Noragami Aragoto – 13 (Fin)

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Noragami Aragoto doesn’t pick up right when Ebisu is about to be blasted by a pacification ring; instead, it skips to Yato escorting a young man to the Olive Tavern. It doesn’t take long to realize the boy is the reincarnated Ebisu, which means the adult Ebisu he knew and befriended in the underworld was executed.

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Yato is clearly sick about this whole situation, and Yukine and Hiyori stay on the periphery pondering what they should do as he himself wonders how he can change; how he can cease being a heartless war god now that he has a heart, and follow Ebisu’s example of working to protect and save people, and becoming a god people want to remember and have faith in for things other than contract killing.

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By the end, Yato, perhaps without knowing it, changed Ebisu. Once, he had no qualms about dying over and over, because his shrine maidens would always tell him he’d reincarnate every time without fail, and so should never fear death. In fact, due to his lives’ work, Ebisu kinda had to die a bunch of times in order to make progress researching phantoms and acquiring the locution brush. Needing to break eggs to make an omelette, so to speak.

But by the time that last ring blasted him, Ebisu didn’t want to die and be reborn again. He wanted to live and stay in the world as he was. It was, in fact, his dying wish, and the reason Yato is so beside himself; Ebisu, who told him he’d make a great god who could make people happy, managed to change himself at the end from what he always was.

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Now that Ebisu is back, but with close to no specific memories of his past self, it falls to his overseer to raise him back up into a useful member of god-society. And if that overseer has his way, this Ebisu will never see or touch the locution brush again. Yet when Bishamon and the other gods who assisted him hear of his noble ventures for the first time, they don’t necessarily agree that Ebisu should be stopped; in fact, it wouldn’t be what the past Ebisu or Ebisus wanted: for his reincarnations to carry on his work until he makes a breakthrough.

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Back freeloading at Kofuku and Daikoku’s, a restless Yato takes Yukino to a secluded lake, where he asks his exemplar, heart firmly on sleeve, to help him change: from a god of war and calamity to a god of fortune and happiness; the god Ebisu saw in him.

Hiiro appears on queue to dissuade Yato, dismiss Yukine, and drag her brother back to their father to be “praised”; thus continuing the same cycle of death and soft smiles that’s been going on for centuries. She also points out that the plan to use Ebisu as a scapegoat to allay suspicion from their father, who also works with phantoms, worked like a charm.

But no more. With Yukine beside him for strength, Yato overcomes all the warm memories of him and his sister, and does what is necessary to truly change: release her as his regalia for good. When he does so, Hiiro’s smile changes to one of shock, disbelief, and even despair. But that’s not surprising: Hiiro has never changed, and may never change. It does, however, make me wonder if she could change, once enough centuries have passed.

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Now officially free of Hiiro, Yato turns to Yukine to be his guide on his new path to becoming a less calamitous god, something he has no idea how to do since he’s “only good at killing.” But he’s wrong, and Yukine tells him there’s very little he needs to do that he hasn’t been doing already.

Really, getting rid of the temptation of Hiiro and his dark past was the most important step. He already makes people happy, like Yukine and Hiyori, who has faith that together Yato and Yukine can slay disaster before it strikes. And no, she doesn’t ask to have her tail fixed, nor does Yato offer it. She seems content with being the way she is for now.

The happy ending is only marred by the revelation that Fujisaki, the handsome young man who got along so well with Hiyori, is, in fact, Yato’s father. He joins his classmate, who cannot see the large retinue of phantoms by his side, along with Hiiro. Maybe she’s not going to change anytime soon after all.

As for his dad, it doesn’t look like he’s given up on bringing Yato back into the fold. No doubt many of the disasters thrown Yato’s way will be of his father and sisters’ making. He must be ever-vigilant. But as Kofuku says, with Yukine and Hiyori by his side, he’ll be fine.

