「めぐりあひて」 (Meguri Ahite)
“Long Last We Meet”

Confession time: I may not have been glad Chihaya lost her match, but I was definitely relieved.

The passage of a week’s time hasn’t changed by view that last week’s developments in Chihayafuru were a bit of a stumble, both narratively and in the larger context of its realism as a Karuta series. I’ve seen a lot of tortured explanations for why Chihaya could possibly win against Class A opponents playing left-handed for the first time in her life, and find none of them remotely convincing. I could see a chess player who broke their right-arm and had to move pieces left-handed overcoming the unsettling strangeness of it and beating a strong opponent in their first left-handed match, but Karuta is not chess. Chihayafuru spent 46 episodes poignantly and persuasively arguing that Karuta is a real sport, and did a fair bit of damage to that in 22 minutes last week.

But that’s done, and at least there were no even-more preposterous miracles this week against the Queen. On the narrative front, it’s more a question of an entire episode focusing on Chihaya being less interesting intrinsically than a more balanced one. I’ve thought about why Chihaya isn’t as compelling as some (I might even say most) of the cast of this series, and I think it boils down to this: Chihaya is a "what" character. Taichi, by contrast and for example, is a "why" character. Chihaya (and to a lesser extent Arata) are defined by their actions, and what we think we know of their emotional workings must be extrapolated backwards based on that. With Taichi – as well as Kanade, Tsutomu and Nishida a lot of the time – we get the "why". We’re privy to the frustrations and anger and hopes and dreams, and we understand the path they’re walking because it feels as if we’re walking it ourselves. I think why characters are usually more interesting than what characters, and for me that’s true with Chihayafuru as well.

There are other elements to this too, and they largely tie into Chihaya’s function as effectively the lead of a sports shounen. She’s a natural, both freakishly gifted and frighteningly single-minded and focused, and that also can make her harder to relate to. In a sports series it often has to be enough to accept that such characters are how they are and their actions make sense in that context, and when Chihayafuru is in ensemble mode that generally works wonderfully. But when the camera narrows its focus to Chihaya at the exclusion of almost everything else, the emotional well can run a bit dry. There simply isn’t enough "why" in her story to carry an episode to the heights of emotional resonance we saw in episode 20 – the team dynamic is so firmly established and so compelling that it alone can drive an episode to greatness, as it did there (never mind the three-way dynamic between Chihaya, Arata and Taichi that was added at the end). Absent that and any of the more engaging personalities in the cast, episode 21 felt a bit sterile by contrast.

So why then did this episode – also focused primarily on Chihaya – work so much better than the last one did? For me the answer couldn’t be simpler – because she was sharing that narrow focus with Shinobu. And Shinobu, despite her relative lack of screen time, is a "why" character. She’s neither warm nor friendly as a person, but she’s very interesting. And not just interesting – because we’ve been allowed to see what made her the way she is. We’ve seen her as the friendly little girl who wasn’t well-treated by her parents, and whose brilliance at Karuta caused her to be intentionally isolated from children her own age. We’ve seen how desperately she longs to be understood, and how she pushes people away with her harsh exterior despite her loneliness. And Chihaya is never more interesting than when we see her in context of how she fits with Shinobu, because each reveals elements of the other that aren’t visible otherwise.

It doesn’t hurt, naturally, that things are more or less set to rights on the tatami. Shinobu beats Chihaya by 23 cards – and is angry at losing two to an injured opponent. Anything less would have been a further blow to the series’ credibility, but there are nevertheless elements of this match that stand out as memorable. The first is when Chihaya reacts angrily – as well she should have – to Shinobu’s condescending offer to play with her right (off) hand. Chihaya is out there giving her everything despite her exhaustion and injury, and she deserves better than to be dismissively mocked for it. Fortunately Shinobu responds exactly as she should have to this – knowing she was wrong, she lowers her head and sets about destroying her opponent as quickly as possible. The only cards she loses are one when Chihaya uses the intel she gleaned from playing left-handed and positions a card where she now realizes it’s difficult for lefties to attack, and one card immediately after Chihaya removed the last gauze wrap from her finger. It so happens to be "Since I could not hide", the Queen’s best card – no small irritation for her, though a small moral victory for Chihaya.

