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Chihayafuru – 22

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「うつりにけりないたづらに」 (Utsuri ni Kerinaita Durani)
“As My Beauty Has Faded”

Chihayafuru continues to surprise me, and this week was no exception. Life is a learning process, and it definitely looks like this adaptation is going to have a stop, rather than an ending.

I’m a bit conflicted about the direction the series has taken the last couple of weeks, and looks to be following for the final three. On the one hand, these episodes have been extremely entertaining, and each new character the series rolls out is an interesting and complicated individual. On the other, though, I wonder if we’ll look back and say the series emotionally peaked around episode 20, on that train platform. At least from a Karuta standpoint it appears the focus is going to be on minor characters, and on the one central character who’s been absent for most of the series.

While last week was all about Chihaya’s first-round opponent Ririka, a 12 year-old, this time it’s a dramatic swing in the other direction as her opponent is Yamamoto Yumi. Yumi is a different sort of Karuta player – an adult college graduate with a full-time job, and someone who wins by grit and tenacity but whose passion may be waning. She also just happens to be the former Queen, having lost her title (and confidence) to then 15 year-old Shinobu. She’s a member of the same society as Nishida and the Chibis, under the tutelage of Harada-sensei’s arch-rival Kitano-sensei (Satou Kensuke). Yumin is fascinating in her own right, but also in terms of the dilemma she places Nishida in – does he root for his friend and club colleague, or the star of his society and his sempai? Nishida’s loyalties seem to waver during the match, and I know he’ll take some heat for that but I can sympathize – mine did too.

Why? It’s hard not to feel something for Yumin, who worked so hard to achieve the title that Shinobu snatched away so easily. And hard not to feel sadness at watching her crumble along with her confidence and her dreams under the force of the younger, faster and more driven Chihaya. But her trademark tenacity came through, arguably with a little help from Kitano-sensei who violated the rules big-time by opening the window and shouting encouragement. But as Yumi said, that probably helped “every simple-minded player in the room” more than it did her – it was mostly her pride that drove her forward. But her tenacity showed an ugly side as “The Contestant” came out – the persona she’d shed as too undignified for the Queen. She contested every card verbally, made a ruckus and generally got inside Chihaya’s head. And it was undoubtedly effective, as she steamrolled the rattled girl and won the match, under the disapproving glare of Harada-sensei (who should have been focused on his own).

It’s clear that for all her improvement and natural talent, Chihaya has a long way to go to be at the level of the Master and Queen. She’s still mentally vulnerable – and indeed the observant Taichi recognizes that this is the key to the match, and perhaps his own development. Yumi was mentally tougher and wanted it more, and while I don’t endorse her methods both Chihaya and Taichi need to learn something from that. it was brutal watching that match, as the stifling heat and tension in that room was palpable – what a ruthless game, when you can’t even open a window to alleviate the suffering of a Japanese summer. This is the “scary” Karuta of Class A.

My question now is, where are we left with the series (aside perhaps from a bald Chihaya)? Three episodes to go and Chihaya is eliminated, which certainly implies that the climax is going to be Arata fighting for the Master title, and/or Shinobu to defend the Queen – probably against Yumi. Or else that “climax” will come sooner, with last ep or two acting as a coda and devoted to the emotions of the core trio (and perhaps even a little Chibi romance – could those two be any cuter together?). That’s frankly what I would prefer – it’s not that I don’t care about Arata’s Karuta, but he’s been a remote presence for so long that his quest for the title isn’t how I want this to end. I’ll also be very interested to see if there’s any follow-up to this intriguing moment, when Tsutomu told Kana-chan about the elite Karuta readers – and she might have found her true calling in the sport.

March 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm
31 comments »
  • March 6, 2012 at 9:38 pmPtolemaios00

    I knew Yumin would somehow recover during the game, but didn’t expect such a quick conclusion after. I was really expecting Chihaya to start talking back against her arguments. I guess I was expecting a comeback that just never came.

  • March 6, 2012 at 9:42 pmHaruka

    Chihayafuru never ceases to surprise me nor fail to entertain me, but with the sudden focus on many of these minor characters, it leaves me scratching my head and a teeny bit frustrated. I wonder if anyone reciprocates my sentiments? It’s heartbreaking to see Chihaya (and even more so with Taichi) lose lately, but knowing the manga-ka, she often has her characters go through many obstacles before achieving their goals and attaining happiness and/or satisfaction, in which case is probably more realistic and for the best for the series. I wonder how this adaption will end, because I have yet to start or catch up with the manga itself. I really hope there’s some chance for a season two!

