Chihayafuru S2

March 15, 2014

Let me clear this first. The reason why I am watching the second season of Chihayafuru is not because I have suddenly turned into a karuta enthusiast. I have never been one ever since finishing watching the first season. So what is it that was so attractive that had me going back for the sequel? Oh Chihaya. You’re still the pretty and beautiful girl that every guy who laid their eyes on you would instantly dream of becoming your boyfriend. Just that she is a karuta freak that lacks that feminine tact. Ah well, nobody is perfect. You can’t have everything. And so with this flimsy and weak reason that I decided to take up the second season. Also, it isn’t so much the game that they play but the relationship among the main characters as a team. With our main protagonists have gone up a grade and the start of a brand new year means that they will have another chance of avenging their defeat and a shot of being champions that every karuta player’s dream of. New characters, same faces, new rivals, old rivals, can Mizusawa karuta’s club and its members do what they fail to achieve last year? One thing is for sure. Effort will never betray you. And Chihaya is still looking good…

Episode 1
Mizusawa’s karuta club members, just like any other clubs, are just as eager to recruit new members. Among the new first year students, Sumire Hanano, her real intention is not to join a club but to find a hot handsome boyfriend! She is going to make her ex regret dumping her!!! Then she sees Taichi on stage in a hakama… Love bells are ringing! Yup. This guy is going to be the one. Chihaya flops her recruitment speech because… The majority isn’t already interested in karuta and yet she is pleading she needs 100 junior members! Greedy… And remember the karuta club’s condition, if they don’t recruit 5 new members, their budget will not get an increase. Suddenly… 20 odd girls are outside the karuta club!!! Woah!!! Is this a dream come true?! Well, they are Chihaya’s ray of hope! Of course, most of them are here just to test out. Thanks to Taichi’s hotness. Right off the bat, Sumire asks if Taichi has a girlfriend. The other girls are interested too but Kanade takes control about respecting their seniors. Chihaya gets too technical in explaining the basics of karuta, which is a major turn off. They even do a demonstration but the newbies are lost. Chihaya wants to take responsibility in teaching the juniors but is reminded they have the national competition to worry about and not to spend too much time on them. You can’t rely on them to win, right? So our veteran club members discuss what needs to be focused on. But for Chihaya, she wants Taichi to become Class A. Of course, her goal is also to win the high school championship, the individual class and train the juniors to become a strong karuta school. Talk about being greedy. So Chihaya becomes the teacher for the newbies and Sumire isn’t happy since it isn’t Taichi who is teaching them. But when Sumire reads a love poem, she gets emotionally moved. Maybe it has something to do with her own love life. She decides to take an early leave and so happen she bumps into Taichi at the train station. He is on his way to Shiranami to practice and improve his competitive karuta skills. Sumire is going to love talking every moment with him. But she realizes that the other girls are noticing how hot this dude is. So she asks him if girls ask him out all the time. He is not sure about that lately. It doesn’t seem right to let a girl choose him because he would rather choose the girl he devotes himself to. He notes Sumire is pretty cute herself and that there are lots of boys who would choose her. Her heart felt stung a little. It occurs to her that Taichi will never choose her but she wants to have a choice too and don’t want to write poems of regret. Meanwhile Chihaya shows no mercy and defeats them flawlessly despite in a group match. Go easy, will you?

Episode 2
Taichi requests to play with Hiroshi. Sumire watches them and couldn’t understand their movements. Harada thought she is interested to learn more and takes her away to talk and not to distract them. Even his words are a mystery. You’ll never know something till you try it out. After playing for 45 years, he still can’t understand! That’s why he keeps playing. Kanade is surprised that Chihaya comes in early to help clean the clubroom. But when she realizes she is doing it wrong, she blows her top. More woes for Chihaya because out of the 20 newbies, there are only 4 left! Shock! Eventually, there is only one left! And he is the only guy among the newbies, Akihiro Tsukuba. What a sad day but at least there is one. There goes her dream of being a karuta powerhouse. Meanwhile Sumire is irked because her ex is trying to get back with her like as though the dumping never happened! Don’t get back to this jerk! When she enters the karuta clubroom, everyone is so happy that there is another one who didn’t leave! Especially Taichi who is shaking her hand! Yup. She’s here to stay. Because Sumire continues to whine and be occupied about her appearance, she tells the girls straight she is not interested in karuta but for Taichi. The rest learn about Tsukuba who used to play second verse karuta with his brothers back in Hokkaido. He is proud his team is undefeated. What’s with that freaky tongue protruding expression? But since this is the mainland, he needs to start memorizing first verse karuta which is used in competitive tournament. Chihaya notices Sumire taking her first card but hopes she could trim her nails so she could move faster. Sumire won’t do that and reminds her she is in this club just to get Taichi. She realizes her slip and runs out in embarrassment. Nishida doesn’t want her to care so much about her but Chihaya is still having regrets when she fainted in last year’s tournament. If they had another member… Now they have two… Since Chihaya bloopers on her way out, Kanade goes after her. Nishida on the other hand teaches Tsukuba. When Kanade finds crying Sumire, the latter feels her life is over and that she’ll be the butt of jokes. Kanade explains some of the love poems to calm her down and has her come back with her. Kanade hopes she can teach her to put on makeup sometimes. Sumire gets serious in memorizing karuta and cuts her nails.

Episode 3
Murao beats Arata in a local competition. An agent wants both of them to compete in this fall’s master tournament but Arata puts his focus on the high school championship first. Mizusawa are at the preliminaries for the high school tournament. This year, Tokyo gets to send 2 representatives to the finals. After Tsukuba introduces his little brothers to the gang, I guess he wanted to play and proof to them so much that he tries to cancel out Tsutomu’s name and insert his! Tsutomu makes some changes to the team’s order. Based on his data of the teams they will be facing in the group, he suggests putting Sumire in against Shuryukan because those guys are weak against girls. Tsukuba will play in the match against West High, which is mainly a female team, so he can use his freaky expression and loud vocal expression to counter back. Tsukuba wonders why Tsutomu is willing to give him a chance. Tsutomu narrates his experience how he thought he was made to join the club just because so they could have 5 people and whether he wins or loses the team match did not matter. He was of course proven wrong. That’s why he wants Tsukuba to take his time to improve. The match against Shuryukan begins and Sumire is somewhat surprised she has to play. True enough, the guys are weak against the girls so she manages to get her first card. As for Chihaya, she’s a monster and beats her opponent by a perfect score!!! In the end Mizusawa wins 4-1 (Sumire lost if you’re wondering). In the match against West High, Tsukuba becomes nervous. Because he is playing a Class A player! If only Chihaya could trade places with him! Tsukuba fears his reputation as a hero among his brothers will crumble so he starts using Tsutomu’s suggestion to freak his opponent out. Another flawless victory for Chihaya and of course it is 3-2 victory for Mizusawa. Tsutomu lost by a very close margin. Tsukuba thought he couldn’t face his brothers but they seem to be very impressed with Chihaya. Yeah. The first person they hug. But they are confident their big brother will catch up in no time and still think he is super. Chihaya gets sneaky trying to recruit them to Shiranami.

Episode 4
Arata’s family are paying their respects at grandpa’s grave. As we find out, because grandpa and father were at odds (the latter wasn’t into karuta), it forced Arata to switch schools thus separating from his friends when daddy got a job in somewhere else. Arata says if he wins the high school championship, he wants his request granted. The next team Mizusawa faces in the semi-finals is Homei, a dark horse for the competition. And the reason why Harada is here because Homei’s advisor is no other than Hiroshi. He really wants to win against Mizusawa. When the match starts, Mizusawa team is thrown off pace because the reader is an amateur! Not consistent in his readings! Taichi tells them to make their own rhythm instead. Of course Homei isn’t going to give up without a fight and thanks to Hiroshi, they have pretty learnt some nasty tricks to overcome Mizusawa. Like Chihaya, the guy is trying to throw her off by saying he likes girls who are into karuta. That simpleton… Taichi on the other hand is falling victim to his own psychological guilt as he thinks himself has no talent. The opponent he is facing feels like some sort of creepy fortune teller… More woes for Mizusawa when the air-conditioner above them malfunctions! The heat is really getting to their concentration. Harada talks to Hiroshi about being so motivated in this game when ironically he was the biggest slacker back in Shiranami. When he lost to Takemura, he felt regret for not trying his best. So he had to ignore his own problems to inspire his karuta club. When Taichi requests for towel to wipe his sweat, all the ladies on his side throw it to him! Sumire, Miyauchi, a couple of Shiranami ladies and even Kanade’s mom! Such synchronicity. It’s like they’re waiting for this moment. Even Chihaya cuts across Tsutomu just to hand him one. Sumire sees this and decides to go scout the other semi-final. In a closely fought match, Taichi wins his and so does Mizusawa. Hiroshi consoles the creepy fortune teller about her lost. He also mocks Taichi a creepy person for being able to remember how many cards were left and was practising that kind of skill like crazy every day. However he is inspired for the effort he puts in. Sumire notes she has to be on her guard. She thought Chihaya was just an airhead who didn’t realize Taichi’s love but from what she has seen, she is definitely watching him.

Episode 5
Mizusawa will face the strongest karuta school in Tokyo: Hokuo. It’s like déjà vu since Hokuo lost to Mizusawa at this stage. For this year, both teams have qualified so they only have bragging rights. Thus Hokuo’s Nayuta (he has taken over the club’s captaincy from Sudou who graduated) wants to take the easy way out by pitting their strongest against the weakest. They only need 3 wins, right? Tsukuba once again tries to insert his name into the starting line up. Not going to make it this time. Nayuta seems pretty happy with Hiro AKA Retro’s prediction of the opponent’s line-up (which is never wrong) and will win this with minimal effort. However when the names are submitted, he changes them and makes it a straight fight with their counterparts. Nayuta loses his cool and wants an explanation. Retro believes Hokuo is the strongest school and that Class A should fight Class A, Class B against Class B, and so on. This is how they should win. This means Nayuta will face Chihaya and Retro against Taichi. Hokuo gets a surprise when Sudou is here. Trying to put pressure on them? Actually, he is here as the reader. Oh gosh. More pressure. Before the game starts, Miyauchi gives Mizusawa tasuki to bind their hakama so they can move easier. The intense match begins and each time Sudou clears his throat, the Hokuo guys just shiver under pressure. It’s like an indirect warning to say “Win! Or you’re dead!”. Mizusawa is shocked when Nishida lost! He is crushed by 13 cards! Probably his opponent’s funny hair clip distracted his attention. This puts tremendous psychological pressure on Mizusawa because the opponent is one win up. This makes Taichi wonder how the rest are doing. He is surprised Chihaya is trailing by 5 cards. But he has no time to worry about hers when he has his own problems. Chihaya gets back into the groove when she uses the skill strengths of both Shinobu and Suou.

Episode 6
Nayuta needs to buck up and Sudou feels frustrated he can’t help out his Hokuo counterparts and now knows what it is like to be a reader. Tsutomu and Kanade’s opponents aren’t winning their match early too because despite crushing them last year, they have improved and it shows that they are not being taken seriously. Now it’s a tight finish so they have to be taken seriously. All remaining players are down to 2-3 cards. Based on how many cards (in play and dead) have been read, Hokuo pulls off a legally borderline tactic of card splitting by indirectly announcing to each other what kind of cards they have. As far as I understand, this is to protect their own card since this is down to the luck of the draw whose card is to be read and Hokuo only needs 2 more members to win. Plus, Mizusawa needs to attack their opponent’s card if they need to win. When the next card is read, Retro makes a simple mistake by taking the wrong card. Or perhaps it’s just Taichi’s unwavering focus that pressured him into making that mistake. Nayuta is obviously mad that first he screwed up the line-up, then he risked it by losing it, now both schools have a 50-50 chance. In the final card read, Chihaya and Nayuta’s hand touch the same card. Desperate Nayuta says he was first to touch it but Chihaya mentions they both touched it at the same time. Based on the rules, since the card is on Nayuta’s side, the win goes to him. In the end, Hokuo wins 3-2. Sudou as his guys who is the strongest team in Tokyo. Nayuta cannot be sure if it’s them after his match with Chihaya. Sudou pressures them to be the best in Japan then. Or else… Nishida apologizes for losing early but Chihaya is cool. She had fun. Harada must be a happy man because Tsukuba and his brothers want to join Shiranami! You rarely get 4 recruits at a single time now, right? What a big haul. And here comes Sumire. I guess she’ll be number 5. Taichi accompanies Chihaya on the train home. She gets a mail from Arata about her match. She is overcome with emotion it was the most fun and difficult match she had but Taichi is not too pleased.

Episode 7
Chihaya is depressed back home. Reality now sinks in about her lost, eh? So much so it pisses off her sister Chitose. She too is undergoing her own depressed moment as there are comments about her sucking at acting. She thinks of quitting acting and going to college. More woes for Chihaya because the teacher reminds her about the recruiting quota. Failure to do so will also result in forfeiting their clubroom. Can you believe this? Chihaya went begging on her knees in class just to plead for more time! He gives her a reprieve since she was trying to use her ‘charm’. On the way out, they see the concert band club moving instruments out of their clubroom. Due to their small room and increased in members, they have nowhere else to put them and are also in the preliminaries to qualify for the Nationals. So Chihaya talks to Miyauchi to let them use the second floor above their clubroom. At least use it for storage. Miyauchi is shocked that Chihaya is being considerate. Has she matured? I mean, she says it’s only selfish to think about the karuta club’s interest. Since they’re playing karuta to win, there are situations (like the last time) that it comes down to the luck of the draw. If they’re nicer to other clubs, maybe they’ll get something in return. So it always comes back to karuta… And you thought of respecting her a little then. At Shiranami, Sumire tells Taichi that karuta is fun. But away from him when Tsukuba talks to her, she denies it is so and only said that because she wants to get close to him. She believes the rule in this love game is to be serious in karuta. Just like how Taichi is following the same rule with his eye on Chihaya. Sumire is devastated when Harada wants to play with her despite giving her handicap. It’s like playing with a bear! Scary!