Sadly for Chihaya, the euphoria of that moment which carried her to one pain-free swing evaporated as soon as she tried to pick up the card and felt a jolt of agony. It pretty much goes without saying that playing with her right hand at all – never mind after removing the wrap – was a dumb move, but it was very much in character for the maniacally single-minded Chihaya. We can only hope she hasn’t done herself lasting damage (judging by the Empress’ reaction I’m concerned). Her reaction after the match – tearfully thanking Shinobu for not easing up on her (a theme in Shinobu’s life, to be sure) was also perfectly in character. Again we see Shinobu’s aching desire for a rival who can interest her, but also someone who can understand her. For now the former looks to be Arata rather than Chihaya, though there are moments of connection between the two girls that suggest they may just become not just rivals but friends too – in time.

I’m also relieved Chihaya lost, to be honest, because it frees the camera to focus on matches which are possibly more compelling than watching a crippled Chihaya either defy logic by winning or being trounced. There’s much happening elsewhere – of the eight quarter-finalists in Class A three are Fujisaki third-years: Emura has drawn Amakasu-shota from Hokuo (I’m glad to see Amakasu validate his ability by getting this far). Manata Suzuki – pissed and rightfully so at being benched in the team final – is the sacrificial lamb who’s drawn Arata. And Yamai has drawn Megumu. If I were betting I’d pick Megumu to win and draw Shinobu in the semis, with Emura facing Arata – but it seems beyond inevitable that the final is going to be the one we all expect it to be. Of Class C there’s no mention, but we do see Sumire surprisingly advance to the quarters before losing, while Tsukuba advances to the semis. And in Class B, we finally touch base with Taichi – just in time to see him trounce Retro-kun by what appears to be roughly 15 cards. Wow.

It’s obviously in that last division where the main Mizusawa drama lies, though not only there. Taichi beating Retro by that margin indicates just how far his game has come (as far as I remember he’s in fact unbeaten for this entire season). Who will he play in the final? Suetsugu and Morio-sensei don’t let us have a close enough look at the other semi-final to be sure, but Rion seems the best bet (as she always has). This, it seems to me, is an intensely critical watershed moment for Taichi. He seems deeply driven and genuinely angry that he’s continued to get in his own way and prevented himself from reaching Class A, where he’s obviously more than good enough to be. His promise to the God of Karuta from the team final hangs over the Class B final like a miasma, and I suspect Taichi’s faith in his own will is going to be tested – as is Suetsugu’s ultimate view on the role of luck in the lives of her characters.

Also of interest is the audience – where the Empress and Nishida are watching, rapt. Nishida has become an incredibly loyal and impassioned teammate, especially where Taichi is concerned. Absent (from view at least), of course, is Chihaya – her whereabouts unknown. The potential drama of which match she watches in the final remains a compelling one – though of course if last year’s script is followed all the finals matches will be in the main hall – but I wonder if it’s a red herring, and she might be in the hospital or some such. It gutted me a bit to hear her moan that her "summer is over", while her teammates continue to struggle on, trying to advance. And it’s hard not to feel for poor Tsukuba, left bereft and alone by Sumire as she fled to watch her beloved Mashima-sempai. Surprisingly in-focus for the first arc of the season, the first-years seem to have faded far into the background as it draws to a close.


  1. I feel many character dynamics and character dramas are simply lost, gone, never to be seen again. I still enjoyed this season, but that’s in contrast to my love of last season. There certainly were episodes where the action was top gear and the scenes intense, but I felt more explosiveness and intensity in the first season. Instantly, I recall the scene where Arata calls and Taichi bites Chihaya’s spoon, or Taichi revealing to Harada that he will not take any shortcuts. Oh and what about Tsutomu x Kanade.

    Gripes aside, I’m looking forward to Taichi’s newfound resolve and dominance- because I’ve been emotionally invested into his success after season 1.


