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「わすれじの」 (Wasureji no)
“My Fear is That You Will Forget”

An interesting side-effect of the change in focus is that it’s made Chihayafuru a much more difficult show to blog this season.

If you’ve been watching, you know pretty much what to expect out of Chihayafuru this week – another intense, riveting episode spent entirely following events on the tatami. That’s all well and good, but there is a sort of sameness to it after a while. On the positive said you could call is "consistency" and this has certainly been a consistent season, especially for the last 8-10 episodes. But ultimately a lack of real variety and the fact that competition-driven episodes – apart from the final one – by their very nature lack satisfying closure make this season a less fulfilling experience for me as both a viewer and a blogger.

I keep going back to that "exquisite torture" description I used a few weeks back, because it probably comes closest to capturing how I feel about watching Chihayafuru 2. In S1 this show was more like Cross Game in the sense that the competition eps acted as a sort of bridge between developments, and the biggest drama was the character dynamics. But I’m hard-pressed to remember even a hard-core sports shounen like Major or Ginga e Kickoff that’s spent such a huge percentage of its time inside the chalk as this one. Chihayafuru has come to be defined by its Karuta, and of course the flip-side of the exquisite torture label is that it really is exquisite at depicting the sport. It’s turned this esoteric and ancient game into something truly fascinating. This episode, like most of them over the last two months, was exciting and felt like it lasted half its actual length (and the increasingly long recaps at the start of the episodes don’t help matters). And if you go by the rule of "always leave the audience wanting more" the show certainly has a leg up – the cliffhangers are agonizing. Or, dare I say it, torture.

One thing that’s been limiting is the laser-like focus on Chihaya and her opponent for most of these matches, which has effectively reduced the role of her teammates. We did see that start to change a bit at the end of this episode, with welcome results – I think the drama really picked up when the camera turned to the other four matches. It’s ironic, really, that when the major theme of this extended Omi Jingu arc has been the profoundly meaningful nature of team play – and the way not being part of it has isolated Arata and especially Shinobu – the focus of the series has almost been exclusively on one individual, main character or not. These are, in fact, team matches and two or three minutes total per episode really isn’t enough to do justice to four matches which each have their own intense story.

In fact, the most interesting developments this week might just have come from the two principals not involved in the tournament yet. It seems clear that Arata is destined to join Fujioka West in the next year – the hints being laid out certainly suggest it. Arata is generally a rather undemonstrative kid, a rarity in this series of dramatic facial expressions (a Madhouse specially) so you have to glean a lot from his body language. It was fascinating to see the subtle longing in him as he looked at the closed doors of the competition room and listened to the sounds of the game – Arata has always seemed to be a boy who’s comfortable in his own skin but spends perhaps too much of his time alone. It’s also interesting to see just how much he’s come to think of himself and Shinobu as kindred spirits, sharing many of the same dreams and frustrations. That notion is obviously fit to bursting with potential development on the character side of the story, should the series ever decide to get back to it.

As for Shinobu, she’s obviously much easier to read than Arata. She seems never to have a thought that’s unexpressed on her face, and we’ve spent more time getting inside her head in the last few weeks than at any other time in the series. In her case, isolation seems not to have been a choice as it debatably was with Arata, but an imposition – the notion (which she eventually bought into) that being around children her own age could only make her weak and dilute her competitive fire. While it’s clear she’s dealing with strong emotions in watching the team competition (The Empress has had to warn her three times to move back) it’s hard to say which ones are dominating. Indeed, I’d say she wouldn’t know herself – but frustration is clearly a big part of it. I think she’s frustrated that she has no personal buy-in to the human drama playing out before her, and frustrated with herself for caring. Shinobu may be lonely but she’s become an expert at denying to herself that she is. The only people she seems strongly connected to are Suo – who represents both an ideal and a personification of everything she despises – and Arata, who I think she likewise sees as a kindred spirit (and other things, besides). And she’s starting to become more interested in Chihaya, as well.