Chihaya’s mom notice her depressed and takes her out so they can buy their own hakama instead of renting from Kanade’s family shop. Despite being worried about Chihaya not doing well in other areas, as long as she has karuta, she’ll be fine. She is just worried about Chitose. Now they have spent lots of money on her own hakama, the real pinch comes when they need to pay for travel and lodging for the Nationals. This is going to be tough… Besides, Chihaya won’t wear one at the Nationals due to last year’s incident whereby she fainted. With Chihaya back in her groove, Chitose also gets her own motivation back. She ignores the rumours and is going back to acting. The karuta members are studying since they need to ace the test or else they’ll have to write poems for the summer break. This warning is for Chihaya, right? But the concert band is being noisy upstairs, can they do it? Kanade explains the difference between impassionate and frenzy when the concert band starts playing several verses outside as gratitude for letting use upstairs and as good luck wish for their tournament. It gave them much laughter and confidence. Oh, Chihaya barely passed her test. Phew. Our gang make the journey to Omi Jingu, where the Nationals are held. Sumire looks really plain without her makeup as she asks Chihaya straight if there is anyone she likes. Hmmm… Shinobu? Rivals don’t count! Taichi sees Chihaya talking to Arata on the phone. Because his school doesn’t have a karuta club, he is only participating in the individual tournament. Also, he isn’t interested in forming his own karuta club. Arata notes it will be hard for her to win both school and individual tournament as Shinobu will also be participating.

Episode 8
Kanade has Chihaya put on lots of cooling pads over her face to prevent the heat from making her faint again. Tsukuba shamelessly takes pictures of pretty ladies and just about everything inside Omi Jingu. Because the team t-shirts Nishida’s sister made for them had the word “2nd place” (she is Retro’s girlfriend. Surprise, surprise), they had to settle for their original team t-shirt. It seems Tsukuba will get to be a starter because Tsutomu will go scout other teams with Sumire. Sumire is tasked to get data on Megumu from Akashi Girls’ School from Hyogo. She was the west’s representative who lost out to Yumi. Sumire is of course confused. She is like an airhead, a weird male fan club dedicated to her and at the end of it all, an acid tongue. Karuta girls are hard to understand, eh? Mizusawa is shocked that their opponents, Chiba International School of Information Science are made up of foreigners!!! Oh sh*t! White blonde guy, big black guy, some Korean, some petite Thai (or is it Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam) and a white chick. Do they even know how to play karuta?! They speak in English but Chihaya starts crying! WTF?! She believes karuta has become global like poker! When Taichi points out their English pronunciation is wrong, suddenly the foreigners start speaking fluent Japanese and blaming each other that this plan didn’t work! WTF?! It seems they stayed back in Japan (or never left) so their Japanese are much stronger than their English. They had one thing in common and that is they like karuta. Tsukuba becomes a frightened kitten because big black guy is scaring him the way he aggressively takes the card! Oh sh*t! Can’t play the hero, huh? Nishida notices they are just karuta lovers and to play their usual karuta. He also notices they are playing their own way of competitive karuta. Blonde guy remembers how he stood out like a sore thumb due to his foreigner appearance. He tried to blend in by learning as much Japanese culture and stuffs. By the time he found karuta, he grew distant from his Japanese friends since they viewed it as boring. The white chick is Kanade’s opponent and they both click since they love the romantic poems. When Mizusawa gets serious, they move faster before finally crushing their opponent. They are left in tears after that defeat but after seeing how Mizusawa wrote an encouraging message for them, they will do their best to promote karuta in their school and improve themselves. Arata arrives late at the tournament, hoping to catch Chihaya and Taichi in action despite knowing it would already be over. He feels someone grabbing his shoulder from behind: Shinobu!

Episode 9
At first Arata couldn’t recognize her but he finally does after seeing her eye mole! She says it has been 4 years since she lost and due to his long absence, she might lose to him. That’s sarcasm, right? She is confident that since he quit karuta, he will never beat her again. She is not here for the team tournament but for some other attraction. She says that team tournaments are for those who do not love karuta. Tsutomu calls Taichi and from his data he observed from the strong Fujisaki team, it’s not good. They have 5 registered Class A players and went all out. One of the Fujisaki players, Makoto Yamai noticed Tsutomu spying on them during the match so he tells him to add another data: The girls are much scarier. This guy… Putting matchsticks to hold his eyelashes?! Karuta players are indeed weird. Arata avoids seeing Chihaya so as not to distract her. But he bumps into Murao who is part of the tournament committee. Later Arata sees his old middle school classmate, Shouji. His team is in a pinch because they are stuck in traffic! Since there are only 2 of them and quite desperate, Shouji pleads to Arata to disguise as one of their members and play. I don’t know how he was convinced to do so seeing he knows it clear that there will be punishment if he is caught. A face mask to do the trick? Worse, Shouji takes off his glasses so he is not easily recognizable. Now he can’t see. Their opposing team has already won 2 matches by default so Shouji’s team needs all 3 to win. When the match begins, Arata just sits there. Arata can tell his opponent is frustrated because he came all the way to play good players and what does he get? A lamer. When Shouji lost his match and sealed his team’s fate, Arata starts thinking back about his younger days with Chihaya and Taichi. He remembers that feeling of playing as a team so he puts on his glasses and gets serious. He is going to claw his way back from a 15 card deficit. His fast and graceful swing and other style remind one of the tournament officials, Kuriyama that this kid’s style resembles just like Arata. Upon taking a closer look, he is horrified to learn it is him! Arata makes a comeback and defeats his opponent and so does the other teammate, although they lost 3-2. Shouji is overcome with emotion as he thanks Arata. But Kuriyama instantly takes Arata and the rest outside. Reprimanding them for the serious offence they did (even if Shouji pleads Arata is not at fault), Shouji’s school will be severely reprimanded. As for Arata, he might be barred from tomorrow’s tournament.

Episode 10
Yamaguchi Mioka is Mizusawa’s next weird opponent. How so? Everyone wears spectacles and the school prides itself with smart people. They shuffle and arrange the cards in no particular order and 3 of their members are from the quiz club! What the heck are they doing playing karuta?! Meanwhile the committee is deciding Arata’s fate. Some of the members think they should be lenient on him not because he is the Eternal Master’s grandson. Because the current master, Suou’s strange behaviour is a bad example to kids to promote karuta. Despite he is strong, they really want somebody like Arata to knock him off his perch. Shouji barges in to beg them to not punish him but was taken away by Arata. Miyauchi is somewhat pissed when she learns from the Mioka’s coach that he doesn’t mind his team losing as they are here to help increase their memory skills via karuta. The funny part is that they have been beating schools who have been playing competitive karuta. That does it. Beat the crap out of them! But Chihaya is having problems with her opponent, Nakayama. Because he is shuffling the cards all the time! Bad for a person like Chihaya with bad memorizing skills. Nakayama narrates how karuta is similar to a quiz contest. It’s like reaching for the buzzer but with some lag effect. When it starts raining, everyone in the room got the fright of their lives when they see Shinobu peeping through the glass! She’s like a ghost! Then she makes her way into the hall and learns Arata has been suspended. She threatens the committee she too will pull out if Arata is not reinstated. She doesn’t know what’s going on but she forces Arata to apologize and be nice. She doesn’t want anymore disappointment. After Chihaya takes a deep breath of air (it’s freaking Nakayama out because of her crazy lung capacity), Mizusawa is on the rebound. Each of them has their own ways to fight Mioka’s odd reshuffling tactic. Well, maybe except for Tsukuba. In the end, Mizusawa fights back and wins 3-2 (Tsukuba and Kanade lost). Though Mioka’s coach is not fazed by the lost and hopes they could use this to help further their quiz skills, Nakayama feels hurt and wants to avenge this loss via karuta. Emotional group hug! When Tsutomu and Sumire return to discuss what they have gathered, Sumire mentions about seeing Shinobu and Arata. It piques Chihaya’s interest but Taichi puts his foot down so they can concentrate on their next order (he doesn’t want her distracted. Or just jealous). Tsukuba opts out for the next match. So eager to be in, now he wants out? Tsutomu thinks of reshuffling the order but Nishida suggests maintaining the same line up.

Episode 11
Tsutomu is fine sitting out but why is Nishida upset? He feels that he is drifting into a supporting role when he is supposed to fight for his place. No doubt the newbies relief them off some pressure but if he doesn’t play, he’ll lose his drive and ultimately his edge. Is he speaking from his tennis experience? Wow. Porky getting all emotional. He leaves it to Taichi to decide who plays. Now the pressure is on him. Chihaya sees the notebook and understands. They’ll use the same line-up. Wow. Did she understand all that? Actually no. Because she remembers Harada’s words that watching others play is more tiring than watching your own play. So Tsutomu is the most tired among them and should be left out. True enough, he dozes off outside when the quarter-finals begin. Mizusawa is up against Shoyo. Show You? Pun as their motto? Mizusawa is wary of them since they are representing Kyoto, the place where Shinobu comes from. They are taken by surprise at their lightning speed. However they remember Tsutomu’s data on each of Shoyo’s player’s quirks and overcome them. Chihaya believes Tsutomu has not lost his drive because his notebook containing all the data of other teams is proof of that. When Tsutomu wakes up, Nishida is the first person to barge out and tell him Mizusawa has won. He wants Tsutomu to play in the next match. I can imagine this funny scene. Fat boy and petite spectacles kid rushing to hug each other… Meanwhile Arata is made to write an apology essay. He is allowed to take part in the individual tournament but needs to write that essay and cannot watch to support his friends. Mizusawa’s next opponent is Akashi. Sumire’s note didn’t really help since she observed their fashion sense instead of their karuta play. But Tsutomu can use that data to deduce what kind of person they are and the type of karuta they are likely to play!!! Amazing!!! Because Akashi has been using the same line-up and never changed, he suggests avoiding their aces against theirs. I guess this doesn’t sit well with Chihaya. She really wants to play Megumu. But you can see her holding in her pride (she’s vexing so much in pain) and will allow to play in second position. But Taichi wonders if he should allow it since he remembers Hokuo’s pride of going with even match-ups. Meanwhile Hokuo’s opponent is Fujisaki. They have lots of supporters. Sudou and Nishida’s sister have a supporting banner with lots of love hearts. Embarrassing? I think Hokuo is more afraid because Sudou is here to watch… Tsutomu and Taichi know something the rest doesn’t know about Akashi. The reason they don’t change their line-up is to prepare for stronger opponents in later stages. Once that happens, they will switch. The question is, whether they think Mizusawa is good enough for them. The line-up is read. Akashi maintains. Though the rest is happy everything is going according to plan, Tsutomu reels in disappointment that they have been looked down and not respected. Are they having their eyes on the finals and placed so much faith in Megumu to win? Because she will be facing Chihaya.

Episode 12
Megumu makes a blooper because she goes to sit and face Fujisaki whom she thinks is her opponent! Despite her airhead display, her sharp tongue definitely would hurt Mizusawa. Because she said she thought they were in the finals and even if they weren’t, they should just let them play in the finals now. We are distracted by a short flashback by the fan boys always with a camera in hand snapping pictures of Megumu. Because they were labelled as perverts despite having pure intentions, one day Megumu invited them to snap pictures of her playing karuta. Once done, she takes a look at them, praises them and deletes them! Come back next time and take more pics! I guess that’s how the boys got hooked on her. They came to snap and delete their photos! The crowd thinks the real match to watch is Hokuo against Fujisaki because based on history and record, Akashi should have this win in the bag. When the match starts, Megumu surprises everyone by taking her first card very fast. Those who watched her play against Yumi in the tournament last fall are surprised that she is moving much faster than before. Chihaya observes her and despite all that, she still isn’t fast enough. Tsukuba is surprised Kanade is leading by a few cards when she should been tired after playing straight competitive matches. Unlike this guy who quickly blew his matches so he could rest, he even sends messages back to his brothers that he the ace is doing well and has led the team to the semi-final. Liar! Megumu shows more airheaded slip ups in terms of not only collecting the cards she won over but her opponents! How could she screw up holding 3 same cards in her hand? And so we get a flashback to see how Megumu grew so much. Apparently the coach saw some talent in her. Despite playing karuta at her society, she didn’t try her best. You could say she had beginner’s luck to reach all the way to face Yumi. Her friends did all they can to support her. Until her lost and they heard the beginner’s luck comment that the rest dedicated into making her to be the next Queen. Thus Megumu is always placed in third seat to gain more experience and not to win (because usually team aces are put in the middle seat). When Chihaya remembers some poem history from Kanade, she gets back into the groove, breaking Megumu’s combo winning streak and gets her first card.

