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Chihayafuru 2 – 07

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「しるもしらぬも あふさかのせき」 (Shiru mo Shiranu mo Ōsaka no Seki)
“They All Exchange Hellos and Goodbyes at the Gates of Ōsaka”

Every time Taichi gets kicked in the gut, I have to fight the urge to double over myself.

Here I was thinking this was going to be an episode that was relatively light on the dramatic side, and “Boom!” – that was one hell of a broadside the ending delivered. To be honest it felt a bit out of nowhere, as there really wasn’t anything in the episode to suggest it was coming, though there’s no denying that surprise enhances the impact. In point of fact, this was an episode that felt quite different than most in the series to me. To be honest, this was really the first time Morio Asaka’s direction seemed a little too busy. I like all the distorted faces and written-word thought bubbles and such that he uses to liven up the classically beautiful and traditional look of the series, but I’d apply the same rule to the surprise ending here in reverse – when they happen as often as they did this week, they become less effective. Even though the episode wasn’t all that briskly-paced the hyperactive direction made it seem – in Kana’s own words – more frenzied than impassionate (ironically so). My hope is that this is a one-week phenomenon and not a trend.

Taken as a whole, though, the first seven eps of this season do seem rather briskly-paced to me. We’ve already had the Tokyo regionals and we’re off to the Nationals? It’s quite astonishing how much has happened, especially as compared to the first seven episodes in season one. I’m sure this is manga-faithful for the most part and a function of not having to do the heavy lifting of the initial scene-setting, but it’s definitely a noticeable change. Given that I suppose the fact that the last few minutes of the episode provided such an earthquake in the non-Karuta side of the plot shouldn’t be too surprising, but there were some interesting diversions before that. Specifically, a revisiting of some themes that haven’t really been touched on for a very long time, starting with Chihaya’s family.

There was some interesting discussion of the role Chihaya’s family played in her life in the aftermath of several S1 eps, and I came down on the side that her mother especially seemed to be coming dangerously close to emotionally neglecting her. Elder sister Chitose never really got the chance to develop into anything more than a self-obsessed diva in the short screen time she had, and nothing we saw here would offer evidence to the contrary. What bothered me wasn’t so much that, but the way Chihaya’s Mom focused on Chitose’s career to the virtual exclusion of Chihaya’s life altogether – thank goodness Dad kept that little scrapbook next to Chitose’s multi-volume opus of clippings. Well, we heard Mom’s excuse today – she was so confident that Chihaya would be OK because of Karuta that she felt free to worry more about Chitose with her “unstable career choice”. To be honest that excuse sounds like just that, to me – and her decision to finally show a glimmer of interest in her younger daughter’s life and buy her a kimono of her own plays like an attempt to assuage her own guilt – and win Chihaya’s affection – with a financial gesture. Better late than never, but I’m still not really buying it.

To be blunt, I don’t really care too much about Chitose and her problems because I don’t think we’ve been given much reason to, and there’s so much in Chihayafuru that I do care about that I’d just as soon not see much screen time spent worrying about them. The scenes with Chihaya’s parents were involving in a slightly tragic way, though (they always are) and brought Kana and Oe-san into the story. That’s where things started to get more interesting, along with a subplot involving the eternal struggle with the school band for club room space. As it has a rare ability to do, Chihayafuru made us see the stock enemy as something much more here, showing us the band’s problems through the perspective of their advisor – eternally frustrated that he lacks the influence the Empress has. Let’s be honest – the Karuta Club didn’t live up to the deal she agreed to (five new members) and they’re keeping the clubroom anyway, while the band struggles with insufficient space. It’s not that the Karuta kids are the bad guys here, but that the band and their advisor aren’t either – and that’s the whole point. And Chihaya again shows us real signs of growth by proposing that the band get the second floor space above the Karuta clubroom, at least for storage if not performance. Sure she has ulterior motives – trying to steal some good karma – but it’s still awareness of the needs of others. What’s that, actual character growth from one season to the next? This is Chihayafuru after all – and the reward for Chihaya’s gesture is a surprisingly emotional moment when the band plays all four verses of the school song to send the Karuta Club off to Nationals. Chihaya’s tears were fine, but it was Nishida’s “This is the first time I’ve ever been supported by anyone outside Karuta” that really hit home.

