The national karuta tournament begins at Omi Jingu, and Mizusawa’s first match is against an international school from Chiba. They pretend to be foreigners, but Taichi calls them out; they’re merely Japanese of foreign descent. Even so, Fukuba’s black opponent scares him, Oe is ashamed the foreigners are wearing hakama and they’re not, and they all possess highly individualized, free-wheeling playing styles. However, after the first few cards, its obvious their love for karuta far outweighs their talent at competitive karuta. Mizusawa gets back on track and trounces them, but are gracious in victory. The televised Chiba team is honored and vows promote karuta and improve their game.
We here at RABUJOI are Americans born and raised, so it was interesting to see how the characters we know suddenly react to being amongst non-Japanese. Nearly 28% of the American population is made up of non-Caucasians, a huge minority. Japan, meanwhile, is a whopping 98.5% ethnic Japanese, so to face a team of non-Japanese in a game that isn’t even all that popular in Japan is a shock to the system. Chihaya & Co. don’t like surprises. Taichi takes the edge off of them a bit when he discovers they’re not strictly foreigners and speak fluent Japanese, but they’re still…odd.
This was an interesting episode in that it simultaneously put the Mizusawa team out of their comfort zone, but also gave them their weakest opponent yet; a team of misfits that never had a chance against a seasoned competitive team, even if one player on that team is starting for the first time. That’s thanks to Tsutomu, who graciously steps into a scouting and support role with Sumire; a crucial task if they truly want to win it all against 50-member, 13-time-champion Fujisaki It’s nice to see an easy win for once, but we know it will be an uphill battle from this point on.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
P.S. Sumire takes her scouting mission seriously, but gets hilariously tripped out by her quirky target, Ousaka Megumu. Arata shows up early to surprise Chihaya and Taichi (we’re sure Taichi will be thrilled…), but he himself is surprised by Wakamiya Shinobu. We’re curious what she wants with/from him.
After cram class, Eita finds a love diary left behind by Ai. She chases him around the building, finally ending up in a dark room where he demonstrates his own delusions. He returns her book, and to apologize, meets her outside of school to see the fireworks. She leads him to a hilltop where he took her ten years ago to watch them, and his memories of her return. She also produces a marriage contract he promised to sign. He flees, ending up in the clutches of a passing Chiwa and Hime. The next day, Masuzu knows about his meeting with Ai and orders him to kiss her. Ai shows up and announces the club will not be shut down, and she will join as its “love coach.”
In the third episode of the Fuyuumi Ai arc, he finally learns the truth from her own mouth and notebook: she’s in love with him, has always been in love with him, wants to marry him, and Michel the Boyfriend was a lie all along. More importantly, Eita learns this is not just another random girl crushing on him, but someone who was his childhood friend before he even met Chihuahua. We’re glad so much of the air was cleared this week and Eita finally managed remember what Ai wanted him to. While our memories of being six are fuzzy at best, you’d think he’d remember a girl with pink hair who was attached to his hip for an extended period.
Of course, there are still quite a few complications. Masuzu learns instantly of Eita’s “treachery”, and when she makes him kiss her as long as she can take it, it’s pretty clear her affection for him isn’t artificial anymore. Chiwa and Hime seemed to fall to the second tier of Eita’s suitors. As Ai is going to do everything possible to make him stamp a marriage document she drew with crayon ten years ago, well, let’s just say Eita has a very tough choice ahead of him. But he still needs to make one. He may want everyone to be happy, but he can only make one girl happy, while hurting four. He shouldn’t keep stringing the others along, though if we’re realistic, he probably will.
Rating: 8 (Great)
P.S. This marks the third time in the series’ run (of nine so far) where two “7” episodes were followed by an “8”, which is a testament both to its consistent, surefooted pacing, and its knowing when to bring an issue to its head, as it did this week.
At the Temple of Purity, Inui tells Saki and Satoru he was saved by Kiroumaru, and Saki is presented with a package from her parents containing a false minoshiro and a mission: travel to Tokyo and find the “psychobuster”, a biological weapon that will kill the fiend. Saki, Satoru, Inui and Kiroumaru use a submarine to pass through queerat defenses and reach Tokyo bay. In the morning, a ship is on the horizon. They activate the minoshiro and journey into Tokyo’s tunnels, where they face many trails and horrors. Kiroumaru determines both the fiend and Yakomaru himself are after them, along with five grunts.
As if this show couldn’t get any bleaker, we’re finally shown what has become of Tokyo in the centuries that have passed since what we would call “our” time. Shockingly, there are no ruins to speak of. It is a barren wasteland of sand and stone, utterly returned to nature. Gnarled rocks studded with twisted pieces of rusted metal provide the only evidence of man ever being here. Hearing a hellscape like this being casually referred to as “Tokyo” throughout the episode elicited a lot of disgust and dread. How could humanity have let things come to this: one of their greatest metropolises, wiped off the map like a bug on the windshield?
Speaking of bugs: while the surface is thoroughly unpleasant the tunnels beneath are downright nasty. There isn’t the slightest hint of the world’s most extensive transit system ever existing. All we see is naked, unadorned stone. The only thing more frightening than ruins of civilization is the distinct lack of said ruins where they’re meant ot be. When they have to walk across a vast carpet of bugs and guano, Saki wigs out, but does it anyway. By the time we learn Yakomaru is following them with the very fiend they must kill, and a bloodsucking giant slug lands on Satoru’s shoulder, we knew that this was only going to be the beginning of a truly hellish final showdown.
Rating: 9 (Superior)