As for Chihaya, she at last notices Shinobu watching her match – surely a watershed moment for her, though the main factor continues to be her injury. With pain shooting up her wrist it’s obvious she’s done more than jam her finger – most likely there are ligaments damaged – and I suspect the path we’re headed down is that she’ll be unable to play in the individual tournament. That has its own implications – it even more shifts the dramatic emphasis to the Class B tournament, but it could also present a moment where Chihaya has to choose between watching Taichi or Arata play. If Taichi were in the Class B final and Arata were playing Shinobu in the Class A final, what would Chihaya do? That’s a potentially huge moment but still theoretical – for now what matters is that Chihya’s injury has gotten her thinking that the team match is her last shot, and she has no reason to hold anything back. Rion, for her part, is proving that despite her great natural ability she’s still too easily thrown off her game – and Makoto’s stalker-like obsession with her puts even more pressure on her. This is and always has been a game Chihaya should win, the only match on the board that favors Mizusawa on paper – and I expect Chihaya to take care of business.

As for the others, the predictable has happened – both Tsutomu and Tsukuba have lost. I would have liked more focus on their struggle but they simply weren’t given enough screen time, and their endings were rather abrupt. But assuming Chihaya wins her match (she’s fought back to even) that leaves the final where it always looked as if it would be decided, with Taichi and Nishida. Both trail with 8 cards remaining – Taichi by four cards and Nishida by either two or four, depending on the unseen results of the last card. Nishida was basically ignored this ep after the promising teaser last week, but Taichi at last got some focus at the very end. As always he’s doubting himself, and as always the others are bemoaning his bad luck – five cards in a row on his side when he desperately needed to attack. Though Ryouga is really nothing like Arata the superficial resemblance has given Taichi another pretext for doubting himself. "Arata – I’m happy when I forget you. But I feel encouraged when I think of you. I’m no good – I’m bad at forgetting." As always, Taichi’s main opponent is himself, and as always, he seems to draw the worst possible physical opponent to exacerbate the problem. Even Ryouga’s implacable (he doesn’t even seem to sweat), balanced style reminds Taichi that he’s afraid to play the same way, and compensates by relying on memorization. They’ve gotten much less attention this season, but Taichi’s personal demons remain one of the most compelling threads in Chihayafuru – and if Mizusawa is to pull a miracle comeback in the team match, it seems inevitable that his conquering them will prove the climactic moment.

May 10, 2013 at 9:52 pm
32 comments »
  • May 10, 2013 at 11:41 pmEVILTRAIN

    1st time poster, long time lurker.

    As you said, like many past episodes, this one left me feeling spent and almost breathless from the tense build up.

    I have to say, more so this season than last, if there ever was an anime show that needed to budget one hour slots instead of half hour TV slots, this is it. I wonder too, if we would feel the lack of “chunky” development of the various character threads if they even just doubled up the episodes?

    Finally, though I understand the inevitable comparison to the first season, without a doubt, that critical comparison, though it might you well as a blogger, is perhaps bringing a sharper knife to the proceedings than is truly warranted. This show is the hit of the season and a hell of ride no matter how you slice it. I say enjoy it!

    • May 10, 2013 at 11:42 pmEVILTRAIN

      might you = might serve you (my brain always works faster than my fingers…)

  • May 11, 2013 at 12:15 amK

    Oh snap, I hate to wait another week to find out the result of this tournament. Another excellent episode. Thanks for the blogging, too, Guardian Zero.

    • May 13, 2013 at 7:13 pmnagi

      lol who is Guardian Zero?

  • May 11, 2013 at 12:21 aminfinite

    This is one intense battle. I like that its on the big three to win each off there matches to become the champs but I don’t know if they’ll pull it off. It’s taking my best self-restraint not to look up if they do or not.

  • May 11, 2013 at 12:48 amJ-Luke

    Chihaya is running on sheer willpower now; I guess when her match is over she won’t be able to participate without at least some taping in of her hand, but it is more likely that she’ll be forced to step out of the match. If the team happens to lose (which is quite possible) there will be enough material left to fill the remaining episodes like the aftermath (dealing with the loss and Chihaya’s injury), interaction with Shinobu and Arata and a possible breather to relieve tension.

