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「みそぎぞなつの しるしなりける」 (Misogizo Natsu no Shiru Shinarikeru)
“The Only Sign of Summer”

OK, I confess I’m starting to get a little worried.

A couple of weeks ago someone might have joked about this entire season taking place at Omi Jingu with the national high school championships, and I would have gotten a good laugh about it. But now I’m not so sure. The pacing has been quite a bit slower than it was in the first season already, but many more episodes like this one – five minutes for background on the creepy losers taking photos of a minor character? – and we might just be looking at that seemingly silly notion becoming reality. We managed to get all of six cards read in this match, which is only the semi-finals of the team event – then there’s the individual event after that, which – given all the dramatic permutations that are possible just in the Class A portion – is likely to take up several episodes on its own.

It’s a testament to just how good Chihayafuru is that it can stage an episode like this and still be very entertaining, without any feeling of dragging. But it’s definitely not the emotional powerhouse it was in the first season for me, for reasons that I laid out last week having no idea that this episode would exemplify them in such dramatic fashion. I don’t know whether this shift in focus and pacing takes place in exactly the same fashion in the manga, and it’s hard to blame Morio-sensei for following it faithfully if that’s the case. But given how much is left undone in what until very recently I felt confident in believing were the major plot arcs, it seems obvious we’re not going to get anywhere near closure on any of them in 25 episodes. Hopefully there’s going to be a third season, because if there isn’t Chihayafuru is probably going to feel very much like an unfinished story in anime form.

Points for consistency – every single opponent this season has been developed in much detail, either in terms of the team or its key individual. And now we finally have one who’s truly significant enough to warrant that development in Ousaka Megumu, a player serious enough to have been the Western finalist in the Queen qualifiers before being taken out by Yumi in a memorable match from the first season. Megumu was an afterthought then but she’s in full focus now – and she managed to make me dislike her pretty much immediately with her casual arrogance. The opponents on Chihayafuru are nearly always oddballs (so are the heroes, of course) and often do unsympathetic things, but this show is remarkably good at humanizing them. They have some work to do with Megumu – we’ve seen questionable sportsmanship but rarely anything quite so irritatingly improper as her "They should just let us play the final now." Confidence is one thing, but casually disrespecting the opponent (she also sits down in front of Fujisaki instead of Mizusawa at first) so openly crosses any line of sportsmanship you might care to draw.

I’ll be honest – when this match was set up, I was sort of hoping Chihaya would lose because the cycle of every team match boiling down to her individual one is getting a bit repetitive – it would be fun to see everything come down to Tsutomu or Nishida for once. Well, no longer – I’m really hoping Chihaya pounds some respect into Ousaka. And Chihaya’s maturity is perhaps the most welcome change from the first season – we see signs of it just about every week. She doesn’t panic when Ousaka takes the first four cards (although in truth Chihaya seems to fall behind in every match), even when one of them was a card she was camping. Not only that, she remembers Komano-kun’s advice about scouting the cards based on the opponent’s name, and remembers details from Ousaka’s performance in the Queen qualifier. She could use a little work on now showing her emotional state so openly on her face – that often puts her at a competitive disadvantage – but in terms of the emotional state itself, what a difference a year makes. She’s patient, calm and even though she’s irritated by Megumu’s poor behavior she doesn’t pointlessly rage about it – she channels it into a stronger desire to prove Megumu wrong.

As for the rest of the matches, well – there’s not much to say because we have no idea how any of the boys are doing (only that Nishida is sweating profusely, but that’s normal). We do at least see that Kanade is up by four cards – and indeed, that she’s impressing the hell out of an exhausted Tsukuba by performing so well despite having played every match and lost two by agonizingly close margins. And Kana also delivers the finest moment of the episode, where she and Chihaya bond over a shared memory of the "When winds blow" card – one that has special meaning for both of them. In this small way we see that Kana-chan has subtly influenced Chihaya’s Karuta – to see the meaning in the poem and not just the syllables that comprise it doesn’t come naturally to Chihaya, but here we see it as a source of inspiration for her.

March 30, 2013 at 2:51 am
37 comments »
  • March 30, 2013 at 3:16 amFaint Smile

    The episodes might gotten slow, but I do have faith they’re gonna make it up in the remaining episodes..

  • March 30, 2013 at 3:42 ammianghuei

    Chihayafuru never fails to blow me away!

