「をのへのさくらさきにけり」 (Sono e no Sakura Sakinikeri)
“To See The Beautiful Cherry Blossoms”

Let the tears flow – they’ve been building for a long time.

“Frustration won’t last forever. Nobody can keep on going without some measure of reward.”

Harada-sensei (I remain puzzled by his absence at this event) thought those words in episode 20 of the first season – possibly the most memorable line of dialogue from probably the best scene in certainly the best episode of either season. The thought was about Taichi, but could just as easily have been about the readers and viewers of Chihayafuru who love the character. And therein, I think, lies the draw of Taichi for so many of us – he’s the one who represents the feelings and thoughts of the audience in so many ways. Chihaya, Arata and Shinobu are wonderful characters – but most people are a lot more like Taichi than they are like any of them.

In a sense, this second season’s final arc has been eminently predictable. On the most basic level, we got the Class A final most of us expected – Arata vs. Shinobu. We got the Class B final we expected, Taichi vs. Rion. We even got the Class A semi-finals I thought seemed most likely in Arata vs. Emuro, with Shinobu vs. Megumu – though those matches packed zero drama as they were completely skimmed over, surprising given the sloth-like pacing of most of the season. There are the other classes too, of course – in Class C Tsutomu makes the final but Kanade doesn’t, and it’s only in a brief glimpse that we see Tsukuba has made the Class D final. If Tsutomu has been ignored by his friends, what level of Hell is Tsukuba at to be ignored even by the director?

The most important predictable element to come to pass, though, was the dilemma that would face Chihaya once the pairings were settled – which finals match to watch. This was telegraphed weeks ago and everything since then seemed to be slowly building towards it. With the Class A finals indeed on their own in a separate room, it truly is an either/or decision for Chihaya (who’s been sleeping it off in the hallway, only Fujisaki’s coach waking her up getting her to any of the matches in time). This was truly the crucible moment both for the season and her character, the looming presence that’s been hovering over everything. What would she decide? In a sense, it was more dramatic than the matches themselves.

The first surprise is Nishida’s decision – he blows off the T3 to watch the Class A final, and urges Chihaya to do the same. His reasoning is solid enough – Taichi is playing like a man possessed, and doesn’t need their support (T2 gets only an aside and T3 doesn’t even merit a mention). More importantly, he tells Chihaya that Taichi himself would urge her to watch Arata and Shinobu play. And the funny thing is, of course, Taichi would do exactly that – as we see later in the episode. And Taichi would be wrong for doing so, just as Nishida was wrong even if his logic was sound. Frankly it seemed out of character to me to have Nishida do this, but I think his development was sacrificed for Chihaya’s – he was forced to act out-of-character in order to make her decision that much more dramatic.

This is truly the watershed moment for both Chihaya and Taichi this season. Happily, Chihaya came through with flying colors. I’ve no doubt that S1 Chihaya would have watched the Class A final – but this is not S1 Chihaya. All of her development and seeming maturation in S2 would have been compromised if she abandoned Taichi now, not just because of her own stated goals at the start of the season but because of what this moment means for him. The biggest difference between Chihaya now and last season is her slow but sure escape from the prison of being totally self-absorbed. She may not have progressed enough in terms of self-awareness to seriously confront her feelings towards Taichi and Arata, but she’s been showing more consideration and concern for her teammates all season. She had to make the decision she did – it’s not about romance, and it’s not about Karuta. It’s about being there for the person she’s been struggling and laughing and crying beside for the last 48 episodes. It’s not where S1 Chihaya would have been, but it’s where S2 Chihaya belongs.

The irony – there’s always irony with Taichi – is that Chihaya’s presence very nearly costs him his match with Rion. He’s been in a zone for the entire Class B tourney, apparently – "totally calm in a match" as his friends and rivals have never seen him, a beast. But as always Taichi’s greatest enemy is himself, and seeing Chihaya unnerves him. He’s shocked – he didn’t expect to see her, and probably feels undeserving of having her watch his match. Rather than stay focused he starts stressing over trying to win the match quickly so that Chihaya can have time to go watch the Class A final – an agonizingly dumb and misguided train of thought that’s just perfect Taichi. He’s largely become the person who doesn’t run away, but he’s still a person who constantly puts roadblocks in front of himself when the path is otherwise clear.

Again ironically, in a season that’s moved at a glacial pace during the tournament Taichi’s match is over all too quickly, and we don’t get even a peek at Tsutomu (never mind Tsukuba). The individual finals last season were in themselves much more dramatic than these – how dearly I would have loved less focus on creepy photographers and stereotypical gaijin students for another episode (or even half) to spend on Taichi’s match. There are external factors to be sure – a reader-in-training (which seems inexcusable to me given the importance of the event) being the most obvious. But as usual most of the drama is inside Taichi’s head. Both players are nervous and struggling with the reader, though Rion’s superior hearing and speed allow her to adjust more quickly and take a lead.

It’s at this point that Taichi settles himself and shows that he, too, has grown during this season. Crucially, it’s when he stops comparing Rion to Suo and starts comparing her to Chihaya that the match turns. He finally admits the truth to himself – he wants desperately to beat Chihaya in a match (it’s not hard to see the symbolic importance of this). He manages to push the unnecessary thoughts from his mind (thinking too much as always being his biggest obstacle) and harken back to what’s gotten him this far. He brings the game back to what he’s good at – memorization and analysis. He sets style points aside and focuses on what makes him the most successful Karuta player we’ve seen this season, the beast that decimated the field in the Class B tournament and crushed Retro by 18 cards. Taichi is what other sports refer to as a "grinder" – there’s no flash to his game, just determination and smarts. And he dominates Rion from this point onward (too quickly really, for dramatic purposes) going on to win by 9 cards.

If you’d asked me when the season started what the most likely landing point for Taichi would be, I would have said he’ll probably win a Class B tournament and make Class A, but Suetsugu will do something to make it impossible for him to fully enjoy the moment. Well, we’ll see what the full aftermath is next week – but in the moments after the final we certainly see both the self-defeating impulses and the reward Harada-sensei spoke of. Even in his moment of greatest triumph, the fulfilment of all his work and frustration, we see the Taichi who tries to run away – he tries to make it about getting Chihaya to Arata’s match, even now. But all Chihaya wants to do is cry because finally, Taichi has achieved his dream. The dominant thought for me as this played out was "Dammit Taichi – just cry already!" This moment was about him – it was the reward at last, after all the frustration. Chihaya knew it – but even here, Taichi had to be dragged kicking and screaming into acknowledging what it meant to him.

