Chihaya, Wataya (Arata), and Taichi enter the world of competitive 3-on-3 Karuta when they join a local club, who are pleased to have them. Here, Chihaya awakens her talent, Taichi learns teamwork and sacrifice, and the three become friends. But when Taichi is accepted to a far away school and Arata has to leave town to be with his ill grandfather, the golden trio splits apart after competing in a tournament, which they barely lose. Chihaya plays Arata one last time before he moves, and manages to beat him. She vows they’ll never be apart as long as they keep playing Karuta.
That was a god-damn tearjerker at times. We haven’t seen this much vibrant, compelling drama fill a scant twenty-two minutes of airtime in a while. This episode covered both the establishment and the disbanding of Team Chihaya Furu, and really fleshed out the excellent core trio. Taichi was far more likeable, Arata showed his gloating side, and Chihaya was simply fantastic throughout, as she finds her passion and develops her skill for the game, even as her family offers zero encouragement (We don’t care how pretty her sister is, she’s just plain scum).
All these good and bad times almost pass too quickly; but at the same time the series definitely made a bold statement telling so much story in so little time; it means it has a lot more story to tell. After all, we’re still in the past: Chihaya’s in high school now. We’re not sure the next episode will return to the present (there are no previews), but we would say we’re ready. All that needed to be established in the past was deftly, efficiently, and affectingly established. The series needn’t maintain this rapid pace, but if it maintains this quality, it has a chance to join the likes of Hanasaku Iroha and AnoHana as our favorite dramas of the year.