  • March 30, 2013 at 3:56 amYourIdeas

    I’m also disliking the pacing, even if I’m not necessarily bothered by what appears in the episode. The sidetracking into the camera-freaks for example, still humored me with Megumu’s rather sadistic photo-deleting seducing. At this rate, there’s only going to be enough time to get Chihaya through Queen qualifiers with very little room for much else. This episode also brought me into full reality just how much time is being used to development seemingly one-shot characters like the foreigners and the quiz masters.

    On a side note, that’s a very hot 39-year old teacher.

    • March 30, 2013 at 4:16 amKarutaku

      And voiced by the legendary Hayashibara Megumi too!

    • March 30, 2013 at 4:17 amLGrey

      And voiced by Megumi Hayashibara.

    • March 30, 2013 at 6:56 amMikako

      That 39-year old teacher is way hotter than Taichi’s mother. I hope they’ll get a scene together and that fact can be shoved in Mashima Momma’s face.

  • March 30, 2013 at 6:02 amSolara

    I hate to admit it, but Kana-chan saved this bland episode for me. ‘Bland’ is a strong word to be used to describe a gripping series like Chihayafuru, but to me it felt pretty bland. And I never thought I would ever use that word in any of my reviews about Chihayafuru. I figured I would be interested in the back story of the new ACE, but it lacked something I strongly felt what Enzo said about last weeks episode and its new direction it’s taking. And I honestly don’t like it.

    I appreciate that they want to cover as much as they can about the side characters to make it more dynamic, but it’s cramping up the series style. Especially if they happen to be those types of characters that are just seen during a match and not later on again than that is just wastefulnessl. I am always for Friday to come because of this show, but this episode left me feeling so bland that I, dare I say it, thought about dropping this show. It wasn’t until Kana-chan spoke about that poem and I heard that lovely melody that made my heart race with excitement and brought me back on just why I adore this series so much. PERFECT TIMING KANA-CHAN!

    The little details, THE LITTLE DETAILS, about the poems and exploring the current cast more. I never thought I would say this, but stop dragging this shit on and just focus on our main cast here once more pretty please! I want to see Arata! I want to see Shinobu! I want Eyebrows to finally get Class A! I want to see current cast defining moments with each card they take, not the type that defines how they can win the match, but the types that defines true character about one self. Self realization, even more importantly; as a team. That’s what makes this series so special to me. This episode had the right elements to be very engaging but it was presented in a way that left me wanting more. Like something was missing, I really hope it picks up next week or at least part of the second part of this season.

    • March 30, 2013 at 6:12 amSolara

      Whoa. Please excuse any typos, my cell likes to eat words. Lol

    • March 30, 2013 at 7:20 amYourIdeas

      Just as a possibility, I’m hearing that the rest of season 2 is going to be Omi-jingu. While I’ll still watch and enjoy the series if this is the case, I’ll be sorely disappointed, though I think this is more an issue with trying to keep faithful with the manga.

      • March 30, 2013 at 7:21 amYourIdeas

        ….and wrong spot. Keep forgetting whether I’m replying to a post or making a new one.

    • March 30, 2013 at 9:31 amHakumeiJin

      While Kana’s feelings were definitely an emotional high point for this episode after all the stuff we saw from the minor characters, since I saw another obvious reason Chihaya got better from her saying the rain has stopped it wasn’t quite as effective as it could be on the we care about the cards and they don’t so we’ll win front: The rain that was interfering with Chihaya’s greatest strength, her hearing, has finally been removed it’s time for her to start taking every card before it’s read and get those Hokuo watchers to see why Hokuo wasn’t there last year.

      • March 30, 2013 at 10:56 amSolara

        Omg you’re right I completely overlooked that! I hope next week’s episode will point that out and have Chihaya on the prow! Now I’m excited for next week to come.

  • March 30, 2013 at 6:57 amJello

    I came into the episode thinking that we’d see the end of the semi-finals (or at least close to it) and would be getting ready to move onto the finals. As such, I was quite disappointed to see that I was already into the last 5 or so minutes of the episode by the time the match started.

    I don’t mind slow. The reason why I picked up Chihayafuru was for its beautiful and vivid exposition. But this episode just feels like I fell in a mud puddle and decided to take my sweet time getting up. It’s too much.

  • March 30, 2013 at 7:05 amScruffy

    What we saw in this episode was yet another team dynamic that is less than ideal. The only purpose for putting together the team was to help Ousaka aim towards the Queen title, ie the singles competition. Although Ousaka doesn’t want to loose, her main purpose competing in the teem event is to face strong opponents to improve her single play. Chihaya has a very different view on how a team should work. Her dream has always been about playing together with her friends. To her being Queen is more of a side effect of that.