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Noragami Aragoto – 11

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Of all the things to go down once Hiyori and Yukine arrived at the entrance to the underworld, I did not expect for Yato’s mercy to bite him in the ass, but that’s almost what happens, as Kugaha tries to capture Hiyori and kill Yukine. Kugaha tries to weaken Yato’s newly-minted exemplar by bringing up Hiiro and the fact he went to the underworld with her instead of him.

This works, but only briefly, as Hiyori grabs Yukine and counteracts Kugaha’s negative words by telling him how much Yato means to him, and to have faith in him. Yukine manages to fire off a borderline that shatters Kugaha’s and slams him against a tree, and well…that’s the last we see of him!

Then again, perhaps his being there wasn’t a mere coincidence: if he’s to be believed, Kugaha seems to have been keeping track of Yato’s movements and actions all along, and while Yukine is able to neutralize him here, I’m sure he’ll still want to confront Yato.

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Of course, after this week that may not be such a good idea, because his former master Bishamon ultimately decides to go all-in on rescuing Yato. Before that, we see Yato’s in a bad way, falling back into those damned caverns. As Hiiro tenderly treats his foot, Yato starts to lose hope, matching Hiiro’s sentiment that this being the end for them isn’t so bad if they’re together.

It’s clear Hiiro is far more than a temptress to the “dark side” for Yato. They were, and remain, family. But he shakes off thoughts of giving up; not while Yukine and Hiyori are still up there.

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Hiyori and Yukine bump into Bishamon and Kazuma (she’s also wearing Aiha as armor and another regalia as a whip; prepped for battle), Kofuku and Daikoku arrive, and options are weighed. Hiyori absolutely can’t go into the vent (which quickly closes anyway), while Yukine can’t go without disguising himself as someone else’s regalia, in effect becoming a Nora.

Bishamon makes the decision for him: she’s going to go down with Kazuma, Aiha, and the other girl, and save Yato herself. Kofuku opens a fresh vent and down they go.

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She’s not just doing it for Yukine and Hiyori’s sake, but because she owes Yato. She actually owes him twice over, first when her Ma clan of regalias almost killed her, and again when dealing with Kugaha. She admits she hated Yato in order to move forward, and you could even call that a third debt. Regardless, she intends to repay them, which means saving Yato from Izanami here.

Even Bishamon and some of her top regalia struggle against the mighty Izanami, but they’re not trying to defeat her, just grab Yato and escape, so they have a chance. Of course, they’ll also need a way out, but Kofuku’s vents keep closing too fast. Enter Ebisu, who comes to and says there’s a way to open a gate to the underworld, but it will require someone from the Near Shore…namely Hiyori.

That’s pretty foreboding, but you know what? In keeping with the theme of having faith, be it Yukine in Yato or Yato in Yukine and Hiyori, I’ll have faith she’ll be alright, and things will work out fine.

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Noragami Aragoto – 10

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Answers to our questions last week come quickly. Will that kiss really work? No, it didn’t; Hiyori doesn’t seem to have any interest in Fujisaki. Will Hiyori become even more troubled by her inability to remember? Yes, most definitely. She rubs at her lips until they’re red, and she walks around with a cloud over her head. Will someone be able to jog her memory before it’s too late? Thankfully, yes, albeit accidentally.

When Yukine first approaches her, she can’t see him, which is bad, but his voice and his smell bring all the memories of him and Yato rushing back. Simply beside herself with relief, Hiyori embraces Yukine tight enough and long enough to make his nose bleed. Who can blame her? She never wants to come close to losing him or Yato again.

She was in a kind of hell, one she’d experienced before, but was so sure—arrogantly so, she believes in hindsight—she’d never experience it again. Now she knows: she’s not immune to forgetting; she must be vigilant in remembering. But first thing’s first: Find Yato.

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Down in the underworld, Izanami has caught up with the fleeing Yato and Ebisu, and sends legions of naked blue beldams to drag the men back to her so she can play with them for all eternity. Hiiro acts independently by shoving one of Ebisu’s regalia into the beldams to distract them and save her master and Ebisu, who are all she cares about.

