Every time Taichi gets kicked in the gut, I have to fight the urge to double over myself.
Chitose never really got the chance to develop into anything more than a self-obsessed diva in the short screen time she had, and nothing we saw here would offer evidence to the contrary. What bothered me wasn’t so much that, but the way Chihaya’s Mom focused on Chitose’s career to the virtual exclusion of Chihaya’s life altogether – thank goodness Dad kept that little scrapbook next to Chitose’s multi-volume opus of clippings. Well, we heard Mom’s excuse today – she was so confident that Chihaya would be OK because of Karuta that she felt free to worry more about Chitose with her “unstable career choice”. To be honest that excuse sounds like just that, to me – and her decision to finally show a glimmer of interest in her younger daughter’s life and buy her a kimono of her own plays like an attempt to assuage her own guilt – and win Chihaya’s affection – with a financial gesture. Better late than never, but I’m still not really buying it.
Chihaya’s parents were involving in a slightly tragic way, though (they always are) and brought Kana and Oe-san into the story. That’s where things started to get more interesting, along with a subplot involving the eternal struggle with the school band for club room space. As it has a rare ability to do, Chihayafuru made us see the stock enemy as something much more here, showing us the band’s problems through the perspective of their advisor – eternally frustrated that he lacks the influence the Empress has. Let’s be honest – the Karuta Club didn’t live up to the deal she agreed to (five new members) and they’re keeping the clubroom anyway, while the band struggles with insufficient space. It’s not that the Karuta kids are the bad guys here, but that the band and their advisor aren't either – and that’s the whole point. And Chihaya again shows us real signs of growth by proposing that the band get the second floor space above the Karuta clubroom, at least for storage if not performance. Sure she has ulterior motives – trying to steal some good karma – but it’s still awareness of the needs of others. What’s that, actual character growth from one season to the next? This is Chihayafuru after all – and the reward for Chihaya’s gesture is a surprisingly emotional moment when the band plays all four verses of the school song to send the Karuta Club off to Nationals. Chihaya’s tears were fine, but it was Nishida’s “This is the first time I’ve ever been supported by anyone outside Karuta” that really hit home.
“It’s already the second season and you still don’t understand the title?!!” – again with the busy direction - but the gag hits home here. It’s one of those quirky moments this show is so great at delivering, and shows why Kana is such a great and unique presence. I loved the imagery she used – the top spinning out-of-control vs. the one spinning so fast you can’t even tell it’s moving. It’s a fabulous nugget of writing by Suetsugu-sensei and perfectly delivered by Morio-sensei, and it could really be taken as symbolic of so much of what happens in this series – not least of which Chihaya’s Karuta itself.
what everyone else wants to say but doesn’t dare. When she does just that in the girls’ room at their hotel near Ome Jingu, asking Chihaya who she likes, the first thought it we’re getting another Chihayafuru troll when Chihaya talks about Shinobu. But then she immediately thinks, “I wonder what he’s doing right now – I want to see him.” I don’t see any way not to interpret that as significant – nor the fact that she immediately sneaks down to the lobby and calls Arata.
overhears her conversation and as always, is overcome with what surely must be feelings of utter hopelessness. The sad part for him (well, it’s all sad but…) is that he really can blame only himself if indeed Chihaya and Arata end up together – despite his efforts to be “a person who doesn’t run away” (which have succeeded in many respects) he’s still in full flight when it comes to Chihaya. He refuses to make his feelings known to her and risk rejection, despite knowing that in Arata he has a potential rival who brings it in every respect – looks, personal history, talent, and a shared passion for Karuta that Chihaya doesn’t feel on the same level with him. Arata hasn’t said anything openly either, of course, but he has a valid excuse – he’s hundreds of miles away. Without doubt there’s an element of mutual respect between the two guys here in not making their move – Taichi because Arata isn’t there to fight back and Arata because he wants to give Taichi his chance to take his shot. It’s mostly unspoken but has been overtly acknowledged at least a little on occasion, but this is an uneasy truce that grows more and more unfavorable for Taichi over time – and the guy code may be as much of an excuse for him not to confront his fears than an honest reason for his tentativeness. This surely won’t be resolved when the three are reunited at Nationals, but what happened here thanks to Sumire is just as surely a sudden lurch forward – what will be interesting is to see where things settle afterwards.