Chihayafuru 2 – 09

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Arata arrives at Omi Jingu to watch Chihaya and Taichi play, but he bumps into Shoji, a classmate from middle school whose Fujioka West team has only two players. They beg him to play on their team so they don’t have to forfeit, and give him a mask and remove his glasses. He has trouble finding any rhythm and his opponent builds a 15-card lead. When Shoji loses, sealing the win for the other school, he puts his glasses on and wins his game, as does the third member. Directer Kuriyama notices Arata from his karuta society and takes the team aside. Fujioka will recieve a reprimand and Arata may be barred from the individual tournament tomorrow.

We can’t help but imagine how differently this episode would have gone had Murao not drawn Arata away just before Chihaya turned in his direction and just missed him. He came to watch Mizusawa, after all, and certainly didn’t want to end up in a team match. But unlike Shinobu and Murao, he doesn’t believe those who compete in team matches love karuta any less than the individual players. If there’s anything playing with Chihaya and Taichi as kids taught him, it’s that there’s nothing like sharing karuta – whether its wins or losses – with those you care about. Unfortunately, win or lose, by substituting for an absent Fujioka player, he breaks the rules.

We understand him for not being able to say no to Shoji, especially when the arrogant, dismissive words of Shinobu and Murao kept going around in his head. We also understand him putting his glasses on and making an effort once his team’s defeat is sealed. He could sense his opponents frustration, and in the heat of the match, showing that opponent respect by not holding back was simply more important than not being found out, which he was. It isn’t entirely certain he’ll be disqualified, but if he is, he can take some small comfort in knowing his actions prevented a team that love kartua deeply (no matter what the individuals say) from going home without playing a single match.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

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OreShura – 10

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Now with five members, the Maiden Club becomes official. To commemorate it, Masuzu recommends a training trip, and they decide to go to the beach. Chiwa is upset when she learns Ai met Eita first, but Eita notices and cheers her up. The two arrange a trip to shop for a swimsuit, but Masuzu, Hime and Ai also show up. After much chaos, Eita splits his time between them equally. On the way home they encounter his Aunt Saeko, who dismisses Masuzu as his girlfriend and asks him which of the four girls he really likes.

This episode did not start auspiciously; with characters playing off the constructions of their names and each tugging at Eita, which becomes a shopping trip in which they’re all competing against each other for his attention as they try on various swimsuits (and in Ai’s case, a wedding dress that brought back memories of Crazy Gasai Yuno). The first half dragged a bit (with the exception of Eita’s really sweet cheering-up of Chiwa after she stalked off). But this episode improves when things get grounded back into the reality of how they’re going to afford a trip to the beach. And then Saeko appears and bursts Eita’s harem bubble.

Eita’s aunt and guardian has been mostly a no-show so far, but in her first meaningful scene of the series she makes a huge impact. She sees right through and LOLs, almost cruelly, at Masuzu’s false courtesy, calling their relationship fake in front of everyone. She makes Eita confront the truth head-on: he can’t keep stringing all these girls along. He needs to decide who he likes and choose one – even if he likes them all. No one said the choice would be easy, but it is necessary. Did we mention we love Saeko for finally splashing cold water on her nephew? We welcome this latest – and perfectly-timed – disruption of the status quo, and hope the last three episodes follow through.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 23

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Saki, Satoru, Inui and Kiroumaru traverse ever more subterranean horrors until reaching a dead end: a dangerous underground river. As their pursuers split into two groups, Kiroumaru suggest the same, and they do. Inui accompanies Saki back to the submarine, take it until the tunnel narrows, then continue on foot. Inui is taken out by a giant ragworm, but Saki reaches the location of the psychobuster drug, which is contained in a decorative metal talisman. Throughout their trip, she starts hallucinating about Shun, finally remembering his name. When she returns to the surface, he is there waiting for her, his mask removed.

The people of Japan believe Tokyo to be hell on earth. Their collective Canti leak, and make Tokyo the very hell on earth they fear, positively crawling with nightmarish mutant creatures. Thankfully, they’re all dispatched with fire, and none of them are capable of igniting that fire in suicide attacks. But Inui isn’t quite fast enough, and gets jumped by a worm. No body, so we don’t know what’s become of him, but for the remainder of the episode, Saki is alone in perhaps the worst place in the world…or is she?

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Years ago, her still-developing child brain was purged of all clear memories of Aonuma Shun, her soul mate, so much so that she eventually found another soulmate in Maria (only to lose her too). Whether enough time has passed or from the effects of Tokyo, she finally recalls Shun’s name and face. He’s aware of her situation, and warns her that the “fiend” she’s supposed to kill isn’t really a fiend. This explains why it can be controlled by Yakomaru: it’s been conditioned by the queerats since birth.

Unlike children in the villages who are trained to control their canti, this child’s cantus has been honed to its full destructive potential, while maintaining a basic humanity. The process that made Saki and her friends was reversed to make this “pseudo-fiend.” Already reticent about utilizing biological WMD, Saki’s heart stands to waver even more now that she’s been told her foe is neither mindless nor a lost cause, but just as much a victim of fate and circumstance as she is.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. Saki breaking through the wall and emerging onto the surface of a ruined Tokyo at dawn is one of the more gorgeous and arresting moments this exquisite series has treated us to.