After focusing on accuracy in the first half of the game, Chihaya uses her speed to erase Amakasu’s five-card lead. All four remaining games come down to a “luck-of-the-draw” situation, and Hokuo uses discreet communication to ensure they split their cards perfectly, greatly increasing their odds of victory. Their plan is almost unraveled when Retro commits a fault and loses to Mashima, but Chihaya and Amakasu tie on the winning card. Because it’s on his side, he and Hokuo win the match.
This episode was Chihayafuru at its very best: creating an extremely tense situation in which anything could happen, which gets in everyone’s head, contrasting those whose minds are clear in such situations and those who may be over-thinking, showing characters figuring things out…or not, all while introducing yet another dimension of karuta. Even though both teams are advancing, this match meant a lot, and it turned out to be one for the ages. No series this season is quite as good at holding us in a moment and utterly saturating that moment with tension. Against our prediction, Mizusawa lost, but it was so friggin’ close.
It was so thrilling it inspired Sumire – Sumire! – to join the karuta society to get better. Chihaya was so focused on her game, she was blind to Hokuo’s stunning team gambit. Mashima accomplished what he wanted: saying nothing to his teammates except to announce his win. He won for his team, but he really won for Chihaya…then the poor guy has to watch a simple text from Arata reduce her to tears. That was perhaps the perfect cherry atop this awesome sundae: no matter how hard Mashima works, he cannot win in Chihaya’s heart against somebody who ain’t even in the same prefecture.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Mizusawa plays Homei in the Tokyo Regional Finals, but even though both of them will move on to the Nationals, both Chihaya and Retro are desperate to win it. Retro chose to play Mizusawa’s order straight despite his new president Kameda’s desire to play a low-energy match. Kameda faces off with Chihaya, but she spends most of the match trying to emulate Wakamiya Shinobu’s silent style. Nishida is the first to lose. Chihaya decides to try combining the strenghs of Queen Wakamiya and Master Suo, taking a card from Kameda with authority.
Men should never begin a sentence with the word “but”!
When he hears his players bickering, Mashima remembers his overbearing mom’s words, which are good ones to live by even if you’re not a man. Saying “but” is like saying the world owes you a favor. Life isn’t fair; you get over it and move on. Mizusawa is already moving on, but they still face Hokuo. Last year, they owed part of their victory to their player order working out. Kameda, ever focused on the next card; the next match; wants to slip into the Nationals like an old man into a tub; nice and easy. Not so fast, says Retro-kun: there’s something to be said for preserving one’s pride.
This is an old and venerable game steeped with honor (Mizusawa’s hakamas are a very visible reminder of that); applying modern pragmatism…cheapens it a bit. This week, Chihaya is figuring things out. She is gunning for Wakamiya, who may well still be out of reach, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t try. That means a lot of her match with Kameda involves trial-and-error. We also liked how former Hokuo ace Sudo is the reader, and how Oe, at least briefly, trusted him. It’s good to see other players doing well.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Sumire follows Taichi to the karuta society, watches him play, and laments that someone like him is so into it. The first-years are greatly reduced to four in the next lesson, then only two, including and Tsukuba, who played second-verse karuta in Hokkaido with different cards and rules. Sumire isn’t willing to sacrifice her nails for karuta, and runs off when she accidentally blurts out she’s only there to be close to Mashima. Ooe runs after her and gets her to come back, where she starts studying the poems and clipping her nails.
Like last week, this episode deals with the competition of multiple agendas in the karuta club. Nishida is focused on the upcoming prelims. Chihaya is focused on the first-years, to Nishida’s chagrin. Sumire is focused on her looks and on Mashima, to Ooe’s chagrin. Tsukuba wants to expand his karuta repertoire If the club is going to succeed at anything at all, some parties are going to have to convince others to adopt their priorities, or at least compromise on their own. And that’s what happens this week.
“Is this all there is”, Sumire asks herself, already bored with her new “friends”. But karuta intrigues her, so she decides to clip her nails and try – not just for Mashima, but for herself. Ooe tells Sumire that the love poetry has only endured so long because it followed certain structural rules, and so must she. It turns out Chihaya blames herself for her team losing the championship, even though no one else does, but now they understand why she cares so much about the team growing, so Nishima decides to train the first years.
Rating: 8 (Great)
Kana uses Chihaya and Taichi’s good looks to attract new members for the club, and it works out; twenty underclassmen submit applications to join. Among them is Hanano Sumire, who was dumped on the first day of school and wants to get closer to Taichi. The first meeting overwhelms the newbies, and afterwards the five original members voice their priorities moving forward: Chihaya wants Taichi to reach Class A, and volunteers to teach the newbies while everyone else prepares for the upcoming tournaments.
This new Chihayafuru sequel picks right up where the last episode left off, with the club in need of more members to avoid being evicted from their ideal digs. However, this “crisis” is almost immediately dealt with, as they get a huge number of new members. The downside is, many joined just to interact with the eye candy, and the more they hear about the game, the less motivated to stick with it they get. The challenge for the club, now that they’ve met their member quota, is to successfully train the committed newbies and filter out the riffraff. Not only that, they have to prepare for important team and individual tournaments coming up in just two months.
With so much on their list, it’s not surprising that the original five all have different goals, while the ever upbeat and ambitious Chihaya wants to accomplish everything. But hold on, this premiere also introduces a new character in the slightly above average-looking Sumire, who aims to win Taichi’s heart even though he’s already reserved it for Chihaya. We like the addition. She’s a very forthright, strong, practical, image-obsessed girl who’s always looking for the upper hand…and she wants Taichi. If there was one disappointing aspect of the first series, it was the lack of romantic progress of any kind, on any front. Here’s hoping Sumire is the catalyst for some development in that area.
Rating: 8 (Great)