    CHIHAYA FLASH THE QUEEN!!!! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ -Screamslikeholyhell-

    Did Chihaya did this on purpose!? Did she actually sported that shirt knowing/hoping that Shinobu would see it? ARE THEY BOTH IN SYNC WHEN IT COMES TO FASHION SENSE!? WHY ARE THEY SO PERFECT TOGETHER I DON’T UNDERSTAND. My Feels. Ohmygodwhy. ಥ_ಥ

    Chihaya cares what Shinobu thinks of her, and that Shinobu blush! That rack. That tank top. How can Shinobu focus properly after being flashed that super rare Mommy Bear tank-top that Chihaya is sporting!? I think if Shinobu would had just tackle Chihaya right then and there and try to strip her off that shirt… no words can describe the blood flood that would come out of my nose follow by shrieks.. My God.


    And of course, there is Taichi, I’m just relieve to know that he is still in the match and hasn’t lost yet. Plz let the poor guy win. ಥ_ಥ

    1. Chihaya has begun to melt the Ice Queen’s outer shell. Loved the part where Chihaya thanked her for going all out despite playing an injured opponent. I hope we get to see more of Shinobu’s inner thoughts in the last few episodes of this season

      1. Agreed. I was hoping that Chihaya would have agree to private matches besides the Queen match. I’m sure Shinobu wants those types of practice matches for motivational purposes.

  3. I counted and that was 18 cards he beat him by. 25-7. It really shows how far Taichi’s game has gone. Defeating Eromu was a confidence booster and since Taichi’s main problem was his mental weakness when facing adversity, how he always felt he lacked talent… So it’s going to be fun because I spotted a red hair with a Fujisaki t-shirt in the other semifinals match. Considering how her play style is similar to Chihaya, it’s almost a preview of how Taichi would be playing Chihaya.

  4. Oh I can’t wait! The manga has tons of untranslated chapters, around 40 plus or minus so I missed so much 🙁 Go Taichi! He has been undefeated and he’s grown so much. It’s so weird to think I despised him as a child, but I’m a Taichi x Chihaya shipper.

  5. What can I say, Shinobu is still razor-sharp. The fact that Chihaya has taken 2 cards from her, including the Queens fave card, is a testimony to Chihaya’s prowess. For a first time in a long time, Queen has a peer competitor in the making. And she enjoys it, in her own twisted way… Chihaya’s thanking for not getting easy on her hit the soft spot of the Queen, if she has any!
    Chihaya being completely straightforward in her character, it is Shinobu that was focus of the episode. She was purposefully isolated from her first Karuta friend in order to hone her killing edge. So now she finds opponent ambitious and skillful enough to put her to the test, yet being girl her age she has found something akin to long lost friend from the poem on the card.
    Of the C-class we have no news, but Tsukuba going into semi-finals of D doesnt surprise me. He is every bit as ambitious as Chihaya, and I can see him climbing the ladder fast.
    Finally Taichi is trouncing mightily Retro-kun. I am fervently wishing he wins the B-class to finally advance to A-class and face Chihaya as equal.

  6. I think one of Chihaya’s faults as a character is that, as you said, she’s too good. Plus, the way the story is crafted, we never feel a sense of Chihaya improving. If she improves, it feels too natural. We can’t relate to that. Plus, when she feels so high, she only has space to fall. It doesn’t make for a very heartfelt character to follow.

    Whereas following Taichi is literally watching someone against all odds (pun…kind of intended?) climb the same wall over and over again, and it’s mesmerizing to say the least. Like watching Rocky on repeat. I loved the scene at the end where Taichi’s eyes were not shown, but shaded. A small detail, but I felt it added a very appropriate urgency to the atmosphere.

  7. Two highlights:

    1. When Shinobu and Arata picked up their first card in sync (I literally screamed “EPIC!”, and I don’t usually scream…)

    2. When chibi-Shinobu shouted “Satoko-chan!!!” (ahh, tears welled up…)

    I don’t know about you guys, but the emotional well is definitely not drying up on me without Taichi around…

  8. I think it was a wonderful episode. Sure its not as great as the first season but I enjoyed watching every single episode. Most people are disappointed with this season’s shift in focus (karuta vs characters) but I don’t see any problem with it.

