Mizusawa’s semifinal match against First Akashi Girls School continues. Nishida is again the first to lose, but Kana wins shortly thereafter, releasing the tension somewhat. After Chihaya takes two of Megumu’s treasured “name” card, Megumu counters by taking Chihaya’s “Impasionate gods” card. Taichi wins, but Chihaya loses, leaving Desktomu as the deciding game. He gambles and takes the winning card, and Mizusawa moves on to the final against Fujisaki.
Before we return to the hot Mizusawa/Akashi action, the episode checks in with Arata, who is finishing up his novelistic apology, and Shinobu, still in his clothes and bored. The Fujioka West team finally arrives, and the queen takes the opportunity to voice her disdain for group matches. She wants to “kill time” with an individual match with Arata, who refuses because it’s a day for teams. Teams like Mizusawa, which thanks to the Fujioka coach, tells him is still alive and fighting.
It’s kind of sad that Shinobu doesn’t give a shadow of a shit about the outcome of the group tournament. All queens, even Karuta queens, carry the responsibility to ensure their kingdoms thrive. But all she’s interested in is playing and winning alone. As long as she reigns, the karuta kingdom will languish. Ayase Chihaya and Ousaka Megumu aim to usurp her, and from the look of their epic game this week, they’ll put up a fight.
The team won, but Chihaya lost, and she doesn’t know why she lost, to the point her obsessing causes her to dig her nails into her hand, something Taichi stops with a tender gesture. It’s great to see Oe win, even though it leaves her too exhausted for the final. And Komano not only contributes to the actual match, his is the decisive match, and he even has the guts to gamble to win. Hokuo gets its clock cleaned, so Mizusawa will not be able to hold back in the final against scary Fujisaki.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
- Another twist: Megumu not only doesn’t delete the photos her fan club snaps, she asks if she can have them, to remember her last team match. From here on out, it’s Queensville or Bust.
- We were a little disappointed that there was no Komano/Sumire scene after his big win. She did blush in awe when he won.
- We like how Hokuo is eliminated off-camera. We don’t really like Retro-kun.
- Shinobu’s spidey-sense picks up a card reading in the group match, and she employs circular breathing to study cards. We love her, but maintain her reign is poison for the game.
The Mizusawa/Akashi Girls match continues. Chihaya notes Megumu’s consistent calm, but uses all of the skills her teammates and Dr. Harada taught her, including the fact that Megumu is her, had she not been as well-coached. Hanano’s notes help Desktomu, while Porky’s opponent is more manly than he expected. Chihaya uses her accuracy to take three consecutive cards and start whittles at Megumu’s lead. Megumu momentarily wavers, but when Yu contributes vocal support, which she had neglected, she gets upset and recommits herself to beat Chihaya and challenge the queen.
There’s more similarity between karuta and March Madness than you might know. For instance, if there are two games going on at the same time, one between the 1 and 2 -seed teams and one between the 3 and 4, the natural inclination is to pay attention to the first game. But when the 3-4 game turns out to be more competitive and interesting, you change the channel and watch that. This is what happens to the audience at Omi Jingu. The match between Mizusawa and Akashi Girls starts picks up steam, and the swirling, clashing energy between the hard-fighting teams shifts the crowd’s attention on them. We don’t see a second of the other match.
The match doesn’t end this week, which is annoying, but it is a good match with a lot going on. It’s ironic that Porky was looking forward to playing a girl and gets the tomboy of the team, but more interesting that not only did Komano use Hanano’s unique scouting notes to heart, and they worked for him in a real game situation, but Hanano noticed that he used her notes, recalling his praise for her, and feels pride in her contribution. Could this be the initial stirrings of a very unexpected romance? Well…probably not, but we wouldn’t mind if it went in that direction. She and Komano would make a very intriguing couple.
Meanwhile, Chihaya is staying right in her match with Megumu, and not just because she’s relying on her strengths, but because she’s constantly assessing her weaknesses and working to conquer them, or at least turn them to her favor. Chihaya believes Megumu is relying on her speed, and we know Megumu is driven more by being the one who makes everyone happy rather than any desire to be the queen. When her teammate usurps her, she responds aggressively. She is often faster than Chihaya, but we wouldn’t be surprised if she hasn’t revealed her whole game.
Rating: 8 (Great)
- Megumu’s fans – both the three swooning photogs and the weepy, youth-obsessed faculty advisor, are a bit grating here. We could have done with one or two fewer cutaways to each. As for the Fujisaki girl, her stare reminds us of a MISAKA clone.
- One weakness that Chihaya has yet to conquer – and one that may prove devastating in her queen match – is her inability to contest close cards. She’s really quite terrible at it!
- We liked when Sudo noted that some of Chihaya’s moves reminded him of Wakamiya. They’re supposed to!
With the order exactly as planned with no surprises, Mizusawa begins its semifinal match against Akashi First Girls School. Chihaya is against Ousaka Megumu whom many present believe will challenge Shinobu. She also proves much faster than the last match Chihaya watched her in, and takes the first four cards in a row. Chihaya settles herself, and Oe gives her a supportive pat on the shoulder and refers to a refreshing poem about the last day of summer. Chihaya gets back into the game.
Their last two matches were against eccentric and ultimately weaker opponents, but this time Mizusawa’s facing a serious, dedicated team with a powerful ace, just like them. Ousaka Megumi in particular will not be easy to defeat, as her entire team has dedicated themselves to make her a player worthy of the queen’s crown, after her meteroic rise due in part to beginner’s luck. That said, she’s not much of a character per se; more of a collection of clashing attributes (ordinary, sharp-tongued, popular).
As such, we’re not really sure what to think of her beyond what she shows on the surface, which is, at the end of the day, arrogance. She’s been riding her momentum and wants to be in the final now, never mind how disrespectful or even foolish such a mindset is. Karuta isn’t about shortcuts; skipping an opponent would deprive herself of vital experience. This match is important enough to occupy two episodes of which this is the first, and while the flashbacks can’t entirely avoid the appearance of padding, they’re pleasant enough.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
- The series always sets the tone with the first card called, but it always seems to turn out the same way: no matter who Chihaya’s playing, it seems like her opponent gets the first card, followed by a visible look of surprise on her part. You’d think she’d learn to control her body language by now.
- We feel like we can enjoy the matches better when the tension of who’s going to win is released. But because this match didn’t end this week, we weren’t able to skip to the end to see a hint of who won.
- This is why we don’t feel bad for skipping: after coming up short last year, and with thirteen episodes left, anything less than a national team championship would be a disappointment. They’re good enough to win it all. Now is the time to hunker down and do so.