There are two other moments that really stand out in this ep, one being the aforementioned ending. The other is Kana-chan’s explanation of the difference between “Impassioned” and “Frenzied”. This included some overt fourth-wall breaching – “It’s already the second season and you still don’t understand the title?!!” – again with the busy direction – but the gag hits home here. It’s one of those quirky moments this show is so great at delivering, and shows why Kana is such a great and unique presence. I loved the imagery she used – the top spinning out-of-control vs. the one spinning so fast you can’t even tell it’s moving. It’s a fabulous nugget of writing by Suetsugu-sensei and perfectly delivered by Morio-sensei, and it could really be taken as symbolic of so much of what happens in this series – not least of which Chihaya’s Karuta itself.

If you’re a big Arata fan, you could pretty much watch the pre-open and the last two minutes of every ep and so far this season you’d be golden. This time at least Arata’s appearance doesn’t feel like an omake, but is interwoven with the rest of the plot. More than ever I’m convinced Sumire’s main function is to act as the catalyst to drive the romantic storyline forward, the naïf who can blurt out what everyone else wants to say but doesn’t dare. When she does just that in the girls’ room at their hotel near Ome Jingu, asking Chihaya who she likes, the first thought it we’re getting another Chihayafuru troll when Chihaya talks about Shinobu. But then she immediately thinks, “I wonder what he’s doing right now – I want to see him.” I don’t see any way not to interpret that as significant – nor the fact that she immediately sneaks down to the lobby and calls Arata.

Bluntly, that’s the closest thing to an overt declaration of romantic interest by Chihaya in 32 episodes, and it’s about time – but for Taichi, as usual, the timing couldn’t be worse. He overhears her conversation and as always, is overcome with what surely must be feelings of utter hopelessness. The sad part for him (well, it’s all sad but…) is that he really can blame only himself if indeed Chihaya and Arata end up together – despite his efforts to be “a person who doesn’t run away” (which have succeeded in many respects) he’s still in full flight when it comes to Chihaya. He refuses to make his feelings known to her and risk rejection, despite knowing that in Arata he has a potential rival who brings it in every respect – looks, personal history, talent, and a shared passion for Karuta that Chihaya doesn’t feel on the same level with him. Arata hasn’t said anything openly either, of course, but he has a valid excuse – he’s hundreds of miles away. Without doubt there’s an element of mutual respect between the two guys here in not making their move – Taichi because Arata isn’t there to fight back and Arata because he wants to give Taichi his chance to take his shot. It’s mostly unspoken but has been overtly acknowledged at least a little on occasion, but this is an uneasy truce that grows more and more unfavorable for Taichi over time – and the guy code may be as much of an excuse for him not to confront his fears than an honest reason for his tentativeness. This surely won’t be resolved when the three are reunited at Nationals, but what happened here thanks to Sumire is just as surely a sudden lurch forward – what will be interesting is to see where things settle afterwards.

February 23, 2013 at 3:26 am
33 comments »
  • February 23, 2013 at 4:26 amIzay

    The direction was indeed busy, but I when I finished this episode I thought to myself, “Wow, that was another superb episode from this amazing show.”

    • February 23, 2013 at 6:22 amTSouL

      Indeed, another satisfying episode. It only builds up the suspense with the transition to Nationals. Sad part is only 5 epi left

      • February 23, 2013 at 6:52 amGuardian Enzo

        Until the 13th episode? That’s not so sad, is it?

  • February 23, 2013 at 4:36 amNic

    Yeah, it was a very busy episode and for me, this is a good thing. This is how intermission episodes between tournaments ought to be done. Focus on basically everyone at the same time instead of just a few.