  • March 6, 2012 at 9:57 pmronbb

    I have the same feeling… Chihayafuru is a well-written series – each new or side character is interesting enough to draw the audience in, and each episode is consistently solid. However, the feeling hasn’t been as intense since episode 20 – I couldn’t help but re-watch the episode a few times…especially the train platform scene.

  • March 6, 2012 at 10:22 pminfo600

    and the emotional roller coaster continues for Chihayafuru…

    I wonder how Chihaya’s going to get back up…Arata? the rest of the Karuta club? Sudo!!?!!?!?!?

    (I doubt Sudo’s going to go on with that bet if he knows who Chihaya was playing against…maybe)

  • March 6, 2012 at 10:48 pmEliteF22

    The lack of Arata’s presence really leaves us guessing at his motivations. Without his grandfather it doesn’t seem like he’s as invested in reaching the pinnacle of Karuta. Could he possibly be doing it for Chihaya’s and Taichi’s sake? Realizing that they’ve been chasing him for so long and that they possibly need him there for him to catch up to.

  • March 7, 2012 at 12:23 amjackxu

    AArrgh….this episode made me so angry. If I were to ever be in a karuta match, I might as well make up BS every single time my opponent takes a card and make it seem like I got it faster. I was disgusted that they even allowed that in the tournament and that Chihaya even went along with it.

  • March 7, 2012 at 1:15 amSlushiZ

    Kid Chihaya was adorable! I Lol’d when the chibis had to sand on milk crates to reach Taichi’s model height and see inside. Also when pork buns was moping around counting ants XD Not that I don’t absolutely love and miss the emotional high’s of the train platform but I’m always up for some Chihayafuru humor and inner monologue/personal growth.

  • March 7, 2012 at 1:46 amricz

    So…. we will see a bald chihaya?

    • March 7, 2012 at 9:17 amJ-Luke

      Maybe she can fool them by using a skin-colored bathing cap…

    • March 8, 2012 at 12:59 amRickyMack

      Well if Natalie Portman taught me anything, it’s if you’re really hot you’ll still be hot when you’re bald. Britney Spears taught me, if you’re not really hot you’ll be not really hot when you’re bald.

  • March 7, 2012 at 4:09 amstarblacks

    Initially I was really annoyed with Yumin for using petty tactics- they’re disgraceful to be used as a Queen for a reason!!
    But now I’m glad Chihaya lost so hopefully there will be more INTENSE EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTERRR =DDDD

  • March 7, 2012 at 4:56 amshin

    Hmm I don’t think what yumin did bothered me that much although i do wonder what happens if she contested every card. The game needs a jump card rule or something (every close card alternates possession). I wonder if they plan on a second season. I cant really figure out what they plan to do with the remaining 2? episodes.

  • March 7, 2012 at 7:04 amFaint Smile

    Waaah!.. Chihaya loses and theres only 3 episodes remaining?..

  • March 7, 2012 at 9:25 amJ-Luke

    http://randomc.net/image/Chihayafuru/Chihayafuru%20-%2022%20-%20Large%2021.jpg
    It is almost as if Tsukue-kun is thinking here “I wonder if she is waiting for me to kiss her; maybe I’ll surprise her…”

    • March 7, 2012 at 3:39 pmScruffy

      I must admit that those two are looking very cute together as a couple, even though I’m sure currently the’re in the ‘good friends’ zone.

  • March 7, 2012 at 9:51 amGuardian Enzo

    What we don’t know, of course, is whether Yumin was actually right in those instances – maybe she really did touch the cards first. I’m not saying it justifies her strategy, but it does make a difference ethically.

    • March 7, 2012 at 3:44 pmScruffy

      The fact that as Queen she did not feel she could use such tactics suggests that what she is doing is VERY unsportsmanlike. I don’t see what the point is of using a strategy that once you gain the goal doesn’t allow you to keep it. Yumin is doomed to be an also ran unless she learns something else.

    • March 7, 2012 at 9:06 pmGuardian Enzo

      If she legitimately took the cards, she has every right to say so, and she should. It’s entirely possible that her observation skills are much better than Chihaya, who’s basically a Karuta battering ram.

      We know Nishida said she had a habit of contesting everything, and that’s poor sportsmanship. But we saw her contest two cards, and if she happened to be right, she did the right thing in contesting them. What she did in the past, definitely wrong. What she did in the episode, I don’t think so – especially as – as the commenter below noted – she actually did touch both cards first.