All of that, seemingly, clears the decks for next week to focus on the Class-A final – though with only 9 cards left and a hesitant reader for the other classes, I can’t imagine there’s much of it left. It truly is a battle of titans, and while I thought for a while Shinobu was likely to have the upper hand, I’m not so sure now. Arata seems to have gotten into Shinobu’s head in a way she hasn’t gotten into his – she’s much more obsessed with him than he is with her. Arata is, as ever, eerily calm – he even smiles at Shinobu’s comment about neither of them needing friends, which unnerves her still further. Shinobu is arrogant, brash and obsessive – but it masks a fragility underneath that the right opponent can reveal and exploit. And Arata seems to be that opponent. They’re evenly matched for speed, roughly, and his game sense is close to hers. More importantly he plays the way his grandfather did, his quiet demeanor belying his ruthless style of attacking the opponent’s strengths and destroying their confidence.

Both in Karuta and narrative terms, it could be argued that either player will win this match, though I certainly expect it to come down to a card or two. We won’t see the impact this season and even if we ever do it won’t be for a few years, but the question of whether Arata comes to Tokyo seemingly hangs in the balance (I expect him to go even if he loses). If Taichi’s match was the apex of the relatable common man’s struggle, this is Chihayafuru’s "Shounen Jump moment" – the battle between two implacable geniuses whose talent is singular and exceptional. This contrast is one of the many fascinating elements of the series, and it makes the prospect of a Class A featuring all of the main cast an alluring one indeed – not the mention the exploration of the personal side of the story, largely underdeveloped this season.


It’s that time again: the Summer 2013 Preview and Poll is live at LiA. Please stop by for a look at the upcoming season and cast your vote!


  1. I’m certain, that I’m not the only one that had tears at the end of that episode… And not just because it ended.

    First, I gotta say that I understand where Porky was coming from by saying those comments to Chihaya but at the same time, it was pretty harsh. I was super happy to see her ignored them and see Taichi’s match instead. While many of us wanted Taichi to make Class A, I honestly felt like it was half ass and a bit rush. It could had cover at least 2 episodes, but I’m guessing we’re victimize of running out of episodes to show it here. (In that case, damn you RECAP!) I’m guessing the final 2 episodes would focus on Arata and Shinobu, and while many want to see their match, myself included, Taichi’s in my opinion is more important, and more vital to the story. A story that we’ve been covering for 45+ episodes now, and is one of the central characters and we have seen his struggles and behind each match is about how he wants to be in Class A, so he can be with the others. Instead it was all under-shadow by Arata’s match with Shinobu in the BG…

    Not to say Arata’s match with Shinobu isn’t vital, she is clearly standing in the way of his future, and she is currently a plot device to advance Arata into the story more if there is ever a Season 3.. –Fingers cross- Which would be really bullshit if they don’t cover it, I mean come on! All of that to just not show how he’s presence will affect the plot? What madness is this? Anyways, I feel slightly cheated about Taichi’s match. Instead, we got something rush just to get it over with, with a nice sweet moment at the end of the sudden realization that he made Class A. Yay?

    Now I gotta say something that many will not agree with, but if Arata wins against Shinobu, I call BULLSHIT. And if he does win, its because he must come to Tokyo at all cost , which means there MUST be a season 3, not because he defeated Shinobu with talent. They are both very skillful, but Shinobu is a stronger player. It would be unrealistic to see Arata win, it’s as if Chihaya won her first match with Shinobu, hell even all of the commenters at the end weren’t shocked that she lost. It’s natural she’ll lose. This is not a fantasy anime were you can call a Pokemon over and make shit better. You earn your bread and butter goddamnit. Maybe we would sympathize with Arata if we saw all of his struggles besides winning nonstop, or even feel for him better if he was more on the show. Personally, I like the guy, but compare to Taichi, I love Taichi more. It’s only natural considering how much I have endure with him.

    Be honest, do you guys really think Arata can win against Shinobu? He can put up a hell of a fight, come close even. To me it’s unrealistic, Shinobu has been playing Karuta since she was a child, never took a breather, practices all the time, I find it hard to believe that Arata suddenly picks it up after several yrs of not playing and suddenly is like a God. What? No. If he wins just to prove a message to Shinobu I would fucking hate that. I honestly want the rush that I get when I watched the earlier matches, even those on season one of uncertainty, if he wins I’ll be like “MEH. That was… expected for plot purposes”. Or am I the only one hating, cause I don’t find it realistic if Arata wins this match.

    1. True story: In NBA, Michael Jordan Won 3 championships then retire for 2 years, and came back to NBA and won again 3 championships. I know Basketball and Karuta are two different kind of sports, but the thing is, nothing is impossible.

      The Humanoid Typhoon
    2. I won’t/don’t call BS if Arata wins because Shinobu knows she has to beat him. He is the ONLY person to not only win against her but annihilate her every single time they played together. Once he left the scene she beat everyone else. Even years later Nishida who ALSO lost to him and wound up quitting as a result sees that. Arata has Shinobu’s number. Right now we don’t know what that is since we haven’t had the chance in this anime to see what it is that makes him (and his teacher the 7 time master) that lethal. Just because you take time off doesn’t make you forget. It’s also been several months since he’s returned. He’s back to being the same level as Murao who was a Master Runner up or did you forget that as well? The point of the Shinobu/Arata match also is a crucial one because it answers once and for all Shinobu’s question “is it better to train with others or be alone”. She’s been struggling with that for years. Arata was taught by a master. Shinobu was isolated into her world. Arata knows that which is why he keeps grating under her skin. She’s already started making adjustments to her game 4 cards in.. she already sees what only the tournament directors see.. he’s got her number and she knows it. History is deep with these 2 even if the rest of the room has no idea about it.

