Well, Team Chihayafuru managed to drag out the much-anticipated meeting at least one more week.
For better or worse, I’ve never been able to predict just where Chihayafuru was going from week to week this season. It’s fair to say that 10 episodes in, not one of them has gone precisely as I’ve expected. From the initial focus on Sumire (especially) and Tsukuba at the expense of the returning cast to the unusual tournament opponents to Arata getting his own episode with no Chihaya or Taichi interaction whatsoever, nothing has gone predictable. So while I assumed we’d be getting our grand reunion this week after a short delay, that it should prove otherwise shouldn’t in itself be much of a surprise.
Suo is an embarrassment to them with his politically incorrect and very un-Japanese individualism, so unfitting for the face of a sport so rooted in the old traditions. Arata is a shining beacon of hope, a clean-cut and handsome descendant of a beloved Meijin. Clearly, it’s important to the world of competitive Karuta that he do well.
a bit of an outlandish figure in bizarre situations this season – often to very good comic effect, but not offering much in terms of real development for her character.
Nakayama-kun, has fallen hard for the romance of Karuta and now plays it for his own sake. These guys aren’t as iconoclastic as some the opponents we’ve seen lately, but they are odd enough to consternate the still-inexperienced Mizusawa gang. They rely on their memorization and deduction to win, placing their cards randomly and moving them after virtually every card is read.
Mioka advisor. At first she’s a bit star-struck, but soon realizes he sees Karuta as nothing but a training tool for “more important” things - and her admiration quickly turns to righteous (if hidden) outrage. What’s especially telling is how the players react, as we’re given yet another lesson in Karuta strategy. The strategy that works in quiz shows – hit the buzzer in the middle of the question, because you’ll get another syllable (at least) for free before the reader can stop – “lag” - works in Karuta, too. But as you would expect, Nishida with his experience and Taichi who relies on memorization and strategy to win are least effected by these tactics, and win rather easily. Tsukuba is rattled and seemingly exhausted, and loses handily – and surprisingly, Kana, though she devises a strategy to avoid trying to memorize placements, loses a narrow match.
becomes aware of what’s happening to her, and manages to control her discomfort with Nakayama’s playing style and be patient enough for the game to turn around. Which, of course, it does – and though the 3-2 margin was closer than one might have expected, a win is still a win and Mizusawa moves on to the elimination round.
Tsukuba asks to be replaced by Tsutomu. But Nishida, surprisingly, argues that the team should keep the same lineup, which means leaving Tsutomu out. It’s always seemed possible that we were headed towards Tsutomu being a non-factor as a player, but I’m surprised (again) to see it potentially coming to a head this soon. I’ll be very interested to hear Nishida’s reasoning, since the evidence on the ground – Komano-kun’s experience, Tsukuba’s weariness, and the fact that Tsutomu can do more with the information he’s scouted than anyone – seems to support the notion that he should be playing. Is it possible that Nishida is casting doubt on Tsutomu’s desire as a player?
*I saw this cute little fellow all over Otsu during my trip in January. He seems to be a mascot for the local tourist association.