“The Sky is the Road Home”
Nishida, Immelmann TURN!!!
This was pretty much a full-bore shounen episode, action-packed from start to finish, yet as this show so often does it managed to sneak quite a bit of subtle character drama – romantic and otherwise – in as well. It acted as something of a progress check for Mizusawa’s Karuta team (they passed) as well as a chance to start tying many plot strands together. Mostly it was just an exciting thrill ride (who’d have thought I’d ever be saying that about karuta?) and a chance for the team members to prove themselves not by winning alone, but by becoming part of a larger purpose.
While I doubt many of us were surprised by the outcome, there was certainly some heart-pounding drama watching it unfold. Hokuo was indeed a formidable team, with two Class “A” players including “S is for Sadist” Sudo-kun (Ohara Takashi), who seems to inherit the mantle of the episode’s designated asshat (though to be fair, pretty much everyone on that team seems to be a jerk). Interestingly, Chihaya – probably for the first time in the series – shows the ability to step outside herself and really analyze a larger dynamic when Taichi is overthinking the playing order. Her logic makes perfect sense – calm and loud-spoken Taichi in the center, with the newbies close at hand on either side where he can support them, and the aces Chihaya and Nishida on the outside trying to wrap up quick wins. I loved that moment because it was one of the few signs of real growth we’ve seen from Chihaya so far, though as it turned out it was largely moot as Retro-kun’s “Retrot” cards seem to be infallible at predicting the other team’s playing order. Sudo-kun got the matchup he wanted – Chihaya – and so did Retro-kun, Taichi.
Another wonderful moment was the little meeting between Taichi and Harada-sensei (who seems to be in the middle of a lot of those) before the final match. Taichi admits his failure as a leader because of the way he unwittingly unsettled Chihaya in the semi-final match, but states his resolve to do better. As Harada watches Taichi literally take Tsutomu and Kanade under his wing, he realizes what Taichi doesn’t – that he’s already grown tremendously from the boy he was when they met. Mainly in the sense that he’s no longer the ultimate “play-it-safe” kid – never extending himself too much, only taking on what he knows he can conquer. Now Taichi is laying it all on the line, embracing the unknown and facing possible failure, but at the same time he’s more passionate than he’s ever been. Obviously for Chihaya, but also for the game and especially for the team.
Everyone on the team faces a harsh test during this match with Hokuo. For the newbies it’s mostly a matter of being in over their heads and still going all-out, and staying strong for their teammates. The highlight here was definitely seeing Tsutomu fight like a little bulldog when he feels he’s been cheated out of a taken card by his opponent. For Nishida, it’s an old foe that he used to dominate when they were kids, but has now achieved the “A” level that Nishida has not. No, he didn’t really do an Immelmann Turn, but Nishida did launch a perfect barrel roll at the crucial moment in the match, inspiring himself and his team. Taichi shows his true strength – not the instinct and athleticism of Chihaya or the keen board sense of Nishida, but his relentless competitive fire and keen memory, and he heartbreakingly yearns to become the “backbone of the team”. And for Chihaya, it’s a matter of outlasting Sudo’s petty mind games and maintaining her composure – always her biggest challenge in karuta – and staying on the attack. The Hokuo team wasn’t among Chihayafuru’s best work – they come off more as stock villains than interesting opponents and the Retrot cards seem a bit preposterous in this context.
The payoff for me wasn’t the much-expected win, but the group hug afterwards (and it was impossible not to notice how tightly Taichi was hugging Chihaya, even if she’d already gone catatonic). There’s no longer any question that this is a team, even if they aren’t all on the same level as karuta players. Of course, it was very notable that Arata made his first extended appearance in the series for weeks – we get a look at him working at the bookstore, whose only customer appears to be a cat. When he uses the store computer to check his email he has no less than 49 messages from Chihaya, leading right up to her dispatches from the tournament. And Arata takes the time to read every one of them, including the one with the team picture after their victory. If you’re an Arata backer this was a good week, for even though he was on-screen for only a few moments there were quite a few flags – the way Chihaya reacted when she saw his strategy in Sudo’s moves (“Did I just make her fall for me?” I think not, S-kun) for one.
