To Tell the People in the Capital That I Make for the Islands
Taichi, we all love you. Never forget it.
Taichi’s grueling climb in the world of Karuta, and to be honest all of his struggles, have always been some of the most central to Chihayafuru and no doubt to all us audience folks. The guy is a walking empathy magnetron. It’s helps that Taichi himself is such an introspective individual; it’s his inner thoughts we’re by far the most familiar with, and are privy to at such frequency. And while his mind is his greatest strength when it comes to Karuta, it’s also a constant generator of insecurity and self-doubt. With every step forth comes another road block; his skills are real and on a deeper level he must understand this. Yet his struggle to get climb the steps continues on, so who can blame him for thinking he may be missing something more? When his efforts so often fail to produce results, even the smallest victories are like a gift from the heavens.
Basically what I’m saying is that the moment Taichi reaches A-class will be the bestest thing in the world.
So anyhow, figures the first non-introductory episode would be one to center around Taichi, along with the return resident Shiranomi Society ace, Tsuboguchi. After his loss against the western representative for the Master’s match, he visible breakdown in front of Harada-sensei (always a best character every appearance) must have led to serious amounts self-evaluation… and evidently spare time as takes up a coaching position for Homei, Mizusawa’s next opponent. The group is mostly a bunch of beginners, but with a coach genuinely worth looking up to, as Homei and Chihaya do, they present the threat of a darkhorse much like Mizusawa did last year. The fact Tsuboguchi holds the key to Taichi’s noggin’ is only icing on the cake. Tackling Taichi’s obvious weakness is a cold if totally fair strategy.
It’s curious that even if his mind is his most exploitable factor, Taichi is most definitely Mizusawa’s pillar of mental strength. Maybe it’s just that those who put in the most work have an air of reliability to them. Of course with all of that hard work comes the great pressure Taichi places on himself, so if his strong backbone were to break, the rest of Mizusawa would come crumbling down. It’s echoed in Harada’s words “An individual match is a team match. A team match is an individual match”, Taichi’s loss could mean the team’s loss. Besides these definitely being the sorta lingering words that’ll come into play later, they very much hold a lesson or two Taichi must learn. Preferably the hard way.
And even in this match, Taichi struggled to gain hold of his match. His luck, or is it his mind, once again puts him at a disadvantage; be it thanks to an inexperienced card reader, or a malfunctioning A/C. Even Retro’s word plague his psyche, hitting far too close to home. Even Taichi’s opponent, suitably offbeat to disturb his fragile self, uses Harada patented techniques to sway the easily impressionable. Most importantly, her focus is all on beating her opponent, while Taichi attempts to baby the entire team, being President and all. It all comes to head when the heat becomes to much to bare…
AND THE MAGIC HAPPENS. (⊙‿⊙✿)
And the following review of poems is almost haunting, as Taichi finally focuses fully on his match alone. Chihaya, probably thanks to her natural greed, now has the whole “A team match is an individual match” thing to a T. Clearly as she’s totally absorbed into her game. Yet the very moment the team needs help, she’s already there. Towel and everything. Taichi wins. Mizusawa wins. It’s all so very nice.
I can’t wait for Arata to become a real character again.
Be as Dear Now, Those Were the Good Old Days
And to think, that after such a Taichi-centric episode, the two resounding sentiments come from these two of all people.
First of whom being dear ol Retro, who really surprised me. Behind his more than offbeat demeanor, what we have is a character as passionate as the rest of them. And even recalling the trophy scene from the first season, he still manages to catch me off-guard. I guess it’s the Retro guarantee. Like, how his girlfriend is apparently Nishida’s sister? Wow. Considering her taste in men, yeah, should have been totally obvious, but man. Poor Nishida?
Hokuo is left at a pretty interesting place, with Sudo out of the picture. The two most prominent members are perhaps polar opposites in attitude. While Retro takes the match against Mizusawa with a deathly seriousness, Amakasu takes his standard laid back approach. What with the whole top 2 schools move on to Omi Jingu clause. Retro, another case of Taichi “stuck in B-class” syndrome, takes great pride in Hokuo’s status as the #1 school in Tokyo, perhaps as a constant boost in morale to keep himself aiming higher. Amakasu, already in A-class for a while now, knows just how tough the world of A-class is and has all but given up trying seriously. (yes harada-sensei is the biggest strongest bear yesssss) As a note, Amakasu is never somebody we’ve gotten to know very well despite his background presence, but wow if he isn’t instantly relatable now.
Not that Amakasu is alone in his “taking it easy” policy. Even most of Mizusawa seems to agree, sans Chihaya duh. Thankfully we have Hanono to evoke those feeling of passion, having overheard Amakasu’s strategy of just beating “glasses boy, boobie girl, and Mashima”. One point to Hanano! Speaking of which, negative bajillion to Tsukuba. Dude, you’ve got the passion, alright, just stop being a douche about it and changing the starting order. Sigh, you made such a nice impression in Ep 3 too. Hokuo has it’s own issues with their line-up too, as Retro has very clearly tampered with them. Shifting away from “get the weaklings” strategy Amakusa had in mind, Retro’s unshakable belief in Hokuo’s strength led him to pit their best against Mizusawa’s best, 2nd best to their Mizusawa’s 2nd best and so on. And who better the validate such a belief than Sudo himself, the reader for the match.
…seems almost a little unfair. But it’s treated with no intention of cheating, and at most places extra pressure on Hokuo. No harm, no foul.
So the match is on, but not until the second moment of the episode from the Empress. Being a dutiful teacher noting the difficulty of playing in hakama, she provides the Mizusawa kids tasuki, little straps meant to keep the Hakama both open and out of the way. And in what would make any teacher so freakin’ proud, they all bow to her in deepest respect. It’s horrible watching scenes like this, knowing that as a future teacher, dealing with kids this good is gonna be in the minority. But as the Empress goes, she only continues to provide us with magic, marveling at the sport that is Karuta. Combining the genders in an athletic competition, both the beauty of poetry and the deep wisdom of history; it’s one of a kind when you really think about it. If we had an equivalent sport, this description could have probably sold me on it. Karuta is something I’d genuinely like to learn one day even with the language barrier, and I’m sure the show has done a good deal convincing others of the same.
Fittingly enough, the player who’s on a roll is none other than Kanade. With her hakama and tasuki keeping her body in control (i can vouch for that. from my years in martial arts, you hear it a lot from people with bigger assets; both boobs and fat), and Sudo’s expert reading, she’s playing some of her best Karuta thus far. I can only assume she’s definitely going to win, although something could always happen. On the flipside, Nishida is the first to go down, poor guy still dealing with the shock of his sister going out with Retro. With such distressing news, his mind wasn’t in the game, and the small distracting elements like his opponent’s hairpin built up to his downfall.
Komano is missing in action.
Taichi is naturally having a tight match with Retro, both suffering in B-class hell. A little more on Taichi, we get a really cool tidbit on him and his upbringing. If ya’ll recall his demanding mom, than it’s really cool to know that despite her unreasonable expectations, she did play a huge role in shaping Taichi up to be somebody who doesn’t run away, one doesn’t make excuses. One point to Taichi’s mom, current status at negative godknowswhat. Lastly we have Chihaya struggling against Amakusa, perhaps not due to the difficulty of the opponent although that certainly plays into it, but rather her trying to imitate the Karuta style of both the Master and the Queen. What a crazy kid.