But when Yato learns Ebisu retrieved the ablution brush not for his own selfish reasons, but for the sake of protecting humanity by controlling phantoms, it changes Yato’s entire perspective of his charge—and mine as well.

With Bishamon and Kofuku also still away, Yukine joins forces with their exemplars Kazuma and Daikoku to seek out Yato. They ask Tsuyu—who isn’t a regalia but the spirit of a plum tree who serves Tenjin—to speak to the trees, and she finds one that saw two men matching the description of Yato and Ebisu entering the underworld. Hiyori hears this too; now she knows where to go.

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Meanwhile, in Takamagahara, the six other gods of fortune along with Bishamon are being held captive by High Sentinal Oshi, who tells them that by “interrogating” several of Ebisu’s regalia (many of whom turned out to be Noras), they’ve determined he’s the conjurer they’re looking for, and will seek to execute him for his crimes.

That doesn’t play so well for Okuninushi, who shows the adamant, haughty Oshi one of his more terrifying forms. But before any god or sentinal blood is shed, Kazuma arrives with Kuraha, restrains Oshi, and frees Bishamon, who make a beeline to the underworld to retrieve Yato and Ebisu.

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Even though Yato is still missing, Hiyori is clearly in far higher spirits now that she’s remembered him and Yukine. Yukine remains weary, mostly because he doesn’t want Hiyori to get involved in anything hazardous. Her scrape with the whole Bishamon business was a close enough shave for him. But Hiyori tells him she needs to find Yato and hear his story face-to-face, so Yukine agrees to let her accompany him.

It doesn’t really matter who shows up to the underworld first, as long as someone gets there fast; Izanami and her harem is proving too much for Yato and Ebisu, and all the exits are sealed with powerful-looking magic. Ebisu remembers his childhood—a childhood he’s had often because he dies and reincarnates so much. He’s a popular, well-known god with many shrines and books and oral histories about him. So if someone has to stay down there with Izanami and die, it should be him.

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Yato disputes that logic, much to the chagrin of Hiiro. Now that he can see Ebisu’s formidable will, which causes him to press forward in his purpose no matter how many times he dies, and he wants to be a god worthy of that kind of respect; worthy of Hiyori. This is how great and immortal gods are forged, he believes; not by simply going with the flow and doing whatever his father and Hiiro tell him to do.

This time he makes his stand, and convinces Ebisu to use the brush to punch a vent into the very fabric of the underworld with phantoms. Suddenly, something that was a big no-no in past episodes is crucial to their survival; the ramifications can be dealt with later.

Even though Yato gets snagged by Izanuma and pulled back down into the abyss, with a huge host of gods, regalia, and Hiyori about to descend on the underworld in quick succession, his number is far from up…especially if Ebisu, who escaped, tells the others of Yato’s selflessness.

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Noragami Aragoto – 09

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Because Yato is in a charitable mood and possibly harbors guilt for the things he did with her, he goes along with Hiiro’s idea to go into the underworld to rescue a conjurer, despite the fact he could very easily get trapped down there by it’s queen, Izanami. When that conjurer turns out to be Ebisu (who is absent for the latest colloquy, correctly suspected, and for whom an arrest warrant is issued), suddenly Yato’s personal dilemma is intertwined with the overarching threat of Ebisu.

For a supposed Big Bad, it’s surprising how casual Yato and Ebisu are when they meet. Perhaps it’s because Yato trusts a far more famous god, or because hasn’t always been the most scrupulous fellow himself (as his continued entanglement with Nora attests) but he doesn’t really protest Ebisu’s use of Masked Ones as “phantom regalias”. In fact, we get a lot of Ebisu’s silly, eccentric side, rather than any goofy evil face-twisting. It’s a nice change of pace; I like it.

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While Yato, Hiiro, and Ebisu tread deeper into the underworld, Hiyori is snagged by her high school friend into a triple date at Amagi Brilliant Park some Capybara-themed park. Notably, Tenjin stops Tomone (curious about where Yato went off to) from getting Hiyori’s attention in the street; it’s been established Tenjin wants Hiyori to stop hanging out with gods an regalias and live a normal living high school girl’s life.