    About Chihaya’s parents, I don’t believe it’s just an excuse. Yeah, in the first season, it introduced the sentiment that their parents didn’t care too much about her but after this episode, it’s pretty clear Chihaya never needed overt support in the first place and since her sister certainly is the type to try hogging it all, they have to focus where they’re the most needed.

    After all, we saw that their parents came to her matches sometimes, rarely, but that they took the time to speak to and thank the people who helped their daughter along the way. So, I really believe they saw that she didn’t need guidance, that was really independent and didn’t need an overt support, that they had little to worry about with Chihaya.

    And the best argument for this is seeing what her mother did in this episode. She picked up really quickly on her being completely deflated and she knew that now, she needed the extra push, the guidance she never had to give her before. Just to show her how so many people are supporting her, believe in her and without ever saying it openly, made her realize how foolish it would be to just give up, here and then. It was really good parenting, if you ask me. Some children need more support than others. If their team or Chihaya herself go anywhere in the Nationals, I expect them to make the trip.

    • February 23, 2013 at 5:39 aminfo600

      Here’s a twisted counter argument for Chihaya’s mom’s train of thought
      (not that I’m disagreeing with your point, I completely agree with you)

      -Note how open-book’d Chihaya was when she let the School Band use the second floor for storage
      -Now notice how Chihaya’s mom was worried of both Chihaya and Chitose when they are both down (separately)

      …like mother, like daughter…

      Too bad Kanade and her mom were better at schemes

      ps. more cause and effect inbound, and that one’s going far into the season (ie. very close to where the manga is right now)

      • February 24, 2013 at 1:06 pmwandering-dreamer

        Are you saying that we’re nearly caught up with the manga then? Huh, guess this will be the last bit of the anime we’ll get for a while then, damn.

      • February 25, 2013 at 7:21 pminfo600

        actually, we’re not even half way… close to though

        spoiler alert for actual location in the manga and the speed.
        Show Spoiler ▼

  • February 23, 2013 at 5:20 amFaint Smile

    Arata for the win!.. Though I think the couple (if there is) would be Chihaya and Taichi..

  • February 23, 2013 at 5:32 amronbb

    Yes — Kana-chan’s explanation of the difference between “Impassioned” and “Frenzied” is one of the stand-out moments of this episode for me. Isn’t Kana-chan adorable?

    Another moment — a funny one — that caught me was when the Empress was touched by Chihaya…”This is my most glorious day as a teacher!” totally cracked me up. The Empress is sure another adorable character…an adorable tsudere…lol.

  • February 23, 2013 at 5:40 amJ-Luke

    http://randomc.net/image/Chihayafuru/Chihayafuru%202%20-%2007%20-%20Large%2004.jpg
    So beautiful…
    I just love that realistic design; Chihaya’s beauty is at it’s best here when she has that serious/dramatic aura…

    http://randomc.net/image/Chihayafuru/Chihayafuru%202%20-%2007%20-%20Large%2043.jpg
    …and this Chihaya is just plain priceless.

  • February 23, 2013 at 5:53 amKrim

    Eh, maybe I’m the only one, but I’m still not feeling the romance from Chihaya’s side. Sumire does start by asking her who she likes, but then rephrases, “Is there anyone you think of when you’re alone at night, wishing you could see them and wondering what they’re doing?” And while Kana-chan and Sumire protest when Chihaya mentions Shinobu …I don’t think it’s insignificant. It seems that Chihaya mainly things of karuta (obviously), the team, and friendship. When she calls Arata, she talks to him about teamwork, and when she pictures him she pictures him and Taichi and herself together. That seems to be a pattern with her: she’s always thinking of the three of them. Communications with Arata are special because he’s not there with her all the time, while Taichi is there. I think mostly she’s still just wishing for the three of them to be together and play karuta together again, but Taichi keeps misinterpreting things as signs that Chihaya cares more about Arata. Anyway, that’s just my reading! And I’ll admit it’s a bit hopeful since I want the focus to be on the friendship shared between all three of them rather than as a love triangle, ha, so I could certainly be intentionally viewing it with a different lens anyway. XD

    For the rest of the ep, I agree that the pacing was very busy, but it worked really well for me. The last few eps have been way more emotionally intense and it was nice to have a more BAM BAM BAM ep. I especially lovvvvvvvvved the plot with Chihaya and her mom buying the hakama. Also the concert band plot! Karuta club/concert band is my new Chihayafuru OTP.

