If there was a way to put a thesis statement to this current cour of Chihayafuru, I think this episode makes it in terms of it’s theme and it’s quality. Ever since Chihaya has noticed that she can’t just play Karuta all the time and live that way, the show really has been pulling for that youth vs experience thing and I think it’s really working. Why? Because the opening of Chihaya’s eyes to people, worlds, and problems she hasn’t seen and witnessed before yet really makes the focus on more older characters then before extremely poignant and powerful in it’s own way. I’m kind of just incredibly happy about how well written and thought out Chihayafuru is in general, but this aspect really takes the cake. So much happiness here.
So where are we or what is this episode focused on? The first round of challenges for those who will face the current Karuta master and Queen. East vs West and older and more experienced versus youth. Here is the clash of titans that has been built up for weeks now and the tension couldn’t be any higher then it is. For the Meijin challenger, we have Doctor Harada vs Arata. For the Queen side of the field, the main opponents are Haruka Inokuma vs Megunee. While the queen challenger battle had a presence in this episode, it wasn’t the main focus. I see the episode sort of presenting this because of Chihaya beating both of them so she wasn’t as interested in that conflict possibly? Probaly not. I think it’s more likely that Dr. Harada and Arata have a much stronger relationship to Chihaya. The Queen challengers are merely opponents to her that she’s already beaten in other places.
Since the Queen challenger battle didn’t have as much of an arc in this episode, let’s discuss that first. This was a battle for Haruka to find her confidence again. She was a former, undefeated queen. Now she’s 35, out of the Karuta ranking field, and facing off against a much younger opponent who doesn’t know who Haruka is. An opponent who has a crowd that loves and adores her. Megumu even wears her head band with the words facing Haruka and somewhat paralyzing and hypnotizing her karuta playing. Seeing Haruka gain confidence in herself and barely taking the win against Megumu was very powerful and insightful for me. It’s not like I don’t like Megumu and her gimmick, but Haruka has much more to come back from which makes her more interesting to me. Go Haruka for the next couple rounds to take her spoils and give Shinobu a good match. I hope she takes it all.
Finally with that out of the way, we dive into the Meijin Challenger battle. Dr. Harada vs Arata. A battle of many twist and turns where Dr. Harada played all sorts of mind games to push Arata off his game. First game Harada’s late arrival, then came the air conditioner change during the starting of the reading, to finally playing in Arata’s airspace to slow down Arata’s attacks. All of these things do initial throw off Arata’s game, until Arata shows off how flexible his play style is. Instead of favoring a more balanced card placement like Harada has studied, Arata starts moving cards all the time and starts taking the lead soon. Of course, that isn’t the only thing that happens. There is so many complex movements and thought patterns in this episode that make sense for what we know of our characters. I can’t help but love all of it.
I love seeing Dr. Harada and Arata facing off against each other because they mean so much to each other on different levels. While this match is a battle against generations, there is so much nuance going on here then that focus. Dr. Harada remembers losing against Arata’s grandfather and takes playing against Arata with joy. The same joy that Arata has for playing against Dr. Harada, the person that woke up Arata’s mind and heart when living and going to elementary school in Tokyo for a while. Dr. Harada’s warm embrace and acceptance meant a lot to him and it shows in his card playing. There is so much respect between the two sides here that it’s so hard to choose who you think should win. I love it and hate it at the same time.
With that, the game continues. Speed, dexterity, and youth from Arata vs Dr. Harada’s playing of the mind and using his body in ways to utterly throw off Arata’s playing a little bit. There is also another weapon on Dr. Harada’s side. Patience. He knows he can catch up to Arata’s speed and that Arata can’t hit every card with the same amount of speed time and time again. That’s the edge Harada uses to push for his win. Age and experience wins the day here for both sides. Harada takes the match for all sorts of reasons. Can’t wait to see what the next round brings us. Holy crap man. This is great stuff here. All of these adults in this show are worth rooting for because they’ve worked so hard and have struggled to keep going. So complex and loving here. I love this show.
I did skip over this a little bit, but we finally see why Akio Kitano, the coach and leader of the Suihoku Karuta Society, hates Dr. Harada so much. With the appearance of the third round Midori Makino who also hates Dr. Harada, we get the answer. It’s the result of a breaking of a love triangle 31 years ago. All of this happened in the Yoshino Tournament so it’s a reflection of what is happening with with Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata now except our current one is more complicated that this? Whatever. Basically, Dr. Harada yielded in his final match against Kitano in the final round with Midori became the speaker. Midori obviously had an unrequited crush for Harada, so it hit her hard. She practicing being a reader to spite her and married the person who comforted her leaving Kitano alone. Damn man. I know that Harada saying that Midori’s reading is good was to throw off Arata along with him yielding the second round, but still…damn. That’s gotta hurt. (Chihaya whispering in Arata’s Ear, gasp.)
It’s really hard to say what is a perfect Chihayafuru episode is because there are so many good ones with some complex emotions and thought patterns in the name of competition. I really think this could be the second closest episode to being perfect this season. In a sea of amazing episodes, the match between Taichi and Chihaya and this match between Harada and Arata are astounding stand out episodes that are in competition of being the best episodes of this entire show for all of it’s run. I’m not even joking here. I love when people who know each other inside and out (or even just have so much to thank the other for) face off like this. Plus, the match between Megumu and Haruka is another one of these even if that didn’t get the focus it should of had. That small inclusion might have pushed it over the edge against Taichi and Chihaya for me. Like I said before, this episode might be the thesis statement for this entire season so far and I don’t think anyone can prove me wrong.
Episode Rating 9.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999/10
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