Episode 13
Chihaya is sure happy she got her first card, eh? Well, that didn’t break Megumu’s focus and instead Chihaya’s focus snapped on the next card. Back to square one. When they reach for the card the same time, Chihaya remembers Nishida’s words to contest for it. Even if she didn’t win it, at least it will throw her opponent off focus. Chihaya doesn’t seem to be a convincing contester and guess what? Megumu happily gives the card to her! Guilt ridden now, I guess it’s even worse because now she can’t concentrate! The match between Megumu and Chihaya rocks back and forth. One turn, Megumu gets it, the next Chihaya would surprise her with her swift move and then the next time, Megumu bounces back. With the tension building up, this has Megumu think. She was never interested in becoming a Queen and felt that she is the only one providing vocal support in her team. With Chihaya remembering what her teammates taught her to overcome her weaknesses, she goes on the offensive but still couldn’t get consecutive wins. Megumu then stops providing her vocal support to her team. She’s taking Chihaya serious now. Because even though she doesn’t mind if she doesn’t be the next Queen, she needs to win to make everyone happy. Chihaya surprises everyone by using her super fast speed that is reminiscent of Shinobu’s. Megumu then realizes her lead is gone and starts losing focus. That’s when one of her teammates takes charge of vocal support. She knows Megumu wasn’t interested in becoming Queen and that she just wanted to have fun with everyone. Perhaps she’s feeling guilty of the pressure she put on to become one. But Megumu won’t give up on being a team leader yet. There’s a time when Megumu and Chihaya both touched the card together and they both end up arguing they took it faster. They look so out of place. In the end, Chihaya gave in. Not much of a contester, isn’t she? The tension between both teams reaches all-time high. Both sides rallying their team to fight on. The pressure is clashing and it is a very close game. Sumire notices everyone is now watching their game.

Episode 14
Shinobu is reciting the karuta cards so fast that it seems she didn’t even stop to take a breather! Arata is writing his apology letter so fine that Shouji is crying and thinks this literature should be published! Shouji’s teammates finally arrive. I guess they knew their team is out and even stopped somewhere for gyudon. They mention about seeing the results and that Mizusawa has bested Shoyo and are now playing Akashi. Shinobu wants to play a game with Arata to kill time but he refuses since today is a day for teams. With Mizusawa-Akashi match tightly watch, Sumire notices that Hokuo has already lost 3 matches! I guess Fujisaki is through to the finals. Just like déjà vu, Nishida becomes first casualty as he lost to his opponent. Megumu is not impressed because she wanted to take the first win. She is surprised when Chihaya snatches her favourite cards. But of course she also did the same to Chihaya with her Chihayafuru card. Kanade eases the pressure when she wins to level the tie. By the time Taichi wins his match, Hokuo-Fujisaki match with the former losing 1-4. And then Chihaya loses. Now it’s a nail biting finish and everything rests on Tsutomu. All the 6 dead cards are read consecutively and it is down to the 2 cards left. It will be the luck of the draw. As the reader opens her mouth, Tsutomu charges for his opponent’s cards and wins the match. And so Mizusawa qualifies for the finals with the final score line of 3-2. The fan boys thought of getting a picture of Megumu in tears but she seems serious. Is she going to delete their data? Instead, she wants them to hand over all the pictures they have taken. Looks like there is an opponent worth learning about. If she had only taken the SD cards and not the battery! Despite her win, she feels upset. Obviously. Her team lost, right? Mizusawa asks Tsutomu about his final move. Apparently he didn’t actually hear what the reader said and only did it based on his data that the card had a higher probability of being read. That’s like a 50-50 gamble, no? Our experienced Mizusawa counterparts realize that superstitions do play an important role when it comes down to the luck of the draw as said by their mentors. Chihaya reflects on her lost and how she could do better. But a simple non-verbal gesture from Taichi made her realize that she was probably using too much strength and needs to relax. Tsukuba wants Miyauchi to use her authority to switch him with Kanade for the finals. Of course everybody thinks he just wants attention although he denies it. Kanade allows him since she is tired.

Episode 15
Actually Kanade’s finger is swollen! She feels they are lucky because it isn’t their ace who got injured and they have substitutes. Meanwhile Hokuo are preparing for the worse from Sudou. A tournament committee comes up to them to say Arata was here to cheer on them (which is of course a misunderstanding) and due to circumstances he can’t. He tells them to at least go and see them. But now they have to worry because Sudou is here… It’s getting colder… But he is here to continue cheering them on since they are playing for the third placing match with Akashi. At Fujisaki, coach Midori Sakurazawa shows her authority as she replaces a third year experienced karuta member, Manata in favour of a second year girl, Rion Yamashiro. That guy is so traumatized. Really. It’s like the end of the world for him. And there’s no changing her decision. Makoto is not happy because Rion hardly shows any emotion and though she was watching Mizusawa-Akashi’s match, Makoto doesn’t like a junior giving advice to seniors. It’s wrong for him to take out his frustrations on her because it wasn’t her who took out that guy from the line-up. Anyway, Tsutomu’s data is so precise that he could even predict Sakurazawa’s line-up and in which order!!! Before the match begins, Kanade regrets she shouldn’t have switched out because the best certified reader is reading for the finals, Kyoko Yamashiro. Oh, isn’t she Rion’s grandmother? Chihaya will face Rion while Taichi against Fujisaki’s captain, Ryogo Emuro (Arata clone?) and Tsutomu finds his opponent to be Makoto. Nishida has Suzuki Kanata for company (both going to avenge whatever their cause) and scaredy pants liar Tsukuba is already wondering what this weirdo Mitsuki Ichimura is doing. He’s an anime freak.

Retro goes to see Arata but to tell him that Chihaya and Taichi are playing to be the best in Japan and to come and cheer them. Arata would love to go but he can’t break his punishment or else he fears he will be punished by the Gods. As Shinobu leaves, Arata hopes he could be at the finals to motivate some of the players but she doesn’t give a damn. Once Fujisaki places their cards, the guys leave to go stretching. Tsutomu has predicted they will do this because they have played in every match and are tired. They do this to avoid over-memorizing and only Rion is left behind to do so. Outside we continue hearing Makoto’s complain on Rion. He accuses the rest for being too soft with her because they like her. On the contrary they deny because Kanata already has a lovely girlfriend and so does Ichimura (a 2D girl he has dated since spring anime!) and Emuro the ero is only into big boobs (so sad Kanade couldn’t be his opponent and see those tits jiggle). Big perverts! Even Manata has his own ‘girlfriend’: Kanata?! I guess that’s why they’re called the Manata-Kanata combination and it’s understandable why it’s so devastating that the pair had to break up. So could it be that Makoto is in love with Rion?! Shinobu walks by them and they couldn’t notice her. She laments the paltry state of their hearing and they’re supposed to be the best team in Japan. Fujisaki guys return and Emuro has already precisely gauged Taichi’s skill. Makoto is still bothered by the thought that he might be in love with Rion… But pay attention because the game now starts. Everybody is blown away when Kyoko reads her opening lines. Totally a different and wonderful voice. And surprise, surprise. Shinobu is there watching the match.

Episode 16
If you’re wondering what’s all the fuss in the opening about somebody complaining they’re cutting down extra little scenes due to budget, then it’s because this is a RECAP EPISODE!!! Although it is mainly recycled scenes from the previous 15 episodes, especially the big focus on Sumire joining the club and her heart set on snatching Taichi, and the matches Mizusawa fought against Hokuo and Akashi, the mini comical skits in between include Sumire helping to put more eyelashes on Kanade (which makes her look awfully weird), Nishida’s sister purposely bumping into Johnny Depp’s clone (that’s Retro) and making him her boyfriend, Nishida having problems with characters who are dating and in turn causes the guys in Mizusawa probably wanting to take kimono wearing lessons since Kanade did assert she would love to date somebody who could wear one and finally Sakurazawa telling her Fujisaki team that the tournament committee contains former karuta Masters and Queens or even those that are Class A. That means they are surrounded by super stars! Don’t you just feel ripped off?

Episode 17
Fujisaki makes a flawless start. They’re swift. They’re fast. Mizusawa is left trailing in their wake. We hear some narration about Sakurazawa’s regime that made her a legend in Fujisaki. She has been an advisor for the karuta cub for 12 years straight and is their school’s pride. Chihaya starts to ponder her speed but notices the various ‘colour’ in Kyoko’s voice. It was what Kanade told her too. Could it be that Rion can hear colours? Using this ‘technique’, Chihaya manages to see some of the colours in her cards. Makes it easier, doesn’t it? Meanwhile Shinobu still stays although the match is boring. That’s because it is Kyoko’s voice that she is staying. Also explained that Rion despite being Kyoko’s granddaughter, she is very talented in karuta at a young age. However during tournament matches, she stops playing halfway. Her reason was the reader’s reading wasn’t pretty and only likes to hear grandma’s voice. That’s why she has never won tournaments before. Now with Kyoko as the reader, she has a chance to be part of a winning team. Chihaya’s speed increases with this technique and fights back despite Fujisaki still being dominant. And then everybody gets worried when they think Chihaya injures her finger. Seems she is okay. Of course she’s just holding it in not to worry the rest. Because so, her movements are slowed down and Rion realizes this. It made her feel guilty and in turn Chihaya also notices Rion’s reduction in speed when she was able to take easy cards. Shinobu is so bored that she almost falls asleep and uses somebody’s shirt to sneeze!!! The committee realizes the Queen is here and makes her sit in front to motivate the rest. Now she can’t leave. She sees Chihaya but can’t seem to remember her although she looks familiar. It’s right at her fingertips. Chihaya continues to hold in the pain. Although it is her index finger which hurts, she is glad it is that because she was practising taking cards with her middle finger. And then she moves so fast and takes the right card before Kyoko even says the first syllable. Something that only the Queen is capable of. Then it hit Shinobu who she is. Remember Chihaya? The guys know Chihaya is hurt and need to buck up their game because they are on a losing streak (Chihaya still trails Rion by 6 cards despite the comeback). In a comical unison, they reignite their passion to fight on. Funny. Hope it works.

Episode 18
Though all Mizusawa players are trailing their opponents, the great fight back begins. Taichi uses his best swing ever to win a card from Emuro. Everyone thinks their opponent is good. Not for Tsukuba. He thinks his is weird. Yeah. Weird anime poses just for distraction? Which ‘hero’ will prevail? But eventually he manages to take his strong card from this weirdo. Chihaya continues her comeback over Rion and this pisses off Makoto. He narrates how he loves everything beautiful and stayed away from outdoor sports because it made him sweaty. That’s how he got into karuta. He didn’t know its intensity until much later but he was hooked on it. Then he saw Rion. She was beautiful in her swing. Is that some sort of confession? Anyway if she doesn’t win, he fears she will be picked on again. With Makoto in serious mode, Tsutomu loses his match. Major blow for Mizusawa. Wait a minute. He goes out before Tsukuba? Gosh. His data must be incomplete. Chihaya’s pain is getting worse and tries ignoring it but when she sees Shinobu watching, she has a feeling that Arata brought her here to watch. The other match between Hokuo and Akashi is equally intense. Neck to neck. Shinobu is the only person who probably isn’t impressed with everything. She starts remembering how she was made to be alone because they think she would go stronger. She thinks everybody never takes her seriously. Arata’s thinking is different. They might not belong to teams but their love for karuta can only grow if they recruit, teach and nurture new players. It is the team players who keep karuta alive. Taichi is 5 cards down. He manages to take the next card by playing his own style instead of relying on Harada’s words. Another blow to Mizusawa when Tsukuba loses. Despite his opponent congratulate him for being a good player (because it caused him to unleash some anime technique), it didn’t make Tsukuba feel better at all because he broke his promise to win on Kanade’s behalf. Fujisaki now needs a win to seal the game but Taichi encourages his remaining teammates to go for the win. Obviously.

Episode 19
So we see Taichi how he overcomes the deficit to be on level terms with Emuro. He even uses Tsutomu’s data and trying to change his old ways. To add icing to the cake, Emuro who rarely commits faults, commits a double fault. It’s really going to be down the wire. While we are so focused on this match, everybody just realized that Chihaya is just one card away from securing Mizusawa’s first win. When the next card is read, Chihaya nips it and gives her team their first win. Then she instantly falls asleep on the mat. Prostrating position. She deserves it a good rest. The remaining players have 1 card each on their side so it goes down to the luck of the draw whose card will be read. Taichi and Nishida apply Hokuo’s tactic of informing their cards and in the end, both their cards are synchronized. The trouble is whose card is going to be read. To attack or to defend? Plus, there are many dead cards left in play. After a few dead cards, it seems both Taichi and Nishida have the same idea of attacking the enemy but they are fast in defending. Taichi remembers how he never has luck in this situation. His card never gets read. So he prays to God real hard that he doesn’t care if his card is never read again in such situations. Just this once, please let it be his card. Because you don’t get to play team matches anywhere except in high school. Maybe God didn’t listen to his answer. Because Chihaya just woke up in time to see the big victory. Yes! It is the card on Mizusawa’s side that is being read and with that… MIZUSAWA WINS!!! CHAMPIONS OF JAPAN!!! Can you not contain your excitement and joy?! Time for an emotional group hug!!! Later Sakurazawa does a post mortem with her team. She blames the loss on herself because she only concentrated in building strength. Emuro also blames himself because he looked down on his opponent. Rion is showing too much emotion than before so Sakurazawa tells her that even though nobody in Fujisaki could have beaten Chihaya, she needs to realize that she lost despite having the advantage. So it’s up to her to make sure they don’t lose a single match next summer (the others would have graduated). When everyone heads downstairs for the award ceremony, Chihaya and Taichi see Arata. She becomes emotional and says her team is the best in Japan. She is the best in Japan and didn’t have to be Queen for it. It’s because they played together. That’s why she doesn’t want him to say he is not interested in teams.