    • March 31, 2013 at 3:39 amanona

      I would disagree about being the queen as just a side effect for her. She wants to win it all. She wants to win with her friends as a team, and she wants to be queen. She loves her friends just as she loves karuta. She’s just greedy (in a good way), just as her friends have said already.

  • March 30, 2013 at 7:20 amJD

    I, too, personally want to see more of the main cast’s arcs move on. When the episode was over, I was like, “20 minutes have passed???!!”

    But the way things are going, i.e., exploring other characters’ “mini-arcs” and motivations, I don’t really know anymore. I’m thinking that maybe Chihayafuru is focusing more on putting Karuta front and center (which I believe so), showing us different reasons why it is special. When I think of it that way, I find those little bits important over-all.

    Then again… I want my ChihayaXTaichi ship to sail along XD

    • March 30, 2013 at 7:47 amSolara

      I want that ship to sail along like my ShinobuxArata! In all honesty ship or not about those characters I just want them to be the spotlight again.

  • March 30, 2013 at 9:49 amMi-Chan

    I agree with Enzo (again), howeever, in addition, this episode was the only episode that left no impression on me like the previous episodes did, with your heart racing with excitement and worry over anything that’s everything, but… in this episode, there was none of it.

    The cameramen scene was just boring for me, I wasn’t intrerested much at all, but I think we know why Megumu agreed to taking pictures: she’s watching her style on their camera before deleting it, or so I tried to conclude. I hated Megumu, I reall did, and I hope Chihaya pounds the hell out of her arrogant behaviour.

    The only scene I laughed about was Retro-kun’s creeping the blonde guy xD and I loved, really loved, Kana and Chihaya’s moment, it was the only memorable part of the episode.

    The girls from Megumu’s school reminded of Chihaya as a child, her dream was for ‘her sister’ and not for ‘her’, and so the same goes for the school of girls, all hoping Megumu to be Queen without having much dream for themselves, “that’s unfair to your sister (friend)” as Arata would probably tell them, I don’t know, whether I should feel bad for them or for her being put under their pressure. On the other side, it helped her improve her game.

    I will repeat this weekly: where’s Taichi in all of this? the question of ‘has he become better at Karuta than season 1?’ is still on my mind.

    Oh and another funny thing is when the judge that punished Arata came to watch his friends from Tokyo and looked at Houko, it was funny. Though he resembles Dr. Harada so much!

    Thanks for your review, I don’t feel like my Chihayafuru weekend was the best of episodes, but I can’t wait for what’s to come.

    Cheers, M.

    • March 30, 2013 at 9:53 amMi-Chan

      Another note: I would assume she’s Taichi’s sister if I hadn’t known she looked different, they have the same eyes and hair colour xD:
      http://randomc.net/image/Chihayafuru/Chihayafuru%202%20-%2012%20-%20Large%2016.jpg

      • March 30, 2013 at 12:55 pmTSouL

        She isn’t Taichi’s sister, but she will be involved in the story shortly (hence they revealed her presence in this episode).

      • March 30, 2013 at 1:16 pmMi-Chan

        yeah obviously :P I know his sister, but I thought the resemblance was funny xD

      • March 31, 2013 at 12:30 amKarutaku

        They never mention her name in the episode, but from the credits, I’m guessing she is voiced by Takagaki Ayahi, who also voices the young Taichi…

  • March 30, 2013 at 12:08 pmSixFlags

    Show Spoiler ▼

    • March 30, 2013 at 12:53 pmTSouL

      Show Spoiler ▼

      • March 30, 2013 at 1:17 pmMi-Chan

        Please add spoiler to your message, I’m angry at having read it because I don’t want to know ‘what to expect’, I am not liking this.

  • March 30, 2013 at 12:34 pmTaiakun

    I’m not too concerned about the pacing. If anything, I felt last season was a tad too fast. There were spurts where the team had played Karuta, but the game itself was barely shown (if at all). The highschool team competition stage did not even last 1 episode because Chihaya fainted in the very first game and none of the other team’s games were shown. While they may be showing a bit too many games this time round, each time they have shown the team growing in one way or another. The series never really felt “slow” at all, just that they had packed more things in this time around.

  • March 30, 2013 at 2:21 pminfo600

    I can’t help but think that some of Enzo’s words from a few weeks back coming back to nibble on him…
    From episode 4:

    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.

    one thing of special note: Sakurazawa-Sensei‘s VA might not be the best choice…

    • March 30, 2013 at 5:36 pmGuardian Enzo

      Well, I might not have felt that enthusiastic if that had been episode 12. At that point who knew this would be the direction the series would pursue with such zeal?

