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.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
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)
- 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.
Mizusawa’s next opponent is Yamaguchi Mioka, a team of memory aces and quiz champions, who arrange their cards in the middle and constantly change their order. As a result, the Mizusawa players must draw upon the individual strengths of their games to defeat them. Chihaya, Taichi, and Nishida win, Oe loses a very close match, and only Tsukuba loses badly, and the team moves on. Meanwhile, Wakamiya threatens to forfeit if the gamemakers don’t reinstate Arata.
To all of the myriad uses of Karuta, add studying aid. The NERRRDS of Yamaguchi Mioka, and their captain, Takayama, discovered the game by chance, and noticed the similarities with their competitive quiz play. Both games require memorization and a certain speed with the hand, and buzzing in answers before the question is finished is much like taking a card after the first syllable or two. But of course, the team isn’t that one-dimensional. We greatly enjoyed the creative ways the thoughts of the players are visualized, and how the Mizusawa members deal with their opponents in very different ways.
Nishida relies on the defensive style of his society. Oe (in perhaps the coolest visualization), memorizes by author and them rather than position. Taichi…plays just like these guys, so he does fine. And Chihaya? Once she breathes and calms down, she relies on her power/accuracy combo and otherworldly game sense. What’s also great is how the game doesn’t dominate the episode. There’s enough time to propel Arata’s story forward (and we’re now thinking Chihaya is to Shinobu is to Chihaya as Arata is to Taichi), and showing more of the Tsutomu and Hanane scouting team.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
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)
Saki & Co. strike out on a nature trip, plying the rivers and making camp here and there. Satoru tells a campfire story of “blowdogs” and evil “minoshiros”, and the group gets the idea to investigate and prove they exist. When they come across a minoshiro, its light has a hypnotic effect that only Saki is immune to due to her shades. They manage to catch one, and it tells them it is some kind of mobile digital library of history.
The cold open takes place seventy years after last week’s, and the Emporer of Great Delight has been replaced by the Emporer of Merciful Light, and gets assassinated, an act its perpetrators believe will change history. Like the other two opens, we can only shrug and say “that’s nice”, because there still isn’t much of a connection between these little snippets and the “present day” of the series, 1000 years from now, in which Saki, Shun, & Co. have what looks like a rippin’ good camping trip. The weather cooperates, they do a bit of night rowing, Shun touches Saki’s hand in a gesture of affection (and keeps taking her side), and the group has an exciting adventure.
However, on this adventure they go somewhere they were told not to go and find something they probably weren’t supposed to find. The narrator points out that hundreds of weird new species of fauna have cropped up in the centuries since civilization as we know it was destroyed. They find one such creature, which is actually some kind of cybernetic, mobile, autonomous database with a built-in “light hypnosis” defense system to ward off humans. These kids have been spoon-fed all manner of information up to this point, and they’re poised to receive a fresh perspective from an independent voice. We’re nervous for them, as other kids who haven’t conformed to their roles have vanished. But we’re also excited for some potential answers.
Rating: 8 (Great)