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「むらさめの」 (Murasame no)
“Rain Takes Longer to Dry”

Well, Team Chihayafuru managed to drag out the much-anticipated meeting at least one more week.

For better or worse, I’ve never been able to predict just where Chihayafuru was going from week to week this season. It’s fair to say that 10 episodes in, not one of them has gone precisely as I’ve expected. From the initial focus on Sumire (especially) and Tsukuba at the expense of the returning cast to the unusual tournament opponents to Arata getting his own episode with no Chihaya or Taichi interaction whatsoever, nothing has gone predictable. So while I assumed we’d be getting our grand reunion this week after a short delay, that it should prove otherwise shouldn’t in itself be much of a surprise.

I’m guessing (though maybe not) that I’ll be in the minority in saying Arata should be suspended for the individual tournament. And I give him full credit for saying so himself – Arata is nothing if not scrupulous about the integrity of the game his grandfather dominated. The fact is that while Arata’s cheating didn’t materially affect the outcome of a match, that’s not to say it couldn’t have – and the fact that he was goaded into it really doesn’t factor into the equation because he still should have known better. It was a very serious violation (one committee member said it had “never happened before”) – and the fact that the tournament committee pretty much went straight to favoritism as a pretext to give him a slap on the wrist proves it. Suo is an embarrassment to them with his politically incorrect and very un-Japanese individualism, so unfitting for the face of a sport so rooted in the old traditions. Arata is a shining beacon of hope, a clean-cut and handsome descendant of a beloved Meijin. Clearly, it’s important to the world of competitive Karuta that he do well.

But you know, none of that really matters, and Arata knows it better than anyone. He should be subject to the same punishment as anyone, but we don’t live in that sort of world. I was more impressed with Arata this week than I have been in a while, not just for his honesty with the committee but with himself. He admitted what’s been obvious for a while – his aversion to team play is mostly a matter of jealousy and loneliness. He simply can’t associate team Karuta with anyone but Chihaya and Taichi – for now at least. I admire his reaction to his own mistake but I suspect Shinobu’s blackmail will seal the decision in his favor. She’s yet another factor trying to draw Arata back into connectedness with the world, which is certainly more important in the long-run than anything that happens here. Her motives are obvious in the sense that she clearly sees Arata as both a rival when she has few who interest her and a target for some payback. But it’s hard not to imagine there’s something more there. As for the Queen herself, she continues to be used as a bit of an outlandish figure in bizarre situations this season – often to very good comic effect, but not offering much in terms of real development for her character.

As for the Mizusawa gang, they continue to be at the center of much drama. The weird opponent this week is a gang of straight-laced, glasses-wearing brainiacs (“Five Desk-kuns!” thinks Kanade) from one of Japan’s top academic high schools, Mioka. In fact Taichi recognizes three of them as the winners of a televised quiz show for high-school students – the reason, in fact, that they became involved in Karuta was as practice for such events. But their ace, astronomy student Nakayama-kun, has fallen hard for the romance of Karuta and now plays it for his own sake. These guys aren’t as iconoclastic as some the opponents we’ve seen lately, but they are odd enough to consternate the still-inexperienced Mizusawa gang. They rely on their memorization and deduction to win, placing their cards randomly and moving them after virtually every card is read.

The two parts of this match that are most interesting are the reactions of the Mizusawa kids to this challenge, and the interaction between the Empress and the Mioka advisor. At first she’s a bit star-struck, but soon realizes he sees Karuta as nothing but a training tool for “more important” things – and her admiration quickly turns to righteous (if hidden) outrage. What’s especially telling is how the players react, as we’re given yet another lesson in Karuta strategy. The strategy that works in quiz shows – hit the buzzer in the middle of the question, because you’ll get another syllable (at least) for free before the reader can stop – “lag” – works in Karuta, too. But as you would expect, Nishida with his experience and Taichi who relies on memorization and strategy to win are least effected by these tactics, and win rather easily. Tsukuba is rattled and seemingly exhausted, and loses handily – and surprisingly, Kana, though she devises a strategy to avoid trying to memorize placements, loses a narrow match.