    In the first season, the author wants to introduce the characters, their weaknesses and strengths, etc.. But now that we’ve met them, its time to focus on other things. And its not like the story focus entirely on Karuta, we still get glimpses of each characters growth and struggles.

    And another thing, what’s the problem with the story focusing on Chihaya?(well of course, I like to see the other characters’ progress too since I love all of them <3) But Chihayafuru is about Chihaya and her dream of becoming the Karuta queen. This is Chihaya's story not Chihaya and her team.

    Sorry if I sounded rude, I'm just not good with phrasing my words. So if I offended anyone, I apologize.

  9. I think the next two episodes are gonna be super exciting with one focusing on Taichi and the other — most likely — on the Arata/Shinobu match. As much as I like Shinobu — and this episode gives me more even more reasons to like her, I am betting that both male leads will win.

    As for which match Chihaya will watch, I am betting that she will be there for Taichi. It’s not about shipping but instead Taichi advancing to Class A is what she wants to see the most — as what we know from the first episode.

  10. It is very clearly made that Taichi’s opponent will be ‘Rion’, if you look at the second opponents, you can notice her shirt and hair. As our expectations fortold. The last 10 seconds of the episode were more than enough to reignate my nerves to a nearby explosion just to wait another week for another episode!

    This episode, I didn’t see it as a Chihaya perspective, but rather a growth one for Shinobu, who for all this time, had belittled her opponents for not trying hard enough, and now she’s met Chihaya, and remembered the name of her friend whom she used to play with (will she meet her again?) but, I can tell the A class final will be between Shinobu and Arata, or I can approximate that. Though it would suck that Chihaya would go watch that match, than go to Taichi’s B-final, I have no idea, I am extremely aggravated that I have to wait one more week!

    On a note, was Shinobu really treated well by her family? In season one, it didn’t seem so as the case.

    Thanks for your review, M.

  11. Of course will all finals be played in the same room.
    The drama won’t come from Chihaya choosing a match, but from Taichi and Arata battling it out next to each other

    Retro: “I must win!” Taichi: “I can not lose…”
    Best moment of the episode

    1. Wow, I definitely forgot that everyone would be in the same room for the finals… this is going to be one long week.

      This show is so good at showing everyone’s struggles that it’s really hard to root for a certain character to win their match. I’m a big Taichi fan but at the same time, I don’t want retro-kun to lose either when we know he’s worked just as hard… but someone has to lose. And I felt the same way last week with Nishida. Just another reason why this show is extremely awesome in my opinion.

  12. Golly, I don’t agree with your take on Chihaya at all! We can identify with her struggles to improve her karuta, to go beyond relying only on her amazing hearing. We can identify with her heart-felt wish to connect with her childhood friends, to make karuta a way to stay friends with Taichi and Chihaya. We can identify with her discovery and love for the poetry behind the game. We can identify with her commitment to her team and her teammates. Above all, we can identify with her wonderful passion for everything! Plus the show gives us plenty of moments inside her mind, where we listen to her struggling, fighting, trying to figure things out. And then she’s adorable, with the Daddy Bear thing…

    I love Chihaya. Watching her grow has been one of the best parts of the series. The “freakish” and “frightening” line I really don’t recognize. That’s not Chihaya at all!

    1. Freakishly talented and frighteningly focused are very different then “freakish and frightening”, as you know very well. But that obviously didn’t serve your purpose as well, so feel free to build straw men at will (as usual).

    2. Being Enzo is suffering. ಥ_ಥ Ungrateful bitches.

      I notice lately that many clash with Enzo’s review base on recent comments that I tend to read due to the interesting debate they can bring to the table. And that’s always interesting to bring all sorts of different perspectives together, it’s always a reminder that we tend to miss some things, or that wonderful reminder that Chihayafuru can channel all sorts of things when you target he right audience that when they are brought together you enjoy the series more because things are brought to your attention. And that’s fine and all, and we’re all entitle to our opinions, and that’s exactly what they are opinions.