  • March 30, 2013 at 2:24 pmhwighting

    the slow pace wouldn’t bother me so much so long as i can watch the next episode immediately but having to wait another week is torture. i think i might force myself to stop watching and then catch up all at once. but who am i kidding, that won’t happen.

  • March 30, 2013 at 3:16 pmJ Jay

    To sum up this season of Chihayafuru in one sentence – “Too much of a good thing …”

    It wouldn’t be so noticeable to me if it wasn’t for the last ep of Girls und Panzer, which I spent more time thinking about than this series while I was watching this episode. While Chihayafuru spends a great deal of time on each and every character, that’s only of benefit if we find the characters likeable as a result*. Compare this to the exploits of Team Kampfgruppe Miho, where the minor characters were fleshed out within the battles as opposed to lengthy flashbacks that interrupt the flow of the match, and where the main focus remained on the journey of Miho and her friends. If the rest of this series doesn’t leave Omi Jingu I’m not sure I’ll stick with it; I don’t think it’s too much to ask for some sort of balance between character exposition and plot significance.

    Oh, and Arata. I don’t care if it isn’t “exactly how the manga goes” but for fucks sake, let’s see him doing something useful instead of dipping into the story more often than a Hobnob.

    *Interestingly, there are many maxims about world-topping sportspersons (or generally successful, “driven” types) being rather unsavoury characters. Could this be the main factor behind Megumu’s nonchalant dismissal of her competition, especially given that her team have pandered to her own dream of making the Queen match? Had this been five episodes ago, I’d have said this was the case. Now however, I’ll put it down to sheer coincidence.

  • March 30, 2013 at 3:48 pmTonameki

    Retro-kun keeps cracking me up. Ohh that guy.

  • March 30, 2013 at 8:32 pmMishieru

    It makes me sad to find that most people find this episode disappointing cause I find it enjoyable. Well to each his own, I guess.

    While I agree that this season isn’t as engaging as the first one, I think it has something to do more with the transition from manga to anime instead of the pacing/or the focus on characters. I don’t read the manga so I can’t say much but I imagine that people will have a different reaction if they read it as a chapter in the manga. Or maybe, that’s just me. XD

  • March 30, 2013 at 9:19 pmKrim

    I don’t mind the pacing so much as I mind not feeling like anything of import happened this episode. I was enjoying the snippets of Megumu in previous episodes but her backstory here didn’t end up interesting me much. Then aside from that, not much happened. The moment between Chihaya and Kana was nice, but that whole end scene still felt like similar scenes have been done many times in Chihaya’s other matches. So aside from the backstory …nothing much else happened. I’m all right with the tournament lasting the whole season but I want to come out of an episode feeling excited and moved, not just bored and “…that’s it?” like I did with this one. I’d say it’s the first major misstep of the season for me. I wouldn’t call it bad, just …unnecessary.

    And I agree with Solara’s comment above about wanting more development of the main characters. I really do like the development the show gives minor and supporting characters, but I think they’re best utilized when they interact with main characters and both develop. I didn’t feel like there was much significant development of anyone here.

    • March 30, 2013 at 9:38 pmSolara

      Thank you. <:

      Actually when you focus on one of the main characters, it becomes the 'domino' effect that it beams down to the others that become the impetus of the series. One characters 'cause and effect' is trigger. For example, because Chihaya believed she heard Arata, it made Eyebrows more edgy about it letting us know that there is something unresolved. Eyebrows can't focus properly on the game, and the others can pick up on it causing another chain of events.

      As you can see it doesn't really take much to grap the attention of the viewers, if only they put a small effort on one of the main cast members it can easily make the episode more memorable.

  • March 31, 2013 at 10:51 amOri

    I posted on this show when the first season showed.

    I gave a warning then that the manga starts at a really fast and exciting pace before it slows to a near halt. Looks like the anime may be making the same mistake… :(

  • March 31, 2013 at 8:47 pmnagi

    I don’t know whether this shift in focus and pacing takes place in exactly the same fashion in the manga

    Believe me when I say that Morio-sensei was adapting the manga so faithfully that he almost do not cut lines from it (why can’t he just cut the flashback part of those creepy perverts?). But don’t worry, IMO this is the lowest dip that we’ll get in Omi Jingu and things will get more interesting onwards.

  • April 2, 2013 at 1:55 amewok40k

    One man’s slowness is another man’s attention to detail.
    Megumu’s story was really nice touch, and I am looking ahead to see the rest of the match!