It all comes down to Chihaya and Nakayama, and while she’s the strongest of any Mizusawa player she’s naturally the most thrown off by this strategy. When the board is full of cards, the constant movement throws her already dicey memorization skills into disarray and nullifies her speed advantage. But as the board shrinks, more and more cards become one-syllable cards and memorization becomes easier and easier, and she begins to turn the tide in her favor (and her astronomical sex appeal doesn’t hurt either). Again, we see a surprising (and welcome) increase in self-awareness for Chihaya this season, even if it doesn’t extend to romantic feelings. She becomes aware of what’s happening to her, and manages to control her discomfort with Nakayama’s playing style and be patient enough for the game to turn around. Which, of course, it does – and though the 3-2 margin was closer than one might have expected, a win is still a win and Mizusawa moves on to the elimination round.

We’re still faced with some serious questions heading into that next phase. There’s the matter of whether Arata will be allowed to play, and now Sumire has unwittingly tipped off Chihaya and Taichi that he’s present. Taichi’s motives for so fiercely admonishing Chihaya not to worry about Arata while there are matches to be played are obviously complicated. He’s jealous, certainly, but also quite right in thinking that Arata’s presence is capable of causing a major distraction – Arata thought so too – but is he more worried about himself or Chihaya? Then there’s the matter of the lineup, which seems a non-issue especially after Tsukuba asks to be replaced by Tsutomu. But Nishida, surprisingly, argues that the team should keep the same lineup, which means leaving Tsutomu out. It’s always seemed possible that we were headed towards Tsutomu being a non-factor as a player, but I’m surprised (again) to see it potentially coming to a head this soon. I’ll be very interested to hear Nishida’s reasoning, since the evidence on the ground – Komano-kun’s experience, Tsukuba’s weariness, and the fact that Tsutomu can do more with the information he’s scouted than anyone – seems to support the notion that he should be playing. Is it possible that Nishida is casting doubt on Tsutomu’s desire as a player?

 

It’s that time of year again: the Spring 2013 Preview and Poll is online at Lost in America. Please stop by for a read and share your most anticipated series for the upcoming season.

 

*I saw this cute little fellow all over Otsu during my trip in January. He seems to be a mascot for the local tourist association.

March 16, 2013 at 1:13 am
36 comments »
  • March 16, 2013 at 2:21 amDdadain

    Lol~! Chihaya’s facial expressions were hilarious! And more Shinobu’s always good.

  • March 16, 2013 at 2:27 aminfo600

    So… Is she a Goddess or a Demon (Queen)?

    But either way, it’s a shame that we only know her as the one who can sleep standing up

    ps. I was laughing though out that lightning sequence.

  • March 16, 2013 at 2:42 amnagi

    Shinobu-chan in genuine Sadako fashion is the highlight of the episode. (manga version)

    I just facepalmed when Arata still wants to get his punishment when the committee was about to let him go. Good thing Shinobu’s there (otherwise Arata will be off the screen again -___-).

    And poor Taichi, he just can’t hide his jealousy (and fear?) when he screamed like that. It seems that his fierce words about not losing focus was directed more at himself than at Chihaya. We can also see his paranoia last time when he mistook an audience for Arata. Taichi x Arata OTP!

    Anyway, I’m just happy that it’s so faithful to the manga (even down to their inner thoughts). They just left one cutscene about Arata (I’ll just put it in spoiler tag because it might be shown next week) Show Spoiler ▼

  • March 16, 2013 at 4:54 amKarutaku

    Chihaya had the most amusing reactions in this episode. I love the expression when the match came down to the one-syllable cards. And her seiyuu did a great job playing both the angel and the devil. Seito Asami has some range after all.

    As for Taichi, a big part of it is jealousy but I think he also truly wants to win the team tournament for/with Chihaya. It’s his only chance of scoring points at the nationals. Once the individual tournament begins, Chihaya’s focus will all be on Arata and Shinobu.

    I think Tsutomu is too passive and self-sacrificing for his own good. That is what Nishida was trying to do by saying they keep the same team line-up. Push Tsutomu to fight for his spot because he might not play a single match before the team gets knocked out. I also have a suspicion that Sumire’s notes are totally useless and he just pretended that they would be helpful.

    • March 16, 2013 at 5:12 amYourIdeas

      My theory about Sumire’s notes is that in this world, it’s pretty much a given fact that every star Karuta player (with very few exceptions, such as Arata) is a weirdo in some manner, and pretty much everyone is catching on to this. Even if I’m not right, Tsutomu definitely didn’t react like her notes were useless, and he was writing something down using them as a reference. Expect them to come in handy in some weird manner.

      • March 16, 2013 at 6:32 amGuardian Enzo

        Arata is a 16 year-old guy with a pink cell phone and no friends. I wouldn’t be excusing him from weirdo class all that quickly.

      • March 16, 2013 at 8:00 amDollar Nil

        Well actually (and it wasn’t mentioned in the anime, but it was in the manga) Arata’s cellphone was pink because his mom helped him buy it and she thought pink was cuter. It’d be more interesting if it was because he liked it, though. (Does this count as a spoiler? If it does, I’M SO SORRY D:)

      • March 16, 2013 at 9:17 ampham huynh quang huy

        please, arata is not that wierd, he has no friend, and the cellphone is his mother fault, not him because she always want a daughter so she bought a pink one when he ask her to buy him a cellphone

      • March 16, 2013 at 9:42 pmowq

        Regardless of who bought the phone… What’s wrong with guys liking pink!?

      • March 16, 2013 at 10:12 pmanonymous

        Nothing wrong with it, it’s just that most guys don’t like the color.

      • March 17, 2013 at 5:45 pmShalaKairos

        And let’s not forget that Taichi has pink hair…

  • March 16, 2013 at 4:56 amMikako

    Shinobu’s ability to steal the show reaches truly unspeakable levels.

  • March 16, 2013 at 5:36 amAnon

    Both Arata and Guardian Enzo are too straight (no offense). Arata wasn’t cheating (how do you even cheat in a game that relies so much on hearing and reflexes?), he just subbed for a friend who wasn’t able to show up. Big deal. If they had put his name on the roll it wouldn’t even be an issue (they could’ve said he’s a new transfer student, after all his school is next door).

    • March 16, 2013 at 6:34 amGuardian Enzo

      It’s not cheating to fraudulently compete for a school you don’t attend at an inter-high competition that pits schools against each other? That’s a neat trick. I’m glad Arata respects the integrity of the game more than that.

      • March 16, 2013 at 6:41 amAnon

        He’s still using his own abilities to compete. That’s not cheating in my book. I understand you feel differently about it but IMHO you are way overreacting.

      • March 16, 2013 at 3:00 pmScruffy

        @Anon

        Of course it was cheating! They were playing as a team and used a ringin. The team results are what mattered. If that is not cheating then you clearly don’t know the meaning of the word.

    • March 16, 2013 at 7:04 amLOL

      Haha so in your books it is also fine if i ask someone to do my finals for me too, since he or she is using her own knowledge and abilities too.

  • March 16, 2013 at 5:47 amSolara

    Being Shinobo is suffering…

    First the rally goes to Hell, she gets wet during the pour, and apparently being the current Queen of Karuta means nothing when you come in soak as can be that no one offers a towel to help you dry up within the establishment of Karuta being held. To make matters worst she walks in on the ‘worst’ timing ever, Arata is about to be bench for the Individuals tournaments. (Granted it could be the best timing since she can probably alter their minds if she mentions forfeiting herself)

    The one thing I picked up was that Chihaya now knows that Shinobo also wants to play Arata badly, like she does, making her rival another category besides just wanting to play her and be Queen someday. Ahh the irony.

    Am I the only one who caught Desk-kun ‘losing’ his nerve the second Sumire spoke after giving out her notes? First he thanks her, she speaks, he quickly loses hope for her, somewhat like anger, and just walks away to take notes. Also Porky-kun surprise me when he wanted to bench Desk-kun for the up coming match. I don’t follow the Manga so all of these caught me off guard! It’s like out of character.

    Did I ever mention how much I hate cliffhangers?

  • March 16, 2013 at 5:51 amSolara

    http://randomc.net/image/Chihayafuru/Chihayafuru%202%20-%2010%20-%20Large%2012.jpg
    Shinobo has a bright future in horror films if Karuta never works out at the end.