      1. I didn’t said it couldn’t happen, I only stated that it would seem farfetched to me. I don’t know why we don’t have more focus on Aratas matches, I don’t know why we’re never really inside his head. I can’t really understand a character who dominates with ease each of his matches. He is finally up against Shinobu who can prove to be a proper rival only to have him win to only prove a point about how it’d important to play with others. That whole motion is bothering me. Everything is happening with a purpose not because it would go down that way realistically. Shinobus comments may have been harsh but they hold truth to them. Both points are needed, but it doesn’t mean her views should be discarded. If Aratas win was to prove this, I honestly don’t like it.

      2. Unfortunately you did.. you call BS. LOL You are missing the significance of the 1st season. Arata’s backstory was pretty clear. He was 5-time National Champ in his grade and ALL of those victories went THROUGH Shinobu.. all 5 times. There’s an episode when Arata was complaining to his grandfather that why does he always have to compete against her everytime in the first round? Do you remember that? His grandfather’s answer was “remember.. she will be queen.. but for now.. just defeat her again”. When she left she then finally became Class A and started her rise BECAUSE Arata wasn’t there to stop her rise. I know you are pissed off at Taichi’s luck but not only are they not in the same league.. they aren’t even focusing on the same thing. Taichi hasn’t given a crap about karuta while karuta was and continues to be Arata’s life. Arata’s stopping karuta was BECAUSE of Karuta’s passion tied to his grandfather and his death. His Grandfather’s love and karuta were intertwined. Taichi never had that connection to karuta. One could argue that if Taichi devoted his life to karuta realistically he could be as good but he doesn’t want to. Arata has already made his decision on that a looooooong time ago. It’s already been covered in the anime but I think you were blinded by Taichi to notice. Chihaya noticed it from the first time she met him and that’s why there’s that connection. She’s that bonkers over karuta.

      3. @Arsenette
        I’m sorry. I was blinded your dick riding Arata to take into consideration your comment. Like seriously, wow. Get off his dick. Your comments come out blindly about Arata ‘awesomeness that could punch God in the face’ to really take it into consideration.

        Not to say you’re wrong, but holy fuck, get off it! Lol I did said that him winning was BS, but you didn’t paid attention to why I said such thing now, did you? The stuff dick riding does to ppl. Tsk. I stated many times that the reasons and notions behind it are BS, and him winning would be that. Not that he can’t possibly win. I only said that I found it unlikely in my point of view. It is an opinion afterall. And I even stated that many wouldn’t agree to it, welcome to the club, you’re the President.

      4. Nah.. the riding is you with Taichi. I actually was under the mistaken impression that thoroughly dismantling the argument that took 2 of your paragraphs I read was somehow helpful to actually showing the flaw in your “logic”. Obviously you want others to agree with you blindly by ignoring almost 50 episodes of evidence to the contrary. And since you were so childish in reverting to name calling instead of actually refuting a single word I say then enjoy your little world. Some of us actually enjoy both Taichi and Arata and respect the journey both the mangaka and the director took. I don’t chose sides. Obviously you have to the detriment of the other. Shame you are so single-minded. That’s one less blog to read.

      5. @Arsenette
        I’m sorry, I had to laugh. But if there is any ‘dick riding’, I think it was for Shinobu when I was being retarded in previous comments that were screaming obvious sarcasm, that none took serious, hell not even I did. There could had been a better way to express your opinion but they came across too strong with domination of Arata greatness that it’s impossible to breathe. Seriously.

        No character is flawless. I always make that clear in my comments. As well as uncertainty of what may or could happen, it keeps the fun guessing. Never once in your posts were about uncertainty, they were just about how amazing Arata is. I’m sorry, but when a character is that ‘awesome’, it’s difficult to relate to, find them realistic, that I don’t really bother because they’re that awesome. And I even like the damn character. I wish they had cover him more.

        I’m a fan of the cast in general, and like either pairing, and recognize that everyone has strong potentials to be even better characters, not just Karuta players. But like I said before, you’re suffocating anyone to even put 2 cents in unless they’re putting up a shrine to Aratas honor.

        As far as the name calling goes, I did it to break the ice and even laughed about it cause you were taking it serious, I did said ‘lol’ in there! And even stated that I knew were you coming from but needed to calm the fuck down. According to you you’ll stop following this blog cause I’m ‘narrow minded’, shame considering you’ll all about Aratas greatness while I focus on Chihaya, Shinobu, Taichi and even Arata in all of my comments. Apparently you’re butt hurt and deciding to stop following this blog or anime cause of it is utterly ridiculous that it’s childish. Lol Shame bro we could had so much fun!

      6. First of all I’m a woman. 😉 I came back to see if you had a rational explanation for resort to name calling. Whenever a debate is dropped down to name calling (I don’t know where you were raised but “dick riding” is hardly sarcasm and meant to be rude and demeaning) it loses whatever respect or objectivity your argument might have had. Never once in that post did you say anything to rebut any part of my argument. I read your entire post and attempted to debunk your theory that if he should (I don’t know if he will) win against Shinobu it would be considered BS largely because the reasons you gave made no sense. He’s never lost to her… ever.. so the idea that he would because he was in mourning and hadn’t competed in 18 months due to that mourning made no sense to me no matter how you color it. He’s hardly perfect. He was an absolute ass during his 18 months of mourning where he isolated himself and lashed out at anyone near him including Taichi and Chihaya. Obviously his neighbor (whatever her name was) also was afraid of him and would leave the room even when she caught a glimpse of him so he’s hardly perfect. He beat up Shoji in school.. He’s also the complete opposite in personality to Taichi. I like that contrast between characters that are tied to the main flake Chihaya. Taichi was a bully who loved to control everyone around him (some can argue he still has that streak in him though I see him finally growing out of that.. he still is a kid at 15 years old.. be different if he was a jerk at 25 LOL). Arata is an introvert who was picked on and isolated in Tokyo when he was there. I’m not even going into the socio-economic issues because being “Poor” doesn’t make you “better” or being “rich” doesn’t make you a “jerk” like some blogs have tried to pigeon hole both Taichi and Arata based on wealth or lack thereof.

