Chihayafuru 3 – 23 – Pitch Black

Chihaya’s Taichi Tournament is a huge success for all involved. Taichi is bowled over by how serious everyone is (even Sudo shows up to read) and is greatly cheered up, while other participants were glad to have fun with weird rules. Taichi and Chihaya end up tying for the lead in points, so the prize—a kiss from Taichi—is never presented.

The tournament is also suffused with nostalgia, as it’s the same type of matches and same place where Chihaya, Taichi and Arata first played as a team. Notably absent from the tournament? Arata, who admits he lost the Takamatsu Cup to Murao because he couldn’t re-focus after beating Taichi, and can’t wait to play him again.

Yeah…that’s not going to happen anytime soon, if ever. On a day when the karuta club isn’t active, Chihaya encounters Taichi alone in the club room. As she (poorly) fits new curtains for the incoming new club, Taichi first confesses to stealing Arata’s glasses back in sixth grade, then confesses his love for her.

First he simply lets the three most important words come out, while covering his face. To his credit, rather than laugh it off like a joke, he elaborates by describing all the parts of her he loves He leaves out the one part he dislikes the most: the part that changes when she thinks of Arata.

When he swiped his glasses, he didn’t want to lose to Arata, even though Arata was sure to mop the floor with him with the wide gap between their karuta ability at the time. While that gap has narrowed somewhat, the fact remains the cause is all but hopeless.

At least in this case, Taichi isn’t being a coward or a cheat. Arata already made his move, so all that’s left is for Taichi to make his and let the cards fall where they may. As the school bells sound, warning kids to go home, Chihaya says in her tiniest voice, “I’m sorry.” The cards don’t just fall, they turn jet black. And that’s that.

Time keeps marching on, and the new year starts with proficiency tests and club demos. After the former, Tsutomu is shocked to find he’s taken over the first spots in both maths and sciences, and worried Taichi’s mom will pull him out of the karuta club.

At the demos, when Chihaya, Oe and Sumire about to take the stage, resplendent in yukata, their adviser comes up and makes one small, devastating change to the speech, reducing the third-years by one: Taichi has quit the club. Chihaya tries to get through the demo, but has to stop in the middle and rushes off in tears.

As she runs off, a tearful Oe takes over (Sumire is crying too!) and waxes poetic about the hundred poems, songs of joy, sorrow and love that have endured for a thousand years, and urging newbies to join them in their magnificence. Of course, the themes of the poems are a big reason why Taichi can’t continue.

Chihaya doesn’t consider that as she races to his side and yanks on his sweater, tearfully begging him not to quit the club. Taichi draws her in and almost touches his lips to hers before pulling her back and telling her it’s no use; he couldn’t play if he wanted; all the cards have turned black. His love of the game and of her were too intertwined. She rejected him, so he must walk away. Quite the emotional roller coaster this week—will the Season 3 finale be funereal or redemptive?

Author: sesameacrylic

Zane Kalish is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

4 thoughts on “Chihayafuru 3 – 23 – Pitch Black”

  1. Six years. Us manga fans have been waiting to see this for six years. It was worth the wait.

    A manga poll of fans’ favorite scenes was done shortly after this issue. If you’re curious, this was the top ten:

    01: Taichi confesses.
    02: Arata confesses.
    03: In the Nationals, Taichi prays to win Luck of the Draw, even if it means his card is never read again.
    04: In the Nationals, Taichi and Nishida win the Luck of the Draw.
    05: In the Nationals, the final card’s reading is finished and the team has a celebratory group hug.
    06: While in the hospital due to her finger injury, Chihaya realizes her affection for Arata.
    07: Harada suggests Taichi wait to evaluate himself until after he has spent his entire youth on karuta.
    08: Taichi “kisses” Chihaya and asksher if she thinks he is made of stone.
    09: Taichi gives a speech to Komano, admitting that he isn’t naturally talented at karuta, but does it anyway.
    10: In the first Nationals, Taichi loses in the Class B finals.