      • March 8, 2012 at 12:04 amScruffy

        Ahh .. well I guess I stand corrected then. I guess that Taichi’s comment is thrown in a clearer light then. Chihaya lost because she let her mental concentration slip due to an opponent throwing her off her rhythm. It’s always been her weakness. Looks like something that can only be fixed with more exposure to different players.

  • March 7, 2012 at 2:55 pmMikako

    LOL for Kana-chan’s boots in this peak of the insanely hot Japanese summer. Let’s hope Asian girls don’t sweat.

    • March 7, 2012 at 3:02 pmjackxu

      lol…I was wondering about that too. Especially when it’s so hot inside that it’s all condensed.

  • March 7, 2012 at 6:59 pmJason Isenberg

    This show needs to go to 50 episodes like Gundam Seed did :D

  • March 7, 2012 at 8:58 pmKukuku

    To everyone saying Yumin was being unfair in challenging Chihaya on those hard to tell cards:
    (Someone posted this on another blog in the comments)

    http://forums.animesuki.com/showthread.php?p=4042472#post4042472

  • March 8, 2012 at 6:41 amMockman

    I didn’t really enjoy this episode. It wasn’t just that there were irritants, it’s that they were grinding. Listening to complaining isn’t something that I find enjoyable. And I felt that the grinding was substituted for drama and story.

    Having said that… what if the judges decide to disqualify Yumin for some reason, perhaps related to Kitano-sensei’s actions. Otherwise, I dunno what’s going to happen to Chihaya’s hair. Although I didn’t notice how Sudou fared so I can’t say what should happen.

  • March 9, 2012 at 12:59 amEmcee

    Even without those screencaps, it was really hard to tell who touched them first. It reminds me of when I used to play tennis. If you felt that the ball you hit was in bounds but your opponent called it out, you can question it. And if you’re being questioned, you can either relent and say that it was actually in-bounds and you missed (or replay it), or reaffirm that you’re sure it was out of bounds. I’ve played a few opponents who actually questioned me when the ball wasn’t even that close to the line >_>

  • March 9, 2012 at 1:05 amnagi

    Let’s all just look at the bright side – this kind of story progression definitely hints a Season 2!

    • March 9, 2012 at 10:33 amGuardian Enzo

      I wish I shared that optimism, but to me it more likely suggests a Kamisama Dolls approach – not really trying to have an ending – rather than an Ao no Exorcist approach, coming up with a completely original one.

  • March 9, 2012 at 8:10 pmpineapple

    Is a second season really determined a lot by Blu-ray sales?
    B/c his show really deserves a lot more attention than less quality shows such as Guilty Crown (which seems to have a lot more sales than Chihayafuru)… The music, production quality, animation, story, and characters of Chihayafuru are superb with each episode pleasantly surprising me every time. It saddens me that many less thoughtful works overshadow the brilliance of Chihayafuru – a work that has just so much adaptation potential.

  • March 10, 2012 at 1:55 pmewok40k

    One doesn’t simply walk into Mor… erm, win Queen title in one day. Chihaya might be talented, but her mental strength is yet to be hardened in similar “hardcore” A-class tournaments to that she just bailed out of now.
    I already dread the moment when (all too soon…) the series will end, leaving us without our weekly dose of karuta. This series is so good from the not-easy-shounen-power-level-ups exhibited best in this episode match, to perfectly developed secondary characters.
    One thing that this series might fail is giving a proper ending to the story – but given the overall quality of the show I am thinking we might be in for a pleasant surprise.
    All things considered, Chihayafuru is a kind of anti-Guilty Crown. Instead of outlandish plot and contrived storyline, coupled with bad character development, we have believable, realistic story driven by excellent characterization. My hat is off to creators!

  • March 10, 2012 at 10:46 pmBeckett

    Ugh, I HATE players like that. I used to play Magic the Gathering pretty hardcore and people who summoned the judges during tournaments for EVERY SINGLE PLAY were pretty much the most unfun people to deal with. Definitely feel bad for Chihaya on this one, I know the pain of running up against someone who’s such a pain in the ass and it is super crappy.

  • March 14, 2012 at 3:15 pmDecember’s Landing

    WAIT. Okay Guardian Enzo, I know that you have been stating for quite some time now that Chihayafuru will not have a second season, and from what I’ve read from your reviews, you seem to base this very logically through sales and statistics like that. However, have you gotten evidence from any Chihaya animation staff on an article or so, stating that there will only be one season? Or is this just your assumption? Why I’m asking this is because… I DON’T WANT CHIHAYAFURU TO END. D: