Chihayafuru 3 – 03 – Up to Fate and The Times

Sorry for doing these out of order, but I wasn’t aware Chihayafuru 3 was airing two episodes at a time last week (and this week!). Nevertheless, it’s instructive to see the match that came before Chihaya’s promising quarterfinals match, because it’s when she truly gets her groove back.

Same with Taichi, who has a pre-match brush with Arata that, while cordial and even friendly, still steams his beans just because…Arata just does that. He’s in Taichi’s way on two fronts: karuta and Chihaya (whether he knows it or not), and hearing that he wants to start his own school club is yet another thorn in Taichi’s side.

Few know Chihaya’s game as well as Porky, so even when she seems to be doing well, he can tell, for instance, if she hasn’t quite come back from her injury. He’s also a great analyst of her game, and when she is up against a former Master runner-up (Takemura, who lost badly to Master Suo), he notices that there’s a reason she seems slower and less forceful, and it’s not because she’s still recovering her game.

In fact, Chihaya has absorbed a lot of pointers from Shinobu, Rion, and others that it’s not all about power. Playing left-handed also turned out to be beneficial to her, as it gave her more experience and insight into a side of the cards she was weakest against. Since she could never move as fast with her left hand as her right, she compensated with accuracy and efficiency, which she’s carried into her right-handed game.

Taichi has some trouble with his quirky opponent, Shiroyama from Hokuo, and is particularly irked by his opponent’s ability to take cards despite being, well, slow. He eventually realizes Shiroyama is playing a true team match, focusing on wearing Taichi down rather than winning quickly. Once Taichi realizes what’s going on, it’s like a weight off his shoulders, and he puts Shiroyama away.

Chihaya beats Takemura, who is admittedly out of practice after taking a whole half-year off following his brutal defeat. But he sees how big a mistake that was, as youngins like Chihaya are no longer nipping at his heels, but surpassing him with relative ease. Contrast that with mother of two and former Queen Inokuma Haruka, whose passion is such that even two kids, including a still-nursing newborn, can’t keep her out of the tournament.

While no one questions her prowess in previous years (nor the shape of her eyes, which give Chihaya’s a run for their money), there are questions about whether she can make a comeback; questions that are answered in the positive in this round. But during the match, both she and Chihaya snatch the “Impassionate” card at the exact same time, such that their cards collide. That incident is all too fateful, as they end up facing off in the quarterfinals.

Before the match, Miyauchi asks Sakurazawa if Chihaya has what it takes to be Queen. She’s worried about the future of an academically average-at-best student, but would be less worried if she knew Chihaya could ascend to the top of karuta. All Sakurazawa can tell Miyauchi is that in order to reach that height, Chihaya will have to do what she could not; defeat someone like Inokuma Haruka.

P.S. Yamashita Kousuke’s music continues to be one of the many great things about this show. Earbuds don’t really do it justice; I’d recommend watching on a system with some nice powerful speakers for full effect. I continue to be amazed by how exciting watching kneeling people swiping at cards can get, and the music is a big part of that.

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