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「ひとにはつげよ あまのつりぶね」 (Hito ni wa Tsugeyo Ama no Tsuribune)
“To Tell the People in the Capitals That I Make for the Islands”

There’s no need to mince words – that was utterly fantastic. Chihayafuru firing on all cylinders.

I swear, when I wrote last week’s post I had no idea that Tsuboguchi Hiroshi was going to have by far his most screen time in this episode. Hell, Madhouse even used the same screencap I did when referring back to that moment from last season where he broke down in tears after – in his own mind – letting Harada-sensei down. It’s just another example of how no detail is too small for this series, and no character unimportant. That was a key emotional moment in the first season, and it was a perfect lead-in to the surprising turn this episode took.

I won’t deny that while I love this series in almost all of its many faces, I personally feel Chihayafuru is often at its best when it focuses on Taichi. Because his character arc has been the most well-developed and because – for me at least – there’s more pathos in his situation than any of the others characters’, the episodes that center on him tend to be the most emotionally intense. And this was certainly no exception – as good as the first three eps of this season were, this blew them out of the water in terms of pure firepower. There’s no series I know of that can combine the emotional heft of a great character drama with the adrenaline-inducing thrill of great sports shounen like Chihayafuru can, and an episode like this one gives the show a chance to really show off just how gripping it can be at its very best.

While this ep was the first of this season that was centered almost exclusively on the core cast of the first (and I include the superb Harada-sensei in that group) it did continue to focus on some of the same themes as the first three eps. One of them has been “the elephant in the room” – the things that are obvious to us as an audience, but rarely acknowledged inside the fourth wall. Sumire-chan can say “It’s obvious that Mashima-san is in love with Ayasa-san” because she’s an outsider, not a part of all the agony and ecstasy of their relationship. And the ladies from the Shiranami Society can say what many of us have thought – Taichi really is a victim of terrible luck. Arata showing up at a Class-B tournament and surprising him just when he’s getting in the zone. Broken air conditioners. Emails that arrive just as he’s about to get closer to Chihaya than ever before. The now-legendary run of cards at the end of his match with Nishida-kun.

There’s a saying in sports – “You make your own luck”. And that’s just the problem – whether your luck is really bad or not, believing that it is gets in your head. I grew up a Chicago Cubs fan, and I can speak first-hand of the power of believing in a “curse” – in this case a silly tale about an angry barkeep and a goat that supposedly kept the Cubs out of the World Series since 1945. It didn’t, of course – but I still have nightmares about the NLCS in 2003 against the Florida Marlins, when the Cubs were 5 outs away from the World Series with a 3-0 lead. There’s so much pressure on the Cubs that comes from so many decades of failure and so much hope and expectation that the players get to a certain point where they’re expecting things to start going wrong (like the “Bartman” incident, for example). Taichi’s problem is the same problem he’s always had – he thinks too much. He thinks about the team, he thinks about how he’ll look if he fails, and worst of all, when things start to go wrong he thinks he’s not good enough. That’s not luck, that’s a personal demon that only he can conquer – but it doesn’t help that the guy (like the Cubs) never seems to actually have chance favor him when the chips are down.

Having Hiroshi-san show up as coach of the unheralded Homei High team certainly wasn’t a stroke of luck for Taichi, or Mizusawa generally. In addition to teaching his kids outstanding Karuta skills, he knows the Mizusawa players – two of them, anyway – inside and out. And his strategy is perfect, if cold-hearted – go after Taichi by making him think he’s going after Chihaya. Tsuboguchi knows that once the match starts Chihaya can be utterly-single-minded, but Taichi will obsess over what’s happening with the rest of the team (Chihaya especially). To compound matters, the air conditioning breaks down and the newly-certified reader isn’t performing up to snuff, his rhythm off. As any sports fan will tell you, randomization always helps the weaker team because it levels the playing field – and these sorts of randomizing events clearly hurt Mizusawa more than Homei. It’s here that Taichi, as always “too aware of his surroundings”, urgently needs to think on the sage advice Harada-sensei gave him – “An individual match is a team match, and a team match is an individual match”. The implications for today’s tournament are obvious soon enough, but Harada-sensei intended that advice for when Taichi continues his lonely quest to finally make Class A – and I suspect those words will come into play in that context before the season is over.

