With her grades in awful shape and exams approaching, Chihaya is barred from competing in the next tournament, and Tsutomu tutors her and Nishida while Taichi goes alone. There he meets Arata, who is playing again and still in Class A. Taichi loses in the third round, and Arata finishes fourth, losing his final match by one card. Chihaya, who came to watch Taichi, is stunned to see Arata and blown away by his play. Harada tells Taichi he can promote him to Class A if he wants, but Taichi declines, stating he’s more focused on becoming someone who won’t run away.
It’s certainly been a good long time since we’ve seen Arata in action, and if the light that shines and the stuff winds that blow are any indication, he’s still not that bad at all at the game of karuta. His unexpected presence turns Taichi’s solo confidence-building and Class A-advancing exercise into another pity party, with Taichi litterally walking in worlds of grey clouds as his hair covers his face. OH BER BERR BERRR I’M SO DEPRESSED. He even starts to exhibit past behavior when he considers what to do with the contact info Arata gave him to give to Chihaya. But rather than hide it like Arata’s glasses, he tells Arata to give it to her himself, once she arrives. Growth.
Not only did Arata expect him to be in Class A by now, he also believed Taichi and Chihaya might be an item by now. Yeah Arata, we thought so to. ALAS. Here’s the thing, we can’t exactly blame Taichi for not trying to start something with Chihaya. Her utter obliviousness must wear him down, and it’s not entirely clear Chihaya isn’t madly in love with Arata and just doesn’t know it yet. She certainly admires the hell out of the guy, and is in almost constant awe of him. How can Taichi compete with that power?