    • February 23, 2013 at 6:01 amronbb

      “karuta, the team, and friendship”…I like your way of interpreting =).

    • February 23, 2013 at 6:59 amBear

      Totally agree. In the last cour she almost had a meltdown when she thought about dating someone. I see her as having the same feelings as Yozora in Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai in that she wants to go back to the relationship she had with them in the past. The boys have definitely moved on though and she doesn’t recognize that.

  • February 23, 2013 at 6:19 amMikako

    Please, show, stop using Arata as an excuse to give Taichi more to wangst about, and give him a proper development and independent interactions with Chihaya.

  • February 23, 2013 at 6:53 amBear

    The problem with the romantic triangle is that Chihaya is focused on karuta. Does she have feelings for Arata on a romantic level or is it just that he’s the one she has always admired because of his karuta’s abilities? The story still seems ambiguous in that regard. Of course, we may never see a real resolution depending on how far the story goes in the anime. I don’t know if the manga continues after that point or not. I really expect to see Chihaya against Sinobu and Taichi against Arata at the Nationals, but somehow that seems too trite an ending. ChihayaxTaichi/SinobuxArata ships would be one way to resolve the romantic situation, but again that would be too simplistic.

    Let’s face it. Outside of karuta, Chihaya may be beautiful but is almost as dumb as a post (there I said it, I hate it, but she’s at the bottom of her class). Taichi may be in love with her, but she’s nowhere near his equal intellectually. What is she going to do after high school? I don’t think they have karuta scholarships in college. The only thing that seems to be within her capabilities is to be a model (her modeling for Kana’s parents store seemed to be a big hit). That’s going to be a major conflict with her sister if her life goes that way and the story continues past the Nationals.

    • February 23, 2013 at 10:35 amMikako

      Well, there are karuta scholarships, as long as you have accomplishments in high school tournaments. Sudo’s got one.
      About Chihaya, she’s by no means an intellectual, but her poor grades probably come from the fact she’s got not much interest in academics. She’s really effective when she’s focused on something; in the karuta territory she has that super-hearing and is athletic, but the effects really come from her years-long dedication and determination. She was also able to establish a karuta club in the rather uninterested high-school environment, and her charisma is in the great part the thing that push the team up the way, so… I think she’ll be fine in life, as long as she has the fine approach. Even her spoiled sister seemed to see she could learn from her.

      About ArataxShinobu pairing, I haven’t read the manga, but c’mon. The grounds people ship them seem to contain:
      - the fact they knew each other as children and Shinobu remembers him (c’mon ^2, everyone who used to play karuta as a child seems to remember Arata, and most of them have an Arata-complex)
      - you want Taichi to have Chihaya, and Arata seems to have an advantage, so he needs to be shipped off
      - Shinobu is a bishoujo and that whatsherfaceArata’sosananajimi Yuu isn’t
      - Shinobu looks like Arata’s opposite sex clone (ditto for Chihaya and Taichi). It’s only good when you’re Jaime and Cersei Lannister.

      So I really hope there’s not gonna be any trivial romantic resolutions. For me Chihaya can end with neither of her present suitors, as she treats them both like her dear friends, links to the happy past and brothers in karuta.

  • February 23, 2013 at 7:31 amtomoyostar

    Team Taichi!!

  • February 23, 2013 at 8:44 amowq

    Kana-chan talked to us! Kandou shimasu~

  • February 23, 2013 at 11:15 amMi-Chan

    In this episode, Taichi’s presence in the end is as much as Arata’s, made me wonder: if Taichi was Arata, how would the series be? I love both of them, but Taichi is something else. /always says this!