        The match with Shinobu is really interesting because she sees Arata as an equal and even above her since she has a losing record with him. She’s trying to see if during the time he was gone if she’s improved enough to beat him. She has no idea what to do with him because he doesn’t let her play her mind games on him. I found that fascinating. She’s doing her own Kyoto bitch thing of being proud while Arata just sees her as the losing girl with the mole with a strange karata game. Everyone else sees her as a god while clearly she’s just an isolated and lonely girl. I feel bad for her. Even that scene with Chihaya where she begged her to play again and Shinobu responded with a “when” genuinely wanting company. I’m curious now that Arata is back if they will play together since they live in the same region. I’d love to see her break out of her shell. It’s a shame those tournament people put her in that box to the point where she can’t even interact with kids her age.. except Chihaya and Arata.

        I think the issue I took with dismissing Arata was because it’s obvious you don’t like him. However, that’s fine since everyone has their preferences in watching. Anime is diverse that way and frankly that’s why I love it. But it made no sense to me to automatically dismiss his talent because of that perceived perfection and ignoring the explanations already made in the anime. It’s like you didn’t see all those episodes. They spent an extraordinary amount of time explaining the fact that he’s unique and gifted in a way his grandfather was. I find Arata to be incredibly complex. He’s not his grandfather and a lot of people are starting to see that. Shinobu sees that and that’s why he gets under her skin. LOL Chihaya sees that as well. Taichi on the other hand could be that good if he can get past the inferiority complex. By his own admission he hadn’t put a lot of effort into it and even quit for 2 years during junior high to play soccer (a fact a lot of people miss). Even then he was still Class B.. which is nothing to sneeze at. I wonder how much better he would be if he took karuta seriously. However if he did that it would be damn near impossible to be top of the class the way he is now. He’s so naturally gifted though that he could possibly do it. That’s why I keep watching. Hoping for a season 3..

    3. I don’t think it would be unrealistic to see Arata beat Shinobu. First of all we’ve seen him decimate every opponent in this tournament, and we know he was considered among the best in his age group when he was on-form. Yes, he had a sabbatical after his trauma but he’s been back for a while now. Also, it’s pretty obvious that he’s in Shinobu’s head – he was the one player she could never dominate, and he refuses to take the bait every time she tries to egg him on. His calm and unflappable nature both fascinates and irritates her.

      Going in, yes – I thought Shinobu realistically was likely to win. But I don’t see this as anywhere near as unlikely as Chihaya winning matches left-handed.

    4. @Enzo
      If we go by the notion that “stranger things have happen”, than nothing is really out of reach. Arata has a chance of winning, it’s not farfetched nor unrealistic, I just call bullshit for the reasons it’ll happen. If he wins anyways . That’s the only thing that’s bothering me, cause if he does win, it would be for those reasons. Don’t you find it odd that Taichi has the worst luck ever, irony at its finest, go up against the unlikely, lose even, and everything is a fucking rainbow to Arata? I have yet to see him struggle one bit! And now I have to be accepting and ok with him winning this just cause it may happen? See. That’s what I call bullshit. Everything behind that win is bothering me.

      1. @Solara
        I think you’re just upset because if Arata does wins, the show will be brought down to a level where Arata is some kind of Gary Stu, where everything going alright for him. I feel you bro, but Arata is also a strong player because he trained so hard+genius at karuta+having Eternal Master to directly trained him since he was a baby. Wow, everything does goes alright for him….hahah.

        Well the point is that Arata and Shinobu is evenly match, The only advantage that Arata has over Shinobu is his mental strength.

      2. @Jonz
        Exactly. Chihayafuru is a show of struggles and we bonded with the cast because not everything went well for them, and still doesn’t always. It’s hard to relate to Arata when everything goes right for him. I’m actually okay with him winning if they showed them struggling, that it’s not a piece of cake, that it’s not so easy, and be onside hid head more. If all I’ll see is a poker face that smiles and wins without a fight, that would be upsetting…

      3. I’m not so sure I would say everything goes alright for Arata. He has had defeats and set backs. And he’s lonely. I think the big difference with Arata is that he doesn’t complain. He keeps his problems to himself.

      4. @ShalaKairos
        You’re tight not everything does go well for Arata, but by comparison he’s the least one struggling that it appears that he’s doing just fine. The only obstacle Arata has right now is winning so he can move to Tokyo, which isn’t that farfetched nor very hard to obtain considering he’s a skillfull player. Knowing how much of an upper hand he has makes his ‘obstacle’ unlikely to even consider that an issue…

      5. Everything’s right for Arata?lol Anyone still remember S1? He’s strong also because he has overcome the obstacles. Please don’t belittle a character because you love another more. Also, I don’t think much is alright for Arata apart from karuta….Things seems alright partly because he doesn’t often get the focus. How many episodes are there in S2(&S1) where Hosoya Yoshimasa disappears from ED or shows up as Megumu’s fan? Or got paid only for a single word or two?
        BTW, the reason why Arata can always keep calm in karuta games will probably be revealed in the last episode. I love that scene in manga.

      6. @ShalaKairos
        Mostly because he’ll be absent. Lol. What kind of a POV would that be from an absent character? It would just be call ‘Arata’, and we’ll see the days of how he was working at that store until the cat was dragged in. If he had many friends along the way that would be an interesting shot, but it appears that he’s lonely and doesn’t really have friends where he was. Not to mention Chihaya and the rest of the cast would be absent. >:\

    5. Seriously, you’re funny. Comparing Arata to Chihaya during her first year as if the two were ever close in strength. Arata is a genius trained from birth (almost). On his first tournament after his 18 months break, he lost by 2 cards in the quarterfinals against the ace of the Shiranami society, Tsuboguchi. We’re talking about a player good enough to reach the Meijin qualifier finals (West vs East). That puts him squarely within the best 10 male karuta players.

      And I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the male side of Karuta is a lot stronger than the female side. Arata defeated the Queen when he was younger, that’s why she’s obsessed with him. He can get into her head easily because of that. She’s far above any of the current female karuta players but that’s because the female side is weak in comparison. If she were a man, she’d be right there with the other top male players competing very hard but ultimately failing to challenge Master Suo seriously. No one so far has shown the ability to challenge him.

      Remember his simulation match watching the Master match where he was losing by like 20 cards? Master Suo is in a class of his own. The Queen is only in a class of her own against female players. There are several male players who have what it takes to give her a run for her money.