    • March 30, 2013 at 6:45 amReverse Vampire

      That gives me ideas for a…fanfic! What if all the other characters do if they have never encounter karuta or if a future of karuta didn’t work out… (goes off scribbling for more fanfic ideas.)

  • March 16, 2013 at 7:25 amArata x Shinobu

    They seem to make Kanade’s chest larger with every episode.

    • March 16, 2013 at 7:42 amGuardian Enzo

      They had to expand it in that shot or Taichi’s eyelashes would have blocked it out.

  • March 16, 2013 at 8:15 amGreg

    There will be some development for Shinobu later on, I won’t say more than that.

    On another note, an old seiyuu favourite of mine is joining the cast, Hayashibara Megumi.
    http://www.starchild.co.jp/artist/hayashi/news/2013/0304.html

    I’m guessing she will voice Show Spoiler ▼

  • March 16, 2013 at 2:04 pmSixFlags

    On a random note: Anyone noticed Arata walking trough the frame, when Sumire gave her notes to Tsutomu?

    • March 16, 2013 at 6:34 pmwandering-dreamer

      HAH, I totally missed that and had to rewatch after seeing your comment, nice catch! Makes sense though since she obviously had seen the scene with Shinobu and Arata earlier that one or both of them would still be in the area.

    • March 16, 2013 at 6:48 pmGuardian Enzo

      I missed it too. And the fact that someone neg-repped that comment… Seriously?

      • March 16, 2013 at 9:31 pmkaha

        That “someone” must be Taichi..
        Because mention Arata’s presence will causing distraction to Chihaya

      • March 17, 2013 at 8:37 amMikako

        ‘Because mention Arata’s presence will causing distraction to Chihaya’ Sure because of it! ;D

  • March 16, 2013 at 10:02 pmleslie

    While its quite obvious that Arata should definitely have some punishment for his actions, I found myself agreeing with Shinobu about begging the committee to let him play the tournament. I mean he made sure that his win would not affect the outcome of the game before he even started playing seriously. If he had to, he wouldn’t have played to win. Arata knew this and a lot of people were counting on him to be in the competition and he has been absent in the Karuta world for far too long as it is. I was cheering for Shinobu when she told Arata to not allow his pride to keep him from begging for a chance. A punishment like a 5 card lead for his opponents in his first 10 matches or something sounds fair to me.

    • March 16, 2013 at 11:08 pmGuardian Enzo

      First of all, the committee would never levy a punishment that alters the rules of a match. That would completely undermine the integrity of the competition. If they don’t suspend him from the individual tournament it would have to be something like volunteering to do administrative duties at future tournaments or teaching grade-schoolers or something like that.

      As for the match itself, the thing is, Arata didn’t take off his glasses until he noticed his sensei was right there watching him. What would he have done had that not been the case? Intentionally tanked the match until he knew the team result was settled? Maybe – but the truth is we’ll never know for sure. Arata realized that intentionally tanking was disrespectful to his opponent – maybe he would have decided it was a greater sin to disrespect the game than to give Fujioka West an undeserved win. Once you start down that path bad things and unintended consequences start to crop up.

      Arata knows he did something very stupid, even if he didn’t intend any malice. He knows anyone else would be banned from the individual tournament, and that for him not to be because of his name or Shinobu’s blackmail would be wrong. He may yet be allowed to play, but if he does, I suspect he’ll be very troubled by the circumstances.

      • March 17, 2013 at 3:16 pmhyperborealis

        Actually, Arata doesn’t take off his glasses–Shoji does, when Arata tells him his sensei is right behind them. Shoji has no interest in Arata actually playing–he just wants Arata there as a human dummy to allow himself and his teammate to play. The episode is consistent in showing that Arata’s participation is purely pro forma.

        There really is no basis for your ungenerous implication that Arata might ever have materially interfered with the match. You advert to the fact he has the opportunity to do so, but opportunity in no way indicates motive. All the evidence we do get of his thoughts show that he is hugely embarrassed and troubled by being in this situation. Also, he could have put his glasses back on at any moment during the match. The fact he only does so once the match has been decided is a clear indication of his refusal to affect the outcome.

