「たかさごの / あまのかぐやま」 (Takasago no / Ama no kaguyama)
“Nobody wishes to see / Mount Amanokagu”
This week marks the second week in a row that we are privy to two episodes of Chihayafuru 3. The episodes focus on the Class A quarter-finals and the semi-finals of the Yoshino Society Tournament which include Taichi, Arata, and Chihaya. However, none are paired up against one another…yet.
So many aspects of the episodes stood out to me, but I think because I had just binged about 53 episodes in the span of a week, the first thing I noticed in this season was the animation of the karuta cards. I can’t be certain it’s CGI but it definitely looks it. Whatever the technology, the stylistic change introduced this season is highly noticeable and adds a different dimension to the tension around the matches. The pans over the playing fields and the cards flying away after being swiped are so smooth, anticipation builds up quite nicely around each game.
I could argue that it was totally worth the wait for Chihayafuru 3, but I won’t. I can’t believe we had to wait this long to get back into the game alongside Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata. I also still can’t believe it’s back. Tuesday is my new favourite day of the week.
When Chihaya first entered the tournament, I was a little concerned as to how she would do after having spent most of the summer using only her left hand. But working her left hand at karuta means she can now grasp the scope of the entire playing field and she now understands the distance required for her body to shift just right so she can get the cards. That, alongside listening for ‘pitch’, has allowed her skills to evolve to never before seen levels in Chihayafuru history. I thought she’d lose her first match but so far, so good.
More importantly, she managed to win the quarter-final match against Inokuma who was crowned Queen four years in a row before her maternity leave. The crowd had high hopes for her until they witnessed Chihaya play. Chihaya’s come such a long way and I was impressed with how she dealt with the match both emotionally, mentally, and physically. She was responsive to her opponent, continued to play with enjoyment, and used her ability to listen to her advantage without relying solely on her force and speed. She’s actually playing with consistent accuracy, which in the past, we’ve only seen on a few occasions.
As for Taichi. Man, do I love this kid. He’s the underdog. He’s always seen as the ‘head’ or the ‘leader’ because of his charisma and his ability to inspire. I’ve watched him play and get better but never to the point where he’d win against Chihaya. Soon, this might change. It turns out he’s at his strongest when he goes on the defence, which is not the Shiranami Society way. We see this during the semi-finals when Harada-sensei notices the shift. He’s been teaching them since they were kids to always play on the offensive so why has Taichi switched now? Did he learn this over the summer at the Fujisaki Karuta Summer Camp? Either way, Taichi has skills of his own which is acknowledge by the top brass of the Shiranami Society, Hiroshi Tsuboguchi. He may not have a killer sense of hearing like Chihaya but he has his memory. He can remember every little thing about the 100 karuta cards. He knows which are dead, which are still in play, and which have been read whether dead or taken. I mean, wow me much? Even though this has always been the case, he’s using it more and more to his advantage and now knows to use his opponent’s weaknesses to his benefit.
As for Arata, I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen him react so openly. The only other time he expressed himself so abruptly was when they were kids and they played one final game of karuta together in his old apartment. He cried at the prospect of losing his friends. Chihaya and Taichi were taken aback as well, probably because they’d assumed he would win. But they forget, their childhood friend had stopped playing for quite some time. It’ll take more than a few tournaments for Arata to make up the time he lost. And anyway, Arata couldn’t have won because then we’d definitely have seen two of the three mains go up against one another and that would have been way too confusing for the audience.
The plot was built so that Taichi and Chihaya could face one another. They’ve faced each other countless times before in the school club and at their karuta society but never in an official tournament. After all, Taichi only made it to Class A after Chihaya did and he worked hard to do so. Chihaya even shed tears for him after he won. But now, she’ll have to put aside her support for him and go up against him like she never has before.
As for Taichi, how in the world will he control his thoughts? Chihaya wasn’t in the room when he played against Shinichi Murao, Arata’s senpai. That match he played was a direct conversation to Arata, almost like he wanted to tell him: “I’m just as good as you are and I’m no longer the coward you thought I was.” Or… I’m just reading into it too much. But he definitely showed Arata his strength and resolve. How will he fair now that he must face Chihaya as an opponent? He knows her quirks so can he one up her? Or will his feelings for Chihaya and his support for her dream stand in the way of his own?
My head hurts guys. It hurts. I don’t even know who I want to see win. If only the match could end because of a natural disaster or someone pulling the fire alarm, that’d be great. I don’t think I’ll be able to withstand the pressure and tension that comes with a Chihaya/Taichi match. And it’s not even the High School National Championship. What happens then?
I can’t believe the third season of Chihayafuru has only just begun.
For those of you who are into the show because of the poems and want to get a little nerdier about the sport and series like me, I found this thread on Reddit I think you’d enjoy! It’s a lovely guide to go along as we go through the season.