  2. The most striking part of this episode to me was that Taichi was doing great until Chihaya entered the picture and Taichi felt he had to change his game plan to best serve her. He’s almost ruining himself by trying to help her. Fortunately, this time round, Taichi got a hold of himself and downscaled his ambitions (‘win by just one card’) and pulled through. Of course, Chihaya neither knows of Taichi’s internal struggle nor probably wants it. At least in real life, that kind of miscommunication is bad sign for a relationship. Hopefully, Taichi can learn to respect his own future, happiness, and wishes more.

    1. I think its safe to say all of the things Taichi has done has been to Chihaya’s benefits that I wasn’t very shocked by the turn of events of him wanting to rush up for her gain. I like to believe he also wanted to see Arata played.. but yeah everything has been for her without her realizing it. Originally him wanting to be in the Class A was because he wanted to be again with Chihaya and Arata together. To not be ‘left’ behind. Taichi has clearly security issues of uncertainty, and that’s what makes him very relate-able. I would like to see Taichi make a call that would benefit him alone without having Chihaya gain from it. It would show that he’s in the right direction of being his own person more.

    2. Yeah. I was almost shouting at the screen “Stop thinking about helping others and be a selfish ba$tard for once!” Fortunately, he calmed down enough to realize that in the end. I wonder how the other Mizusawa members in the other finals are doing

  3. From my perspective Nishida just got smoked by Arata (possibly still rattled over it) and declared to himself he was sick of seeking the weaker opponent, it seems natural to me for him to be a little obsessed at this point with studying Arata more. He also knows Chihaya was studying Shinobu’s technique. It wasn’t such a stretch to me that he’s thinking they should be there learning about what they have to overcome. Like you said even Taichi was focused on it. A lot of this season seems to be about balance between looking closely at the mechanics and then taking a step back to enjoy Karuta. bastards, I misted up at the end too 😛

  4. Next episode is gonna be an epic match!.. And I hope the anime can cover why or show the reason Arata is always calm or I guess it will be explain in season 3 (if there would be a season 3) since there’s only 2 episodes left..

    Faint Smile
  5. And with this win, Taichi is only one of the two (other is Arata/Queen whoever comes out on top) who have won every matches in this tournament. Maybe this will be the start of Taichi’s path to Meijin?

    1. technically, Arata has lost the team match he was hijacked into…
      …and if Shinobu loses to Arata, Taichi will be the only one to not lose a single match!
      …MIND BLOWN!

  6. Taichi! Taichi! Taichi!
    Well, it was no surprise that we get Arata-Shinobu A-class final. After all both have been unstoppable juggernauts so far.
    But it was the Taichi’s game that drew my warmest Chihayafur feelings.
    1.Chihaya, against the logic but following dare I say, her feelings, choses to watch Taichi!
    2.Taichi gets out-of balance exactly due to Chihaya’s presence.
    3.But, showing his growth as a player, he manages to fight Rion’s strengths with his strengths. Taichi, is after a fashion, resembling Germany’s football team: no flashy Latino style or Spanish/Italian technical tricks, but relentless grind based on tactics, endurance and determination.
    4.As he rushes to send Chihaya off to see Arata-Shinobu still going on, he gets greeted with tears of joy for his success. Taichi, just hug her already!

    1. I’m a bit surprised that so many people didn’t expect Chihaya to go and watch Taichi’s match. In the first episode of this season, she clearly states that her main priority was to get Taichi to A Class. Of course, she got greedy after that and declared that they would also win the team tournament and each individual class at the Nationals 😀

  7. -Taichi finally gets to beat down his inner demons…
    -Nishida’s actions goes in line with his latest loss against Arata, not off to the left field…

    -@ Enzo: Harada-Sensei has his day job in Tokyo, iirc…

    Ps. With this episode, the anime has reached the point where the manga spoilers are relevent again…(we’re literally at the end of chapter 89, if anyone actually cares.)

    1. Yeah, he’s a Doctor, certainly an important “day job”. But he managed to attend this last year, and it being one of the more important events on the Karuta calendar, I would have expected him to arrange time off to attend again. It was a little sad to me that Harada-sensei wasn’t there to see Taichi finally make it to Class A – after Chihaya, he’s probably the person Taichi would most have wanted to share it with.

  8. I loved this episode and I think I love Chihaya more now. A charecter like Taichi that focuses on Chihaya too much, that he almost forgot that he’s no more class B, in something that I thought would have an episode with fireworks and dancing pandas, could not be resolved in a better way at the ending scene, I cried every tear I held in for two seasons in that 10 seconds 🙂 I wonder how things will be from now, I can’t wait for next episode. Thanks for your review, M.

    1. I was just thinking of how it is:
      1) Arata: flashy, side to side, speedy playing and complete focus
      2) Chihaya: abnormal hearing ability and speedy play
      3) Taichi: good memorization skills and strategizing
      In this series, the notion of ‘nothing flashy’ about Taichi’s playing has been pretty much from the start, but I guess it goes to show that you shouldn’t always be intimidated by strong hearing and speed in Karuta, there’s more to it. The auhtor had put a strange combination of leading charecters that I love so much. Isn’t it funny in the end, Taichi’s supporters were all female: https://randomc.net/image/Chihayafuru/Chihayafuru%202%20-%2023%20-%20Large%2018.jpg, I don’t know it made me laugh.

      I think no one understands Chihaya, not me the viewer who sometimes gets irritated by some actions and feels really attached in others, not Arata, not Taichi, not even herself, her actions can be most suprising. I think that 10 seconds in the end was all I wanted of this series for a long time.

      I can’t belive Enzo mentioned Episode 20 of the last season, it couldn’t be even more fitting. I can’t ever get over Harada-sensei being a huge part of Chihaya and Taichi’s life.

      Sorry for the double comments, when I watch a series, a lot of thoughts come into mind, that I don’t know how to list. Leaving that aside, there’s not many animes that can really make the viewer think, and Chihayafuru does that, knowing that the next two episodes are probably the final of this season.

      I feel ashamed to say that Taichi making ‘A-class’ soon was not suprising, mainly because I did the mistake of writing ‘Chihayafuru’ on google images, and seeing part of the manga that I regret. I convinced myself that it was ‘bound’ to happen, but I still rather have not known.

