Saturday, March 10, 2012

Taichi Tuesdays: 3/6/12

Chihayafuru Ep. 22: Just As My Beauty Has Faded

The most recent episodes of Chihayafuru were fun and exciting, but they don’t necessarily show a lead in to the final episodes and that is where we are now. Actually, taking a step back and looking at the series as a whole details a unique structure for the series. Near the beginning we were given a large amount of karuta based around the characters while now it’s characters based around karuta. This is fine because of the high quality in storytelling, but I do ultimately miss the relationship building and casual slice of life feel to the series. What this means, as pointed out by someone on, is that the series can basically only go two ways from here. The first being a more karuta-based ending with the characters rooting for Arata in the finals and the second being a story that concludes with relationships examined and set for the finale. That means we learn if Chihaya has feelings for any of the two guys and if Tsutomo and Kanade learn of their feelings for one another. Somewhere in the backdrop would be Arata playing karuta and learning his own feelings, while in parallel dealing more with his past. I would like to see the latter but I feel like we will get a combination of these elements in the next final episodes.

Episode 22 takes a look at Chihaya’s match against the former Queen of karuta, a Yamamoto Yumi. We learn that Yumi isn’t very passionate anymore for karuta due to the fact that she lost her title to Wakamiya Shinobu. Thus her attitude is dry and boring for a high-level karuta player, as compared to Chihaya’s bursting confidence in the match.

But that’s what becomes Chihaya’s ultimate downfall. Her confidence in that Yumi has “given up” gives her a slight advantage in the match, grabbing a lead in the number of cards she has taken. Not only is the tension high because of the match, but the heat in the room they are playing in is so hot that it’s uncomfortable to even watch. Taichi, Tsutomu, Kanade, and Nishida are all watching outside where it’s warm, but not as hot as inside the room. Because Nishida, Tsutomu, and Kanade each became members of the karuta society that Yumi is from, they feel conflicted for who to root for. In my opinion it’s clear that deep down they are rooting for Chihaya.

Chihaya is ahead until her karuta coach opens a window and tells her to find her own style of karuta. This pushes her to play with a new and annoying style of questioning every single card that Chihaya tries to take. Say if Yumi’s finger touches the card first but Chihaya swipes it away, it’s still Yumi’s card and she would argue for it. This really took Chihaya off guard and it seems she didn’t know what to do about it.

Yumi’s stubbornness distracted Chihaya until she cracked, and Yumi eventually became the underdog winner of the match. At the end of each karuta match the players usually thank one another for playing, but Chihaya was silent in her loss. I think she was shocked that she lost so easily after losing her own confidence. She may have realized during the match that she should have been more sensible to the fact she was playing against a former Queen, but it didn’t save her from losing.

Now that Chihaya is out of the qualifiers for playing with Shinobu there’s no telling what the meaning behind her character will be in the final episodes. Taichi didn’t make it either so he can’t face Arata. It goes to show the story in Chihayafuru could have really taken a different direction with what we would expect, but because it didn’t do those things we are left guessing what will happen. It’s a commendable effort on the series’ writers, and it’s so rare to constantly be off guard with what to expect next. Either way it’s been a fun ride.

-Jared Cyhowski

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