  • May 11, 2013 at 1:06 amintense

    that smile lol

  • May 11, 2013 at 2:08 amFaint Smile

    I really do hope to see Arata play karuta in the tournament but can they still cover the individual tournament.. -_-

  • May 11, 2013 at 2:47 ammianghuei

    Not taking any chances with this one, sorry. – spoiler deleted.

    • May 11, 2013 at 11:22 amTadaima

      @mianghuei

      [Not taking any chances with this one, sorry.]

      No show will ever appeal to everyone. However, if you would like to see a love story that demonstrates high emotional IQ, lacks annoying characters in key roles, and shows respect for the intelligence of its audience, then you need to watch this.

      If you want to know whether this show is for you, then I recommend watching Chihayafuru season 1, episode 5. You will know after that episode whether this show matches your taste.

    • May 11, 2013 at 1:30 pmmianghuei

      Owh gosh something went wrong with this post. Guess the spoiler I posted was too much even in the spoiler tag. Don’t get me wrong! I did not post that sentence.

  • May 11, 2013 at 3:38 amSolara

    -Watches Shinobu stare intesely at Chihaya- Oh my.
    -Watches the match get intense with heavy breathing- Oh wow.
    -Watches Chihaya in more pain- Oh no.
    -Watches Shinobu sttill staring a hole down Chihayas throat- Oh Jesus.
    -Watches Chihaya get up only to notice Shinobu staring at her-
    FLIPPING FUCKING TABLES (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ !!!!!
    -Watches an intense fired up moment that makes Shinobu’s heart race with that smirk- UINKNDJWSJDNKSGH!! MYFEELSIJUSTCAN’T-

    Guys, seriously, I don’t know what’s more exciting, Chihaya knowing full and well that Shinobu is watching her or knowing full and well that Shinobu can’t take her eyes away from her. Either way, I hope they concluded this match next week!

    Show Spoiler ▼

  • May 11, 2013 at 6:40 amTadaima

    Whoa! Random Curiosity is back! :D

    I used to follow this blog a long time ago until real life shuttered it. Glad to see it back. And it is even better now than it used to be.

    I didn’t know it came back because I stopped watching anime for a while too. But Chihaya brought me back.

    This along with Mawaru Penguindrum is the best anime of the last two years. I am sorry I didn’t know about Chihayafuru until last week but marathoning it over the weekend was a pleasure.

  • May 11, 2013 at 6:57 amTadaima

    @Guardian Enzo

    I am happy someone is blogging this show. Your posts have been great.

    But I disagree with this point.

    [It seems clear that Arata is destined to join Fujioka West in the next year – the hints being laid out certainly suggest it.]

    It is not at all clear and highly unlikely that Arata will join Fujioka West. Arata attends Fujioka East. So he seems destined to start up a club there, though it is doubtful to me that he has the drive and charisma–both of which Chihaya has in abundance–to start up a club and take them to the finals at Nationals, considering Fukui’s traditional apathy toward high school level Karuta.

    • May 11, 2013 at 8:27 amShalaKairos

      And what about Arata’s request that if he wins Nationals, he’ll transfer to Tokyo? Couldn’t that mean he could join Chihaya’s club?

      • May 11, 2013 at 8:50 amTadaima

        Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t remember the actual conversation with his parents. I have been thinking that Arata was talking about going to a university in Tokyo, not transferring to Mizusawa High.

        Further, I think Arata wants to represent the west and compete against the top team of the east, which he hopes will be Mizusawa. In other words, he wants to play a team match against Chihaya and Taichi in nationals, not with them.

        I wonder what will happen after high school graduation, though. Taichi is #1 in academics at Mizusawa. He’ll get into a top university. Chihaya is an academic baka. I don’t know Arata’s academic standing, but with his superior memory, he probably is a good student.

        Will they team up at a uni? What will happen to Chihaya then? Can she earn a Karuta scholarship?

      • May 11, 2013 at 8:53 amTadaima

        I’m sorry, I meant represent Fukui or whatever, not western Japan. Obviously I was thinking about the Masters qualifiers.

      • May 11, 2013 at 9:23 amShalaKairos

        There wasn’t an actual conversation shown with his parents. I just jumped to conclusions… At any rate, this show needs to pick up the pace or we’ll never find out what happen in 1-2 years!!

