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)