    I liked this episde, was light hearted to go through, and I liked that Chitose, who used to be Chihaya’s ‘dream’ by moving forward and Chihaya is still being the same, finds herself now losing hope but then again gaining trust in herself from Chihaya, I don’t know, maybe I think too much. I liked the way the ‘two sisters push each other forward’? maybe?

    I laughed at two scenes: (1) Sumire’s fear of the bear XD (Harada-sensei), (2) when Sumire said that ‘after all, you don’t know what might happen at night’ toward the make up gast, she’s just too cute! (3) oh sorry, they are 3! Chihaya’s shinobu moment.

    Though I have to say, this is the first episode in my opinion that focused ‘solely’ on Chihaya.

    Question: is this season only 13 episodes? I think because it started later than other anime it might be 25 episodes, hm….

    I wil also repeat every week’s comment: I am in love with Chihayafuru, the five team members, Chihaya, Taichi and Arata. Does anyone get this feeling like a lump just sank down in your throat everytime Arata scene comes up and Taichi is there? I don’t know, it breaks my heart so badly. I love Arata, it confuses me, that it does hurt me so bad! (I love Taichi a little more though *cough*!) :x…..

    Thanks for your review! Going through it eased my feelings of ‘skjfskdfjskfjsklfjanvcmxwehr’ at the end of every episode!

    Cheers, M.

    • February 23, 2013 at 4:14 pmGuardian Enzo

      25 eps.

      • February 24, 2013 at 4:00 amMi-Chan

        I thought so too *relief* i got confused form a post up :p

  • February 23, 2013 at 11:58 amTaiakun

    Re the parent thing. I don’t see it as being an excuse at all. Some family have children that are polar opposites in terms of success. For example, one may be a top student who is good at sports and music, while the other may have some mental condition (i.e. dyslexia) or just can’t seem to succeed in anything in life.

    Then the question – what does the parent do? Which is worst – praising the successful child and ignoring the struggling one, or helping out the struggling one and ignoring the successful one. From a moral point of view, obviously the second is better than the first. But the best option is to help the struggling child and still give some support to the successful one. Then comes another question – how much support do you give?

    It comes down to the successful child. If the child does not need as much support (as Chihaya appears not to require as much) then most of the attention should be given to the other. It is quite hard to say that the mother completely neglected her when she was growing up, as when we are introduced to her, Chihaya is already a successful Karuta player.

  • February 23, 2013 at 12:50 pmJack Spicer

    I am really getting sick of the Arata character. At this point I either want him to become more visable or written out altogether. I’m tired of how big of an impact he has on the story when his role in each episode is even less than a supporting character.

  • February 23, 2013 at 4:14 pmdustShadow

    Some loose thoughts:
    - I’m also not letting Chihaya’s mum off the hook, but she gets some credit for being up-to-date on her daughter’s life and for realising she has been too hands-off on parenting.
    - I don’t know if we have to care about Chitose-san. I think her part was merely to show that Chihaya has turned into a source of inspiration, rather than she being the one to look for those.
    - You’re right that Taichi isn’t moving on Chihaya because Arata isn’t around and T doens’t want to go behind his back (again). The reason Arata doesn’t move is that would give Taichi the green light to go for Chihaya. With him being miles away, that wouldn’t be good news for Arata.
    - It’s obvious that Chihaya cares a lot for Arata and misses him. But that’s not new: it was repeatedly a point in Season 1. I don’t know if it should be considered romantically. She just took Hanano’s second question literal. Of course she then thinks of Arata, (1) she really misses him and (2) she is sure that in the evenings he’s practising Karuta. And that’s still what Chihaya is all about. Also, a 16 year old can’t be really in love with someone they haven’t really been with in four years. Except in VNs.
    - Taichi taking flak for “running away” from Chihaya is unfair. If he moves before Arata returns he goes against everything he stands for now. He very well knows that by then it can be too late. But it’s parallel to the infamous train station scene. There he also refused to accept the promotion he worked towards very hard, in the knowledge that his answer could get him stuck in B Division for a very long time.