Now it looks like that might be happening. We don’t know her friends that well, but their meeting up and pairing off at the park is very well done. It’s amusing to see the girl who arranged everything ended up pairing up with a different guy, leaving the handsome, well-spoken Fujisaki (who caught her from falling last week) to Hiyori, and the two have instant chemistry, courteously apologizing to each other for putting one another out.

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When Yato and Ebisu encounter Izanami, everything seems arranged to keep them by her side. She takes the form of people they care about—a very forward Hiyori, in Yato’s case—and she constantly offers food, drink, friendship; all of which will keep them stuck in the underworld as her “friend” forever. Hiiro actually does Yato a solid by protecting him from “Hiyori’s” kiss; let it be said that Yato and Hiiro really do make a good team; it’s just that being in that team puts serious strain on Yato’s newer relationships in the living world.

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Yukine, for his part, has very little to do this week, but he continues to train and become stronger in body and mind under Kazuma’s wing. Kazuma notes that Yukine is also trying to remain strong for Yato’s sake, even though he’s worried about him.

He should be, it would seem: when Izanami says she’ll only give them the brush if one of them stays behind, Ebisu picks Yato to stay with the logic that he’s the more famous god with a lot more at stake. Obviously, Yato takes exception to this—he has as much a right to exist as Ebisu, regardless of his past—so they fight.

But it all turns out to be an elaborate distraction. When Ebisu “beats” Yato by snatching Hiiro from him (she once served him as well, taking the form of a pistol), Izanami celebrates the fact Yato will be her friend. But then Ebisu uses his little masked phantom bat to snatch the brush, and he and Yato high-tail it together as Izanami fumes.

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As they flee, Yato thinks only of getting back to the near shore and to Yukine and Hiyori, whom he cares for so much. Surely this is the end of his dealings with Hiiro, right? He’ll pop back at an awkward time during the date and Hiyori will be embarassed but relieved and happy at the same time, right? Right?

Well…no. As the date progresses, Hiyori continually remembers someone who’s name and face she can’t place, and it starts to eat at her, until it’s clear to her date Fujisaki that something is very wrong. But Fujisaki reads her demeanor as something that can be remedied by taking her hand and kissing her in front of the hugely-romantic fireworks parade.

His instinct isn’t wrong, nor could he possibly be aware that by being kind and charming and comforting to Hiyori all but snaps the thread connecting her to Yato. Who was the one she wanted to take to the park so badly? Wait…she’s at the park with someone now. Does it matter? 

This is what Tenjin – and Hiiro – wanted. Will that kiss really work, or will Hiyori become even more troubled by her inability to remember? Will someone be able to jog her memory before it’s too late?

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Chihayafuru 2 – 24

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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.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • 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.

Chihayafuru 2 – 23

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Arata and Shinobu end up in the Class A final, but Taichi and Desktomu also make it to the Class B and D finals, which will be held in a different room, so Chihaya has to make a choice. She chooses Taichi, who is playing Yamashiro Rion. Chihaya’s unexpected presence knocks him out of his zone, but after Rion impresses with her speed, Taichi calms down, compares her to Chihaya, and tightens up his game, using accuracy and memorization in a non-flashy performance to defeat Rion by nine cards. Taichi urges Chihaya to hurry to the Class A match, but she is in tears at his feet, elated that he finally made it to Class A.

We agree with Oe; Porky was a little heartless in saying he was definitely going to watch Arata and not Taichi, and that Chihaya should do the same. But he was also right: Taichi was in such a zone after destroying Retro (off-camera by 18 cards, LOL), and Rion was so gassed, Chihaya suddenly showing up could have proven more a liability than an asset. Porky also assumed that Chihaya cared more about Arata and the Queen than Taichi, but the truth is, no one, not even Chihaya, knows who or what she cares more about at any given moment. Taichi’s blown five chances to reach Class A, and on this day, there’s nothing more important to Chihaya than watching him succeed in his sixth.