    We need two more seasons. That’s a tall order, but I think it might actually happen. CHIHAYAFURU has led to the creation of the “Chihayafuru Cup” in Japan. It is a karuta competition with a substantial monetary prize. Current and former Meijin and Queens competed in its inaugural event earlier this year. With that kind of backing, there is incentive to keep the brand active.

    1. Some random thoughts from an anime-only fan:

      I wish this season had spent more time developing Chihaya/Taichi/Arata triangle, and far less time with Shinobu, Inokuma, Suo, and Harada.

      Though I’ve never read the manga, I can assume the anime is never going to match the manga in scope, depth, or detail. This season was in dire need of a good, possibly merciless editor to keep the focus on the central characters.

      Don’t get me wrong; this was a strong, pleasant, and often powerful season of anime. I ended up emotionally invested in characters I hadn’t cared much for, if at all. But to what end? This is supposed to be CHIHAYAfuru, not HARADAfuru, am I right?

      And while I’m aware it’s very much in-character to be an airhead about romance, I became increasingly impatient with Chihaya’s passivity and indecisiveness this season while Arata and Taichi orbited her, culminating in her being blindsided their confessions and the latter’s withdrawal from the club.

      To an outside observer, it looks like Chihaya was trying to have it both ways: to be able to explore/cultivate her affection for Arata, while remaining good friends with Taichi. That’s selfish, but understandable. But there was just never any concrete idea that that was what she wanted, it’s just what happened, until it couldn’t anymore.

      More than previous seasons, karuta felt less and less this season like a vehicle for the central characters to work through their feelings, and more of a stalling mechanism, involving other characters. This continued with the Taichi Cup, the positive effects of which were almost immediately canceled out, because the gesture was only wallpapering over long-avoided issues Chihaya and Taichi needed to work through.

      Chihayafuru 3 was a good, occasionally great watch, but it too often interrupted and delayed the progress I wanted to see with events and characters that were never going to matter as much to me.

      1. The funny thing is that this was almost literally a panel-to-shot adaptation of the manga. I know of only one dialogue that was cut.

        On the question of, “To what end?” many of the characters who were prominent this season will be part of the core cast going forward.

        More importantly, Suetsugu’s strength as an author is her ability to value the ambitions and struggles of teenagers while remembering (and reminding us) that they are, indeed, children.

        When you’re a teenager, you’re forced to grow in circumstances when you lack agency. You’re likely not going to be in the big game, you’re cheering for someone who is. This is what makes this season so authentic. Chihaya and Taichi did a lot despite being on the sidelines. Taichi’s contributions are a bit hard to see at this stage, but Chihaya took a surprisingly dark turn. She betrayed her values to see Suo go down.

        On the subject of Chihaya, I would say her “passivity” ties into Suo’s “You won’t,” comment. She’s not passive, she’s entitled. She all but forced the first Mizusawa club members into the room, assumed Taichi would always be by her side, and took it as a given that she would become Queen. I imagine that is why Suo’s comments cut so deeply. There was validity in his repudiation of her ambition.

        Getting back to viewing these characters as teenagers, I see the karuta matches as having been hugely important in terms of character growth. Season two had the characters advance in rank and prominence, but teenagers don’t usually grow when you give them what exactly they want. Chihaya and Taichi became more confident in season two, but they changed far more this season.

        Taichi’s match with Chihaya finally got her to realize that she doesn’t understand the person she is with. Shinobu began to value those by her side and those she plays against. Harada discovered that his teachings are not a perfect match for Taichi. Arata’s match with Harada is part of a long (still unresolved) arc of him emulating his grandfather.

        Arata’s match with Harada also placed him back into his mindset of being a child, which led to his confession. The same happened with Taichi. Playing in Genpei matches, along with his having just played against Arata, made it impossible for him to ignore his past any longer.

        Season three is, for me, the perfect pairing for season two. And season four would be the perfect pairing for season three. (We’re in what would be season five right now…)

        Suetsugu has said that a fourth season hasn’t been discussed yet, but that she hopes it will happen. A fourth season would be much more challenging for viewers, but the character growth will dwarf all three seasons combined. This episode and the next are establishing the tone and circumstances for that journey. I hope you’ll stick with it, should the series return.

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