There’s no need to mince words – that was utterly fantastic. Chihayafuru firing on all cylinders.
used the same screencap I did when referring back to that moment from last season where he broke down in tears after – in his own mind – letting Harada-sensei down. It’s just another example of how no detail is too small for this series, and no character unimportant. That was a key emotional moment in the first season, and it was a perfect lead-in to the surprising turn this episode took.
Hiroshi-san show up as coach of the unheralded Homei High team certainly wasn’t a stroke of luck for Taichi, or Mizusawa generally. In addition to teaching his kids outstanding Karuta skills, he knows the Mizusawa players – two of them, anyway – inside and out. And his strategy is perfect, if cold-hearted – go after Taichi by making him think he’s going after Chihaya. Tsuboguchi knows that once the match starts Chihaya can be utterly-single-minded, but Taichi will obsess over what’s happening with the rest of the team (Chihaya especially). To compound matters, the air conditioning breaks down and the newly-certified reader isn’t performing up to snuff, his rhythm off. As any sports fan will tell you, randomization always helps the weaker team because it levels the playing field – and these sorts of randomizing events clearly hurt Mizusawa more than Homei. It’s here that Taichi, as always “too aware of his surroundings”, urgently needs to think on the sage advice Harada-sensei gave him – “An individual match is a team match, and a team match is an individual match”. The implications for today’s tournament are obvious soon enough, but Harada-sensei intended that advice for when Taichi continues his lonely quest to finally make Class A – and I suspect those words will come into play in that context before the season is over.
captured the final card from his opponents side of the board to close the match in glory – all the more so because in effect, it was really Hiroshi-san he was defeating. So there’s no question that his match was one of the most uplifting of the series so far, starting with the moment where he asked for a towel. It’s played for humor of course – Taichi has no more trouble garnering the affections of adult women than he does giggling schoolgirls – but it’s the fact that Chihaya was watching him and responded immediately in his moment of need that really hit home. The irony here is the envy directed at him by the other males in the room, including his teammates. Superficially Taichi seems to have it all – he's rich, popular with the girls – but in fact he’s he most isolated person in the cast, constantly alone with thoughts he thinks no one else will understand. He’s also burdened with the reality that Retro-kun is probably right – Taichi does have more talent than most Class-A players. He’s got a superb memory, he practices at a Class-A level, and no one works harder – yet he can’t advance. And the more the weight of expectations – both internal and external – piles up, the harder achieving that goal is going to be.
Hokuo. Sudou-kun is gone, but they’re still a powerhouse – the only two faces I recognized were Retro-kun and Nayuta-kun, but there’s still the matter of the “secret weapon” we were warned about. Meanwhile, as seems to be the trend this season, we’re teased with just a glimpse of Arata and his Harajuku Girl phone in the pre-open – but this time, there’s something of substance to grasp onto. He says he has a request to make of his parents if he wins the national high school championships – we’re not told what it is, but the mind does wander. Hearing Arata talk of the “misty bridge” that connects he and Chihaya is about as overt a declaration of intent as we’ve seen in 29 episodes of Chihayafuru, and there’s no aspect of the series that won’t change dramatically if the pair at the center of the show becomes a threesome once more. There are a lot of elephants in this room, but Arata might just be the biggest one of all – he might be out of sight most of the time, but he’s never out of mind for us, for Taichi or for Chihaya.