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.
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Chihayafuru 2 – 22

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Chihaya uses her right hand to face off against Shinobu, eventually removing her bandage, and even manages to take her best card, but Shinobu still wins by 23 cards. Chihaya thanks her profusely for not going easy on her, even though Shinobu considered doing so. Tsukuba makes it to the semifinals, but Sumire loses in the third round. Taichi also makes it to the semifinals, and has to play Retro-kun.

No need for a lengthy summary here: Chihaya gets creamed, and it isn’t even close. And let’s face it, even a perfectly healthy Chihaya would have had a hard time taking more than a handful of cards from the dominant Queen. Always a reticent girl, there was a time when Shinobu let kids her age win so that they’d be nice to her, but that’s all over now. There’s still maybe a little remnant of that little girl inside her who doesn’t like kicking Chihaya when she’s down, but she doesn’t let it influence her game.

For that, Chihaya is glad, and rather than giving Shinobu the stink eye, she tearfully thanks Shinobu for the fair, square drubbing. And Chihaya’s loss didn’t discourage her from aiming for the Queen match. She stayed in the tournament as long as she could, and might’ve even been able to take a lesser opponent with her left hand, but she just got unlucky, being stuck with the Queen and a bum finger. And hey, she took her best card, so it wasn’t a total loss. Now we move on to Taichi, who’s looking to finally move up to Class A.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Chihayafuru 2 – 12

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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)

Stray Observations:

  • 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.

Chihayafuru – 25 (Fin)

The club watches dishearteningly on TV as Master Suo utterly dominates his opponent. After the match, everyone feels like they have a tall mountain to climb, but Tsutomu encourages Chihaya, telling her she has at least 20 one-syllable cards to Suo’s 28. Arata also watched the match, trying to visualize playing the Master with his card layout before him. When Taichi calls him, he tells him there are other ways of winning beyond “game sense.” Murao returns to challenges Arata to a game. Miyauchi defends the Karuta Club’s right to its clubroom by stating how quickly its progressed, but promises to double the membership by five; a daunting task that Chihaya is eager to complete.

Queen Wakamiya and Master Suo suck. They suck all the fun and excitement out of karuta with their android-like perfection. It stinks. Worse still, they were never taught by anyone, meaning they will never themselves teach. They’re a couple of useless prima donnas sitting upon the thrones. They need to get out of the way, or they’ll both destroy the game they love so well, much like a forester will lose his purpose if he cuts down all the trees. Just wanted to get that hate out of our systems – today we say goodbye to one of the better character-driven series of the last six months.

There wasn’t a character we didn’t like (beyond the aforementioned Queen and Master, curse them), and whether they were playing karuta or not, they were extremely fun to watch. This final episode is very open-ended, and even leaves open the chance for a sequel series down the road (we’re not currently aware of one), but if it ended here we’d be more than satisfied. Even though we’re sure we’d never be any good at karuta, it was fun to see a depiction of people who were.


Rating: 4

Chihayafuru – 24

The club converges on Taichi’s house to watch the Queen and Master matches. Yumin loses the first game by five cards, and Wakamiya Shinobu puts her away in the second game by thirteen cards, despite gaining 10 kilos by eating ice cream. Yumin is disheartened, but vows to return next year to challenge her again. The Master match follows, and three-time champ Suo Hisashi beats his opponent in the first two games by the same differentials as Shinobu.

First of all…suddenly making Wakamiya Shinobu a fattie was quite the curveball. Not only did it confirm her eccentric personality, but it introduced a glimmer of a hope for Yumin. Alas, once Shinobu loosened up and realized that her body, not her hakana, was heavy, she was back in her sharp, crisp, impossibly fast rythum, to the point where Yumin couldn’t even contest cards. Regardless of her weight, Shinobu has a special connection to the cards – she loves them and they love her right back.

A child of divorce, her grandmother’s condition for letting her and her mother live in her house was for her to learn a useful skill. Karuta probably wasn’t what she had in mind, but perhaps she saw Shinobu’s love for it. Shinobu wasn’t interested in making friends or joining a club. She only wanted to play karuta. In a rather depressing little moment, Taichi tells himself he can’t dedicatehimself to Chihaya. Whatever buddy, ignoring people is rude!


Rating: 3.5

Chihayafuru – 22

Chihaya has a Class A match against Yumi Yamamoto, who was the Queen before Wakamiya Shinobu. She is a cold, calculating, persistent and stubborn player, but early in the match, she falls behind to Chihaya’s energy and confidence. The tables are turned when her coach Kitano opens a window to let fresh air in the stifling room, and she starts vehemently contesting close cards, throwing Chihaya out of whack and making her uncomfortable every chance she gets, and finally beating her. Chihaya is too shocked to even thank Yumi.

So this Yumi…pardon our French, but…oh my God, what a fucking bitch! At times we wanted to slap her in her extremely plain face. Who does she think she is, treating sweet little Chihaya like that and being a loud nuisance? Oh yeah, she’s the former Queen, and not someone to be trifled with, even – nay – especially if she appears weak or it seems like she’s given up. Her internal dialogue is extremely bitter and condescending. Chihaya is prettier, younger, and faster than she is, as was Shinobu, the girl who beat her just one year after she won the crown, something Yumi’d been working for for a decade. So she has every right to be bitter, and we daresay a right to beat Chihaya and face Shinobu in a rematch. After all, her beef with the new Queen is older than Chihaya’s. Get in line, little girl.