        Also, it is not “wrong” that Arata is not banned from the individual tournament. There is no rule that says a ringer must be banned, simply since there is no precedent for someone breaking the rule against ringers. The committee has to make up a penalty on the spot.

        Arata specifically is not excused due to his grandfather’s status in the karuta world: one member asks if that is to be a rationale, and the other denies it and brings up instead the whole issue of dethroning Suoh.

        As it happens, Arata himself is instrumental in getting himself punished. The committee is inclined to let him off easy in the first place (Suoh, the members’ relief when Shoji bursts in to tell them Arata was only there to allow them to play). It is only Arata’s own insistence that the committee carry out its duty to punish the infraction of the rule, which he expresses to Shoji, that pushes them to go forward with the ban (upon hearing him say this, the members’ faces lose their relief, as they are forced back to punishment mode).

        No doubt Shinobu’s blackmail is decisive in getting this decision reversed. But the anime rather takes her point of view. Shinobu tells him to stop being cool, and to bow his head and beg to play. Arata’s insistence on doing the right thing is admirable, but it also a way of being cool, a form of pride, that causes pain to her (she want to play him) and to himself (he wants to play too.) Sometimes it is better not to be so upright.

      • March 17, 2013 at 6:18 pmGuardian Enzo

        Nor is there any basis for your assumption that Arata wouldn’t have fought the match anyway even if it meant a team win or loss – it’s conjecture. He decided that it was unacceptably disrespectful to his opponent to intentionally tank the match – there’s no telling whether he would have considered that a greater crime than influencing the result. Once you start down the path of deception, you get forced into choices you’d never planned to have to make.

        I also find it troubling that you’d consider it more acceptable for Arata to be re-instated based on the committee’s hatred of Suou than on his own name. Shouldn’t the decision be based on the merits of the act itself? Bias is bias, whatever the source of it – Arata’s name, Suou’s eccentricity, Shinobu’s blackmail – it’s all equivalent in that it distracts from the merits of the issue at hand. I give Arata credit for having more respect for the game than those who are more interested in him as a symbol or a tool than for the integrity of the sport. Not everyone who does the right thing does it to look “cool” – sometimes people actually have integrity, and act based on it.

      • March 24, 2013 at 11:21 pmLeslie

        I find myself agreeing more with hyperborealis.

        He definitely did something wrong by putting himself in a position that he COULD affect the outcome. That’s why I said he definitely deserved some kind of punishment.

        It seems much more likely that Arata never intended to do anything to change the outcome. He felt extremely uncomfortable when he was told to just sit there. Its highly probable that he would never try to win the match if it affected the outcome. And I didn’t rewatch the episode to make sure but from what I understood, Arata felt guilty not trying his best for his opponent, but the reason he actually started playing seriously was when he saw that his teammates were getting dispirited and when one of the players lost thus cinching his team’s loss.

        While there is integrity, there is also too much pride. Arata should have explained the circumstances and help the committee give a just punishment. Given the circumstances, banning, IMO, would have been too harsh and Arata should have let the committee know why. Instead, he let the committee make their own conclusions. There’s nothing wrong in trying to lessen your punishment if you had a good reason for your actions.

  • March 17, 2013 at 8:26 pmJ Jay

    Wait GE. Did you just generalise weirdness based on the colour of someone’s mobile?

    Would you mind explaining that please, because to me that comment was incredibly crass, and (rather like Arata in this episode, fittingly enough) something I would not expect from you.

    As for the actual episode, I do hope Arata is barred, although I doubt this will happen. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuut I have yet to see any particular reason why karuta would be immune to gamesmanship and commercial/cultural pressures, so apart from Shinobu butting in I enjoyed the deliberations of the committee. It seemed like it would fit in with most other competitive sports at high school level (unfortunate as that is). I can’t speak for the big US sports, but over in Blighty we’ve had the moral roundabout over role models, and as much as some public schoolboys would have you believe otherwise it isn’t limited to football (soccer).

    • March 17, 2013 at 11:20 pmSixFlags

      The pink cellphone of Arata has been more of a running gag in the forums and comments.

  • March 19, 2013 at 11:12 amewok40k

    Shinobu dragging Arata before the “elders” and making him bow forcibly FTW!
    Also, she should consider starring in horrors…