    The directing was a bit off-beat this episode. But they had to handle a lot of smaller issues and with Omi Jingu taking at least four episodes and Arata’s return to Tokyo (one way or another) after that they really don’t have any episode to spare.

  • February 23, 2013 at 4:22 pmewok40k

    This was nice character-focused break but nationals are coming! Can’t wait for another series of nerve-wrackingly intense matches!
    And yes being Taichi is suffering. Romantic side of the things is completely screwed right now…

  • February 23, 2013 at 6:58 pmKidokuOuyou

    “I’m not interested in teams tournament”. When Arata said that I felt kind of sad. Because he enjoyed playing as a team during childhood with Chihaya and Taichi, and I guess that make Chihaya sad either

  • February 23, 2013 at 9:08 pmsgl

    I love the moments where Taichi realizes what he feels. The anime is clipping along- covering a few manga installments each outing. It makes me hope that we will catch up to the manga this season. Amazing stuff coming. Would be a shame not to cover it unless there is definitely going to be a season 3.

  • February 23, 2013 at 10:18 pmbitter

    Somehow i’m feel everything about Chihaya and Arata what she doing is only to pressure Taichi to move forward. But that backfire a guy can’t step forward if a girl he like show so much care to another guy especially when he is faraway. He can not take a risk to lost relation he build so far. If she continue to show affection to Arata what Taichi will going to do is to step back farther and farther and He will runaway eventually.

  • February 24, 2013 at 12:03 amLeslie

    I just realized that this is one of really really rare times (if not the only time) wherein the david (in david and goliath) is the super popular and super handsome guy (aka Taichi). AFAIK, Arata isn’t really considered handsome in the Chihayafuru world. He was kind of a loner and was generally ignored by most of their class in school (while they were kids). But Taichi is definitely considered a bishoujo.

    I usually root for the underdog who is usually the uncharismatic, non-bishoujo glasses guy which in this case is Arata. But Taichi is definitely the one with uphill battle for Chihaya’s affections.

  • February 24, 2013 at 6:26 amnagi

    I think that the highlight of this episode was when the Concert band played their school anthem (and all of its four verses!) as thanks to the Karuta club. When the teary-eyed Chihaya leaned on Kana-chan’s shoulder I was teary-eyed too!

    And again, those who don’t like Arata’s appearances should re-think about it. Suetsugu-sensei is doing this to slowly reintroduce him into the current “main” cast, because clearly she has plans on the guy from the get-go. She can’t just BAM Arata’s back and here’s his character development for three straight episodes. AND Taichi being sad is part of the story. I really like this complicated setup/rivalry and it irks me that others just want to shoo away Arata because Taichi should be happy with Chihaya forever.

  • February 24, 2013 at 7:09 pmSolara

    -Walks in whistling doing a mild swing doing a backwards swirl and finally sets up a shrine with a banner across it saying ‘CHIHAYA x SHINOBU’- Oh yeah. I went there.

    The second she said she wanted her phone number, I almost slam my own cell on my monitor. Don’t ask me why. Hey, in my defense, Kana-chan asked who she thought about at night and even ‘liked’, and Chihaya quickly went there. So I had to take it from there.

    Of course I’m ignoring the serious side effects of that comment for my own amusement. Yet again Arata ruins another moment. Granted, Chihaya called, and why why why why does Tachi always leave before the conversation turns rather ‘friendish’? Everytime that happens its like a ‘sneaky phone call’ vibe, the second he left it turn into a pretty normal conversation.

    I just wanna see Shinobu’s skinny greatness once more, last season she gave us 2 thrilling, YES THRILLING episodes, I demand the same. I look forward to this torture and cliff hangers!

  • February 24, 2013 at 9:56 pmDrop Table

    I’m definitely rooting for ChiXChi! Arata does not seem like a main character to me… almost just a side character used to drive the story forward.