Also, as annoying and bitchy as Yumi was, she didn’t exactly win. Chihaya lost this match. She lost big time, by letting her opponent gain the upper hand, by letting passion take over, and by spending too much time obsessing over her opponent’s behavior and not enough time closing out the damn match. Chihaya also lost by conceding contested cards to Yumi. She was probably surprised and caught off guard, as this part of the game is still new to the still-green-when-you-think-about-it Chihaya. As far as we’re concerned, if the card is in your hand, it’s yours, period. End of story. Yumi disagrees? Tough. Yumi’s contesting would have fallen on deaf ears, were it me. But it totally worked on the kind, respectful, an easily-frazzled Chihaya…which is why before the match began, we predicted Yumi would win.


Rating: 4

Chihayafuru – 17

Despite winning a club relay in an upset, the Karuta Club fails to recruit any new members, so they focus on individual goals – advancing in class, in the case of Taichi, Porky, Desktomu and Kanade. Taichi sneaks off to Kanazawa to try to achieve class A in time to face Arata, but he meets Porky there, and they both get beaten. Meanwhile, Harada tells Chihaya something she’d never imagined: she has to stop using her speed to win. The challenge flummoxes her, until Desktomu and Kanade lend her their unique perspectives on the game.

Speed speed speed. It’s all Chihaya has known. All her eggs are in that basket, and the resulting omelette is an unsatisfying and not particularly nutritious mess of faults, openings, and ignorance. She’s been so concerned about perfecting her speed, she’s totally neglected her weaknesses, which are still many. Shinobu didn’t beat her because she was faster; she beat her because she was a far more complete player. Chihaya may be able to toast lesser players, but if she wants to be crowned the queen, she needs to make some fundamental changes to her game. We like how two of the keys to her evolution are right there in the kurata club, and here is where the two class Ds really prove their worth.

Desktomu looks at the game like no one else in the club, taking detailed notes of every game he plays and finding the patterns. Kanade believes the whole point of the game is appreciating the history and beauty of the poetry itself – her outrage when Chihaya tells her two cards that were written two centuries apart are “almost the same” reveals her intense passion. If Chihaya can learn a fraction of what Kanade knows, she may be able to recognize more cards by the color she connects them to in her head due to the imagery of the poem. Kurata isn’t just a sport, it’s an art and a science too. Like breaking up with your girlfriend on the phone in less than ten words…


Rating: 3.5

Chihayafuru – 15

After a hard-fault battle, Chihaya manages to take five of Shinobu’s cards, losing by twenty, which vexes her to the point of forgoing her postgame nap to obsess over how to improve. Meanwhile, Desktomu, Kana and Porky are all out of the running, but Taichi is locked in a battle for the Class B crown. His mind is fine but his body can’t keep up after six matches, so he loses too, by only three cards. Having all tasted defeat, the club trains all summer to improve their stamina.

So Chihaya got into a mini-groove, but it was too late to catch up to Shinobu. Despite the fact the queen mopped the floor with her in anyone’s book, she is really pissed that Chihaya took any cards from her at all, and means to crush her next time. She practices alone in the dark, while Chihaya practices with her teammates and friends. We’re glad the series stayed realistic and didn’t let Chihaya beat the queen on her first go, especially after trailing so much.

A nice surprise was Taichi’s showing, going even further in his class than Chihaya. Everyone hopes that if they can keep their spirits up, they can will him to win it all, but it’s not to be, as he’s too physically winded. His thought process is a lot more complex than Chihaya’s. as he checks off every possible verse he can take. When Porky watches him lose, it brings back memories of him doing the same; second is no consolation for losing. But the biggest news this week is Arata, going to Kuriyama to join the Fukui Nagumo Society, which means a match between him and Chihaya is all but inevitable.


Rating: 3.5 

Chihayafuru – 14

The Individual matches begin, and the team is split up by class, with Chihaya alone in A. In the second round she has to face the current queen, a rather odd girl named Wakamiya Shinobu, who has been class A since the fourth grade. At first, Shinobu’s impossibly fast, highly defensive style utterly overwhelms Chihaya. She starts to lose heart, but once she remembers winning her first card from Arata, she regains both her composure and her power, tying Shinobu on one card, then taking two in a row with authority.

Of all the action series we’ve watched recently, there’s still nothing quite like the explosion of Chihaya taking a card. They’ve really gotten good at building up the anticipation. This week, we didn’t have any doubt that Chihaya’s first encounter with the queen would result in a major drubbing, but it surprised us that she held in there, remembered that karuta is about not having mercy and never letting losses get you down. Both she and Taichi know Chihaya can be as fast or faster than this queen; it’s a matter of believing in oneself and drawing her ability from within. She certainly made a statement in front of a lot of people.

She also showed this Shinobu girl something she hasn’t experienced in a long time: a chalenge. Someone who didn’t just shrink before her relentless, seemingly infinite talent, but settled down and fought back. First of all, kudos to the writers for finally giving us a left-handed anime character! We’re left-handed, and were wondering if anyone from Japan was. We know it can be a slight advantage in many sports; so why not Karuta. Shinobu also looks to be a very interesting character. Like Chihaya, she has her quirks (they share an affinity for tacky t-shirts, for instance) and we could even see them becoming friends. But at the end of the day, Shinobu is in Chihaya’s chair…or we should say throne.


Rating: 4