Don't worry, I'll get to what happened at the end - just keep your shirts on for a minute...
he and Taichi have decided to remove him from the lineup for the group stage (though indications are it was mostly Tsutomu's idea) so that he can concentrate on scouting the opposition (with Sumire's help). That's a pretty darn big deal, and it reflects just how selfless Tsutomu is - he's never put himself above the team.
intense" is how I would describe his mood - and his focus seems more and more on putting the team above all else. Is this a bit of a security blanket against possible failure in the individual tournament? Perhaps - but it seems to reflect a genuine difference between he and Arata in their viewpoints. This could manifest as a plot point in many different ways - it seems to give Taichi something in common with Chihaya that Arata lacks, for one. It also reflects just how lonely Arata has been, I think - his isolation inside the game isn't entirely a product of his drive to be Meijin. He also associates team Karuta with Chihaya and Taichi - and since he isn't with them, team Karuta naturally isn't foremost in his mindset.
Chiba International School. Let me say up front, I don't think Suetsugu-sensei (or Madhouse) meant anything malicious here - but I nevertheless found much of the material involving C.I.S. sort of depressing. What's sad, for me, is that I don't think the reaction of the Mizusawa kids was especially unrealistic. Even in this age of globalization, there's still an instinctive wariness around foreigners in Japan that surely has its roots in the fact that this is an island nation that's been resolutely isolationist throughout most of its history. I see that in Tokyo, where there are many more Gaijin than in any other region of Japan - in places like Hokkaido (where Tsukuba comes from) it's even more pronounced. Xenophobia is a very real part of the Japanese mosaic - you see it in the rhetoric of men like current P.M. Shinzou Abe, and you see it creep into art forms like anime sometimes too.
far too close to ugly stereotyping. Yet, I don't think this was malice so much as a reality that I wish was different than what it is - this is simply the way most Japanese look at foreigners (and as we see, even the boy who'd never left Japan still bore the "gaijin" label). The larger message Suetsugu is trying to get across here is one of fellowship around the game all of the kids love - I did like the "He's lying!" that popped up when Tsukuba thought "There are no black people in Hokkaido!" and especially the moment that Nishida marveled at how "free" the boy opposing him and his teammates were in playing the game. They were unconstrained by the bounds of competitive Karuta - they were just playing a game they love. And I couldn't help but laugh when Tsukuba thought to himself how odd it was that foreigners loved Karuta when "I mean... Japanese people don't like it either." This is a small fraternity, even in Japan - though Chihayafuru itself is doing its part to try and change that.
this) we saw Chihaya again show signs of real growth - she was the only one not put off by her opponents, but instead thrilled that they loved the game. She was also the one - not Taichi - who turned the match around with her timely "One card at a time, Mizusawa!" admonition. As for Kana she was mostly concerned with her shame that the gaijin were wearing Hakana and Mizuswa wasn't (a concession to the heat), and with the fact that her opponent was wearing hers tied incorrectly (right flap over left, which is how the deceased are dressed - a very common gaijin blunder). Tsukuba managed his first win, always an important milestone. The foreigners proved themselves human just like anyone else - trying to psych the opponent out with English themselves despite not speaking it very well. And I confess, I never expected to hear the legendary Miki Shinichiro playing a high-schooler in this day and age - much less in Chihayafuru! All in all, it was a strange and memorable chapter in this ongoing saga.
Shinobu and Arata have finally interacted on-screen (the streams have crossed!) and given that she seems to harbor some very strong feelings about him, there's every reason to hope her involvement will break the logjam that's turned the relationship of the original main trio into a muddy backwater instead of the clear, flowing river it once was. No, Chihayafuru is not first a romance series and I refuse to demean the totality of it by treating it as one - but neither is it possible to ignore the reality that the ChiTaiAra dynamic is the emotional eye of the hurricane. The series is better off if that dynamic is, well- dynamic, and it's been too long since it has been. Hopefully, the pieces are in place for that to change starting next week.