way they did all the tricks (breathing, analyzing the sector where results was worse, deciding what to give back to the opponent, etc) a good method os sustaining interest.

  • February 29, 2012 at 11:30 amPtolemaios00

    Real men use pink cell phones!

    I guess this episode shows Chihaya’s power up after training w/o speed.
    Also, Taichi Tuesdays cannot end without a dose of bro-rivalry at the end.

  • March 1, 2012 at 3:14 amnagi

    I’m waving the Arata flag now! Wataya Wednesdays indeed!

    That had to be brutal for Taichi to write, knowing he wasn’t even able to play this year.

    I dunno, but after this episode I felt that some miracle would happen and we’ll be seeing DAT EPIC MATCH we’ve all been waiting for.

  • March 2, 2012 at 4:18 amFaint Smile

    Only 4 remaining episodes?.. Is it really end in epi 25?.. Or could there be a season 2?.. T_T

  • March 2, 2012 at 8:13 pmKaede

    Still finding it hard to believe there’s no second season. I feel like we’re just getting warmed up…

  • March 5, 2012 at 8:10 pmoshaku

    is it just me or was there a slight drop in production quality this episode? Or maybe the calmness of this episode is skewing my perspective…

  • March 9, 2012 at 5:39 amzani

    There were two characters that stood out for me in this episode: Ririka and Murao. I felt awful for Ririka. All she really wanted was to enjoy the game but people expected too much from her. Since she did not meet those expectations, people want nothing to do with her afterwards. As for Murao, he has completely given up knowing he can never measure up to be a master. What a cruel world we live in.

    Back to our main characters… I love Chihaya’s reactions and growth she has shown. What a perfect contrast to the previous episodes. The mangaka is simply amazing to have made that build-up.