Chihayafuru – 10

The Mizusawa Karuta Club is competing in the Tokyo regionals for the High School Karuta Championship, and they’re wearing hakamas, as per Oe’s instructions. But trouble brews when Desktomu cannot win a single card in the first round, even as fellow novice Oe wins a game. Desktomu sits out the semifinals, believing they don’t need him, but that throws Chihaya off her game. Taichi has to bring the team together in the face of serious competition, and Desktomu returns when he hears they’re in trouble to lift Chihaya’s spirits.

After intense training and practice, it’s time for Oe and Desktomu to jump into the pool of competitive Karuta, and it very nearly goes pear-shaped but for some assertiveness from Taichi. We’re pleased with how far his character’s come from that petty, cheating bastard of yore. But as least part of Arata’s assertion that he’s a coward may still hold true, in that he cannot yet come out and confess how he feels to Chihaya. Her texts to Arata obviously irk him, but he has the power to make things happen, and yet he merely stews.

However, he isn’t distracted by these problems wihle playing in the tournament; in fact, it’s Chihaya who briefly loses her edge and nearly chokes under pressure. Their competition are a bunch of gung-ho loudmouths, constantly communicating and yelling support and intimidating the other side – we were a little surprised all that noise is allowed in a game where listening to the poems being recited is so crucial. But once Chihaya snaps out of it, her killer instinct kicks back in, and she’s flicking cards before a syllable is uttered. A good team effort throughout.

Rating: 4

Sket Dance – 35

First half: Himeko’s Pelocan doll is locked away by Enigman of the Quiz club, and the only way to get the key is to participate in a quiz show on the school roof. Himeko and Switch get everything wrong, but Bossun bails them out by giving all the correct answers. Second half: an attractive guy who turns out he’s Enigman comes seeking aid, wanting to confess to his assistant, Quettion. Both of their personalities change when they’re unmasked: Enigman becomes shy and nervous, but Quettion turns into a bitch.

This week a little Phi Brain was stirred into the Sket Dance pot…with mixed results. Last week we turned our noses up at two halves that merely recycled old material with Roman and Remi, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to keep seeing characters we already know. Enigman and Quettion kinda hog up all the time – the student council only gets a cameo. It does provide the opportunity for quite a lot of hearty Sket-dan banter.

The second half played off the “enigmatic” theme by introducing another guy we hadn’t seen before, only to realize once he mentions “masks” that he’s Enigman. While the first half was a somewhat drawn-out quiz show, this is a classic kid-in-love-needs-advice mode. Sket Dance has had its share of happy, sad, and weird endings, so we weren’t immediately sure how Daimon’s confession would jibe with Quettion. Hell, we were even ready for her to have one eye or something. Such is the randomness of Sket Dance.

Rating: 3