Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chihayafuru - 24

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As I’m sure someone will try and blame me for not mentioning Arata more in this post, let me get it out of the way – he appeared for about 10 seconds and had no lines. It isn’t my fault – I call it like I see it.

Chihayafuru is my favorite series of the last two seasons, and in the larger sense I think it’s been basically flawless in terms of consistency – every episode has been in a range between very good and spectacular (including I might add, that most contradictory of things, an excellent recap ep). So it’s no surprise that I marveled this week at the way the series continues to find new ways to entertain and amaze, making us care about characters we barely know and like ones we initially disliked, and teaching us new facets of the Karuta world. I know I’m biased, but there have been no missteps in my eyes, only degrees of brilliance – and this week was no exception.

With that said, it looks as if the suspicion I’ve been mentioning for the last couple of posts is proving accurate, and the focus of the finale is going to be on what for me are relatively trivial matters by Chihayafuru standards. I do care about Shinobu, and it’s certainly interesting to see (if not hear from – yet) the Master, Suo Hisashi. Yet in the end, watching minor characters play for titles – and with the mains watching on TV, not live – isn’t what I wanted to see in the penultimate episode. There were hints of something more in the first act, as Chihaya visited Taichi’s home to watch the matches (his is bigger than the other guys. His TV, that is.) and brought the tension with her that you might expect. Even Chihaya wasn’t too dense to note the magnitude of the moment, visiting Taichi’s room again at last – but most of the tension came from Mrs. Pressure, who’s still vying for the title of creepiest parent in anime (and still wants her son to quit Karuta). Eventually though, the rest of the gang shows up too and the focus turns to what’s on the screen, not in front of it.

Among other things that were on the screen was a whole lot more of Shinobu than last we saw her (“Her neck is gone!”), as she gained 10kg by eating ice creams to win the “Snowmaru pouch and handkerchief”. She’s also playing in a million-yen kimono that’s all Kana sees, but Taichi notices immediately that the added weight has thrown off Shinobu’s timing. There’s a very well-done flashback sequence to Shinobu’s childhood, where we learn where her love of Karuta came from. There’s also the matter of Yumin, the challenger – as usual trying to rely on clever tactics and strategy to overcome the physical advantage the younger Queen still has. The outcome of this match is pretty easy to see from the beginning though, even with Shinobu’s lack of match fitness – there’s not much suspense in it. Yumin’s end comes pretty ingloriously, though she does get a nice moment with her coach and society colleagues in the dressing room after the match.

Of the Master, Suo Hisashi, we at last learn a few bits and pieces – just table scraps though, really. He’s in college, probably close to graduating, and is going for his fourth straight title. As in professional tennis’ grand slams the women’s final is best-of-three while the men’s is best-of-five, so after winning the first two matches by identical scores to the Queen (5 and 13 card margins) we’ll get to see Suo polish off his title defense next week. He seems to be a bit of a cold, assassin type – faster than even Shinobu, apparently, and she seems to dislike him generally. Nishida is quite insistent that not just the boys but Chihaya watch him too, as he says her style is a better match for his than for Shinobu’s. For Taichi, the dilemma at the moment is trying to concentrate on what watching these matches can do for his own development and not obsessing solely over what Chihaya is feeling.

It’s all very well-done, but a bit too emotionally distant for me – after bonding with this show for six months, I really want a finale next week that focuses on Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata (and preferably includes Harada and the Chibis) and touches the heart in the way only this show has been able to do lately. In that light I hope the Master final is over in the first act and there’s lots of time for… well, whatever. To be honest I really have no idea how Asaka and Takayama-sensei intend to finish this – with the story right in the middle, just about anything could happen. In my own mind I’m operating under the assumption that this is it as far as the anime is concerned, and whatever closure I get is going to have to come from the manga. That’s fine (well, not really, but what can you do), and I’ll certainly follow that to the end, but I still want the anime – which lives and breathes for me as its own distinct and wonderful story – to have the powerful and moving ending it so richly deserves.

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9 comments:

  1. That intro bit with Mrs Pressure and Chihaya was hilarious. I actually laughed out loud.
    The way it ended with a little bit of an intro of the Karuta Master makes me fear that this anime will stop right in the middle of everything and be put on ice until they receive enough funding. Can I donate? ^^

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    1. You know, Danny Choo is working with the Japanese government on a scheme were fans can contribute money to help get a series produced. I think it's a great idea, actually, and I'd certainly do so for a Chihayafuru S2.

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  2. I think it will end with Suo showing off his skills as the number one and possibly crushing Shinobu in the process. Chihaya and Arata will have a new foe to defeat and we'll get the usual half-ending of "well keep on trying until our dreams come true".

    Hopefully a little bit of development in the relationship department is lined up (fingers crossed for Taichi) next week.

    After that we will have to say good bye to this magnificent show.

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  3. Got a feeling the King is making a fool of the Queen. By getting the exact same score as her side. He is purposely losing some cards to get equal score.

    Lol. Picture 4th and 5th last looks like replicas.

    Queen: so I now understand how chubby = cute

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    1. Agree. It seemed to me that Suou-meijin deliberately matched Shinobu's score. At the very least, it seems that's what Shinobu believed he had done. And if that's the case--if he really is simply amusing himself with the score rather than actively competing--then he really is in a complete class of his own.

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  5. Suo-sama is a sadist. Lol. (Upon reading dv's comment ^^)

    (Can't really help it! I think I've been influenced by Sugita's character in Inu Boku [Kagerou] by classifying everything to S and M). Oh, and the fact that most of the male characters I love in anime turned out to be S. *sighs* By the way, Taichi is definitely an M.

    S and M aside, I too was hoping some development on Taichi x Chihaya x Arata. One more week and sayonara karuta... :'(

    Dear Madhouse & Asaka-kantoku,
    Please please please make a season 2 of Chihayafuru!

    Yours truly,
    Izumi.

    (Original post was deleted because I was too quick to publish.. :p)

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  6. Chihayafuru is the best selling manga in the week of march 12-16, I think there´s still hope! =)

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    1. Yes, I know, 212K copies - it wasn't going up against any of the shounen powerhouses though. Still, it's a very good week.

      There's some hope, but not much. Any more anime would be a pleasant surprise for me.

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