Episode 20
Chihaya receives the flag pole for the champions in the ceremony. But she realizes her finger is hurting a lot more. Once it’s over, she sounds that if there are any hospitals open this late so Miyauchi takes her to a nearby clinic. Hokuo are loud and motivated. Seems they have clinched third place. When Arata and Taichi meet, Sumire is pestering the spectacled boy for details because she smells a love triangle. What are the chances seeing they are childhood friends? It is VERY important to her. Too bad she won’t get any answer because the rest take her away. Arata mentions he is going to study in a Tokyo college and he’ll win tomorrow’s individual tournament. As for the team comment made by Chihaya, he only views Taichi and Chihaya as the only team for him. Meanwhile the doctor can’t determine the injury Chihaya has! WF?! She writes a prescription to get a second opinion from a bigger hospital. She is advised to skip tomorrow’s tournament and not aggravate her injury. Chihaya returns to the rest but lies next to sleeping Taichi and thinks back through the team tournament. It’s an excuse to show recycled scenes of what was important and most of them coming from the match with Fujisaki. She is grateful for her team. Next day, her friends are shocked that she was advised not to participate. She might have given in to Miyauchi’s advice that she has done well in the team tournament and to rest till Nishida’s sister sheepishly dumps t-shirts she sew for the champions to her brother. Now she wants to play. But what motivates her even further is when Sudou mocks Mizusawa to be weak individuals. Oh, seeing Shinobu too increases her motivation. But can she realistically play? She’ll try with her left hand. Her opponent is Keiko Yuube, the opponent from Akashi that Nishida faced. He thinks it’s impossible because that girl is very brute. Shinobu is disappointed that she didn’t get paired with Arata for the first round. She wanted to see how strong he has gotten and make everyone admit that team tournaments are nothing serious. By the way, Arata is paired with Shouji. That guy is going to ‘die’… Maybe he’s already dead. The match begins and Chihaya starts off on a losing streak. She could hear the words clearly but her left hand won’t move as fast.

Episode 21
Chihaya is on a losing streak. It is a ‘pain’ to use her left hand. However it did open a new perspective. Because the cards she laid out (including Yuube) are placed by right-handers. Now that she is the left, she sees things differently. However she is still at a disadvantage. Although she can take cards on Yuube’s side, she cannot take from her own. At this time, Arata and Shinobu have finished their match with a perfect score. Arata goes to watch Chihaya and is surprised to see her injured hand. Chihaya is tempted to use her right hand but she promised she won’t and will save it for Arata. Chihaya then sees from another perspective so she flips her cards to the opposite. Though the referee warns her for having bad manners, Yuube allows it since she is handicapped. With that, Chihaya suddenly speeds up and becomes natural in taking the cards. All she had to do was just flipped everything, huh? In the end, Chihaya won by 2 cards although Yuube blames that it was her own memorization that cost her the victory. All the other Mizusawa members win their first match. Including Sumire (surprise?) and Tsukuba (via walkover. Lucky devil). Chihaya feels good after being praised by Arata. Nishida too is feeling good and his confidence rocketing. Looking forward to the next round? You bet. Till he finds his next opponent is Arata! Oh sh*t! Arata’s parents are seen praying very hard. Yes. Very hard. Arata made a promise to his parents that he wants to study in a private university in Tokyo if he wins. But his parents are thinking that it would cost a bomb and that he would have gotten into a local public one based on his merits. So they are praying for him to lose!!! OMG! Nishida may be upping the pace but it doesn’t take long before Arata does his super fast swing and catch him by surprise. Now he is on a roll. So fast that it’s blink and you’ll miss. His frustration grows. He practised so hard and he’s not getting anywhere close to Arata. Nishida sees Chihaya still struggling but doing much better this time round. If he had such injury, he would have forfeited. Instead, all Chihaya cared was to win the team match. Not only her, Tsutomu and Sumire worked hard to get data, Tsukuba pestered to play, Kanade eased the pressure and Taichi never gave up. What does he do for the team? The most he can do now is not to give up. Although Nishida fights back, it wasn’t enough to win. Bitterly frustrating, isn’t it? Chihaya wins hers. When the match ups for the next round is announced, Chihaya goes up against Shinobu. She takes off her bandage.

Episode 22
In the other quarter-final matches, Arata is up against Manata, Nayuta against Emuro while Makoto has Megumu for company. Shinobu knows Chihaya has injured her favoured hand and wonders if she should play with her weaker hand for her. Chihaya doesn’t want her to joke around. Ever since her defeat last year, all she thinks of is fighting her again. Now she has got her rematch, please show your number one in the world strength. And true enough, Shinobu doesn’t hold back. She is so fast that nobody could see it. They think it’s like her fingers are connected to the cards. Chihaya did a gamble in the card arrangement and manages to take her first card. But after that, Shinobu is back on her winning streak. Then she takes off her gauze and tape on the finger because it is slowing her down. She manages to take another card that is one of Shinobu’s best cards but that is it. Because the pain returns, despite she is moving faster, Shinobu is still deadly on her accuracy. While Shinobu continues taking the cards, she remembers her past. She was first introduced to the karuta society and played a girl her age. She lost by a slim margin. After that she played older players and she became ruthless. Shinobu thumps Chihaya in the end by 23 cards margin. Outside, she sees Miyauchi attending to Chihaya. The sore has swelled. Chihaya is crying. Is it the pain or the loss? Shinobu feels bad and wonders if she should have let her take a few cards. But she is surprised when Chihaya thanks her for not going easy on her. When will they get to play again? Chihaya says in the Queen match. Well, if she gets that far. Shinobu is seen upset with herself later. She feels her performance against Chihaya was pathetic. Despite winning by 23 cards, she lost her best card to an injured person. She is going to crush her next time and won’t let her take a single card. Just like that, Chihaya realizes her summer is over. Meanwhile Sumire wins her match to the next round. She gets pretty confident that she really has karuta skills but I guess she’s brought back to earth when she lost her next match to that blonde guy. There goes her dream of being praised by Taichi. Tsukuba amazingly makes his way to the semi-finals but Sumire would rather go cheer for Taichi in his semi-final match. Everyone in the room seems tense. Taichi is up against Retro. They’re both determined to get promoted to Class A.

Episode 23
As expected, Arata and Shinobu are to face each other in the finals. Shinobu is devilishly relishing the chance to play this last match with him but is caught off guard when he only smiles back. Chihaya wanted to go watch their match when Kanade and Nishida come up to her. It seems Taichi and Tsutomu have reached the finals of their respective class and to go cheer on them. However the Class A match will be held in a different room from the other classes. This means Chihaya can’t watch the matches she wants in the same place. Nishida argues that they should go watch Arata-Shinobu match because Taichi doesn’t need their support. He is a different person today just for Chihaya so she could watch that Class A match. Meanwhile Sudou punishes his Hokuo guys for failing to make the top 8. Except for Retro. He’s so depressed. He lost to Taichi by 18 cards! Taichi’s final opponent is Rion and before the match starts, she hears her fellow school girls commenting that there is no one left to support and just had to do this. They blame her that they lost the team title. She pleads for them to support her. Taichi’s mind is preoccupied with lots of things. Another one to add. Because he sees Chihaya coming in to watch his match! He really thought she would go watch the other match so what the f*ck is she doing here?! Now he feels the need to win quickly and build a big gap so that she could go watch that match. Meanwhile in the Class A finals, it is packed with people. Especially with the committee who are here to see if the grandson of the Eternal Master can best the Queen. Shinobu starts off aggressively and dominates the match. But a closer look shows they both reach the card at the same time. Just that the cards are on her side. Of course Arata makes a comeback when he employs his attacking method on her strengths. Back at Taichi’s match, he and Rion are making lots of faults. Partly the reader is nervous. Why? Looks like it’s his final exam to be certified as one! See the examiners watching? That cough is a definite sign he has failed… Because of the uneven rhythm, Rion finally finds her groove when she realizes Fujisaki is silently supporting her. Taichi worries too much till he realizes that he is comparing Rion with Chihaya and ultimately Suou. He decides to take things one slowly. He doesn’t need to win big. A win by one card will do. Don’t need to rush. After that deep breath, Taichi starts dominating and wins. Sakurazawa notes Rion lost because she doesn’t have the stamina as she has never won 5 wins in a row. Also, Taichi has trained hard and was prepared to battle against talent. Taichi quickly registers his win and quickly drags Chihaya to watch the Class A match. However she is not moving but crying instead. She is so happy that Taichi has been promoted to Class A. That is all that matters.

Episode 24
Now that Taichi is Class A, Chihaya views him as his rival! She wants to stay and watch Tsutomu’s match but Kanade and Sumire tell her to go on. Sumire’s heart breaks when she sees Taichi taking Chihaya’s hand as they make their way to the Class A match. And nobody knew Tsukuba made it to Class D finals… Chihaya is still facing a dilemma of whether to watch the match. She really wants to but why is she hesitant? Scared? The room is full seems to be the perfect excuse not to go in but when Sakurazawa requests to find some space to fit them in, well, there they go. Chihaya could feel the tension of the match. Arata is leading by 5 cards. Shinobu ponders about her lost momentum when she realized it was herself who said she is going to choose which cards to save and sacrifice. She decides she’ll take all the remaining cards. She makes a comeback and in one part, although she reacted faster, it’s like Arata’s acceleration speed was faster than hers and took the card. The card almost hit Chihaya’s face if not for Taichi’s hand blocking it. Is she so paralyzed in awe? What makes Arata fearsome as the spectators note is not his technique or weaponry but his calm demeanour. He remembers he always lost to Murao and upset despite his visualization technique grandpa taught him, it wasn’t working. Grandpa told him if he plays his karuta with such a scary face. He is told to visualize more, the moment he moves the easiest, the time he had fun playing karuta the most. Everyone is amazed at Arata’s ability and starts thinking he might be the next person to unseat Suou. Shinobu could hear everyone’s whisper and is not too happy all those noises are distracting her. But why pay attention to them in the first place? But she gets serious and makes a comeback to trim the lead. Despite both of them seemingly touch the cards at the same time, Chihaya could see that it was Shinobu who rightfully won them. But Shinobu is still irked with Arata’s smile. In the end, Arata wins by 2 cards and the crowd is surprised that the Queen has been unseated after many years without a loss. Especially Arata’s parents who are now doomed because their last hope Shinobu have failed. Shinobu seems tired (why not after 5 matches in a row) but Arata touches her head and knows she has slight fever. She was drenched in the rain yesterday. She is happy that there was an opponent who was able to put up a fight.

Episode 25
Arata’s parents have to accept reality. Who could stop their son in doing what he loves most? Thankfully grandpa took out a life insurance policy for Arata’s education so they won’t be financially hit so hard. Arata congratulates Taichi for winning. But this time when Chihaya meets him, she is not happy. How can he be so calm and smile with his match with Shinobu? She was always so intense when she plays. She tries so hard but can’t be as good as him. Something is wrong. During the award presentation, it seems Tsutomu and Tsukuba won their respective classes! OMG! Mizusawa power house! It could have been a clean sweep had it been Chihaya instead of Arata. Sulking about that, isn’t she? Before they depart, Sakurazawa gives Chihaya a video of Arata and Shinobu’s match. She has her eternal thanks for that. She even got what Emuro has not: Sakurazawa’s email address. Sakurazawa notes that only Arata and Taichi are the ones who have never lost a match in the Nationals. Back in town, even the doctors can’t determine what Chihaya’s finger problem is! Holy cow. Is this issue bigger than it is? Not even the bigger hospital could determine it! Finally after the MRI scan, the problem is detected. With some name that I can’t even pronounce or spell, what I understand is that her bone structure in the finger is softening. Normally people can go through life without anything serious but if you’re an athlete who uses your hand a lot, you have to undergo surgery. Chihaya will be hospitalized for a week and she is distraught she can’t play karuta… That’s all she thinks about.

While bidding her time in hospital, she watches the Arata-Shinobu match. She calls Arata and mentions her intention to become better at the game. Arata tells her that whether it’s an official or practice match, he always imagines that place. It is the place which he enjoys karuta the most. When he is there, he is always happy and having fun. The place is that old apartment he first played karuta with Chihaya. Chihaya may not understand the feelings she has now but she knows she has always loved karuta. Always loved Arata. Thankfully it is successful but she is advised not to do serious activities or even swinging till her cast comes off. The strict nurse is there to watch her. She uses her spare time to complete her homework and some poetry work Kanade has her do. Think she can manage that? All she can think about is playing karuta, right? Taichi and Kanade visit her. They check on her homework and are appalled to see it is karuta related. Not trying hard, is she? But some of her poems despite based on her karuta experience, really sound like good. When they leave, Kanade gives Taichi a hard pat on the back and wants him to try harder. He doesn’t need her to accompany to visit Chihaya next time because she believes Chihaya can’t stay clueless for the rest of her life. Somehow, something tells me that is not going to happen. Chihaya calls Sakurazawa to thank her for the video. Sakurazawa starts giving her thoughts on both Arata and Shinobu. Did Chihaya understand all that? Anyway Sakurazawa invites Chihaya and her karuta members to her Fujisaki two-day karuta camp. Of course she isn’t going to pass this chance. But it seems only Chihaya and Taichi will be heading there as the rest are busy with their schedules. Partly too, it is Kanade’s plan to have Taichi and Chihaya together. Chihaya mentions it was hard to think about anything else for she has never gone such a long period without playing karuta. Taichi comments the only way is to move forward.

Episode 26 (OVA)
This takes place when Chihaya was hospitalized. This is Sumire’s most prominent episode. You know what this means. She dreams about Taichi confessing she likes her and was about to kiss. She wakes up to find her face in the food. As the days to the end of summer are counting down, she needs to do something about this quick to be with Taichi. As everyone discusses what to do for the cultural festival, Tsutomu suggests doing a karuta demonstration and it should be well received as they are champions. But Sumire wants to do a play especially about the Tale of Genji because if the drama club is doing modern acting, they should do one on Heian period which has some relations to karuta. You know what this means if Taichi is cast as the leading male. Yeah. Sumire goes into overdrive mode to convince why a play is a must although she has never been on stage before. She manages to get Kanade on her side when she mentions she gets to parade her family’s kimonos. But still karuta demonstration out votes play by 3-2 (Taichi didn’t vote). But thanks to the rain, they have to stay back and since Sumire isn’t giving up, they have more time to discuss. This time she convinces Tsutomu he is a good screenwriter and waxes lyrical about his abilities. Now that’s another on her side. The clincher is Sumire’s speech that despite she has never been in a play, she wants to show people how fun poetry is and do a play together with them all. So convincing that everybody claps and the re-vote has everyone in favour of the play! Just as planned… Now for the casting.

