「はなよりほかにしるひともなし」 (Hana yori Hoka ni Shiru Hito mo Nashi)
“For There Is No one Else Out There”

As great as Chihayafuru has been, my enjoyment is dampened just a bit by the growing certainty that this anime is going to leave us stranded in the middle of the story.

As speculated here last week, the “fated meeting” on the shrine steps last week was indeed with The Queen, also knows as Wakamiya Shinobu (Nakamichi Mihoko), and she’s the main focus of this week’s fast-paced all-Karuta episode. The Queen is a bit of an odd duck – a fellow competitor notes that she’s “Cute but has the fashion sense of a rock”. Indeed, she arrives for the individual competition in a “Snowmaru” T-shirt (his topknot is his best feature) and her only hiccup during her second-round match with Chihaya is when she goes all fangirl over Chihaya’s “Daddybear” shirt.

This matchup is the focus of most of the episode and fittingly so, as it represents Chihaya’s real step-up to the big leagues of Karuta. Chihaya wins her first-round match easily enough, but The Queen wins hers – against the shota from Hokuo High – while losing but a single card. Conveniently the two end up paired in the second round, and it’s a fascinating look at the psyche of both girls. Shinobu is calm, collected and deadly – she plays a defensive style that takes few chances and isn’t too creative. But she makes up for it with her preposterously quick reflexes, at one point even managing to take a card on Chihaya’s side that she’d been covering. Chihaya is actually quicker to react to the reader (especially given their placement right next to her) but The Queen is so fast that she takes cards just by waiting until she’s sure which one has been called. She also seems bored by Karuta – arrogant, yes, but genuinely sad when her opponents go away in the middle of a match, broken and defeated.

Chihaya seems to have learned from her panic attack during the team matches, as she’s somewhat calmer here even in the face of looming defeat. Rather than panicking she recalls the advice of “Obi-wan” Harada, who appears before her with pearls of wisdom. She analyzes why she’s losing, even adopting Sudo’s technique of standing up during the match when under duress – which allows her to note Shinobu’s left-handedness. But even so she’s seemingly on the verge of dismay until an inadvertent switching-off of the lights leads to her noticing Taichi and The Empress watching her play. Inspired, she recalls Harada-sensei’s advice about taking a card from her opponent’s strong zone, and the worm seems about to turn when she takes her first cards.

One trend I don’t especially like is that the series seems to be abandoning the Karuta of the other team members in favor of focusing 100% on Chihaya. It turns out that all five are playing, with Taichi and Nishida in Class B and the chibis in Class D, but apart from a brief look-in on Taichi and Nishida after they’ve won their first match (Taichi is able to watch Chihaya because he wins his second in a walkover, for reasons unexplained – an odd number of players, perhaps?) we get no time dedicated to any of the other players. That’s too bad, as the series did a fine job building up interest in them both as people and Karuta players – I love Chihaya but I want this show to be more “Mizusawa no Karuta” than “Chihaya no Karuta”. The Empress does seem to be getting into the swing of things and promises to film everyone’s matches, but we see her only in the Class A room. As for Arata, he makes no appearance this week – leaving us to wonder if he’ll show up again to support Chihaya before the end of the tournament.

It was always obvious that we weren’t going to get anything like a complete telling of this ongoing manga in two cours, but it’s becoming quite clear now that what we’re getting is only scratching the surface. Chihayafuru was never going to be a big seller on BD/DVD, so the longshot hope for second season was always dependent mostly on a boost in manga sales. So far we’ve seen a modest though not overwhelming one, and indeed BD sales are minimal, so it’s not looking great. Frankly, I find it hard to see how Madhouse can even do an anime-original ending based on where we are with 10 eps to go, but we’ll see. In the short-term, while it’s exciting to see Chihaya rally her spirits and battle The Queen, I really hope she doesn’t win this match as I think that would be pretty unrealistic. It’s enough that she push Shinobu and catch her interest, creating a long-term rivalry. In the meantime, please show me the others as I’m dying to see how they’re doing – especially Taichi. I think he’s better at this game than he realizes and it’s high-time he starts worrying about his own chances more than Chihaya’s, as he’s probably very close to being a Class A player himself – in Karuta, if not in love…


  1. Yes, BD/DVD sales are sad.
    They don’t necessarily have to make an anime original ending. For instance, they could end it with Chihaya looking forward to future matches and events, reflecting on the past episode etc.

    Can anyone think of a good animal-original ending? (like a properly planned one)

    In any case the match this episode was great – the fast swipes by Shinobu made me hold my breath a minute, and towards the end I was cheering heaps for Chihaya 🙂

  2. I say I like the Queen, her character design is gorgeous not only because of her black hair and hairstyle but she gives a strong aura and impression, I hope to see more of her in the future…not just a character that stands as an obstacle for Chihaya but a character that really make an impact.