I suspect we’re getting close to a new stage now, and Arata is going to become a real player in events and not just a mostly unseen presence. One way or another he’s going to be at that National Tournament – we’ve seen no indication that he’s formed or joined a team at his school, though I wouldn’t rule it out. Even if he hasn’t I expect he’ll show up to watch, and I suspect that’s going to be incredibly bittersweet. There’s something very special growing not just (though especially) between Chihaya and Taichi but between all five members of the Mizusawa team, and fair or not, Arata isn’t a part of that. When he comes back into the picture everything is going to change, and the bonds that have built over the last few episodes are going to be severely tested.
All I have to say is…
Taichi… Taichi… Taichi… Taichi… TAICHI!!
Down with emo-Arata!!
hahah I’m an unabashed Arata fan, so I see him more as reserved, as opposed to emo 😀
I just watch this episode before going to work, and it just made my day.
Ahh…It just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
This is definitely one of the more powerful episodes, and we get to see the drive from the 3 main players in our home team.
After seeing Arata again, it reminded me of Tachi’s girlfriend. Did they break up or she just doesn’t show up to cheer for him?
This is the ultimate feel-good series; I can’t get enough. Especially satisfying was Chihaya’s zen-like preemption of her favourite card, basically moving to it before the reader had even started. Normally that might feel cheap, but not this time.
I re-watched that part multiple times. She was so calm about it. I love the way her eyes look when she’s in the zone.
Their victory brought a tear to my eye. *sniff*
This episode is “Full of Win” *insert meme photo here*,
…from the fact that they are finally working as a team to both Taichi and Nishida overcoming their inner demons…
screen-caption joke:Arata caught his boss on the “magazines” through a mirror app!
As is always the case, this was not actually a barrel roll, but an aileron roll.
This show doesn’t make you bawl, but you really do get single tears of happiness, sadness, whatever else the writers want. I’d say manly tears, but I don’t think they meet all the criteria for “manly”. The best part has to be the warm and fuzzy feeling that JHacks mentioned. I get that EVERY episode.
Yaaay for Chihaya’s team! And I don’t really like Arata:/
I dont understand how arata is emo when in this episode all he did was check his email. This also explains why he hasnt responded to any of chihaya emails lol. Somehow I get the feeling that this is a set up for arata to be more involved in the second half of the manga Show Spoiler ▼
I’m curious as where this series will go in the end and I like the forshadowing by harada sensee lol he really has faith in Chihaya.
All I can say, is that with everybody fighting in their own way, the have made a team.
Most impressive to me looks Taichi, probably most mature member of the team. From admitting his mistakes to working to overcome them, from being “safe-play” to turning it into mastery of “positional warfare”, he gets better and better.
If Taichi gets his heart broken by Chihaya in the end, that will be when the tears come for me. Not that the victory didn’t rouse some emotion, too. I’d just hate to see such great development for a character not be rewarded – nothing against Arata, but for him to swoop in now and steal Chihaya away would just feel wrong.
But then, the manga is ongoing (I’m not reading ahead of the anime) and the anime is ending after the Winter season, so my money is still on the “Chihaya x Karuta” end.
NISHIDA DO A BARREL ROLL!
While I’m not really hoping for this series to focus on a romance between the characters, if ever there will be, I hope it favors Arata. The worst thing for me that will ever happen in this series is that Arata reduced to nothing more than a figure that Chihaya wants to reach.
The last time I’ve rooted so hard for a pair to be a couple in a series would probably be True Tears and KimiKiss Pure Rouge. So yeah, I’m definitely is watching this series with kin interest.
is this what you call a pork barrel roll? 😛
I gotta say that I love and respect Taichi a lot, but I have to admit that Arata looked extremely cute (and hot) when he was on screen this week *O* And I loved how he tilted his head to look properly at the photo Chihaya send him, so lovely!!!
