Once again, I find myself wanting to have another double episode. Not because this episode didn’t have anything happening in it. There was and it’s mostly interesting stuff. It’s just that this felt like a keep the machinery running episode or in between episode as I liked to call them. What I’m saying is that this episode is setting up some interesting things that we as an audience are excited to see later on, but they aren’t as exciting right now. This is the less enjoyable part. It still has that Chihayafuru pacing and transition style where characters get a focus all the time so it’s doing all it’s usual story stuff correctly though. No doubt about that. Let’s get these elements out of the oven soon though before they burn.
The setting of this episode, besides Chihaya being stuck in Kyoto and not enjoying her school trip, is the Meijin/Masters and Queen East Japan qualification tournament. That means that Chihaya’s distress is that quick cut or transition between things for a breather moment between the building tension. In this episode Dr. Harada, Taichi, Arata, and many others being their runs on the tournament. All of these parts come in the simple motivations for sure, but yet there are so many complicated things going on in those simple motivations. Doesn’t that make sense. Probably not, but I am going to try and explain myself anyway. What a hole I dug myself in.
The simplest to explain here is Dr. Harada. He is a 57 year old man who is still chasing his dream of becoming a Karuta meijin/master. There is a lot of subtlety to his interactions here to where you can see age affecting him by it being shown instead of outright said. It’s one of those sorts of things where the mind is willing, but the body is refusing to react to him at all. You can see the struggle from his body language, the way he’s lays down after a long match. Yet, he continues to put himself in games that are meant for the younger people while refusing to let go of his dream when he should retire from the spot. It’s clear that Dr. Harada has a dream that he refuses to let go despite all of this. I really want to know what is driving him forward for this. It’s obviously an intense desire. I mean, Dr. Harada is winning games for now but how long can he hold on?
Before talking about Arata’s part next, I have to mention that Master/Meijin Suo and Queen Shinobu show up to check out their competition and hand out treats to everyone. Master Suo mentions that he will be graduating from college soon and go on his full time job, which means he’s going to retire from Karuta after winning Meijin for his fifth year. Something that shocks the entire emotional core of the tournament itself in different ways. The karuta officials like this because they can’t stand him, but the others don’t know how to deal with this. Must be why nobody commented on Shinobu’s horrible outfit, only the fact that she road on a motorcycle’s side car attached to Suo’s motorcycle. Definitely a way to add tension to the tournament isn’t it? I would say so.
So what does that have to do with Arata? Only a conversation between Suo and Arata at the end of one of the beginning rounds of the East Japan Meijin Qualification Tournament. Suo and Shinobu were watching Arata’s playing because he’s still struggling from what he saw at the Yoshino tournament. Well that and the fact that Yuu gave him food that make his stomach unsettled. With those weights on his shoulders, he’s still winning in the early round, but he’s not completely on his game. Suo obviously sees that because while he mentions that he sees Arata becoming a Master/Meijin in the future, he won’t do it facing off against Suo. Why? Because his play style lacks style and spark. Holy crap. Will this push Arata to play harder in this qualifying event? It remains to be seen. See what I mean by setting on things? Yeah…there it is.
Let’s talk about the real meat of this episode though. Taichi. His karuta playing strength is not the only thing that’s growing because he’s becoming a very respectable person himself. You know, even if he doesn’t know what he’s doing half the time in this episode or real life. Taichi played the guy who beat Retro-Kun in the class b tournament (yes, Retro-kun lost) and he immediately gave Retro-kun advice on how to beat him and tells Retro-kun that he’s better then he thinks he is. Even if Retro-kun doubts his abilities, Taichi is supporting him. Then there is Sudo and Taichi’s bet. They bet that the winner of their match wouldn’t go for Meijin/Master this time around except Taichi wanted Sudo to play anyway. (Something I skipped because of the double episode reviews). I love this new sense of fair, competitive edge Taichi has been playing by himself recently.
Lastly, there is the part when Hanano stepped up to the plate and made Taichi pay attention to her in a very powerful move. Countering Taichi’s horrible mom. That’s right, Taichi’s mom showed up and tried to get Taichi out of the tournament. First Hanano tried to do her usual thing by getting close to Taichi’s mom in which she grabbed her phone number to tell her when Taichi’s match is over. Of course, Hanano is more self aware then that because she never called Taichi’s mom. Instead, she stood up to Taichi’s mom and blocked her entrance into the location where Taichi’s playing Karuta and Taichi noticed this. It’s obvious that he’s hiding his habit from his mom on purpose, right? Hanano started out a character who didn’t like Karuta herself, but seeing her defend it as strongly as she did here is amazing growth. She deserves head pats and so much more. The best girl rankings of Chihayafuru are shaken up yet again though Kana’s ranking will never be beaten in my eyes.
So yeah, that’s the episode. A lot of simple character interactions and such. All are good, but some are a lot deeper and interesting then other parts. By rights with all that going on, this episode is still a good episode even if it’s what I consider a machine running or in between episode. The character stuff was absolutely fantastic. While there are also some karuta matches going on, these are still lower tier tournament level ones. A high end karuta match with tons and tons of stakes is what Chihayafuru needs to be at it max level though. Last episode didn’t have one either which is why it wasn’t as good as the best episodes. Still, I like these characters growing and having their drama. Especially when all of it is relatable.
So with that, this episode rating is great episode/absolutely amazing episode. Once again, I dare you to figure that one out.