OP: 「COLORFUL」 () by (99RadioService)
「なつのよは / あさぼらけありあけのつきと / よしののさとに」 (Natsu no yo wa / Asaborake ariake no tsuki to / Yoshino no sato ni)
“On a Summer Night / As Dawn Breaks, As If Lit by the Pale Moonlight / Yoshino Is Buried Under”
You know that feeling you get when you cozy up on the couch, watching your favourite show or movie, alongside your favourite person, with your favourite hot drink and everything feels just right? That’s how I feel about Chihayafuru‘s return in my life.
This intro post for the third season of Chihayafuru covers episodes 1 to 3. After watching the premiere last week, I realized I was missing some crucial information. I had taken for granted that my love for the series would easily guide me back into the world of karuta but I was sorely mistaken. I’d forgotten where we’d left off with the exception of Chihaya’s injury, and I’d forgotten why they were at Fujisaki’s Karuta Club Summer Camp.
So in light of all the missing puzzle pieces, I spent the last week binging the last fifty episodes of the previous two seasons and even rehashed some of the details with a close friend who’d watched the series not too long ago after I recommended it. The core of the conversation revolved around whether we were on team Arata or team Taichi, as it should be.
Last I watched the series was in 2013 and I remember being on team Taichi. However, after rewatching this beloved series a second time, I am now on team Chihaya. She has a goal, a dream, and I completely understand why she’s aloof to Taichi’s feelings. Her heart is set on karuta, and I believe her love for karuta is tightly interwoven with her feelings for Arata. It’s not so much love as much as it is admiration for the person who introduced her to the sport. He’s always out of reach in the same way the title of ‘Queen’ is and she yearns for that approval from the karuta world as much as she does Arata. Or so I understand.
For those who haven’t really watched Chihayafuru but would like to, the story follows Ayase Chihaya (Seto Asami), Mashima Taichi (Miyano Mamoru), and Wataya Arata (Hosoya Yoshimasa) and their love for karuta, a competitive Japanese card game. I’d define the series as ‘wholesome.’ The first and second season covered a lot of team matches, following the Mizusawa Highschool’s newly formed karuta club’s journey. Members include Ayase, Taichi, Oe Kanade (Kayano Ai), Hanano Sumire (Han Megumi), Komano Tsutomu (Yonoga Tsubasa), Nishida Yusei (Nara Tooru), and Tsukaba Akihiro (Irino Miyu). They each have their strengths and weaknesses and they’ve learned a lot from one another. Their passions for the sport overlap for different reasons, whether it’s for the love of poetry, the love of a person, or seeking recognition. All karuta players are ranked between A and E, rank A being the highest. Three of the Mizusawa members are now rank A: Chihaya, Nishida, and Taichi, meaning they’re bound to go up against one another in official tournaments.
But the main character here is Chihaya. Her love for karuta founded the club and brought together a group of people who, prior to this, would have never interacted with one another. From her obsession with the sport, she built herself a supporting and loving family. During the second season, they won the title of best karuta team of all of Japan, beating Fujisaki Highschool by a very slim thread. In the process, however, Chihaya injured her right (dominant) hand and was forced to stop playing for a few weeks while she recovered.
I can tell you one thing for sure. Every episode, every match, kept me on the edge of my seat and what’s even better is, they still do! Who would have thought? The love I had for the series and its characters is back tenfold.
It’s clear this season will focus on individual matches that will lead our three main characters, who are also childhood friends, to face off against one another. So far, they’ve yet to encounter each other in official matches. Chihaya wants to be the best female karuta player (named Queen), Taichi is using his strength in karuta to prove to Chihaya that he is as worthy for her as Arata is, and Arata, well we don’t know much about him just yet. We know he returns to karuta after having lost if grandfather to a stroke after almost a year out of practice, and we know as of this season that he wants to create a karuta club at his own school in Fukui, now inspired by what Chihaya and Taichi achieved through season 1 and 2.
So far, season three has done a great job at reintroducing fans to karuta and supporting characters and rivals. Actually, when I think about it, rivalry will probably be at the core of Mizusawa’s karuta club. How will they fare with all the tension and competition? Will their support be unwavering towards one another even after defeat? I can tell you one thing for sure, whether they win or lose, someone is bound to cry, whether it be Chihaya or myself.
I was a little taken aback when I realized two episodes of Chihayafuru were released this past week. Now three episodes into the third season, we’re already neck-deep in a Rank A & B tournament and there’s the challenge of Chihaya, Taichi, and Nishida missing the Master and Queen tournament because of their school trip.
I’m a little torn between the two and the reason is because of the very frustrating love debacle that has built over the years. Oe is right. What happened with Taichi after she encouraged him to pursue Chihaya? She mustered up a lot of courage to express herself outside of her usual calm demeanour so why didn’t he make a move? The last time my heart went ‘doki-doki’ was a while ago so perhaps the school trip will be where he sheds the ‘coward’ he’s carried with him all these years. Even though I’m on team Chihaya, I’m not against sparks igniting in Chihaya’s heart, whether they come from Arata or Taichi. On the same note, if they were to go on the school trip, the series, as it has done so well in the past, will build up nicely to the next Master and Queen tournament.
Either way, next is focusing on how Chihaya will do against the previous Queen, now returned from maternity leave, Inokuma Haruka (Sakamoto Maaya). A new rival has appeared and the next match is coming up.
Until then, I’ll be repeating this silently in my head as I have been for about a week now in preparation for what’s to come:
Sakuya kono hana
Ima o haru-be to
Sakuya kono hana
ED: 「一目惚れ」 (Hitomebore) by (Band Harassment)