It’s pretty rare, in Karuta or otherwise, that Chihayafuru grants Taichi a victory in a crucial situation, even a match against an unheralded player that he should probably beat anyway. It’s rare for him to have a moment so unspoiled by “Yes, but…” qualifiers as the one where he captured the final card from his opponents side of the board to close the match in glory – all the more so because in effect, it was really Hiroshi-san he was defeating. So there’s no question that his match was one of the most uplifting of the series so far, starting with the moment where he asked for a towel. It’s played for humor of course – Taichi has no more trouble garnering the affections of adult women than he does giggling schoolgirls – but it’s the fact that Chihaya was watching him and responded immediately in his moment of need that really hit home. The irony here is the envy directed at him by the other males in the room, including his teammates. Superficially Taichi seems to have it all – he’s rich, popular with the girls – but in fact he’s he most isolated person in the cast, constantly alone with thoughts he thinks no one else will understand. He’s also burdened with the reality that Retro-kun is probably right – Taichi does have more talent than most Class-A players. He’s got a superb memory, he practices at a Class-A level, and no one works harder – yet he can’t advance. And the more the weight of expectations – both internal and external – piles up, the harder achieving that goal is going to be.

In the end, Mizuasawa’s talent does carry the day, and who else should await them in the finals but Hokuo. Sudou-kun is gone, but they’re still a powerhouse – the only two faces I recognized were Retro-kun and Nayuta-kun, but there’s still the matter of the “secret weapon” we were warned about. Meanwhile, as seems to be the trend this season, we’re teased with just a glimpse of Arata in the pre-open – but this time, there’s something of substance to grasp onto. He says he has a request to make of his parents if he wins the national high school championships – we’re not told what it is, but the mind does wander. Hearing Arata talk of the “misty bridge” that connects he and Chihaya is about as overt a declaration of intent as we’ve seen in 29 episodes of Chihayafuru, and there’s no aspect of the series that won’t change dramatically if the pair at the center of the show becomes a threesome once more. There are a lot of elephants in this room, but Arata might just be the biggest one of all – he might be out of sight most of the time, but he’s never out of mind for us, for Taichi or for Chihaya.

February 2, 2013 at 4:11 am
36 comments »
  • February 2, 2013 at 4:50 amMi-Chan

    “Retro-kun is probably right – Taichi does have more talent than most Class-A players”, did Retro-kuns say that, or was it the oppesite?

    I admit you’re right, this episode is on a difrent par than all the other episodes! In fact it was just way better, because as you said, what I believe as well, the show is at its best when it centers around ‘Taichi.’

    Taichi has been unlucky since the start. I would like to add to the points you mentioned the game between him and Nishida-kun where he only lost because luck wasn’t on his side, and he was unable to advance: ‘the luck of the draw’.

    I wonder if the writer likes to play with us so badly, he gives us a moment at the begning of the episode where Arata does some sort of a declaration and a ‘request’ which I can guess what it is at the back of my mind, and then gives us a full episode about something I personally was waiting for, but still making sure that the ghost of Arata is still haunting somewhere, that all those moments for Taichi might disapear with his return. I love Arata and I can’t wait for his re-entry as much as I’m afraid of how it’ll change things.

    The moment where Chihaya gives him the ‘towel’ and the way he looks at her and the way her expression changes, and the silence, was just…. I don’t know how to describe it, but I didn’t expect that of Chihaya, never. Is it part of her developments in this season? because it didn’t seem so in season 1. Though Sumire-san won’t give up just yet it seems, and I wonder if Chihaya saw in Hiroshi-san what might be her future career?

    Wonderful episode, and Hiroshi-san’s moments were very nicely done, no one is left out. Thanks for your review, much appreciated! I really love Chihayafuru, is that normal to be obsessed with an anime so much? Help requested!

    Cheers, xx!!!!

    • February 2, 2013 at 11:34 amMi-Chan

      Oh btw by the first line I meant, the way I understood it is: Taichi, who excells at every other skill, but is still fails when it comes to Karuta, be the president of the club? A.k.a he doesn’t have a talent like Nishida, (that’s how I understood it), which would justify why when Taichi thinks of talent, he remembers Retro-kun. Might be just me thinking. (Also you mentioned the match with Nishida, so nvm me -_-’ again xD!!)