Taichi and Rion’s initially sloppy match (not helped by the fact the reader is being evaluated by three certified peers and chokes badly) couldn’t be more different from the start of the Class A final between the grandson of the Eternal Master and the Queen. All the time we’ve seen them spend together really gives their interactions punch now that they’re in a match against each other. Shinobu takes the first two cards, but Arata touches them both right when she does, and then, rather than just exploit her weaknesses, he attacks her strengths. We’re glad Chihaya watched Taichi and they had a nice little tearful moment, but the match itself was nothing special. Arata and Shinobu’s, on the other hand, is going to be a good one.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Coach Sakurazawa wonders what unique rule bonds Shinobu to the cards so. We see what it is: Shinobu treats the cards like her friends, and has spent far more time with them than with any people.
  • Shinobu wants to prove to Arata once and for all that neither of them need friends. Arata isn’t so sure, and he isn’t going down easily.
  • Retro is one of the few characters on the show (aside from that irritating woman you kept saying “Lucky!”) we truly can’t stand. So we’re pleased as punch that he was not only swiftly defeated, but we didn’t have to watch it!
  • One wonders why the gamemasters would entrust a Class B final reading to someone being judged himself, but there’s no pressure like real pressure, and if a reader can endure being under the microscope at a final, he’s worthy of being certified. This guy didn’t cut it.
  • While Taichi might’ve still won had Chihaya not watched, and Chihaya initially knocked him off his game, a part of him still desperately wanted her there, caring about him instead of Arata. His post-match tears of gratitude confirmed that.

Chihayafuru 2 – 19

Team Mizusawa

Taichi, determined to change his negative ways, is able to catch up with Ryoga, who commits a rare double fault. Chihaya defeats Rion for Mizusawa’s first win, and Nishida and Taichi are able to synchronize their last card, making both their games luck-of-the-draw. The moment the card is read, Chihaya wakes up from her post-game nap to see Taichi and Nishida win their games, making Mizusawa national champions. Upon seeing Arata in the hall, Chihaya scolds him for saying he doesn’t care about teams.

Ever since we’ve known him, Taichi has had no luck. Chihaya, the one he loves, doesn’t see him that way. Luck-of-the-draws never go his way. But with so much on the line, and with no guarantee they’ll ever have the chance they have now, Taichi decides to forget about all his past luck. He grabs luck by the scuff of the next and gives it a good shake until it finally favors him. Of course, he didn’t win just because of luck. It was a team match and it was a full team effort. It was also, not surprisingly, the best match of the season to watch. With the table so deftly set and the pieces in position and the stakes loud and clear, all this episode has to do is let ‘er rip.

Injury and all, Chihaya is able to take Yamashiro down first, and Nishida’s match is basically a commentary on how he’s finally going to make all his experience playing karuta pay off. Therefore much of the episode is Taichi going out on a wing and a prayer, just this once. He may regret saying that, though, as while the team wins, Taichi’s spotlight is still stolen by Arata’s mere presence. But never mind that. Team Mizusawa is the best in Japan, which means they’re the best in the world. Time to take a deep breath and savor the victory.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Chihayafuru 2 – 18

Ayase Chihaya, Yamashiro Rion

Chihaya overcomes her injury to cut down Rion’s lead, but it’s still nagging her. Nishida is desperate for a win after two girls injured themselves giving it their all. After mis-analyzing his hair blowing, Tsutomu loses to Yamai, who energizes Rion, whom he secretly admires for her beautiful play. At the third-place game, Akashi and Hokuo continue to play hard, disgusting Shinobu, who suddenly remembers how she was isolated to strengthen her. Tsukuba loses to Ichimura, putting Mizusawa down 0-2. Nishida, Taichi and Chihaya will all have to win their games to take the championship away from Fujisaki.