      Enzo’s review is just his personal opinion, not necessarily word of God, and I enjoy reading his reviews because I know they’ll always be different than mine, or he’ll capture or miss something that I didn’t and vice-versa. But when it comes to the subject of being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ about something just because you disagree on it, that’s just ridiculous. Don’t throw someone under the bus just because of it, or go overboard to try to prove a silly point. This is all coming from reading previous comments from previous episodes that tend to trench that particular area; that honestly after a while, it’s really ridiculous. You just have to sigh and let it go. It’s just an anime. A really, really good anime. That can bring strong emotions to the surface if you’re a fan, but at the cost of overthrowing the reviewer, clashing endlessly, debating like crazy all over simple opinions to any commenter even, let it go. Just enjoy the damn thing and state your own opinions so we can learn a few things from one another. You don’t have to be an ass about it.

      PS. Enzo I enjoy your reviews, I’m one of those grateful bitches and I appreciate all the work you do to get it out in time, even more so for letting it out Friday night! (Depending where you are in the World, it was Friday for me) Especially considering how my recent comments are ridiculously retarded by comparison to the earlier comments that I left behind with much in-dept behind them. 8D

    3. @hyperborealis
      My previous comment wasn’t directed towards you, don’t misunderstand, it was just a general opinion. 8D

      I actually agree with some of the comments that you made, that I can see where you’re coming from. The funny thing about Chihaya, is that it doesn’t matter how good she is or talented is she, she isn’t scary. Arata and Shinobu have that aura around them that screams intimidation when you’re up against them, hell even Taichi sometimes have that and their opponents even notice that. Naturally Chihaya never stroke me as a cool character, but an amusing one who happens to be a talented airhead which we notice from S1. And while Shinobu may have stroke us as a cold beauty in S1, she did reveal some amusing aspects about her that the colder aspect could have lifted only it hasn’t. She is still a cool character. And scary to go up against.

      In all honesty, no matter how great Chihaya may be, when you’re the titular character of the series, it’s hard to connect with most of the time because you know for a fact that they’ll always be fine. Regardless of all the struggles and wins, she’ll be there at the end standing, cause she’s the lead here. It’s hard to back up a character you know HAS to get better over time, HAS to win matches, HAS to be special above the other OCs, otherwise why would she be the lead right? Knowing that subconsciously, it’s easy to not care much about her because again.. she’s the lead here.

      Not to say that she doesn’t deserve our attention, if anything she commands it and GETS IT. She’s impossible to ignore, she’s a fascinating lead, she has flaws, she’s very much human that many can relate to, but again, she’s the lead. Something good must happen to justify the series, and knowing that in mind, the side characters tend to get our most attention. Taichi is like the impetus for a PLOT, Chihaya is for the Karuta, Arata is for the romantic notice if any, every OC has a role here and the beauty thing about Chihayafuru is that all of the characters compliment one another. Either character would suck without the other. THe side characters are fascinating, you truly don’t know what to expect out of them cause they’re frankly side characters, but Chihayafuru has blurred that line, that the cast is like the main characters and are all equally important to the viewer.

      TL;DR: I’m more worry about the cast than I am about Chihaya to put all my focus on her considering she is the lead titular character of the series.

    4. It is nice to be Chihaya, but it is not nice to be Chihaya’s friend. The fact is only brought up by Chihaya in her birthdya episode from season 1: “people say I’m blind to everything that’s not Karuta” (sorry can’t remember it exactly, and can’t find my USB for season 1 either) was the moment that I loved Chihaya. The negative commentary over the past few episodes, that are focused on her, and as Enzo said, ‘the what’ charecter, is her focus on Karuta that leaves us very much less to relate to, since none of us have ever tried Karuta. The thought of me playing football left legged is just impossible, my kick is not as strong as my right’s, so I kind of fell off balance, as Karuta either being not that hard of a game, or that Chihaya is overly superior. We have to take into mind that this is the ‘highschool’ tournament, so maybe the opponents are not as tough, and her opponents were not the strongest? Besides the episode with Shinobu, which made sense to me that she lost by that many cards, it made sense….. alot of it. I would have to say that even in those Chihaya focused episodes, I had more the opponents development in my mind, than hers. In this season, her match with Amakasu was just annoying to see, since she ridiculed her opponent by not paying attention to him but to her play, and yet she wanted the queen to play her fairly, this is confusing! lol

      That said, I agree with Enzo’s on Chihaya’s ‘what’ charecter, but @hyperborealis, I don’t think this demeans Chihaya, it is like a ‘fact’ so obvious, that you can’t bat an eye and not see it. (I am really tired, so my post will probably make no sense /sick).