      • May 11, 2013 at 10:54 amTadaima

        @ShalaKairos

        [this show needs to pick up the pace or we’ll never find out what happen in 1-2 years!!]

        :D Not going to happen!

        Suetsugu Yuki-san knows she has a career definer in this gem title. She’s going to milk it in “exquisite torture”-mode all the way to what looks like will be an agonizingly bittersweet end–for Taichi fans… I am hoping that it will be ten more manga years of this and several more anime seasons detailing the story of Taichi’s tumult-filled hopes in love and Karuta. Taichi has thus far been the emotional center of the story. He and Chihaya are compelling in part because their relationship is developing so slowly together.

        The flip side of quicker development is quicker end to this story!! Chihayafuru does not really have filler chapters. Everything is Karuta or character development/exploration. And the more time it spends with the three protagonists the better it is for me.

        :D

        And I am thankful of Asaka Morio-san and Madhouse for actually producing it in a lovingly beautiful and respectfully developing style. They are not abridging the story as to weaken or confuse the audience of the stakes and goals.

        I do not understand the economics of the anime business, but it worries me to read on the internet that poor dvd sales could end further production of this anime.

        But we will have to wait for a S3 to finally see the growing importance of Taichi and Arata as drivers of the story’s actions and desires. S2 has all been about their experiences as 2nd years working towards and competing at Nationals.

  • May 11, 2013 at 7:56 amMi-Chan

    Eh “we are getting three wins, guys” – I am ready to either break my heart next week, or celebrate. The tension is in my stomach like magma!! Thanks for your review, M.

    • May 11, 2013 at 11:06 amronbb

      So agree with you, Mi-Chan, and I can’t wait for the next episode. I have no doubt that Karuta will still be the focus — instead of the main cast that I so longed for — but at least it’s going to be Taichi, Chihaya and Nishida playing. It will be more than intense as ever, and I think all my emotions and feelings for the characters will come back.

  • May 11, 2013 at 8:21 amTadaima

    @Guardian Enzo

    [In S1 this show was more like Cross Game in the sense that the competition eps acted as a sort of bridge between developments, and the biggest drama was the character dynamics.]

    [One thing that’s been limiting is the laser-like focus on Chihaya and her opponent for most of these matches, which has effectively reduced the role of her teammates.]

    [but Taichi’s personal demons remain one of the most compelling threads in Chihayafuru – and if Mizusawa is to pull a miracle comeback in the team match, it seems inevitable that his conquering them will prove the climactic moment.]

    I understand your feelings. Unfortunately, any real payoff cannot come in S2. There are not enough episodes left. The fact is, thus far in S2, we have mostly watched the growth of Chihaya the Karuta player and not Chihaya, the girl and romantic lead. Moreover, this show has three protagonists and two “antagonists”–if we can call them that. Yet, Arata has hardly been seen at all in 2 seasons. And Taichi has mainly experienced regular helpings of small but personal humiliations and defeats. We are only getting to know Shinobu-chan now and Suo has hardly been mentioned. The stories of Arata and Taichi as actual protagonists have not yet even started. No wonder the destined formation of the love triangle between Chihaya, Arata, and Taichi remain incomplete. (Possibly, will Shinobu-chan figure into that future relationship?) This is because Chihaya alone so far has been the great engine behind the story. Thus, so long as (1) Chihaya remains focused on Karuta and (2) so long as Chihaya continues to suppress the meanings of her intense yearnings for Arata and (3) so long as Taichi and Arata refuse to fight for Chihaya’s love, the “romance”–which is what actually makes the show compelling–will remain stunted.

    This is why Karuta is so important to the plot. These three foolish kids have substituted their intense love for each other with Karuta.

    Chihaya is likely to remain consumed by competitive Karuta. She increasingly feels and sees the poems of the cards. But she won’t accept that many of these poems are about love, even hopeless love. Maybe part of it is because she cannot help but see Arata as something more like a god and less like a human. He gave her her dream. And he, like Suo and Shinobu, play Karuta in a way Chihaya severely envies.

