「かぜをいたみ」 (Kaze o itami)
“Dashed by Fierce Winds on a Rock Am I”
This season was the season all Chihayafuru fans have been waiting for, but before I dive into that, let’s look at this final episode.
Way back in the first season, Chihaya and Taichi travelled to Arata’s hometown to encourage him to return to karuta. He had been, from a young age, a very promising competitor so it only made sense that if they were going to play competitive karuta through high school, that he should too. But he suffered a great loss and completely disconnected from his love for the cards that forged the bond between him and his grandfather.
I’m recalling this event, because, well, the tables have now turned. With three seasons in, Arata has rejoined the ranks of karuta competitors and even went head to head with Mr. Harada, losing the chance to become this year’s karuta Master. But that event, alongside reconnecting with Chihaya and Taichi, acted as fuel to the fire already burning inside him. He’s determined now more than ever to play team matches, which he believes will bring him closer to being with his beloved childhood friends.
In the heat of building and supporting his newly formed novice team, he finds out that both Chihaya and Taichi have quit their highschool karuta club, meaning they quit playing Karuta. He has no idea what made each of them decide to leave, but he knows that they much each feel lost, like he felt so long ago now.
So he makes it his mission to guide them back to the sport, the world they love and dedicated so much time to.
And if I’m not mistaken, it looked to me like Taichi was on a tatami mat… preparing to practice with Suo. He had just sworn off karuta, claiming he could only see them as black, yet here he is going headfirst against the Master himself. He seemed even more determined after receiving Arata’s text message, which was essentially a love letter to his friends, urging them to come back to him.
Leaving us with this little warmth inside our hearts ends off the season so perfectly. Although so many of the storylines have yet to be completed, we know and trust as fans that these three will eventually be pulled back together by their common love for karuta.
This is where things get difficult to write about because there are no words to express the number of ups and downs we were put through this season. And no, I don’t mean the season’s overall production is inconsistent. If anything, it’s so consistent, it brought back nostalgic feelings of my past self eating popcorn watching younger Chihaya carrying tatami mats to her club room, which was just used as storage space at the time. No, I’m talking about the range of emotions we were put through watching Chihaya choose her school trip over competitions, watching as both Arata and Harada went face to face during the Master’s qualifiers, to then watching Harada lose against Suo during the finals. Just watching it happen was gut-wrenching, watching pregnant Inokuma lose against — was overwhelmingly sad yet she did it with so much grace. Even seeing how a sickened Arata ran into the auditorium to beg Suo to reconsider his retirement made me jump out of my seat.
It just comes to show how much passion exists within each character, and each of these moments, also show how much passion the creators of the show have for their very own characters.
But the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever watched in Chihayafuru history was watching Taichi walk away from Chihaya when she couldn’t meet his feelings. He’s spent years, since elementary school, pining over Chihaya, seeking to get her approval, hovering just so he can take up a little space in her life, her eyes. How crushing it must have felt for the poor boy, and everyone watching.
That said, I don’t think Chihaya has the emotional maturity to respond to either of the boys. Her whole high school career, and perhaps in the future even her adult career, revolves around karuta. She sees only what fits in her bubble and until she can find space to consider others, as Taichi has done for her on so many occasions, she won’t be able to properly respond to either of their declarations of love.
She is a kind soul, with a lot of spunk, and she does care for others. However, considering others is a different matter. It can be argued that even when she reached out to Arata to encourage him to play karuta again, it was because she wanted to be in his world still, to face him again one day. Not necessarily because it was for his own good.
She’s had an undeniably strong support system but as she and her teammates evolve, she will need to look towards herself for the strength she needs to move forward. She can’t rely on them forever. And she’s probably realized this after Taichi left her with a broken-hearted peck, one that sealed the end of their friendship.
What’s to come in the next season? I guess just more ups and downs that each and every one of us is unprepared for. Just please don’t make me wait until I hit 35.