Sumire suggests Taichi to take the leading role. Although he is reluctant, everyone wants him. Except Tsukuba who nominated himself. Vote time. Taichi has a landslide victory. Now for the female lead. Kanade nominates Chihaya as part of her plan to get Taichi together with her. Everyone thinks so too so Sumire has them rethink their decision. Kanade? She prefers to work in the background. Alright. Now that means the only one left is… Nishida suggests to vote. Dang. Nobody even thought about Sumire. If it has come to this, she doesn’t care what role she gets and suggests everyone go on stage. However the story doesn’t have lots of male roles. She suggests cross-dressing. At first they have their suspicions but after much deliberation, if they’re going to make the play interesting, let’s go all the way. Sumire wonders if Nishida is okay with this. He is because his sister used to dress him up a lot. Oh God… So everyone works hard in rehearsing their lines, making the props and gosh, the guys look funny cross-dressed. Everything is prepared and done. However… That night there was this huge storm. All their props were destroyed. They don’t have enough time or manpower or fix them. And so it becomes a Hikaru Genji manzai comedy play with Nishida, Sumire and Chihaya going on stage to tell jokes and give retorts. What the heck?! Don’t be surprised because it’s a big hit! Sorry Sumire. No fairytale ending for you.

The Fast And The Furious…
Hmm… Something feels missing from this season. I’m not sure what it is. It’s not that I’m disappointed but I’m not really satisfied either. Probably because a big chunk of this sequel focuses on the high school team matches from the qualifying up to the Nationals. I suppose it is important because it showcases how Mizusawa would become champions and it would be a real bummer if they didn’t because they might have to make another season of it ;p. After 4/5 of the season, then only begins the individual tournament which I feel didn’t give enough prominence since Chihaya went out again to Shinobu. So much about getting her revenge. Nah. I think she shouldn’t be greedy and make it unrealistic. So another third season for her to exact her revenge? Thus the main highlight of the individual’s Nationals was only Taichi’s win which finally propels him to Class A and the very much anticipated between the youngest karuta Queen as well as the Eternal Master’s grandson. With this entire season just about the high school tournament, there is no Master’s match so we don’t even get to see Suou in the flesh and is reduced to flashbacks or visualization from other people.

I still do not understand much about the karuta play and perhaps I have forgotten some of the basic points which I researched since the first episode so watching them in action while some funny rules applied left me with lots of question marks. But it is not the game that made this season interesting and retained my interest like the last one. It is the interaction between the players especially Mizusawa. However this time round there is not much focus given to the character development because we already know the relationship between the main quintet so there is nothing much to tell. We are also familiar with the kind of roles they play like Tsutomu and his data and Kanade’s love for poems. Maybe just a little about Chihaya and Taichi. We see them improve in their karuta skills and especially Chihaya trying to act more like a club captain this time round. Though, Taichi is still the more efficient one. Chihaya really loves the game so much that she is just thankful for the newcomers, thankful that her opponents went all out against her, thankful her team finally became champions, thankful for this, thankful for that. If she had not got that finger injury, could she have bested Shinobu? Or at least lost by a close margin? Who knows for it could be a blessing in disguise. Taichi has finally moved up to Class A but catching up with Chihaya or Arata is another different matter.

Even the romance part didn’t go anywhere. Hah. You don’t expect to watch this show for the romance, didn’t you? Well, maybe somewhere deep down in my heart that I hope there would be something little like that even if it was just for a couple of seconds and forgettable. Perhaps not. Looks like these people devote their love to karuta first. No time to think about if that person loves you or not. Even if Chihaya says she loves Arata, I am thinking that is only in the karuta sense. She loves him as the Arata who loves playing karuta. If I remember, the other guys had this secret about liking Kanade, right? Maybe not this time. Makoto for Rion then? Despite how funny it is seeing that guy flustering with his own revelation that he might be the one who is in love with her after all these years, he still can perform well in his game. So is it love or just infatuation? Not that Rion notices it either. Emuro for Sakurazawa? That’s just being a pervert. Probably he needs fast fingers if he needs to grope… Whoops…

Despite Mizusawa finding 2 new recruits, somehow when the tournament begins, I feel that they aren’t as significant as they debut. Sure, they are amateurs and who would want to risk putting them in for important matches? Well, they did have their chance but it is the experienced main quintet that made the difference. Sumire is just a girl who wants to capture Taichi’s heart and she’s using karuta to do that. I’m sure this is love flow: Sumire -> Taichi -> Chihaya -> Arata. Something tells me it won’t go the other way. Whether or not her interest in karuta blooms genuinely has yet to be seen. But will she so that she could be with Taichi? Class A and Class D seem to be very far… Tsukuba loves to brag to his brothers. So much so he could become a liar for it. And when he gets his chance, he panics. It’s like as though he can’t walk the talk. But he finally manages to advance to the next class so it proves he still has some mettle in him. His tongue expression is both creepy and funny. What happened to that? He can’t do it when he is under pressure, I guess. Both these new characters I feel have been reduced to just spectators as the important matches get underway. Just like Miyauchi herself. As the club’s advisor, she is there to provide support to her club but that is so much about her role in this season. Many of the other characters from the first season too like Harada and Kanade’s mom aren’t featured so prominently mainly because as I said, this entire season is predominantly on the high school Nationals. Some characters like Taichi’s mom whom Chihaya could never get along with and Yumi are not even featured.

Arata’s presence seems better this time. Unlike the last season, he was just some chap back in his Fukui hometown but now he is taking proactive steps back to return to the karuta world. Despite having gone from the scene for around a year and a half, he still hasn’t lost his touch as he always remembers his karuta roots especially his fateful meeting with Chihaya. Genius? Talent? Arata did put in the effort in his foundation and also during his timeout so it’s just a matter of time before he blooms beautifully. Shinobu’s lost to Arata I hope would make her open her eyes that she has been obnoxious over the years of staying undefeated. With nobody coming close to a challenge at her at the top, it is easy to become bored and form some sort of delusion that those who play team karuta matches do not love the game. I think what is important is if you yourself have the passion and love for the game. Skill and others come later. Hah. This coming from a guy who doesn’t even play karuta or even know much about the game. But what the Queen lost was just her throne so I don’t think she will drastically change otherwise. Unless you count that at the end of last season she turned fat and then suddenly slimmed down again.

Other new characters are quirky itself and memorable in its own way. It shows that despite karuta is a serious game that needs lots of focus and skill, there are people from all walks of life that play and love the game. Take the main Fujisaki team for instance. You’ve already got a pervert, an anime guy, a pretty boy and an emotionless girl in the line-up. Sakurazawa may have that look of a snobbish coach and she has a monotonous voice whenever she speaks but she is a good karuta analyzer and is willing to help those who have high potential like Chihaya. Then there is Megumu with her cutie face but what she says can’t really hurt despite saying in a nice tone. Also, a bunch of foreigners who speak fluent Japanese. Karuta sure attracts weird people from all over, eh?

One of the comical points that I find likeable in this series are the short little words in kanji or hiragana appearing at the side of the characters. I’m not sure how to explain it well but I’ll try. While we have some conversation or the action in the front, in the background or the side there could be other characters or other things and sometimes these little words would pop up and serve as a comic relief and make you smile for a while. For example, when Akashi’s manly male advisor is ranting away about his girls doing well, notice sitting next to him is Sakurazawa with her monotonous face focusing on watching the game and then those words of “Ignoring him…” pop up. Get the picture? Many of such little instances happen in this series so in a way it makes the long match partly enjoyable because of this small comic distraction. Sometimes it may not be in words or just the facial expression of the characters. Like that appalling flabbergasted look on their face that they can’t believe the ridiculousness of what that person said.

All of last season’s seiyuus are returned with new ones being added such as Megumi Han as Sumire (Gon in Hunter x Hunter 2011), Miyu Irino as Tsukuba (Syaoran in Tsubasa Chronicle), Megumi Hayashibara as Sakurazawa (Lina in Slayers series), Ayahi Takagi as Rion (Rika in Sword Art Online), Sachi Matsumoto as Megumu (Yuuhi in Yozakura Quartet) and Mitsuki Saiga as Makoto (Phantom in MAR). Just like last season, the opening and ending themes are sung by the same group of people and they have this similar feel too. The opening theme, Star by 99RadioService is a lively rock piece that would possibly get you into the action pace of karuta. Asami Seto sings the ending theme, Akanezora and is a slow ballad just like last time. However this time it doesn’t bring to mind that she sounds like Madonna despite her voice remaining the same. Maybe I didn’t strain my ears as much as I did the last time… Also, the art and drawing are the same and from last season, that annoying white strip of line as the characters’ sideburns at certain angles is still present. It still annoys me but somehow I was more focused in the show so I didn’t notice it as much as before.

Sometimes the way they swing their hands to take the card and shown it in an exaggerated manner is also an amusing watch. It’s really fast that you can’t see (so they slow it down for us). It’s really furious the way they go in for the kill. It would be a big joke if the card flown away gets stuck in someone’s forehead. Or fly into the reader’s mouth. And the karuta players have this super sensitive hearing that they can tell what the next word is going to be read even before the reader says the first syllable. I mean, there are only 100 poems. How bad can it get? Bad for a person who can’t memorize even a few lines of one poem. So sharp their hearing that they could be the next spy agent when they retire. So quick their reflexes that they could beat hands down in a quick draw of the Wild West. So good their memorization skills that they could probably remember the entire country’s law and all the articles. Maybe if it was done karuta style, they could do it. The only thing I learnt was to take good care of my fingers. Because seeing Chihaya’s stitched fingers was enough to give me the creeps! I hope I don’t have such a condition because I type a lot of my anime blogs. Now I try to type slowly and gently and not so fast and furious…

Chihayafuru

January 27, 2013

Do you know the sports called karuta? No? I don’t blame you then. It’s only the kind of game that is played in Japan. I myself don’t really know much about this card game except that it involves matching verses of poems quicker than your opponents and usually played during New Year (as observed from some other animes). And no, karuta in this anime isn’t like those popular fantasy card games like Yugioh. Instead, Chihayafuru is about competitive karuta and I guess I could say that this is the first and only karuta themed anime ever.

For a person like me who knows nuts about karuta, why on Earth would I be watching something that I don’t understand? It’s not that I am interested in the game either. You know that I’m a sucker for a pretty face, right? Yeah. You can see where this is going, right? The protagonist, Chihaya Ayase is one hell of a beautiful girl. So pretty that she could easily beat all the Miss Universe participants without effort. But… Yes, a but. Wait till you hear her talk! And act! I wouldn’t go so far to label her as a retard or slow. More accurately, she lacks tact. It’s not that she is foul-mouthed or a bad person, it’s just that she lacks reservation and her honest-to-goodness means that when she wants to say something, she says it without hesitation. That’s not a bad thing but when in society, sometimes holding back and not saying the truth is necessary. Besides, she also displays a childish behaviour at times. That’s why most guys call her a waste of beauty. Ah well, nobody is perfect.

The story is simple. Chihaya spent most of her life supporting and admiring her elder sister Chitose who is equally beautiful but gets all the attention from the parents, media and others just because she’s a model. She never had a goal in life till she met this guy, Arata Wataya who is the grandson of a karuta Meijin (Master) and thus considered a future karuta genius. Before his departure, he introduces her to the world of karuta and before she knows it, she’s hooked in this game. Of course as we know, main protagonists of sports themed animes have some latent ability as we see Chihaya growing and improving in this competitive game, create her own karuta club and members as they aim to keep playing karuta at high competitive levels and with hope that she would one day meet Arata again.

Episode 1
Right off the bat, we see the guys admiring the beauty Chihaya is at high school. Till they start see her wearing track pants underneath her skirt. A grim reminder why nobody asked her out, eh? What was she doing with that getup? She’s going around school putting up posters for her karuta club recruitment. Despite in the track club, she joined just to make friends but her passion is still in karuta. Chihaya is happy to meet her childhood friend Taichi Mashima (another hot looking guy) who happened to be in the same school, Mizusawa. Seems that lots of things have happened since they were separated since middle school. Taichi seemingly have a girlfriend (much to Chihaya’s jealousy), Taichi is now in the football club and doesn’t think too highly of karuta as it is just a hobby and Chihaya noticing Arata wasn’t in last year’s Omi Jingu tournament (the ‘koushien’ of karuta). So we go back in time when they were still elementary students. Chihaya is so tomboyish that you may mistake her for a boy. Arata was a transfer student and because he rarely talks, the other students ostracized him and even start giving him names. But Chihaya’s doesn’t join the bullies and saw him in a different light.