Arata nudged Shinobu into sitting in on the karuta game, but not just to fulfill her duty as queen, but to try to change her mind about team karuta. She wasn’t very moved last week, but this week as the games intensify, like the Grinch, she starts to feel something in her she doesn’t recognize: excitement. Interest. Well, maybe. There’s a lot of conditioning to cut through to get to Shinobu’s soft side. After all, she was kept away from others her age so she wouldn’t ever go easy on anyone. The idea was, the more alone she was, the stronger she’d get. She is a strong karuta player – the strongest, but she’s a terrible queen and her social development has also suffered.

But back to the game: while Mizusawa had five chances at three miracles against Fujisaki, two of those chances go quietly into the night. We don’t mind Tsutomu and Tsukuba losing so forcefully; no amount of fighting spirit could overcome the sheer gap in ability and experience. By episode’s end we only know that Taichi is four cards down against Eroga, not a great place to be but not hopeless, while Chihaya and Porky’s scores remain a mystery. Mizusawa’s back is definitely up against the wall, but their three strongest players still stand, and there’s still a chance they can pull out a win. If not, we’ll be sorely disappointed. We already saw them lose in the last series. We want a win.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Chihayafuru 2 – 17

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The match with Fujisaki begins, and Fujisaki jumps out to a huge lead, dominating the Mizusawa players with their superior speed, strength, and precision, a legacy that has been built in Coach Sakurazawa’s 12-year reign. Chihaya remembers what Kana calling Yamashiro’s reading “multicolor”, and is able to swipe her first card from Rion by “hearing” its color. She takes another by borrowing a move from Megumu, but jams her right index finger. Not letting the pain get to her, she swipes another card with queen-like speed, prompting Shinobu, watching in the crowd, to recall her match with Chihaya.

Fujisaki is the most focused, disciplined, and talented team Mizusawa has yet faced. Even Desktomu’s scouting notes can only go so far, and no amount of preparation is adequate for the match that begins to unfold this week. In this beginning, Fujisaki simply takes care of business. It doesn’t particularly matter to them who they’re playing; they’re the best, period. That’s not to say there aren’t chinks in the armor; the first one to rear its head is Rion’s very specific way of playing. She’s a brilliant prodigy to be sure, and quite possibly autistic, but the ability to hear colors and otherworldly game sense may not be enough against Chihaya, who has been constantly diversifying her game to overcome every weakness.

We breathe a sigh of relief when she finally snaps out of her funk, remembers Kana’s sage words, and snatches her first card with authority. When she sneaks under Rion’s hand for another score, the flusterer becomes the flustered and Chihaya builds momentum. She’s not the only one who won’t go quietly into the night; both Taichi and Porky have something to prove, and are going to give it everything they have. Never has Mizusawa’s back been more up against the wall, but there’s still a glimmer of hope that they can pull out a win…one card at a time.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Shinobu immediately deems the match she’s grudgingly attended to be a boring waste of time, but we imagine she’ll grow more and more interested if Chihaya can take Rion down and other Miszusawa players rise to the occasion.
  • She also doesn’t fathom just how much inspirational power and influence her position as queen carries. How can she, when she’s never bothered to use it?
  • Rion has never won a tournament, and this match is her first chance to be a winner.
  • Chihaya’s subtle, deft use of her injury to throw Rion off her rhythm was pretty awesome.

 

Chihayafuru 2 – 15

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The national final between Mizusawa and Fujisaki is about to begin. Fujisaki’s Coach Sakurazawa switches out third-year Suzuki Manata with second-year girl Yamashiro Rion. Rion will play Chihaya. Porky will play the other Suzuki twin, Kanata. Taichi will play the other captain, Emuro Ryoga. Tsukuba (replacing Kana) will play Ichimura Mitsuki, and Desktomu will play Yamai Makoto. Meanwhile Hokuo will play a third-place match against First Akashi. Retro tells Arata that Mizusawa is in the final, but he won’t defy his punishment. Reluctantly, Shinobu takes it upon herself to sit in on the match.