    1. I like the Queen very much too! She is overpowered (duh!) but not mean like, say, Sado Sudo.
      She’s been chewing thru opposition like German Panzers thru Europe in 1940s. Chihaya might be beaten this time but I feel her love of karuta is strong enough to keep her coming back for more until she eventually be able to play on equal terms. I don’t expect Chihaya to win right now – that would be stretching reality – but getting a few more cards and givng the Queen much awaited challenge would be good.

  3. Darn, was wrong about the queen being a cross dressing Arata, but she might as well be as I loved this match since it took chihaya (and me) back to that memorable first match with Arata =D

  4. I’m a bit sad that the tone of this review is disappointment, while here I am still amazed with the fast-paced intense match between Chihaya and the Queen even after a day has passed. I’m sure the others would get their screen times properly but don’t let it hinder anyone from enjoying this well-made episode.

  5. Well this show IS called CHIHAYAfuru for a reason. I actually like how the focus is on Chihaya’s adventure because they only have 24 episodes unlike the endless episodes other sports anime have like prince of Tennis. Plus it’s told from Chihaya’s point of view other then during the beggining episodes the other characters were introduced. Anyone else notice how the Queens glowing blue eyes look JUST like Arata’s? they should get together and leave Taichi and Chihaya alone :3

    1. It’s funny you should bring that up, I didn’t notice it but i felt they were familiar somehow…from the beginning of the series I’ve thought Chihaya and Taichi’s eyes were similar, at first I wondered if they were even going to turn out to be cousins or something. It made me think they were empasizing the seperation of Arata from Chihaya and Taichi. Maybe they meant for her character design to match Arata a bit to bring her a bit of extra credibility. Another Karuta shark with black hair!

  6. I love Chihaya but I want this show to be more “Karuta no Mizusawa” than “Karuta no Chihaya”.
    I think that’s supposed to be “Mizusawa no karuta” and “Chihaya no karuta”. Might be wrong tho.

  7. Another winner from the house of Madhouse. The comedy (standing like Sudo), the pacing, the refreshing look at Karuta between two differently talented players, a nigh-invincible opponent who’s also a girly girl = win.

    Unlike Enzo, I thought this episode ended on a great note. While the episode neglected the other members of the team, it was high time to focus on Chihaya in a match vs someone as good if not better.

  8. Boy, you make one critical comment and all of a sudden you’re down on the entire episode? LOL to that…

    I liked the episode, and I love Chihaya. I thought her match with Shinobu was excellent, as I made clear in the post. I just hope we get to see some of the others, because as of now we’ve had two entire eps devoted to the Shrine tournament and seen basically nothing of anyone’s matches except Chihaya’s. We saw more of her unconscious and recuperating than of all the concurrent matches by the others put together.

    To again offer a HnG example, characters like Waya and Isumi weren’t set up as important and sympathetic fellow players, and then ignored. The focus was mostly on Hikaru, but time was still found for the others. I hope that’s what happens here, too, though I very much doubt Chihayafuru will have the luxury of anything like six cours to tell their story.

  9. Chihayafuru is still giving me the chilling sensation it started out with, and I am loving it. Seeing Chihaya struggle against someone of such caliber, and refusing to go down without a fight made this episode worthwhile (in addition to seeing the Queen’s cute side). I cannot wait to see how Chihaya will win/lose this battle, and her reflections on it.

  10. I loved this episode too, It was so cute when they talket about their T-shirts x3 and It’s sad to read that the BD sales are that bad 🙁 That’s why we only get what Japaneses like xD.

    1. Does anyone know what that one music track is called / where I can listen to it? You know the one I’m talking about! 😉 The one that plays when there is a revelation and everything is right and good with the world of chihayafuru 😀 I can’t wait for when the soundtrack comes out, I want to listen to it now!

  11. I assumed from early in the episode that Chihaya would lose, since her opponent is the champion and having her always win, even in these odds, is something a lot of shonen sports titles get made fun of for. This match is not just about Chihaya seeing how she compares against the Queen, but it lets us see for ourselves that she isn’t perfect.

    Hmm, so the manga has more content. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

  12. What an awesome episode. I also don’t want Chihaya to make a comeback win as Shinobu gives that aura of OP. While Arata was not there physically, he was there in memory when Chihaya remember how it was like to play an overwhelming OP Kuruta player. I gotta say though, DAM!, on the look on Shinobu’s face when Chihaya took her second card. I for one really wonder about Shinobu’s personality because oddball characters in anime are just so HOT! XD.

  13. Wow, I got goosebumps watching this.

    Being reminded that the series is going to end soon with no second season in sight is rather disappointing. I suppose I’ll start following the manga though it’ll be very sad to say goodbye to the extra enjoyment provided by animation and sound.

  14. I think chihaya has a chance to win, the queen doesn’t have good hearing, and probably doesn’t have any strategy, she overcomes her weaknesses with super fast arm movement and taking 1 card at a time, while chihaya with her dog ears xD has extra time and with some strategy could even take 2+ cards at a time, she could make a comeback!!

  15. NOHOHOOOOO! D: What you said about not being sure about a second season made my heart break! D: This is such an awesome anime!!! And then, what do you mean by ‘two cours’?

    December's Landing

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