      Anyho, idk if it is just me, but in the opening scene, when the Queen is there, the sceneary behind her is changed a bit :p more faces! it is also fast-paced!

  • February 2, 2013 at 4:50 amZammael

    The mind wanders… To a reunion with the Mizuasawa high school karuta club. IOW I smell a transfer.

    Great episode!

  • February 2, 2013 at 5:10 ammistress_kisara

    Fantastic episode! And I love Chihaya’s face when she gave Taichi the towel :D

  • February 2, 2013 at 5:28 amShalaKairos

    The art in the opening scene with Arata was just gorgeous. ^_^

  • February 2, 2013 at 5:32 ambaseone

    “Can someone hand me a towel!

    That scene just made my day, really funny and yet cute. And those guys, they reminded me of those classmates of Yoshii in Baka to Test.

  • February 2, 2013 at 7:33 amShin

    Last season, I admit I didn’t think Karuta could hack it as a sports anime. However, I was eventually pursuaded that Chihiyafuru proved me wrong. Being wrong was a good thing as Chihayafuru was a wonderful anime especially in terms of the unrequited feelings. This is why I can’t really get any satisfaction when an episode brings up such mixed feelings.

    This episode had some great highlights with Chihaya finally pausing to look at Taichi once in a while. Hanano was also able to provide great comic relief from that emo fest. We can also see great signs of their growth as a team.

    However, I am really bothered by how this series keep portraying so many opponents as creepy, wierd, and/or simply scumbags who would do anything to win. This emphasis on winning is unhealthy. Irl it makes me sick to my stomach when I see extreme cases of bad sportsmanship like Adriano, Zidane, Azarenka ruin the sport with their selfishness. I can understand the human nature in a case like Zidane, but they way they use it in Chihayafuru simply lacks class.

    Sportsmanship is the foundation of sports. Respect comes naturally when you can see your opponent’s strengths and effort. Real satisfaction in winning in sports only comes against those you respect. Unfortunately, I don’t think viewers can respect the opponents as shown.

    It was really great when finally started treating each other as a team last season. While the other portions still shine though by far, I can’t help but see these negative characterizations as a step backwards for the Karuta aspect. The competitive mental aspect & personalities needs develop into a different, more positive angle than annoying your opponents to death.

    Their “nice” Senpai at the club encouraging his students to sexually harass and taunt his Kouhai is in the spirit of the game? Ugh and then afterwards they can go back to portraying him as a nice guy.

    • February 2, 2013 at 7:43 amdustShadow

      Playing mind-games before or during the match to destabilise your opponent is part of any competitive sport. And the Karuta rules apparently allow for some decent leeway on this, as long as you don’t cross the centre of the playing field.

    • February 2, 2013 at 7:59 amShin

      I was able to accept most of it last season, but this is clearly crossing the line. The part where the former master played Chihaya and contested every call was stretching the line already. In Western culture, I don’t think it is a big deal. However, acting like that simply goes against traditional Japanese culture.

      They tried to present some of it as part of the game, but how do you not view this as crossing the line?

      http://imgur.com/4rssTlZ,zqeiAs8,qtyVwFp#2

    • February 2, 2013 at 8:14 amMi-Chan

      isn’t it when you sometimes lack the skill that you aim for intimidation? Winning is an all-round trip, you can be talented as hell, but I can distract you to fail at it. Hiroshi made a well viable plan, he trained his team, he improved their skills, but to win, you also need an all-round strategy. Chihaya’s team has 3 main players and because he knew how Taichi plays, he knew his weakness, and wanted to take advantage of him, as he was probably the easist to succumb to his plans, and to Hiroshi, lose. His players lacked the skill and experience but intimidation could have worked. It is a strategy you do when you have probably just trained your team for how many what months? compared to those experienced others.

      Sorry, I wanted to reply so badly *chihayaadeptfanwithveryfalsemindsetT_T*.. in competitve sport, competition is everything and winning requires a strategy that overwhelms talent!

      • February 2, 2013 at 8:39 amShin

        I can agree with what you are saying. I just question where it crosses the line from being competitive to being a douchebag.

  • February 2, 2013 at 7:37 amdustShadow

    Fantastic Taichi episode. The highlight being the scene where Chihaya smothers Kumano to offer Taichi her towel, and looking a bit down when he didn’t immediately accepted it.