Every match in Chihayafuru is a web of many smaller stories about the dynamic between individual players and their inner thoughts, on both sides. This episode, while all set-up, is nevertheless engaging and perfectly whets our appetite for the match itself. It pull out all the stops to methodically lay out more sub-stories than could ever be elaborated upon in one more episode. Never once did we grow impatient or long for the match to begin. There had to be proper preparation for a match of this magnitude, and there was.

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On the Mizusawa v. Fujisaki front, we learn a huge amount about the team and its coach. The episode is very efficient in sketching quick outlines of their personalities and temperaments  and quirks. And every Fujisaki player is matched up perfectly with a player on Mizusawa for the most engaging interactions. Chihaya and Rion are both second-year girls aiming for greatness, but Rion seems more emotionally detached  like her Ice Queen coach more concerned with the future success of the team than meting out glory to her players. We say “seems” because her quick little evil smirk may portend an inner fire to match or exceed Chihaya’s.

Nishida and Suzuki are both emotional players, but Nishida is playing to avenge his anguish over his past losses, while Suzuki is playing to avenge his twin brother’s. Taichi going after the other captain is his way of stepping up his game. If he loses, he won’t be surprised, but if he wins, it may change his luck, not just with karuta, but with Chihaya, who he may believe loves Arata more because he’s a better player. Ryoga also resembles Arata, but is obsessed with boob size, lamenting that the busty Kana-chan isn’t playing (she jammed a finger in her last match).

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Tsukuba and Ichimura are perhaps the least interesting match-up (both seem proud, strange, and have fox-eyes), while Tsutomu, who doubts he can win, nevertheless has a bunch of research against his emotional opponent Makoto to at least be able to shake up his game. Makoto has also just realized that while he used to believe the third-years loved Rion, in fact he’s the only one who seems to be, which irks him.

So that’s where we stand. A lot of possibilities for great action and drama await us in the episode(s) that cover the final itself. All we ask, ultimately, is that Mizusawa wins. Call us greedy (like Chihaya!), but we want a reward for following the show this far. Anything less than a national championship will be a huge disappointment…and will annoy us.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • There was so much to cover with the match setup, we nearly forgot to mention the Arata/Shinobu B-plot. Arata wants more than anything to watch something Shinobu thinks is a silly waste of time. She even looks down on mighty Fujisaki, who are goofing off in the hall. The episode has us believe she doesn’t care and is headed home until the last minute, when she appears at the match. We kinda doubt she’s doing this to encourage the other teams and players present, but rather to try to understand better what Arata is so keen to watch. She also strips down to her skivvies, which…isn’t as exciting as it sounds.
  • There’s something desperately cute about Kana reciting poetry at the moon, then asking a poetic question to her coach in a super-sobby voice.
  • For the match, a Level 7 Certified Reader will read. She sounds awesome, and the show makes sure we understand how awesome with the visuals that accompany her voice. But will subtle nepotism come into play, as she’s Rion’s grandma? Coach
  • Sakurazawa  may seem cold, but she’s doing what all great coaches do: keep an eye on the future and play the long game. It’s because of her and people like her that Fujisaki has its reputation. Will Mizusawa’s team endure after its members graduate?
  • The ep was replete with great close-up shots, some of which we’ve posted to our Tumblr.

Sket Dance – 53

In the first half, Fumi introduces the Sket-dan to the incredibly soft-spoken Morishita Koma, a very tall and healthy young woman who has a problem: a boy likes her, but he’s worried he’ll bail if he learns about her immense strength, which becomes hard to control when she gets embarrassed, as Bossun find out on many occasions. Ultimately, she scares off the boy in question, but he was a bad apple anyway. In the second half, Date comes to the clubroom seeking advice on how to approach a girl he likes, who turns out to be Koma. The Sket-dan play matchmakers and interpreters, but neither party is able to fully express their feelings, and Bossun only ends up put through a wall.