  13. I feel bad for Retro, he’s such a punching bag. His determination is serious and he’s a great character, but he just doesn’t stand a chance as Taichi’s ‘rival’ because he’s not pretty.

    1. Then you must feel bad for Nishida last week as well — he’s not as beautifully drawn as Arata but was as determined as Retro-kun, if not more — he didn’t give up fighting even when he knew he would lose. His reflection on the match when it’s over was awesome.

      Seriously, I think many who are competing in the tournaments — including Taichi, Chihaya (even though she lost), Kana-chan, Tsutomu, Arata and others — are as determined as Retro-kun. They are still high schoolers, so the key is to learn from the matches — just like what Nishida did.

      1. Actually, I find Nishida’s reflection correct here – he is indeed the weakest-willed of the main Mizusawa squad, and also a bit of a slacker and a whiner. The Nationals weren’t a glorious ride for him, and when he finally succeeded during the finals, well, all of the spotlight went to Taichi. And yes, I think, he’s hit by the same phenomen as Retro – he’s not pretty so he won’t be anyone’s archrival. But he (due to his behavior) just deserves being sidelined more than Retro, so it’s less jarring.

      2. Suetsugu plays against the correlation between prettiness and success that you note. Yes, as expected in anime, the main characters are absurdly pretty. But she goes out of her way to show that this appearance belies the truth about the characters: Chihaya is a beauty in vain, Taichi can’t get the girl he wants to notice him, etc. And the role models of the show–Harada, Miyauchi, Sakurazawa–are ordinary looking.

        Nishida is not a main character, and is ultimately constrained for that reason. But in the screen time he does get, Suetsugu treats him with sympathy equal to what she gives the stars. For example, she relates his match with Arata from his point of view.

        We see Nishida at the end of that match striving to get better. He has a development story, offstage perhaps, but real. Hyoro on the other hand is harder to get a grip on. At moments he is treated sympathetically, at others he is just comically weird or delusional. Supporting characters have to play different roles, I suppose…

  14. I thought Chihaya playing (and winning) left-handed was just BS, but when you have monsters such as the Queen and Arata completely wiping the floor with their opponents and consider that Chihaya is likely on the way to become a monster as well, it gets easier to believe. It does lead me to question the rank system, though: Chihaya is still miles away from the Queen, yet she manages to beat other players with her left hand on her first try, and all of these guys are in the same rank. Oh well, I suppose this shows that there’s always en elite among another elite.

  15. Just out of curiosity, why is Rion the person everyone jumps to for the B-class finals? I know she’s a good player and the only other B-class I can give a name to besides Taichi and Retro but didn’t the 3-part team final specifically establish that Rion is only at the top of her game when she’s playing with her Grandmother, and other such people, as her reader? Proven further by how her game is much more amateur than Chihaya, who has the same advantage?

    1. Good point. I don’t know why everyone assumes that as well, but it’s all coming from suggestions not actual proof. Unless it’s already revealed in the Manga then I don’t know why either. I don’t follow it.

      Actually her coach said she HAD the upper hand since her grandmother was doing the reading, and after she lost she reminded her to remember why she lost. She also made it clear that Chihaya was out of her league, so those who are stating that Taichi can go up against a ‘Chihaya like’ who is Rion, you couldn’t be more wrong. Skill wise it’s a huge leap like it is to compare Chihaya with Shinobu.

      Not to say it wouldn’t be an interesting match, unless we’re just naming Rion cause we have run out of Class B players?


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