      Cheers, M.

  9. To anyone who thinks that Suo is better than Shinobu, that has already been addressed by the show. The answer is, he isn’t better than her, she’s better than him. Shinobu explicitly said a few episodes ago that she could beat Suo most of the time EXCEPT when he had a reader he likes (for example, that elderly grey-haired female reader that Kanade admires). This means that she is a better and more consistent player than Suo, because she doesn’t require certain readers to do well.

    If Arata can even get close to Shinobu – and we know he is close, since their match is still ongoing – then that means he could well be Suo’s equal if Suo doesn’t get a reader he likes.

    1. Shinobu is delusional. She’s like Megumu or Rion who thought they had what it takes to defeat the Queen under the right circumstances. She thinks she can defeat Suo. And since she likely never played him (since he doesn’t play in tournaments anymore except for defending his title), she can keep fooling herself.

      Back in the Queen/Master tournament, he totally played her for a fool by matching her scores on purpose. And after she won, he started obliterating his opponent, with a cut to Arata watching the broadcast, trying to replicate the game in real-time and losing the match by like 20 cards. That’s just how dominant he is.

  10. The match between Rion and Taichi felt so rushed to me that Taichi’s glorious moment of making it to Class A felt a little… anticlimactic. I mean, they can toss 2-3 episodes for Megumi and Chihaya’s match (plus the “mandatory” toss – recap episode 16), but they can’t give at least two episodes for the Class B finals? And it’s not even a whole episode since Class A finals (which is also an important one) was crammed in.

    The story’s been building up on Taichi’s uphill battle to Class A since season 1, so they should have given more time on Taichi’s “last stretch”, right? If there’s no material (heard somewhere that this is almost a word-for-word adaptation), then this is the perfect time to bring in some recaps from season 1 (eg., the infamous train scene). They’ve been annoyingly doing it during the past episodes with lesser significance anyway.

    1. I understand why they decided to make Taichi’s singles victory seem a bit of a let down compared to the cathartic glory of Taichi’s victory in team finals. This moment is as much about Taichi’s victory as it is about Yama-chan’s loss. Rion is another of these characters who had to discover through humiliation that skill development is more important than natural talent at high-level competition.

      But I agree with you and everyone else who felt disappointed. There was a much better way to do this. The ending here is feeling rushed. Time feels like it’s running out very quickly on S2. So this makes the inclusion of that recap episode even more galling and inexplicable.

      1. Rion is an interesting character because she is basically the limit of pure natural Chihaya–that is, a somewhat experienced Chihaya without the years of or the discipline from hard work.

        Here, we see that Rion is no match for Taichi. The match is lopsided. We know that natural Chihaya is easily natural Taichi’s superior. And by a lot. So in this match, Rion offers a measuring stick for how far Taichi has come.

    2. Well, I just went ahead and read the manga so I would say they adapted the manga very well. There wasn’t too much in the manga anyway about this match so it makes sense why it would seem fast in the anime.

      1. Dramatically, a lot of things are happening, and we are privy to almost none of it right now. This is likely to remain the case. We followed all these characters working towards their goals, but Suetsugu intentionally limits our vision of the fruits of all that work. That’s a bit frustrating.

        But if the anime is intended to be largely a faithful adaptation of the manga, then it can’t be helped.

        BTW, does she do recap chapters? 😀

    3. It should also be seen as a statement that Taichi now can be as efficient a karuta player with Chihaya by his side, as when he was thinking she had chosen Arata (and his karuta) over him. Turning the match into a drawn out, dramatic affair would have negated that.

  11. Weren’t there a couple of other players from Mizusawa who were in class finals? I could swear I saw them before this episode …

    In all seriousness, this season is a demonstration of the pros and cons of focusing on singular characters to the nth degree at the expense of all others. Great when it’s someone I like or can empathize with, not so great when its one-shot fillers and those I don’t care about, and there have been a few of those this season.

    Very glad Taichi made it to class A, hopefully the director will remember “the other two” and we get to hear about them before the A class final is over.

    J Jay
  12. @Guardian Enzo

    Another excellent post.

    I do disagree with one point:

    [Frankly it seemed out of character to me to have Nishida do this, but I think his development was sacrificed for Chihaya’s – he was forced to act out-of-character in order to make her decision that much more dramatic.]

    I agree with the others above who address this point. Where you say Nishida’s development was being sacrificed, I think most people see this as actually an important moment in the character’s development and the result of a cumulation of events from the season.

    1. Beside Chihaya, he was expected to be the other rock of the team. But he lost several key matches in humiliatingly quick fashion, jeopardizing his team’s chances. It was often his weaker teammates who were more successful at supporting him and the team.

    2. He lost in his last match of the season to Arata, the boy who is the reason Nishida quit karuta. Even after his return to the game, he never really believed that he could beat the karuta monsters on the field. But it was only in confronting Arata for the first time in years and losing badly that he realized that he had never really tried to discover his limits as a player. It was through Arata’s dominance that he was able to appreciate in ways he had not understood and fully acknowledge the quality of the work his teammates had put in into their own games through S2. He realizes that as hard as he had worked, he had not truly put in the same level of effort as his teammates had. And he felt compelled to expressly acknowledge this realization to Arata after the loss.

    3. Also, consider how Nishida has often expressed to Chihaya how she ought to maximize her opportunities to improve her game. His support of her dream has been consistent and his advice pretty sound. And he counsels her to come with him to watch the Class A finals. In real life, it is crucial to watch the best perform to improve one’s own performance. So, I found Nishida’s advice to be consistent with his history. Chihaya declining Nishida’s advice is also not inconsistent.

    Thus, preferring to watch Arata and Shinobu instead of his good friend and teammate, Taichi–in the most important game of his life–speaks to the importance for Nishida of his own re-awakening ambitions. It is a selfish moment. But it seems to be an instance of character development and not an instance of its sacrifice for plot advancement and cheaply manufactured dilemma. The only thing that is being sacrificed, is Chihaya’s opportunity to improve her game a bit more. But Chihaya gained much more by going to Taichi. Her exhausted weeping at the end are proof of this.

