Chihayafuru 3 – 19 – Hollow Man

I don’t like Master Suo.

I don’t like his creepily soft voice, or his obsession with sweets, or the way he macks on Chihaya, or the way he plays karuta, or the way he’s clogging up a throne I’d rather see Arata in sooner rather than later. The show hasn’t gone out of its way to make him a likable character, as it has so many others whose backstories we only get at a crucial point in a match, but at least this week it makes the attempt.

Suo has always seen himself as “hollow,” taken away from deadbeat parents to live in the main family’s house full of relations young and old. One of his aunts took him under her wing, insisting that he one day “make something of himself.” We learn that he has the same affliction she has that narrows the field of vision and may one day blind him.

He doesn’t learn of this prognosis until he’s already attempted several different paths and, not feeling passion for any of them, moved on to another. It’s a pretty lady at college who first attracts him to karuta, and like everything else he picks it up quickly.

That young woman gets a boyfriend who’s not him, but he still becomes so good at karuta he scares opponents away, leading to the adoption of a playing style in which he intentionally narrows his margin of victory and forces opponents to fault. He feeds on the passion of others because he has none himself.

Sympathy for Suo can be found for those looking hard enough, in his unenviable parentage, his loyalty and devotion to his aunt and her wish for him to make something of himself, and the two ticking clocks in his eye sockets. Backed into a corner with no more room for slacking off, Suo then feeds off Dr. Harada’s passion in order to turn an eight-card deficit into a one-card advantage.

Dr. Harada has passion to spare, but after three games and change his knee is starting to howl, as he knew it would, hurting his focus. That knee makes him a little less surer of his form and speed, and a refocused Suo capitalizes. Kitano, well aware of Harada’s discomfort, looks past their decades of fierce rivalry, sees how close one of them is to beating him to the throne, and tosses his friend a cushion to ease the agony.

Over on the women’s side, it’s becoming clear to Shinobu that the cards have become fickle, and that some of them like Inokuma too. Shinobu makes it a point not to get into a luck-of-the-draw scenario, no longer sure the remaining cards will side with her.

In the end, Inokuma double-faults at the worst possible time, while Shinobu uses her left hand to reach confidently across the field. Inokuma is devastated and tearful by her loss, but Queen Wakamiya shows her kind side by asking Inokuma to count the cards, assuring her they still like her despite the loss.

That result gets Arata out of his sickbed and onto the subway, hoping to catch the end of the Master tournament in person. However, he probably should have stayed put, as there’s no guarantee he’ll get there in time, and the internet signal on his tablet cuts out every time his train goes into a tunnel (which, in tunnel-filled Japan, is often).

In between service interruptions, he manages to hear the word “luck”—Harada and Suo are in the luck-of-the-draw Shinobu managed to avoid. While I’m still not a big fan of Suo, and will be disappointed if after coming so close Dr. Harada comes up short, I at least understand the four-time Master a little better now. I just hope his musings this episode don’t set him up to not only win, but to decide not to retire.

After all, he’s still Master Suo…whom I dislike.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 06 – Condiment Civil War

Personal preference for something even as trivial as chicken wing condiments can nonetheless cleave normally ironclad alliances. Tanya and Ainz may usually get along, but she’s a salt-and-pepper gal. Ram may love Subaru, but not enough to put mayo on her wings. Cocytus may be a loyal subject of Lord Ainz, but not to the point of using ketchup.

Rerugen sees that he won’t make any progress in class until the conflict is resolved, so he recommends the three factions play each other in condiment preference dodgeball, conscripting Shield Hero, Raphtalia and Filo to round out the teams. Visha and the butcher provide play-by-play and color commentary.

Darkness is predictably the first to be out, as the notorious M makes no effort to avoid a hard-thrown ball. Ram, Rem, and the Bello twins match kick attacks before Rerugen warns them that kicking is disallowed. Aqua’s God Blow is blocked by Albedo’s Walls of Jericho. The cats are not normal.

Eventually, Ainz and Megumin launch an explosive combo attack that Tanya manages to block with a magical barrier, only for the ball to burst. No one remembers what they were bickering about, so they decide to let the matter rest and go out for croquettes…only to start another argument about condiment preference.

Isekai Quartet is all about bringing all these heroes and villains down to a more realistic and normal planet earth, to a place more like where we live, and where in lieu of daily dramatic life-or-death disagreements, we place outsized importance on silly things like Coke-or-Pepsi (it’s Coke, obviously).