Agreed. I’m team Taichi but Arata looks really good this week!
Lol Taichi fan. Oh well I’m with Taichi too in this series on “Who gets Chihaya!” so BOOYAH.
why do i like chihaya’s voice more after each and every episode?
Arata IS hot but Taichi…is…persistently “karuta”-ing his way into my <3!!!
So far the anime has been very effective in explaining how this card game is a “sport,” as it constantly demands a player’s mental focus and challenges a player to take chances.
As for the plot is concerned, the author gives just enough depth to the characters of the opponent team to make the competition interesting without hindering its progress. For examples, the yelling from the all-girl team, and the trash talking during the regional championship game are all minor incidents that contribute to building a realistic atmosphere of a sports tournament.
While this anime is not epic, it is definitely a gem of the Fall, 2011 season.
I’m a total Arata fan. *Sigh*. Even with all this Taichi screentime and his MAJOR character improvement, I can’t get rid of Arata’s first impression vs. Taichi’s one: Taichi just came off as a huge jerk in the few episodes before the timeskip. I can’t shake how Arata was basically the one to give Chihaya the (kick, I guess) she needed. He was the basis of her even picking karuta up. Really, I almost hated the Taichi back-then: he was mean even to Chihaya! I know, I know, Arata too was a jerk for that episode after the timeskip, but he had his reasons, and he came around eventually – I mean, you just want to give him a big hug after he is so affected by his grandfather’s death. Younger-Taichi, on the other hand, had no excuse but immaturity, and I don’t look too lightly on that trait when the other person, by comparison, is the same age but is a soft-spoken, reserved, mature adorable glasses boy (who has the most adorable look on his face when he talks about karuta). I also don’t really favor Tachi’s possessiveness over Chihaya. It’s gone in recent episodes, but it really annoyed me before that.
Whelp, I completely agree that I’m starting to like Taichi more with every episode. My heart’s a one-man sort of heart though, and Arata’s firmly lodged there (somehow I think Chihaya feels sort of like this!) and I truly do believe that if they end the show with any romantic coupling at all, it would be ChihayaxArata. And I think that Taichi will let them get together, really. Even if vice versa occurred, Arata wouldn’t kick up too much of a fuss. The three of them are certainly friends before they involve any romantic feelings. That’s why this is a truly great anime, I guess. It also explores the dynamic that happens when one person in a love triangle is just not present. I also appreciate that the writers take the time to incorporate things about parents which expect too much, parents who favor one child over the other, even things like why different members may have different reasons for joining a club or sport. While not as intense, these family problems (quirks, rather) are definitely present in lots of families, and I can empathize on some level with all of the problems that the characters face.
Gah. I just can’t wait for the next episode. Tis why I present my ramble. (sigh, Arata. If Chihaya doesn’t want you, be mine.)
Well I agree with you on some parts and disagree on others. The difference between Taichi and Arata’s personality is pretty reasonable. Taichi was brought up as always being the best at everything, which made him spoiled thinking that wtv he wants, he has to get. Arata on the other hand grew up poor, forcing him to mature early take up responsibility. The friendship that was formed between them and Chihaya developed them into better individuals. Taichi learned how it is more enjoyable to win something with hard work and a possibility of failing. Arata found people that share his passion, and learned how being with people as friends or as a team is much better than being on your own (he was a loner as a kid) and Chihaya learned to have a dream of her own, a passion of her own, and not someone trapped behind her sister’s shadow. I’m on Taichi’s team right now 😛 but if Chihaya was to end up with Arata, I wouldn’t want her to be with him just because he showed up. Cuz right now all she has is her memory that she cherish it so much it feels as if the Arata she remembers is some kind of an illusion. I mean so much time has passed, people change and memory fades. On the other hand her relationship with Taichi right now is refreshing and growing nicely, same goes for their team 😉 If she is to end up with Arata, I think we need to see their relationship anew. Cuz I like his character too (he looked so good when he tilted his head to look at the picture!!!) but I hope she ends up with Taichi 😛