    But for the future, what happened in Fukui is maybe even more interesting. It’s highly likely that Arata asks for a transfer to Tokyo. In which case we’re being set up for a high school finale Chihaya-Arata, with both having an incentive to let the other one win.

    • February 2, 2013 at 9:23 amShin

      I thought the beauty in their relationship was that Arata was never going to compromise Karuta to let Chihaya win. Although I always preferred Taichi so I can’t be certain.

  • February 2, 2013 at 8:43 amnagi

    Chihayafuru never fails to be beautiful, and kudos to the animation staff for being so faithful to the manga. I awaited the towel scene because it’s such an adorable Taichihaya moment (although Chihaya’s expression was a bit awkward, but it does say in the manga that she had a “broad smile” when she handed over her handkerchief so….).

    The creepy Sasa-san also got a bit of spotlight, but of course it was overshadowed by Taichi’s glorious moments. No contest, Taichi is the king of character development in this series. He really needs to remove his inferiority to talents soon so that he’ll become a monster!

    Anyway, if you remember Nikuman and Taichi’s discussion last episode, the top two schools will automatically advance on the Omi Jingu match so the Hokuo vs Mizusawa finals should be an easy, friendly match, yes? But nay, obviously it would still be a firey one, and the fuel is definitely related to Hokuo’s secret weapon(s?) which is too fun to spoil. :)

    And yes to more Arata screentime, we got to see his family (and hear their lovely accent) for the first time although his father was definitely rude there (btw what’s with that wallpaper Arata?!). And oh, Arata’s wish.. so I guess we are going to see the epic national high school tournament arc. Yay!

    • February 2, 2013 at 6:39 pmGuardian Enzo

      Yeah, they’re both going to Nationals – but pride is important. So, too, is seeding – presumably the winner of the Tokyo regionals would be put in a bracket without any of the other top schools. That’s how it works in other sports, anyway.

  • February 2, 2013 at 8:56 amSilentCid

    I want to see more of the Queen and Arata as it was pretty interesting last episode she knew him.

  • February 2, 2013 at 10:09 amMikako

    Oh oh Taichi, ur so awesome, but ur too altruistic, the only thing you need to do is accepting that ur awesome and take what’s yours, after all the entire female population here exists to help you with a towel (yuck).

    Can I say: Marty Stu?

  • February 2, 2013 at 11:00 amSolara

    Being Taichi is suffering…

    I think I went insane for a moment when the reader PAUSED. I quickly noticed it and it was nerving me.. And I was happy to see that it affected the cast as well, so it’s nice to know it’s not just me being crazy. I think I would had lost it if I was in the match.

    I’m happy someone finally pointed out how unlucky he is and how it showed that above all of the players he deserves to be a Class A Player by now, considering that it’s very overdo. It means that not just the viewers know this, but the characters within the story. I think Chihaya handing him a towel was the ultimate shipment of those two, and the more adorable I ever seen of her caring for him. She didn’t throw it like the rest, she nearly knock over her comrade and handed it to him with a ‘broad smile’, granted it was a bit weird one, but the silence pause between the two and the music in the BG broke any oddidty and made it extremely enduring to watch that makes you wish to melt inside.. Awww. Chihaya cares, and isn’t that what we want from her to notice that Taichi’s hard efforts from time to time?

    Speaking of things that are being pointed out, I love that Tsuboguchi obviously pointed out that Chihaya doesn’t do well with romantic stuff. Like really now? We have no idea. I laughed so hard and her reactions during the flirtation she was getting from her opponet, luckily she block him out towards the end and focus.

    Quick inputs: No Shinobo? Aww, the ending of last week trolled us, but a great episode nonetheless. At least it gave us a ‘hint’ of what Arata plans to do, he must win damnit to make that transfer! Can’t wait.

  • February 2, 2013 at 12:29 pmewok40k

    Taichi, ganbare – ERM, NOT! Youre working hard enough already! Good luck!
    Enough has been said about him, I dont’t have much to add. What I want to point out, is surprising development from Sumire, out of all persons: she isn’t even playing the game today, yet she amazingly feels the spirit of teamwork and volunteers to scout out other teams advantages and weaknesses. She is rapidly transforming from that shallow and self-centered person we met first day of the school – and all this due to Karuta (and power of love for Taichi…)!

