In the Class A final, as Taichi and Chihaya enter to watch, Arata has built a good lead against Shinobu using his combination of a nearly flawless game plan and calm demeanor that even throws Shinobu off her game. She breaks a sweat and swipes more aggressively, starting a comeback. But in the end, Arata defeats her by two cards, then finds out Shinobu was playing with a fever from being drenched in the rain. For her part, she’s happy someone finally put up a fight against her, even if she did lose for the first time in years.
This was built up to be quite a match, and it did not disappoint in the slightest. Shinobu is the Queen, and Arata is Heir Apparent to the Master’s throne. Even the karuta boffins are in awe of what they are watching. The atmosphere is so thick you can slice it with a knife and chew it. After watching Shinobu so easily dispatch all below her, Arata puts the screws to her, and we see her growing more emotional and desperate. Both Porky and the Fujisaki dude, other victims of Arata, know that it isn’t just his skills and sadism that intimidate; it’s the easy smile and serene calm he exerts while doing so. But that wasn’t always the case.
Shinobu was born great, but Arata was merely born into greatness, and had to work his ass off to get there. Also, his greatness didn’t fit his younger body; it wasn’t until he became fully grown that the karuta he visualized matched his body. Now that he’s in synch, there may be no stopping him, though Master Suo is a pretty mythic figure in his own right, and if there’s ever a third season, we can easily see Arata losing to him. But for now, he’s the individual champion. He proved Shinobu wrong: she may be more connected to the cards, but her strength wasn’t quite enough against chihayafuru – the perfectly spinning top – the impassionate one.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
- Hey, Midori sneaks Chihaya and Taichi into the match. She’s not so bad!
- The poem Kana refers to Hanano is pretty spot-on!
- Cute Chihaya moments: when she suddenly realizes she and Taichi are now officially rivals; and when she starts practice swinging during the match and Taichi has to stop her.
- You know you have a badass reputation when people are shocked when you start sweating after five matches.
- For perhaps the first time, some of the queen’s swings don’t make that bell-through-water sound, indicating she’s off her game and taking risks to stave off defeat. Nice touch there.
- Arata’s grandfather was very firm and direct, but not cold or strict. He could probably see that Arata wouldn’t rise to greatness until he’d risen a bit in height.