One rainy morning, Arata does his usual morning papers delivery and he is shocked to see Chihaya waiting for him. Actually her sister’s picture came out in the newspaper (albeit just a small corner) and she’s eagerly waiting for it. In class, the teacher introduces them to karuta and Taichi is of course at the moment the best of the lot. The teacher also wonders if Arata would be in the tournament. That’s when Chihaya recognized him as the delivery boy. However this only allowed the other classmates to tease the poor boy he is. Even Taichi had a hand in bullying this kid. Because Chihaya kept siding on Arata’s side, she and Taichi got into a kiddie fight. Arata brings Chihaya back to his place to dry her clothes. He learns of her dream to see her sister become Japan’s top model. He points she should not take other people’s dream as dreams should be for oneself. Arata’s dream is to be the best karuta Master. He takes out his karuta set and invites Chihaya to play. She is stunned by his lightning speed and keen reflexes. She gets so obsessed in taking one card and when she finally does, she became so happy. Though she is frustrated she lost, Arata is happy because had fun playing karuta. Back in his hometown of Fukui, everyone plays karuta unlike here in Tokyo. So he is always playing by himself. Thus since Japan only plays this game, being Japan’s best means you are the best in the world. Arata points out the first card she took is the Chihayafuru verse card and to him he looks at it as a Chihaya card. Chihaya now is interested not only in karuta but she also knows Arata has a passion.

Episode 2
Taichi and the guys threaten to ignore Chihaya if she continues to talk to Arata. She pays no heed and sits next to him. Worried Taichi wants to know what is so good about that useless kid but Chihaya points out Arata is good at karuta so Taichi challenges him to a showdown at an upcoming karuta match. Taichi does well against his opponents but what is more amazing is everyone had their first glimpse of Arata’s lightning speed. They’re going to have second opinions about this kid. The final is between Taichi and Arata and Taichi realizes the odds he is against it so he did a dirty trick that will tilt the scales in his favour. He ‘accidentally’ sprays cola over him so that when he washes up, he steals his glasses (Arata is blind as a bat without them). Chihaya goes to find it for him but the match has already begun. Though Arata has a hard time seeing, he still aces and Taichi realizes he has memorized the positions of the cards. So he plays dirty once more to shift the cards and makes Arata to execute a foul. That’s when Chihaya forcefully trade places with Arata to play on his behalf. Can she? Well, since both sides agree I guess there is no harm. Besides, Taichi thinks Chihaya is weaker and his winning chance higher.

Chihaya’s playing seems unrefined and unconventional. She’s catching up and Taichi better pull it together. There is one card left on the board and it so happens to be the Chihayafuru card. Naturally Chihaya is faster to grab that card and wins the tournament. Chihaya didn’t feel the joy of winning. She just felt she had fun. Arata says she has talent for karuta and could be Queen, the female Master of karuta. I’m not sure if this is possible. Just because Chihaya played one match in the final halfway and beat Taichi, the champion title goes to her name. She is eager to tell her parents but they don’t have time since they’re focusing on the scout at their home who has seen Chitose’s beauty pageant. Even Chitose notes how boring and lame karuta is. What a spoil sport. Taichi on the other hand is having it tough from his mom too. She was filming his match and was planning to show his victory to dad but now that he got second place, it ruins everything. She forbids him to enter tournaments if he can’t win. Chihaya’s remarkable hearing ability leads her and Taichi to see Arata playing air karuta in the classroom by himself. They realize he doesn’t need glasses or cards because he can see everything. Chihaya goes to look for his glasses again so Taichi takes this opportunity to return it to him. He admits he stole them and Arata calls him a coward. They go find Chihaya and soon a friendship between the trio is made.

Episode 3
The trio visit the Shiranami Karuta Society in the middle of practice. Everyone here is serious. The chairman of this society, Dr Hidehiro Harada welcomes the trio because it’s hard to get karuta enthusiasts these days. Because another kid, Hiro Kinashi (nicknamed Retro by Chihaya) looks down on them, they take up the challenge in a team match despite Chihaya knowing nuts about the rules. Arata explains the rules but it seems like he’s playing it alone (Taichi and Chihaya are too slow to react and he wasn’t expecting much from them). So it becomes a competition among themselves and as expected, Arata takes in the most cards and Chihaya only got one. Arata realizes that Chihaya may be faster than him on first syllable cards. Oh, Hiro is forgotten. And lost. Harada gives a set of karuta cards for her to memorize since she is quite interested but Taichi seems to have doubts. He invites them to the last tournament they can play for their grade. I guess the only way is to train. Soon Chihaya finds out that Taichi is going to a different school for middle school. The distance means he can’t stay put and play karuta. Arata also needs to return to Fukui once he graduates since his grandpa is sick. The thought of not ever playing together causes Chihaya to be upset so she refuses to participate in the tournament and the guys start blaming themselves. After a little talk from Harada about Arata’s circumstances, Chihaya gets the motivation to join the tournament. He would feel sad if she quits karuta. On the match day, Arata is sick but he still continues to play. Chihaya shows up late but makes it in time. They even have a red team t-shirt and they name their team, Team Chihayafuru. Their first round opponent includes a fatty, Yuusei Nishida who mocks them. In the end they lost and Taichi blames himself if he only had won his match. But Chihaya is crying because she had so much fun that she wants to continue playing karuta together. After graduation, Taichi and Chihaya visit Arata who is in the midst of packing. They play one final karuta game together. Chihaya thanks him because now she truly loves karuta. When she manages to take a card from him, he starts crying. Thanking them for being able to play karuta with him, he doubts they will see each other again. But Chihaya remains positive. As long they keep playing karuta, they’ll be able to see each other.

Episode 4
Chihaya promises that they’ll meet again when they become Class A players. End of flashback. Taichi thinks Chihaya will take a few more years to move from Class B to Class A so she challenges him if she wins this upcoming tournament and moves up to that grade, he must help her start a karuta club. Taichi goes to see her play and Harada is happy to see him all grown up. But Taichi has his doubts of having a future in karuta since he is focusing on football. He feels that though he has practised and played karuta during middle school, he did become better but the thought of spending his entire youth on karuta without ever becoming better than Arata is what’s troubling him. Harada wants him to hold that thought for now. He also mentions how he helped Chihaya polished up her karuta skills. Chihaya wins her match and signals to Harada to buy chocolates so he made Taichi do the errands. Better hurry. What bad luck. The convenience store is closed and he had to spend a fortune on expensive ones. And Chihaya is devouring them like they were so cheap! As explained, the gruelling matches require intense concentration so much so playing karuta could lose up to 3kg! You need chocolates to recharge all that energy. After that, she instantly drops asleep. That tired, huh? In the final, Chihaya is up against Yasuda, who has been stuck in Class B for years so you can understand why he wants to move on to the next grade so bad. Because Chihaya’s face is easy to read, he quickly realizes the Chihayafuru card is her specialty and there is this folly whereby both sides keep exchanging this particular card after a foul. Both sides are playing aggressive karuta and won’t give in. Chihaya is pushing hard with the sole fact she wants to meet Arata. Finally the Chihayafuru card is read and Chihaya was the faster one to grab the card, thus winning the match. Chihaya hopes that Taichi would continue to play and become strong in karuta. Now that she has advanced to Class A, she calls Arata to relay the good news. I’m sure she has lots of things to say but Arata tells her off never to call him again. He has also stopped playing karuta. Oh my. How things changed.

Episode 5
So the only thing left to do is to go see him at Fukui. And she drags Taichi along with her. Well, he has to just to keep a watch on her. Heck, she couldn’t even buy a train ticket herself. Arriving at Arata’s doorstep, seems he isn’t in. His neighbour, Yuu points out he is working at a bookstore. As they rush over there, Chihaya ponders whether she should really see him. Unexpectedly, Arata himself cycles pass them. Chihaya chases after him and grabs him till he falls off! Arata brings her back to his home so she could wash herself up. He wants them to leave after she has dried herself. Not so welcoming, is he? Taichi is going to do that but Chihaya remembers she has written a letter to him. Sifting through her back, she sees her karuta set and suggests that they should play karuta. She enters the next room and starts placing the cards while getting nostalgic. However Arata kicks them away telling her off if she’s a retard because he told her he already stopped playing. Chihaya realizes in this room is an altar of Arata’s grandpa. Taichi takes Chihaya and leave. Yuu comes after them and wants them to take back their karuta cards and not leave them behind. It brings back sad memories. She explains that Arata’s grandfather who taught Arata everything about karuta had a stroke. Arata was supposed to take care of him on that fateful day he passed away. He was away at a tournament to advance to Class A and made it. He hasn’t touch karuta since then. Arata remembers grandpa telling him how the karuta god sometimes whispers the next syllable in your ear that’s why one could tell what the next card is after the first syllable is read. Arata thought if a karuta god existed, he would look like grandpa. Arata goes through the letter Chihaya wrote and apart from all the messy self notes she put in, he is taken aback when Chihaya writes he believes in him as a karuta god. The longer they are apart, the more he seems like a god. Arata disagrees he is one. All he wanted was to be their friend. Chihaya breaks down in the train, feeling guilty that she shouldn’t have come to see him. To her surprise, she sees Taichi cycling alongside the train, trying to catch up with them. The reason he didn’t want them to come see was because he didn’t want them to see what he has become. Chihaya is relived he doesn’t hate karuta so Taichi agrees to help her start a karuta club, become the best and wait for his return.

Episode 6
Chihaya and Taichi move the tatami mats they got free from a nice guy to the old student council room where it will be their club room. To be officially recognized as a club, they need to have 5 members. And there’s a potential one. Maybe. Kanade Ooe from the archery club is looking at the recruitment poster and dreams how Chihaya would look good in a hakama. She takes a peep and sees the intensity the duo are playing. Chihaya spots her and goes after her! Who wouldn’t run away in fear after seeing a ‘psycho’ going after you to join the club? Seems Kanade is a poem freak and knows the origins and in detail about the poems. She laments that she is in the archery club because their uniform is a hakama. Her family for generations has owned and run a traditional kimono clothing shop. Business is so bad that they can’t afford to make next year’s catalogue! If only people knew about the beauty of kimonos. Kanade returns to her club so Taichi feels her passion for poems is on a different level and that it won’t do any good if she plays competitive karuta. However Chihaya continues to be interested in her and is acting like a stalker! One day she is manning her shop while her parents are away for a meet, Chihaya drops in. She sees a very beautiful kimono pattern on display and reminds her of the verse in the Chihayafuru card so Kanade explains the real love story and meaning behind it. Chihaya is so impressed that she starts taking down notes. Yeah, all of them. Chihaya has never realized the colourful world behind those cards. Thanks to Kanade, she can now see colourful visions of each card and this makes it easier for her to spot and identify them quickly. Chihaya spots Kanade ‘spying’ outside again and hopes she could join. She will but on one condition. Chihaya becomes a model for the kimono catalogue and during matches, they have to wear them the hakama. After they clean up the club room, they start practising and Chihaya thanks Kanade because she has taught her that the Chihayafuru card is a poem about deep red love.

Episode 7
Kanade watches her seniors play and gets to know Chihaya’s odd habit of instantly falling asleep after matches. Taichi still knows he can’t beat Chihaya to first syllable cards after all these years. But she doesn’t know how to make adjustments on which cards have been taken. Since he doesn’t have the interest to become a Master, he doesn’t mind losing. Suddenly Chihaya gets up and goes scouting for a potential member. Tsutomu Komano is one of those nerds who cling on to his desk to study. Nothing but study. People call him names (including Tsukue-tomu which literally means Desk-tomu) but he is not bothered. However what irks him is that he is not number 1. That spot belongs to Taichi and he doesn’t study all day long like him. Plus, he is good looking too. Thus Tsutomu is the second smartest in the grade and the person Chihaya wants to join the club. He isn’t interested and sees no point. So Chihaya drags him to the club just to let him have a go. Hey! He’s still not letting go of his desk! Chihaya promises he’ll get smarter and get hooked on karuta since it is a mental game. Still not interested? He ups the challenge to play with the cards flipped over if karuta players boast about their excellent memory ability. They agree but Tsutomu doubts they can do that. When the game begins, Taichi has better memorization skills and starts thinking she might just beat Chihaya. Taichi wins all the cards in the end and leaves Chihaya frustrated. Tsutomu leaves without a word so Taichi goes after him. Tsutomu wonders if people like Taichi existed because he looks good, has talent and has friends. Unlike his case whereby he tried to help others out but they just copied his work and threw the book back at him. He thinks even if he becomes number 1, he won’t be let into the circle of friends. Taichi asks if he has become interested in karuta but he gets violent swinging his desk to make him stay away. He believes his place is behind his desk. Surprisingly Taichi takes his desk and throws it away! He admits he has no karuta talent and despite being tough, he continues to play. Despite he keeps losing, he keeps playing. He felt happy. Instead of a karuta genius, he would rather have a member who puts in effort. Those words hit the bull’s eye. Tsutomu abandons his desk and follows Taichi.

Episode 8
The quartet go on a recruiting spree but nobody seems interested. Suddenly Chihaya bumps into Porky. Who? That’s the nickname she gave to Nishida. So, he’s in their school and they never realized it? Because he has karuta experience, Chihaya becomes somewhat ‘desperate’ in wanting to make him join her club. Yeah, she jumps onto him! However Nishida isn’t interested as he is in the tennis club. Chihaya spies on him in his tennis training and man, he’s athletic and flexible for a fatty. But what surprises Chihaya is that she hears him spouting karuta verses as his timing. So she goes pester him again to join and the answer is the same. This affects Nishida’s concentration so he takes an early break from practice. He stops by the karuta club and asserts he isn’t here to join but just to check things out. That’s what they all say, right? Chihaya believes their club will be strong if they join but he laments they can never beat Arata no matter how strong they become. Taichi suggests he should play karuta with Chihaya. He agrees on a condition that if he wins, they’ll stop bugging him to join and will have to buy him pork buns (his favourite) for a month. Nishida still hasn’t lost his touch and in fact he feels lighter. Thanks to tennis? It made him remember how he once loved karuta. Till he faced Arata in the finals and lost badly. It made him remember the difference in their level. So he ran away. Nishida makes a great start (because it is easy reading Chihaya’s expressions) but Chihaya makes a comeback and wins. Nishida wonders if this was how he used to play karuta but he gets up and leaves despite Taichi offering him to join. Chihaya thanks him for playing with her and will stop bugging him to join. The tennis club’s advisor, Taeko Miyauchi spots Nishida leaving and is not too happy because she thought he was skipping tennis practice. Nishida surprises everyone that he wants to quit the tennis club and wants to play karuta. Karuta is still his passion and tennis can’t replace that. Miyauchi expects him to hand his resignation form in. I guess that’s the green light. The gang are delighted but Nishida has another request. She wants Chihaya to stop calling him Porky! Okay, Porky. I don’t think she gets it.