  • February 2, 2013 at 12:44 pmdimasok

    That scene where everyone gives him the towel was just priceless. Best scene in anime i’ve seen for a while :)

  • February 2, 2013 at 4:10 pmYourIdeas

    Arata’s cellphone gets girlier the more I see it.

    • February 2, 2013 at 6:46 pmSolara

      Now with a girly wallpaper to match! <3

    • February 3, 2013 at 2:01 amMi-Chan

      I’d say it is one of the shocking heighlights of this episode xD…. the pink cellphone with the flower wallpaper<2!!!!

    • February 3, 2013 at 4:07 amMikako

      Well, it’s not like you can set a man;y wallpaper after you already have a pink cellphone…

  • February 2, 2013 at 7:54 pminfo600

    “An individual match is a team match, and a team match is an individual match”. The implications for today’s tournament are obvious soon enough, but Harada-sensei intended that advice for when Taichi continues his lonely quest to finally make Class A – and I suspect those words will come into play in that context before the season is over.

    This. 9001%.

    And Seeing how far this guy has went after his attempt at the western finalist – pinning his hopes not on himself, but on his own students – is just as heartwarming.

    • February 2, 2013 at 8:19 pminfo600

      another point:
      -Is this disturbing to you all?

      • February 3, 2013 at 1:41 amMi-Chan

        creepy and cool at the same time xD I want Taichi to become a contestant others fear, so its cool to me!!

  • February 2, 2013 at 9:27 pmsgl

    I will say this… and it is spoilery.

    Show Spoiler ▼

    This is a very faithful adaptation of the manga chapters it corresponds to. I still enjoyed it because the comedic aspect with the towel throwing has so much more impact.

    But in terms of the rendering, just beautiful. The manga is pretty, but the anime has such clarity with its designs — such elegance. I don’t know why the HECK it’s not being licensed here in Region 1, and it makes me nuts enough to consider Blu-Ray boxing this because it’s worth it.

    • February 3, 2013 at 1:51 amJay

      It’s been picked up for an English release (region 4) by Siren Visual, and that will probably mean it’ll be on both DVD and Blu-Ray. You could always import it to your region. I know I’ll be snapping it up.

    • February 3, 2013 at 6:41 pmnagi

      Mmm…

      Show Spoiler ▼

  • February 3, 2013 at 12:14 pmedo

    just how stupid can chihaya be? just say “no” to that guy,It’s not like you know him from before or care about him.. oh god only in anime.

  • February 3, 2013 at 2:34 pmKisara

    I believe that out of all the characters on Chihayafuru, Taichi is the one character a lot of the fans are able to identify the best with. He’s such a hard working and honest guy, he definitely changed since his childhood and you can really grasp the character development he underwent.

    Also I agree with you on the Taichi centered episodes. I love the series in general but every scene that focuses on Taichi just really gets to me… I found myself with tears in my eyes a couple of times during season 1, be it a sad or happy moment for him. It just really gets to me.

    The fact that Chihaya actually paid attention to him during the game, made me tear up once again. To put it into Taichi’s words from season 1, I want Chihaya to LOOK AT HIM.

  • February 3, 2013 at 6:06 pmLeena

    Is it bad that I like Taichi’s angry face? http://img690.imageshack.us/img690/6430/chihaya2.jpg

  • February 5, 2013 at 6:43 amKisara

    I only just now realized that with Chihaya’s extraordinary good hearing she must’ve been the first one to react to Taichi’s request.

  • February 7, 2013 at 11:24 amKisara

    Another thing I’d like to point out is that contrary to popular belief, I’m not convinced that Chihaya isn’t subconsciously aware of Taichi from a female point of view.

    There are small indications every now and again. She just doesn’t know what those – for the most part – unconscious reactions mean, as she’s clueless when it comes to romance (and pretty much everything else aside from karuta).

  • July 9, 2013 at 9:39 amTassadar

    I don’t know if I am posting this late (because that’s when I decided to watch Chihayafuru) but I just want to say that this was a SUPERB episode! An absolutely superb episode of a fantastic series! Thanks Guardian Enzo for making me pick this show after I literally stumbled upon your posts about it! *goes to scream like a little girl of how awesome Chihayafuru is!*