    So, it has to be up to Arata and especially Taichi to move the love story forward. Only one of them can get the girl, but they are not even competing yet. And it is only because of a misunderstanding that Arata has not capitalized on his position in Chihaya’s heart to do something about it. Unfortunately for Taichi, he knows he is not the one in Chihaya’s heart. Arata’s absence and distance have only intensified Chihaya’s feelings for him. His absence has made him look more like an idea than a man to Chihaya. And Karuta itself has become a further hindrance to Taichi. He cannot communicate his feelings to her because she does not respect him in Karuta, the most important love of her life at this time.

    At this point, the only way to move this story toward a love triangle is for Taichi to start overcoming his humiliations and doubts and actually make himself Arata’s and Chihaya’s rival in Karuta.

    I, like you, Guardian Enzo, believe that the nationals is where Taichi will transform himself.

  • May 11, 2013 at 8:36 amShalaKairos

    I know it won’t happen, but I really wish Chihaya would win her match, run out of the room, and hug Arata…

    • May 12, 2013 at 8:18 am*v*

      No! Hug Taichi instead!

      • May 12, 2013 at 5:02 pmSolara

        NO!! SHINOBU DAMNIT! D<
        Show Spoiler ▼

      • May 13, 2013 at 2:32 pmShalaKairos

        He got a hug in S1 episode 4! But yeah, he and the entire rest of the team for that matter deserves a hug after this match. -_-

      • May 13, 2013 at 3:54 pmSolara

        @ShalaKairos
        Group hugs are always nice. In fact the series has provide some throughout as a team effort. Like the last one I recall (crappy memory) is of the cast running into each other with the scene fading. Okay so maybe it’s not an official in your face hug, but you could fill in the blanks that there was some warm embraces at the end of the tunnel. Heck even a pat on the back.

        But while team hugs are favorable, I demand a private-direct-strictly-exclusive hug from Chihaya to Tachi. Not essentially a romantic hug, or a friendly hug, but the type of hug that SCREAMS “I KNOW YOU’RE RERALLY TRYING AND I’M PROUD OF ALL YOUR EFFORTS AND FRUSTRATIONS. I WANT TO CHEER YOU ON INDIVIALLY ON GETTING CLASS A AND NOT JUST AS A WHOLE TEAM EFFORT. I SEE YOU TACHI. I FUCKING SEE YOU.”

        77unjelhnquiadiuydnskydnmdj-my feels if that ever fucking happens. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ !!!!! THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TABLES!!!!! But you get the point. C: Actually you know what, fuck it. A simple “I see you”, with a smile and her hand on his shoulder blade would be enough to sink mountains that the world has never seen by the viewers. And it’s such a simple BEAUTIFUL POWERFUL line that is right within this series reach. Yuki Suetsugu, we need to have a talk. .. Make this happen!

  • May 11, 2013 at 12:40 pmewok40k

    Well, drama just been turned up to eleven.
    The kicker?
    Despite Fujisaki dominating the game so far, Mizusawa still can pull off 3-2 win. Remember, those out are younger players with not the level of skill of the veterans. Both A-class players and Taichi are extremely strong and can with a bit of luck (can Taichi’s luck turn around just once?) push through with a surprise last moment win.
    But the moment I loved the most was Shinobu’s blue fire starting as she re-discovered the joys of team Karuta against her upbringing as a lone prodigy.

  • May 12, 2013 at 6:50 amJello

    hnngggghhhhhhhhhh Taii~Chiii~~~~

    Going through Shakespeare lessons, I never fully understood why his tragedies are so well received when they’re a TRAGEDY. But through watching Taichi, I’ve learned what no teacher nor professor has ever managed to explain. I can’t help but sympathize with and love Taichi ;-;!

  • May 12, 2013 at 1:41 pmLeena

    I really hoped there wouldnt insert the ending song in this episode ’cause I wanted to watch at least a little more of this exciting match! Now the pressure is on Chihaya,Taichi and Nishida

    • May 12, 2013 at 5:07 pmSolara

      The 3 amigos! 8D
      Show Spoiler ▼

  • May 20, 2013 at 8:23 amAshen

    As much as I love Chihaya I’ve been thrilled to see the other Mizusawa members get some time in the spotlight. As you said, Taichi’s personal demons were some one of the best elements to season one for me.