Chihayafuru 2 – 06


After focusing on accuracy in the first half of the game, Chihaya uses her speed to erase Amakasu’s five-card lead. All four remaining games come down to a “luck-of-the-draw” situation, and Hokuo uses discreet communication to ensure they split their cards perfectly, greatly increasing their odds of victory. Their plan is almost unraveled when Retro commits a fault and loses to Mashima, but Chihaya and Amakasu tie on the winning card. Because it’s on his side, he and Hokuo win the match.

This episode was Chihayafuru at its very best: creating an extremely tense situation in which anything could happen, which gets in everyone’s head, contrasting those whose minds are clear in such situations and those who may be over-thinking, showing characters figuring things out…or not, all while introducing yet another dimension of karuta. Even though both teams are advancing, this match meant a lot, and it turned out to be one for the ages. No series this season is quite as good at holding us in a moment and utterly saturating that moment with tension. Against our prediction, Mizusawa lost, but it was so friggin’ close.

It was so thrilling it inspired Sumire – Sumire! – to join the karuta society to get better. Chihaya was so focused on her game, she was blind to Hokuo’s stunning team gambit. Mashima accomplished what he wanted: saying nothing to his teammates except to announce his win. He won for his team, but he really won for Chihaya…then the poor guy has to watch a simple text from Arata reduce her to tears. That was perhaps the perfect cherry atop this awesome sundae: no matter how hard Mashima works, he cannot win in Chihaya’s heart against somebody who ain’t even in the same prefecture.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

OreShura – 07


Hall monitor Fuyuumi Ai shuts down Masuzu’s maidens club, but Eita is happy because it means he can spend his summer studying. Ai turns out to be in the same supplemental class as him, and is a childhood friend of his best friend Kaoru. Kaoru tries to help set Ai up with Eita, but it proves difficult. Masuzu orders Eita to discover if she really has a boyfriend as she claims, but it’s news to Kaoru. Rather than come clean, while at dinner with Eita and Kaoru – with Hime and Chiwa stalking them – Ai keeps lying about her fake boyfriend.

On the one hand, there are already three girls going after Eita, and adding a fourth to the harem would only make things worse, if for no other reason than there’s one more character the series will have to spend time on for its seven remaining episodes. The thing is, after the first episode in which she appears for any amount of time, we found ourselves liking Ai just as much as the others. It helps that all four girls are very distinctive in their personalities, and that, as we’ve stated previously, they each have distinctive, legitimate reasons for why they like Eita…not just…’cause. Ai seems like the best match for the Eita of here and now.

He’d never considered Chiwa; Hime is more in love with the past him, and Masuzu, while intelligent, is also a bitch (she admits this). Ai, on the other hand, while a bit of a heel at school, is a bright, hard-working, honest young woman with her eyes on her future, as Eita’s are. She also has a kind and very patient friend in Kaoru, who tries to set her up with his pal Eita. Her problem is, she made up a white lie while on the spot with the other girls, and has only ended up digging a deeper hole for herself. We were hoping Kaoru would interrupt her cascade of lies, but alas…he’s too nice. As long as Eita’s convinced she already has a boyfriend, she has no chance.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 20


Saki and Satoru manage to evade the fiend, but the next morning while on a makeshift raft, another monster appears that secretes explosive fog. Saki flies (or is flown) into the air to avoid the explosion, and is separated from Satoru. After mistaking Saki for a queerat, a teenage boy halts his attack and they return to the village, which has been burnt out by the explosive monsters. Saki is brought before an injured Tomiko, who officially leaves the care of the 66th district in Saki’s hands. As a fiend approaches, she orders everyone to disperse, leaving her behind.

When this series started with us following a group of tweens, the adults seemed like the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful force that controlled society and the world. Now a staggeringly cunnning and bitter queerat has instigated a brutal guerrilla war, and the adults prove almost totally unprepared. Only the strongest – and luckiest – among them escape the long night of slaughter, and they’re left battered and physically and mentally fatigued, which is exactly how Yakomaru wants when he sends in the explosive manatee creatures to scorch the picturesque village. This guy knows what he’s doing. The fact we haven’t seen him in some time adds to his dead mystique.

Most of the episode Saki is simply running, slowly floating, even flying for her life. The scene when she’s flying through the air, out of control, with the sky and earth constantly shifting position nicely illustrates the chaos she finds herself in. Worse still, her brief but powerful vision during this flight contains instances of people she knows almost warning her about exactly what is happening. With a maimed Tomiko staying behind to face the coming fiend (or whatever it is), Saki has been left in charge of what’s left of the district. It is a burden she never asked for, but only she may have the strength to bear it.

Rating: 9 (Superior)