Episode 9
The gang hand in their official members to Miyauchi and she has no qualms in approving it. Just a condition. She doesn’t want Chihaya to be the president. Damn. She will also be the temporary advisor for the club. The rest vote for Taichi to be one but Chihaya wouldn’t give up and becomes the captain. Uh. What? So who ranks higher? They begin practice so the beginners are matched up against their seniors. The difference in gap is too different as they aren’t shown any mercy. Chihaya states that the first opponent he played didn’t go easy on her. If he did, she wouldn’t have loved karuta as she does now. She wants them to become stronger too and participate in the Nationals, which is Omi Jingu. So the amateurs practice and learn more points of the game. Even Kanade manages to get her first card. They also need to build stamina and since they don’t have much time after classes, a training camp is suggested. Taichi’s home is suggested since his parents are away at Kobe for a wedding. They can play karuta for long periods and with the holidays, they can play all weekend. The gang takes a look in a room filled with trophies won by Taichi. He excels in all sorts of lessons his parents made him took. But Chihaya doesn’t like Taichi’s mother and calls her Mrs Pressure because she doesn’t like it when her son didn’t win. Chihaya has come up with a schedule. A gruelling one indeed. They’ll play 15 matches a day! It becomes tiring for the amateurs and it is turning out to be dreadful. They’re losing motivation so Taichi had to put his foot down to Chihaya that it is enough for today for them. While resting, suddenly Taichi’s mom comes home (because Taichi’s sister insisted on coming home). Chihaya and Kanade go into hiding since his mom would never allow girls to stay overnight. Chihaya brings Kanade (who has fallen asleep) back to her home. Suddenly Chihaya comes alive and takes Chihaya to the riverbank where they meet up with the guys. Chihaya apologizes first for being pushy but the rest don’t mind because they see her so earnest about karuta and need to work hard. The other reason Chihaya is brought here is because to throw her a surprise birthday cake. When Taichi says as long as Chihaya has a smile on her face, karuta will be fun, she gets emotional. Suddenly Taichi gets an SMS. He never expected this one from Arata. So it was a total surprise when Chihaya was shown the message wishing her a happy birthday. The best birthday present she’s got ever.

Episode 10
The Mizusawa karuta club guys are participating in their first tournament. The road to Omi Jingu begins. Yeah, they’re attracting attention because of the kimonos they are wearing. They’re really dressed for the part. Also in this Tokyo region qualifier (which has to most participants) is a nostalgic face, Hiro who is at Hokuo Academy, supposedly the strongest karuta house in this region. In this team match, Mizusawa isn’t being grouped with Hokuo, which has 2 players in the Class A category. During the matches, Tsutomu becomes agitated and frustrated. He spent all his time practising but is unable to produce the desired results. He becomes even more depressed when Kanade even notches her first win. Not only that, Nishida had this though of putting Tsutomu and Kanade as sacrifice to play their opponent’s best players. Mizusawa win all their group matches to advance to the next round. During the break, Tsutomu snaps. He wants to go home. He blows his top he is only here because they needed 5 people to make it to the finals because there is someone she wants to meet. They don’t need him or Kanade. Taichi allows him to skip this match (because he can’t take cards with this mindset) but wants him to play in the final. In the semi-final match against Tomihara West (I don’t even know how this is allowed, 5 against four. Of course the other team has a walkover victory), Chihaya’s mind becomes clouded because she never considered how Tsutomu feels. Besides, Tomihara West is making lots of noise after each snatch so it’s like intimidating their opponents. Tsutomu is sitting alone when he hears a couple of boys talking how Chihaya isn’t at her usual best and might even lose. Tsutomu tells them off she is just starting and darts off. The pressure on Chihaya means that she even starts forgetting how to take cards. Taichi as the leader needs to bring his members together and does what is needed to give them motivation to fight back. Chihaya pulls herself together and makes a comeback and nails the winning move when she hears Tsutomu cheering for her. Kanade catches up with Tsutomu and lets him realize that their opponents have tatami mark calluses on their feet. It is prove that they’ve been practising for years so it makes sense that they can’t beat them now. That’s why they need to practise. Tsutomu apologizes for everything and congratulates Kanade over her first win. He hopes he will be given another chance. Of course. They’re a team.

Episode 11
Mizusawa will be facing Hokuo in the final so they are trying to predict their Class A players. Instead of worrying about their opponent’s order, Chihaya comes up with an order that has Taichi in the middle (to look out for everyone) while herself and Nishida will be on the outsides to support Tsutomu and Kanade sandwiched in the middle. She got this idea after observing Tomihara West. Arata working at the bookstore gets permission to check his emails (as long as it’s not porn as quipped by the manager) and is surprised his mail is flooded with spam! Actually, they’re messages from Chihaya. Any slight news she sends one to him. The match begins (Harada making it in time to watch them play) and Chihaya is up against the best player in town, Class A, Akito Sudou who is also a sadist (in karuta sense). Chihaya is no pushover, though. Nishida is up against another Class A player, Nayuta Amakasu. Nishida remembers Nayuta was in the same karuta society with him but Nayuta was a beginner then despite being older than him. He is frustrated that he has surpassed him. Hokuo puts up a tough fight but Mizusawa continues to hold their ground. Tsutomu and Kanade made early exits and Hokuo is just one win away from being champions again. Hiro thinks it’s his turn to make the winning move for Hokuo but he slips up and picks the wrong card, giving Mizusawa’s first win to Taichi. The pressure is building up on Sudou when Nayuta loses his match to Nishida. He is pressured to take everyone especially the club’s advisor Mochida (he looks more like a student), the one who thought him all about karuta, to the Nationals. Maybe he was thinking too much that Chihaya took the final card and wins it for her team. He couldn’t understand how she was so fast in taking that last card, the Chihayafuru card. Arata receives a new mail on Mizusawa’s victory and to come see them at Omi Jingu.

Episode 12
As Mizusawa is crowned champions, it is sad for Hokuo who won’t be representing Tokyo at Omi Jingu. Especially Hiro who is breaking down. Back home, Chitose’s blunder on a quiz show upstages Chihaya’s victory. Chihaya also lets Miyauchi know about their victory but she has her hands full with her tennis club (which she is more interested in) and would let her colleague Shibata to follow them. When Chihaya hears that Tsutomu’s grade has dropped, she quickly goes to beg and apologize. However he doesn’t seem fazed. He doesn’t care about grades now. So till the Omi Jingu, they need to practice against stronger players and what better place than to do so at the karuta society. Nishida and the amateurs will be practising at the former’s karuta society of Suihoku since he feels his old coach is really good. Chihaya and Taichi return to train at Shiranami whereby Harada once more is glad to teach them finer points and play a game with them. Chihaya lost by 15 cards. She gets disheartened and feels afraid of the Nationals and starts thinking about the what-ifs. What if they lost so and so. Taichi shows her the secret guide that Hiro compiled over the years he reluctantly gave to him for Omi Jingu. There is no reason to be ashamed of beating a team fair and square. Chihaya returns home and her family has left a message they’ll be away to support Chitose. She takes a look at today’s newspaper and notices the article on her karuta win is cut out. Realizing that next to volumes after volumes of scrapbook articles on Chitose that her dad keeps, there is one scrapbook on Chihaya! She remembers her father’s goal to collect clippings about her daughters. So he’s not just one-sided after all. She gets emotional buy hey! Don’t let your tears soak the pages! Kanade tries arranging the cards the way she likes it (based on seasons) but Nishida reminds her Omi Jingu can be overwhelming. Kanade snaps when Nishida can’t recite the entire poem she suggested. Chihaya calms her down that nobody said the meaning of poems is important. But they have a duty to play competitive karuta so as to properly represent Tokyo region. Miyauchi passes by the club and sees them practising hard. She hears Kanade’s beautiful insight on the poetic cards and it opened her eyes. Though she barges in to tell them off for staying too late, she also takes the trophy from Chihaya (who is having problems of finding the right place to put it) and will put it at the trophy case in front of the principal’s office. Miyauchi becomes interested in karuta and even takes up a book to read up on it. She shocks Shibata that she will be going to Omi Jingu instead.

Episode 13
The gang pray at the shrine at Omi Jingu. Chihaya prays to God that she doesn’t want a miracle but keep her comrades safe. For the group matches, Mizusawa is lucky not to be placed in any powerhouse but to Chihaya’s dismay, Arata is not even registered for the individual tournament. Tsutomu would gladly be the sacrifice and wants to be matched up against the opponent’s strongest player. As long as the team wins he is okay. The first match starts but Chihaya is feeling uncomfortable. One minute she’s hot, the next she feels cold. She wonders if God had heard her prayers. Arata is making his way to Omi Jingu when he remembers when grandpa had a stroke. It got worse when it happened again and though his life was saved, he lost his memories and couldn’t recognize Arata. He continued to take care of his ailing grandpa and forgo playing in karuta tournaments till one day grandpa saw a picture of a hakama and for that moment he regained his memories back, asking why Arata wasn’t participating in a tournament. He knew Arata wanted to go and made him do it. That’s of course the last time he saw grandpa. Arata enters the hall to see Chihaya in her match. She suddenly collapses so Taichi had no choice but to forfeit her and leave her in Arata’s hands. Chihaya wakes up with Arata by her side. She wants to go back in the game but he wants her to rest. Besides, there is no way they would let her back in. She becomes frustrated and breaks down. Soon she is taken to a nearby emergency room. Yoshioka of the Karuta Federation recognizes Arata and thought he was participating this year. He is glad he is able to see his grandpa’s karuta style again because their playing is so alike. Arata realizes he still loves playing karuta. Chihaya is freaked out to see Sudou outside her room. He is here to participate in the individual tournament and chides Chihaya for not representing Tokyo properly. Her comrades come to see her. Tsutomu relays the good news he won his first match but they lost in the play-offs. Despite so, they want to play more karuta. Though Chihaya feels frustrated she couldn’t do anything (especially to show how much she has improved to Arata), Taichi shows her a gift from Arata. It’s not the gift that they are surprised but a personal message from Arata on the box itself to meet in a match next time.

Episode 14
For the individual tournament, the players will be separated by class and there are about 400 participants. Looking at the match-up board, Sudou tells Chihaya to be careful of Shinobu Wakamiya, the youngest Queen in karuta history. Hmm… I thought she looked a bit like Amagami SS’ Kaoru. Seems Sudou and Shinobu know each other and they exchange ‘pleasantries’. In the first match, Shinobu plays against Nayuta. He only managed to take a card and the match ended early. Yeah. That’s the true strength of the Queen. Fearsome. Nayuta’s a dead zombie. Hope he isn’t traumatized for life. For the next round, everyone is so fearful of her and hopes to avoid her. But not Chihaya. She wants to play her and gets her wish. Is this fate? During her match, Chihaya is made to realize the difference in their level. She is so fast that she didn’t even see her move! Miyauchi can’t believe she can’t even capture anything on her camcorder! Taichi wins his match via walkover and goes to see Chihaya. Well, Chihaya has fallen behind by 10 cards and the gap is growing. She hasn’t even taken a card so the spectators felt sorry for her and felt she was in a middle of a public execution. Shinobu realizes her opponent losing enthusiast and it has always been like that. They start all fired up but when they start playing against her and lose hope, it’s like she is playing karuta all by herself again. It might be too late for Chihaya to realize but better late than never because she just realized Shinobu is left handed. So after lots of deep thinking and great determination, she manages to snatch a card from Shinobu. And another one! Two in a row!

Episode 15
There’s this scary look on Shinobu that sends shivers down every spectator’s spine! We’re not watching Ju-on, aren’t we?! Shinobu breaks Chihaya’s grove by taking a card but Chihaya gets the next. Since the field of cards is narrowing, it is easier on Chihaya to pinpoint the cards. But the match soon ends with Shinobu taking her final card. When she leaves the hall, she goes straight to the match-up board to find out Chihaya’s name. She becomes ‘scary’ and is determined not to let her take a single card next time. When Chihaya bumps into her, she comments about her cute snowman design on her t-shirt and this loosens the tension between them. In the Class A finals, Shinobu beats Sudou, ending his dreams of at least winning the coveted title before he graduates. Chihaya and the rest go to cheer on Taichi who is in the finals for Class B. Taichi is doing his usual analysis on the cards that were read and those that are still in play but he finds it hard to concentrate. He realizes his hand can’t keep up with his mind. In the end, he lost by 3 cards. Though he is disappointed but felt he did well enough, his comrades couldn’t be more disappointed. Yeah, they’re so obvious in their textbook display of disappointment. During the trophy presentation ceremony, Miyauchi notes how it is hard for them to accept defeat but they’re not consoling each other either. As they head back, they take their final bow and pay respect to the Omi Jingu shrine which is beautifully reflecting the stars of the sky. Back at school, the quintet start their stamina training with jogging because that is what they have identified as their weakness. As everyone continues practising karuta, Arata goes to see Kuriyama and wishes to join Fukui Nagumo Karuta Society.