  13. Setou Asami is really a great seiyuu. The part where she congratulates Taichi while crying must have taken multiple takes to get the right amount of happiness in it 😀

  14. Felt crazy enough this week and decided to watch the episode 4 times.

    First we see Retro-kun crushed by Taichi and then not getting punished by Sudo because Sudo felt he was punished enough by the fact that he still thinks Taichi is a rival. Poor guy!! The rest of them got punished for not being in Top8 with 100 flicks to each forehead!! :)I though Amakasu made it to Top 8?

    Coach Sakurazawa is so good!! Utilize your manpower and record the matches!! The empress should have brought a video camera this time, I’m surprised that she didn’t. Emoru and Megumu got crushed and lost by 12 and 14 cards respectively.

    Poor Rion!! Always getting teased by her teammates and having to beg for their respect. Makoto, you are definitely in love with her!

    How many classes are there in the tournament?? I see there are 8 finals matches (including the one on the top floor), and I thought there is only A,B,C,D and E? And Taichi, with that pose!! This is a final match man!

    Back to Shinobu and Arata’s match though, Shinobu’s style is like “there you are my friend, I will come and get you!”. Remember the season 1 Queen match that showed her past? Yeah, that’s her friendship with the cards. I still can’t believe they both hit the cards at the same time though! Granddaddy Wataya is right though, you break an opponent by attacking their strength. And here comes the perfect cross…. Nasty!!

    Shinobu, at that particular moment, decides to sacrifice some of the cards, which is going to be important later.

    Back to the first floor, Taichi’s match is plagued by fault, which fortunately include Rion making faults because of…. you guessed it, the reader. Looks like it’s another reader final exam, and I think this reader has failed….maybe not, when Rion figures that only his tempo and rhythm is bad but each syllable is CLEAN. Fortunately, she isn’t getting tensed over this, whereas Taichi is because he is comparing her to Suo-Meijin. However, thanks to a moment of realization that he goes back to normal and uses his memorization skills to beat her with “taking 10 cards and defending 15 cards” by 9 cards.

    That last scene!! 🙂 They cried together!!

    1. Looked like 7 matches to me. We know there are 4 classes (B, C, D, E) in there and that class D graduates 3 of the best 4 so there’s a 3rd place match in there, making it 5 matches. If I had to speculate, Class E probably allows the top 5 to graduate, making it 7 matches.

  15. The reactions of Taichi, Arata, Chihaya and Shinobu really reflected their connections to karuta. Shinobu’s comment to Arata about not needing friends was an attempt to convince herself that her lack of friendship was ok by gaining his endorsement. His smile shook her because it carried with it a total rejection of her position. Arata is now using karuta to gain back those friends he made through the game (it’s going to take awhile). While he may have a romantic interest in Chihaya, I think he also wants to reconnect with Taichi. Taichi’s connection to karuta is (and always was) because of Chihaya. Getting to class A is important to him because it’s important to Chihaya. While he may see Arata as a rival, he also would do anything for Chihaya (and damn near screwed up his match because of that). To Chihaya, win or lose, playing karuta with people is the one thing she loves most in the world (sorry Taichi and Arata). But maybe even more than that is playing with and supporting her friends. While she desperately wanted to see Arata play, supporting her teammate who had a chance to move up to her level (and join her), was even more important. While she was crying for Taichi’s win (and level up) she was also crying for herself.

  16. First, I don’t really think that Nishida urging Chihaya to watch the A-final was out of character. Maybe in S1, but S2 Nishida is an almost ruthless pragmatist for the sake of the team’s karuta and trophy cabinet. He doesn’t have time for all the personal drama and issues.

    Taichi has been playing the B-Tournament almost as a soulless drone (‘What am I doing here?’) ever since he thought that Chihaya would find playing karuta with Arata more important than standing by him. He almost gives in to his old habits when she does turn up in the end.
    But just like Chihaya has grown to be more considerate, Taichi has grown to put his own affairs first when necessary.
    And so we get yet another memorable Taichi/Chihaya moment.

  17. Taichi is my favorite character from Chihayafuru, I consider him the best character in this manga/anime just for having the best development in my opinion… not only in the game, but also as a human. Many may disagree with me, but it’s amazing his change since the first episode… Arata also had development, but he has little screen time, no one can deny that… and Chihaya, well… Chihaya is Chihaya.

  18. Talk about being shafted…This episode was so pivotal; I mean they’ve been building it up for so long and it just didn’t have that much impact to it. Ah well. I think its clear that Chihaya has more feelings for Taichi than for Arata. She seems to like Arata more for the fact that he’s a good karuta player. On the other hand she seems to like Taichi as a person. The ending of this episode also felt a bit rushed, and this would have been one of the best moments to skip the ending theme and let us linger a bit more on the victory which Taichi has been working on for two seasons to obtain…

    1. Careful not to confuse platonic feelings and romantic feelings. Chihaya’s awkwardness towards, fixation on, and longing for Arata all look like romance to me. Whereas Taichi, she is comfortable and open around; I believe, she loves him deeply like a brother.

      1. That’s highly debatable depending on the viewer and their preferences. Many can say the same thing when it comes to Taichi as well. I will however stated that Chihaya is comfortable with Taichi because they have been through so much together, that it’s natural to feel close to him. However that doesn’t merit a romantic relationship. In another different perspective Taichi is placed in the ‘friendzone’. But since Chihaya has yet to show any interest like that, you can’t place him there at all. While we can debate what it is, what it looks like, what it could be for countless hours, the fact of the matter remains, Chihaya is focus on Karuta, not boys. And I’m fine with that.

        And if she was focus on either one of them like that, we wouldn’t be so torn with a love triangle. Love triangles are form when either pairing is acceptable, but when you have a character lead towards the other, it’s annulled and becomes a one way street that you lean towards that pair more since it’s more canon. Chihayafuru hasn’t done that yet. It’s been pretty open and vague about Chihaya’s romantic interest. If I were to lean towards what typical Chihaya would be more into, it would be Taichi, cause she is comfortable around him and she is obviously a disaster around boys. For an airhead like her, comfort and something she is familiar with would suit her the best. If she’s looking for a great Karuta player, Arata is the guy for that. But when it comes to Arata, I feel like they’ll just focus on Karuta together not so much their relationship. Hmm. Well those are my two cents anyways..

