I know that I’ve been avoiding it for a long time in these posts, but I think this episode really sold me on the concept that karuta-sexual could be a thing and not just Chihaya’s thing? I know that there is a joke about Chihayafuru being one and other things, but this is the first time when it wasn’t treated at a joke or a casual off to the side. Here are a bunch of people that love karuta in one room. That’s what happens when the Master and Queen tournaments happen. The largest karuta nuts in the country show up to either play or watch karuta to their hearts content. Well, until it’s over. The passion and connection the karuta players have when playing it really sells the show for me completely and this episode was more of that. All sorts of great fun here.
I did really like this episode, but this one felt a little busy. Mainly because there were two framing devices to keep us on the going ons of what is happening at the tournament itself. The first is Arata on live stream explaining things to people who are confused so they could shut up, which is a lot of fun and something a professional Karuta player like Arata would do. On the other side of that and at the news desk, a ditzy karuta prodigy who definitely knows what she’s talking about in terms of Karuta, but nothing else really. Both segments are full of interesting personality, but really weigh down on what happens in the episode.
I feel like there was two and half parts of this episode because Chihaya is a main focus and has an attachment to both sides, but Chihaya is also deeply ingrained into the subplots in some way. For example, her imagination of seeing Taichi and Arata playing on the Master’s side and her vs Shinobu on the Queen’s side is very telling in what her ideal is vs the actual case where veterans are taking on established kings and queens while looking more professional. She has an attachment to both sides, so she really is the natural person to get the moods of characters in the matches going forward considering that this is Chihaya’s show after all.
While the matches didn’t get much in terms of characters facing each other during the game, the moments we caught and the after moments really drive a lot of elements home for the episode at large. The Queen match was incredibly furocious with Inokuma and Shinobu both playing at the highest level possible. Haruka placed her cards in difficult directions for Shinobu to get which pushed Shinobu even harder while Inokuma was fighting just as hard back. The match ending on draw where anyone could have won was a great way to seal the experience. The two love the game so they want to do their best and it makes sesne. Fun moments all around.
The Master’s match plays heavily into the Queen’s match somehow. From the very opening moment when Chihaya saw Suo talking on his phone to his parents who don’t understand how streaming works sell this moment for me. Especially since Chihaya was disturbed by this lack of seriousness. That was during the sanction memorization time in karuta too, so it all makes some sense in context. Then the fact that Harada was complaining about Suo’s movements and Suo using how the queen match is going to choose the pace of the game and making his stay in his last karuta tournament even longer. Damn. The man is just so plain cold and calculating, but I really do think he loves karuta more then he’s letting on if he’s doing this.
Besides Haruka Inokuma having the full support of her kids and husband, I loved Rion making it to the karuta queen side finally. The show paired off Chihaya and Rion in the beginning for a reason and I think she would make an excellent secondary protagonist if Chihayafuru wanted to and had enough time with all of it’s plot elements and everything. Rion is such a different yet similar enough character to make it work. With all of that though, I am kind of sad to see that this will be Haruka’s last tournament in karuta ever. She must have come back for a reason, but the reality of karuta and balancing her parenting must have hit her too. No matter what happens, I will support Haruka regardless. Dang, it feels like Kana’s position of best girl is being challenged all the time.
The crown jewel of this episode for me was the final interaction between Shinobu and Chihaya. Seeing her grandmother using Shinobu as Kimono advertising was interesting and revealing in what the family dynamic of Shinobu’s family was like. Shinobu’s mother must have lived through a lot of stuff to be as jaded and grounded as she is. Chihaya and Shinobu’s interaction was pretty great though. Their friendliness was great, but Shinobu turning against Chihaya after Chihaya mentioned she went to her class trip instead of taking part in the karuta qualifying event really broke Shinobu right there. After Chihaya’s interactions with Suo, it was all turned against Chihaya. What a powerful moment over a crumbling cookie.
So once again, I do think this episode was a little too busy even for a Chihayafuru episode. Too many things going on during the match with two sets of announcers talking and/or typing. All with some signs of what was going on with these characters. Maybe that’s the point though? Maybe Chihayafuru was really building up to the drama of the later portions of the tournament which will play heavily into what goes on next? It’s kind of hard to tell really, but I trust Chihayafuru with what it wants to do and what it wants to say. It hasn’t proven any of us wrong so far. In fact, everything Chihayafuru has set up has just been more and more aces.
This episode gets the very solid Haruka Inokuma/10.