The closest thing to a “normal” character appeared in the first episode of Sket Dance. His name was Teppei, and as the episode was from his point of view, we wrongly assumed he was the main character. Since then, it’s been a string of, shall we say colorful and distinctive characters. The newest is Koma, who is near as makes no difference six feet tall (quite tall for a Japanese girl) and built like a tank. Yet she’s still quite graceful and feminine – that she has the voice of the super-meek Sawako doesn’t hurt. That is, unless you say something that upsets her. Then those arms lash out and you’re treated to a volley from the Koma Cannon.

Bossun takes the most punishment since that fight with the bullies after he ran away from home when he learned the truth about his parents. But it’s comedic punishment; getting battered, ‘fossilized’, put through a wall and thrown out a window. The kid can take it, and it’s all in aid of helping out a classmate who’s trying to learn control so she can have a boyfriend. Date of all people returns to try to oblige her, but as usual his nigh indecipherable language only confuses and embarasses Koma, and takes it out on Bossun, who’s the nearest body. The Sket-dan are good at a great many things, but matchmaking doesn’t seem to be one of them.


Rating: 3

Sket Dance – 51

In the first half, both Himeko/Switch and the Student Council conspire to send Bossun and Tsubaki on a banner-writing mission alone together while they observe. The newly-discovered twin brothers bicker the whole time, and end up making multiple mistakes. In the second half, Tsubaki comes to Bossun’s house for dinner, where he meets Akane and Rumi and sees photos and videos of his biological parents. The two then take a picture for their parents’ shrine.

51 episodes. Only a few series we’ve ever watched have stretched so far, and many of those ended right there at 51. This episode wan’t the end of Sket Dance, but it was the end of the “year”, and the end of an arc, specifically, the Brother Arc. Seeing Tsubaki in a whole different light, it dawns on us how much it was foreshadowed that they were separated at birth. Their physical differences are a result of Bossun taking after his father and Tsubaki his mother. Tsubaki’s even a lefty to Bossun’s righty. There’s a lot of differences between the two, but there’s still that underlying bond neither of them can ignore – one you only get with blood.

I imagine if it turned out two of my friends in high school found out they were related, it would be a pretty exciting time, even if it had next to nothing to do with me. Both clubs they belong to seem to feel this excitement too (Switch likens it to fatherly pride), as do Bossun’s mother and sister. So with this arc mostly resolved and the two brothers on more-or-less cordial terms, the next year of Sket Dance will introduce a new character – possibly a new Sket-dan member, who looks to possess every anime cliche in the book – intentionally, of  course. We’ll be watching to see how that goes.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 37

After defeating Arisa’s gang, Himeko gains reknown and more roughs challenge her. As she wastes them all, fear of her grows, but they keep coming, so she moves to a new school. Even there the rumor exists, but no one knows what Onihime looks like. Here she meets both softball captain Chiaki and Fujisaki, who is interested in her Popman cap. She is loath to make friends after how Arisa betrayed her. When Chiaki is cornered by punks, Fujisaki convinces Himeko to join him to save her. Himeko beats him there, but runs into trouble, Fujisaki saves her, and she is revealed as the Onihime of the rumors. Chiaki and Fujisaki don’t care though; they want to be her friends, and the Fujisaki wants her to join the club he’s starting…

The usual shallow silliness of Sket Dance has periodically been given much-appreciated dramatic heft with serious arcs, and this story of how Himeko and Bossun became friends is one of the best. The birth of said friendship was a rough one, frought by Himeko’s reluctance to form any friends at her new school; preferring lonliness to infamy. Her first impression of Fujisaki isn’t so great; the guy is a Popman otaku and really annoying to boot, but once he shows his true, noble colors to her, Himeko can’t refuse his offer of friendship.

Now, whenever I see the two bickering about some innane thing, I’ll remember the depth of their bond forged in this episode. It’s interesting how neither Bossun or Switch were actually her first friends at school. Chiaki isn’t someone we’ve seen a lot of, but she had a nice supporting role this week, and she exhibited good chemistry with the two Sket-dan members. Switch’s brother has a cameo, and we even return to the present, where Arisa meets Himeko to prostrate herself. Showing how she’s grown, Hime forgives her for her past transgression, terrible though it was.


Rating: 4