  19. Great post. The last few paragraphs on Taichi put chills down my spine. You reminded me why this was such a monumental moment. Taichi’s advancement to class A was so quick, so uncovered, that I almost casually accepted his advancement and moved on. The lack of coverage along with the absence of Taichi this season made me almost forget, sadly, that this anime is more than just a karuta anime. That this anime is also a story of struggle, barriers, and bonds.

    Chihaya has always been self-absorbed in her own karuta, and her fascination with Arata. But when push came to shove, when things got real, she would always show compassion for Taichi. Off the top of my head I remember when she was in the locker and Taichi went to console her, and when she said that most important to her is Taichi advancing to class A. THIS is the Chihaya that’s real and full of color. I’m so happy I was able to see this Chihaya again this season, but I wish it had happened sooner and more frequently.

    1. That or spread out more. I like Chihaya’s evolution, which makes me really eager that they’ll make a Season 3, I can’t imagine how much of an amazing character she can become by then, that and Taichi! I think they should make Chihayafuru the exemption and make that into a soap of a series that can run a decade. >_______> We’ll follow Chihaya to her college yrs, becoming a Queen yrs, being a coach yrs, hosting tournaments yrs, participating yrs, her relationship yrs with either characters, her having babies yrs and complaining about her belly is getting too big for her to do a swing. Her becoming a president, whatever the case until she’s 40. This can totally be done. Just sayin.

  20. Man I don’t even have enough brain cells left to analyze the differences between Arata and Chihaya and Taichi – I’m just so happy that good things are happening to Taichi at last. :’)

  21. I agree with most of us here that Taichi’s winning match — something that the show has been building up to for so long and this long — is too short and too rush. Nonetheless, for most of us who love the show and appreciate why Taichi is such a great character to feel for and connect with, this is the rewarding moment for not only Taichi, Chihaya, and Team Mizusawa but also for us the viewers. I am glad that Chihaya was there for him and was there to pull the baka-Taichi back from rushing and have a moment of celebrations…well, in tears. This is not about shipping, but it’s that Chihaya and Taichi are the founding members of the Mizusawa Karata Club, and we’ve witnessed what these two — together with other club members — have gone through in realizing their dreams. It’s like any wins that the Mizusawa Club and its club members achieved, Taichi’s is important and emotional that — I am sure — has tugged the heartstrings of many. As someone who loves the show, I can’t help but feel the joy, the bond, and the feelings that they share and bubble up right at that moment.

    To echo @vane, I also wish to talk a little bit about Taichi as a character. Yes, Taichi is portrayed as a handsome and elite high schooler who comes from a rich family and attracts tons of fangirls from his school. However, this is absolutely not why many adore Taichi (if I did, I would consider myself insane for fantasizing and idolizing a 2-D character in a fictional world). It’s completely the opposite and how brilliant this character is created and developed. In the manga/anime world, there are tons of underdogs and the God-like-Mr./Ms-Perfect — they are all very one-dimensional. Taichi, while portrayed as better than many, still has his flaws and struggles. He has his own inner demons; he gets jealous; he flip-flops and loses his own cool from time-to-time. He also comes back from his own wrongs, readjusts and rebuilds his own resolve, falls and picks himself up — many times. It’s really how intricately and explicitly that this character is written and allowed to evolve and grow that grabs the hearts of many. It isn’t that common to find a character that is so fully developed, real and relatable to our lives — to watch his journey is painful at times but reflective, inspiring, and uplifting at others. At the end, it’s not Taichi Taichi that we adore but Taichi the character that we appreciate — and the amount of dedication and respect that Suetsugu-sensei has for writing and creating a character and for us the reader/viewer.

    I absolutely respect the fact that not everyone thinks the same as I do — or there are some who absolutely hate Taichi, and I am sorry that I took up so much space here rambling. I don’t usually speak up as this much here, so I apologize for any nonsense that I made.

  22. I’m not a fan of Taichi, but I must say he definitely deserved this victory. Aside of Shinobu and Arata who a) are monsters b) didn’t take part in team tournament, he remains the only one here, who played this many matches and didn’t lose a single one. So, welcome to the A Class. The friendship moment from Chihaya was sweet, too.

    But nonetheless I’m more interested in the Class A finals. Shinobu’s been lately acting like a third-rate shounen villain, so I kinda wish her failure.

    1. I really like what you said…especially when you’re not a fan of the character. Isn’t it neat how this show — and this episode — can attract and unite people of different viewpoints and fondness? Yes — the bond and feelings shared by Chihaya and Taichi was so sweet and touching.

      As for who will win the Class A final, I had a little chat with Enzo last week — and I honestly wish that it will turn out as what Enzo said for important and much-needed character development. This is my speculation…and I am just trying to decipher how Suetsugu-sensei creates tensions in the story and amongst the characters. It’s hinted in this episode that Arata will win, and if he does, he will be even more God-like and further away from Chihaya in Karuta — which will then make her try harder to reach him and Taichi to struggle more. In my view, this has been the dynamics of the trios — and the backbone of the drama — that Suetsugu-sensei has presented to us and successfully tempted us to think romantic pairings. Of course, this is just a guess, and I hope that the creators will up their game in animation next week — there will be lots of action in the Class A final.

      1. Damn that clever woman. Lol it is a possibility that may happen. But if it does Arata will become a less of a focus character in our little love triangle. If Arata becomes Godlike, Chihaya will just admire him and try to reach him from afar as just a Karuta player. Aratas status will have him so far from her that the possibility of any romantic notion between the two will be slimmer to none, and I’m not referring to distance here. Arata may be in Tokyo physically but he couldn’t be further away from his friends in that game sense. Seeing the cons of his victory, viewers will be force to focus on the current pair of Taichi and Chihaya since they’re always co-sided to one another facing whatever challenges they’ll come to next. That actually makes them a more realistic pair. Chihaya has a long road to go still to reach Shinobus level which is the level Arata crushed, if he wins that is.

      2. I don’t think he will ‘win’, I can imagine a scnario where he loses, and both Taichi and Chihaya go and talk to him and Shinobu finds herself alone, /dramatic, then we get a new thing to get emotional about xD I hate waiting one more week, its excrutiating 🙁


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