Arata arrives at Omi Jingu to watch Chihaya and Taichi play, but he bumps into Shoji, a classmate from middle school whose Fujioka West team has only two players. They beg him to play on their team so they don’t have to forfeit, and give him a mask and remove his glasses. He has trouble finding any rhythm and his opponent builds a 15-card lead. When Shoji loses, sealing the win for the other school, he puts his glasses on and wins his game, as does the third member. Directer Kuriyama notices Arata from his karuta society and takes the team aside. Fujioka will recieve a reprimand and Arata may be barred from the individual tournament tomorrow.
We can’t help but imagine how differently this episode would have gone had Murao not drawn Arata away just before Chihaya turned in his direction and just missed him. He came to watch Mizusawa, after all, and certainly didn’t want to end up in a team match. But unlike Shinobu and Murao, he doesn’t believe those who compete in team matches love karuta any less than the individual players. If there’s anything playing with Chihaya and Taichi as kids taught him, it’s that there’s nothing like sharing karuta – whether its wins or losses – with those you care about. Unfortunately, win or lose, by substituting for an absent Fujioka player, he breaks the rules.
We understand him for not being able to say no to Shoji, especially when the arrogant, dismissive words of Shinobu and Murao kept going around in his head. We also understand him putting his glasses on and making an effort once his team’s defeat is sealed. He could sense his opponents frustration, and in the heat of the match, showing that opponent respect by not holding back was simply more important than not being found out, which he was. It isn’t entirely certain he’ll be disqualified, but if he is, he can take some small comfort in knowing his actions prevented a team that love kartua deeply (no matter what the individuals say) from going home without playing a single match.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)