Episode 16
This is a recap or more accurately an abridged version of the series. You cut out several important scenes from the flashback of how Chihaya met Arata and got hooked on karuta to the forming and recruiting of karuta club and members to the regional qualifiers and the Omi Jingu. But this is just around 15 minutes because the balance is filled with nonsensical shorts in between the rerun. For example, it starts off with Chitose’s evil intention to selfishly obtain Chihaya’s portion of New Year’s allowance by claiming kids above 10 years old don’t receive them anymore. And she believed it. So uses the extra income to buy clothes and after all, all the clothes Chihaya wears are hand-me-downs. Evil! Even Arata had this thought so they point out to Taichi that he is a lawbreaker for receiving the money. Though his friends didn’t think so, after they hear he received a handsome sum, they too label him a lawbreaker! The other silly segments include the Mizusawa karuta gang describing each other (Kanade’s description of Taichi that he is a Jack of all trades but master of none must’ve hurt a lot); The different labels on Nishida’s t-shirt (why are they food servings? Each time they get bigger and bigger) and it is his sister who makes their team t-shirts; The guys asking Taichi which of the girls he would rather date (they vote for Kanade) and they think he should confess it would be Kanade because Chihaya is just out of the question; Taichi striking back that they are into Kanade just because of her boobs but they counter that they can’t picture themselves dating Chihaya because all she ever thinks is karuta. Damn right. I guess Taichi also votes for Kanade then; A classmate asking Chihaya and Kanade the person they would date. Guess what? Chihaya picks Kanade! The classmate is furious and wants it to be a guy and not necessary a karuta member. Then again she changes her mind seeing that she doesn’t want her to give anything away that will spoil the story!

Episode 17
The karuta club qualifies for Mizusawa’s club relay finals for the sports festival. Think they’re not the athletic kind? Think again because they’re giving the track club a run for their money. Chihaya makes a great start and despite Tsutomu’s lack of speed, Nishida as the anchor makes a great comeback to win it for the club! Porky can really run! However that attempt was to attract newcomers to the club. Didn’t work. Taichi comes in with a list of individual competitions left throughout the year that they need to improve themselves. Halfway through, he gets a call from his girlfriend and he is cool in breaking up! The rest must be really shocked, huh? Not the breakup, but rather he has (or now, had) a girlfriend! We see Kanade practising her swings and Chihaya giving advice on her sitting posture. Tsutomu is glad he gave karuta a chance because he can change not only mentally and physically unlike others who saw how complicated it was and turned it down before trying. Chihaya is also practising her swings but it’s scaring the public! Taichi and Nishida are disheartened to see each other at Kanazawa qualifier. They thought they were sneaky behind each other’s back to get promoted to Class A. Hiro is also there but nobody gives a damn about him. Chihaya trains further under Harada and though she has improved after battling Shinobu, she still hasn’t cut down on her mistakes. Thus Harada tells her to stop taking cards with her speed. It’s understandable that Taichi and Nishida are depressed over their lost but Chihaya too? Yeah, Harada’s words are still ringing in her ears and she doesn’t understand what it means. She wanted to be fast but he told her she need not be that because it doesn’t matter if she can take a few cards fast. If she loses the other cards, she loses the match. No use moping around so they practice among themselves. Though Chihaya wins against Tsutomu, the latter seems to be keeping data and statistics of sections of the board he is able to take cards from Chihaya in all their previous meetings. He notes she has trouble with 3 syllable cards and should place it in an area she has least chance of taking. Kanade even points out Chihaya makes lots of faults because she wants to take a card fast. So now it’s poem appreciation time as she explains 2 cards with nearly similar poems (only separated by 200 years between them!). In the end, what karuta is to Kanade is the meaning of poems and this made Chihaya realize that karuta for her is speed. Miyauchi sees a shocking scene she never would have imagined happening: Chihaya in the library reading up on the meanings of the poems! Well, that’s a good start now that she realizes speed isn’t just enough.

Episode 18
Chihaya and the rest are playing in their first official tournament that isn’t limited to high school students at Saitama. Chihaya faces off with a sweet elderly lady, Sakura Kanai who praises her hakama. Trying to make an aggressive start, Chihaya screws up, snatching the wrong cards with her lightning speed. Sakura is just cool and slow taking the right ones. Though she praises her speed, she also says the faster they are, the higher chance they get mixed up. Harada’s words suddenly start to make sense to her. After a streak of dead cards, Chihaya continues to make faults. She needs to rethink when Sakura says it feels like she’s playing against the cards only. Then it hit Chihaya that Sakura has been observing her playing style and making it hard for her. Partly I think Chihaya’s actions were easy to read like a book by anybody. Remembering Tsutomu’s analysis, Chihaya moves back a little since she realizes her habit of using too much force for going after every card. Sakura observes her character and continues to confuse her and seeing her agonizing face is just music to her ears. Chihaya realizes she needs to observe her karuta play as well and finally notices about the 3 syllable timing. Though she claws her way back, Chihaya lost by 3 cards. Later she meets Sakura and her family to thank her. She learns Sakura has been playing karuta for 35 years. Though she has never won any major titles and kept losing to younger players, she still harbours the dream to become Queen. More importantly, she loves playing karuta. Now the ‘worst’ part for Chihaya. Since she has been reduced to a spectator, she is torn to see the final match of Class B between Taichi and Nishida, and final match of Class D between Kanade and Tsutomu! Oh sh*t! Hiro is also here to observe them because he is going to learn and take whatever he can get from the winners. Kanade makes an impressive start as Chihaya realizes it may be her grace in wearing kimono that is helping to support her posture. Tsutomu also has analyzed Kanade and knows her quirks from all the data and observations from her. He knows Kanade recognizes the cards not by its syllable but its history and value behind them. Though everything is too fast for Chihaya to catch, she realizes that she is not here just to watch or support them as their captain. She’s going to learn and take whatever she can.

Episode 19
Chihaya observes Tsutomu has made 2 faults and it is not just cards that you lose when you made them. You lose your composure and focus too. So much so he sent the wrong card over to Kanade. Chihaya knows Tsutomu’s tendency to give up when he is losing and looks forward to the next match. Only that there is no more next match! This is the finals. Tsutomu is down by 8 cards and needs to strategize. He lumps the cards on his side to one corner so that when the cards are read, he can just hit them all away (as I read, if you touch the correct card on your side even if there are incorrect ones, it is not a fault). He is gambling that his cards are being read. This tactic allows him to close the gap. But in the end it is Kanade who wins. Tears of joy. Not even Chihaya can hold hers back. But that soon turns into horror because she totally forgot the other important match between Taichi and Nishida so she bugs Hiro for an update. They’re both down to a card each and it boils down to luck on whose card is to be read first. The tension is growing with a streak of dead cards being read. Taichi’s mind is tired but he is trying to analyze the cards that have been read and are still in play. Taichi instead of playing defensive surprises everyone by being offensive but of course all the cards read so far are dead cards. In the end it was Nishida’s card that was read and being on his side means he was faster in getting it. Nishida wins by a single card. Though it is understandable that Taichi feels bitter over his defeat, he tries not to blame Nishida (because unlike him, he didn’t know what cards were left). Nishida comes to cheer him up that he is glad he is the club’s president unlike a certain captain that gives them weird nicknames. Oh, see the shock on Chihaya’s face when she heard that? Nishida wants to continue playing karuta with him. On the way back, Chihaya tries hard to call her friends via their real names. Sounds so unnatural. As pointed out, the top 3 finalists in Class D gets promoted so Tsutomu has also advanced to the next class. Chihaya notes Kanade’s improvement in the match and could take cards without making a sound and too much force. She wished she could do that but the rest point out Chihaya did that during the last card against Sudou. She doesn’t remember. Unbelievable! Kanade notes she didn’t feel so much pressure because she was playing with Tsutomu and wasn’t focused on winning. Chihaya wants to play a team match with everyone with them. They can hardly wait since they’ve gotten stronger since. Arata sees the result at Saitama and decides he will be participating for the west Master qualifier.

Episode 20
Miyauchi forbids Chihaya to participate in the last major tournament at Yoshino before the Master/Queen qualifier. That’s because she has her first exam the next day. She needs to give some thought about her future or doom she will have to repeat her year. She already has assigned a tutor for her: Tsutomu. Nishida also wants some help. So Taichi is going by himself but Nishida points out official standards would allow Class B to advance if they are placed second twice. However most karuta society rules would prefer them to win a major tournament. At the tournament, Taichi not only runs to Harada but Arata. Their first meeting ever since Fukui. Arata passes a note containing his contacts to Taichi. He thought he would be in Class A but since he’s not, he wants him to pass it to Chihaya. Speaking of that girl, she gives Tsutomu the slip and sneaks out to go cheer for Taichi. Divine retribution has it that she took the train in the wrong direction. That’s what you get for skipping your responsibilities despite her reasoning she doesn’t want Taichi to be alone when he wins or loses. By the time she arrives, Taichi has already lost in the third round. When he tells her Arata is playing, she enters the hall to see him in action. Looks like he hasn’t lost his touch but he is up against Taichi’s comrade from Shiranami, Hiroshi Tsuboguchi. Taichi’s jealousy rears its ugly head again, in a dilemma whether to give the note to Chihaya or not. In the end Arata loses the match but it left Hiroshi stunned because he thought Arata reached it first. After some emotional support from Taichi, we see Chihaya frantically trying to write down everything in her notebook. Finally she calms down but before she manages to talk, furious Kanade arrives to drag her back. Yeah, they’re going to study on the train. Not a moment to waste. Taichi passes the note back to Arata so that he could give it to Chihaya himself. But he is worried that the duo might be a couple so Taichi denies they are anything near that. When Chihaya gets back, Tsutomu tells her how Taichi always get top grades. If he doesn’t, he’ll have to quite karuta. With the remarks she doesn’t need to do anything she doesn’t want to do before she can do the things she truly wants to do, Chihaya is all fired up to study. She should put more effort into her studies like this as she did for karuta. Harada offers Taichi to be promoted to Class A since he was placed second in 2 Class B summer tournaments so he can play in the east qualifier. But Taichi rejects it because he is not focused on making into Class A but rather someone who doesn’t run away.

Episode 21
With the exams over, it’s more karuta practice. The gang notice something surprising when Taichi read the cards. He memorized every one of them and is reciting them randomly from his memory without looking at them! So Nishida ‘reprimands’ him about using his eyes and practice his swinging because karuta is about playing both the body and mind (I thought that sounded pervy). The good news is that Miyauchi announces Chihaya did not fail any exam. But what motivates Chihaya was Miyauchi’s support for her for the Queen qualifier. Inside the building for the qualifier, Chihaya is super focused. Till Sudou had to point out ‘the person who lost to Queen by 20 cards’. Struck a nerve, didn’t he? Chihaya also gets back at him that she beat him. They challenge each other whoever loses first will shave their head. Didn’t think about that one thoroughly, no, Chihaya? I guess all her focus just went down the drain. Also, Harada forbids Kanade to make Chihaya wear the kimono because the intense heat in this building will be a killer. Though many tournaments will be played in air-conditioned rooms, this one is played tightly shut without even fans. Why? Because every sound matters. Nishida is paired with Sudou in the first round and Chihaya against Ririka Tachikawa who is said to be a genius and the next Queen after Shinobu. And she’s only 10 years old. Don’t take her lightly. Harada and Hiroshi receive first round byes so they watch Chihaya at play. Hiroshi wonders why Harada prevented Chihaya from using her best weapon which is speed.

When the match starts, Ririka was super fast to take a card that it stunned Chihaya. Reminds you of Shinobu, eh? But Chihaya observes her play and finally matches her timing and takes a card. She realizes what Harada and Sakura’s words meant. Ririka sulks whenever Chihaya hits a streak. “She got the card but she’s slow…”. I think Chihaya’s hearing is as good as hers to pick that up. Ririka makes several faults on dead cards but Chihaya keeps her calm. By the way, Nishida already lost at this point. Harada gives Chihaya the signal to use her speed. Now she turns into a totally different person. It’s like even before the first syllable is read, she already took the card! Did you see that coming?! Ririka is on the verge of tears… In the end, Chihaya wins but both girls are trying to hold back their tears. Ririka draws a lucky mark on Chihaya’s palm. She hears people talking she’s not good as the rumours said she were to be the next Shinobu so Chihaya interrupts and shuts them up by yelling for chocolates. She’s devouring them! So unlady-like. So worrying… Chihaya believes there was someone for Ririka who first encouraged her like how Arata did for her. She has always treasured that memory. Elsewhere, Arata got past the first round but learns his senpai Murao has lost to somebody younger. I guess he hasn’t had much practice lately. Looks like all hopes are pinned on Arata because Murao notes even though Nagumo has lots of potential karuta players, not many can be Master. He views Arata as just a challenger because the current Master, Hisashi Suou can’t be defeated. Arata gets a mail from Taichi about Chihaya’s advancement and a ‘reminder’ he better be the western qualifier finalist because his goal is to be the eastern qualifier finalist.

Episode 22
Chihaya is in a frantic as she tells Harada her next opponent is Yumi Yamamoto. Who? The previous Queen. Oh sh*t. However Yumi seems gloomy and pessimistic. She’s sizing up how pretty Chihaya looks and all. Since Yumi is from the same society with Nishida, Taichi wants to know more about Yumi’s play. Unfortunately Nishida still haven’t recovered from that sadistic lost by 20 cards from Sudou. When he does, he says the real Yumi isn’t like that. She settled down and took it easy ever since she became Queen but her real play is being stubborn and persistent. Before he can reveal anything further, Suihoku’s coach, Kitano drags him away to cheer for Yumi. As the play begins, Chihaya doesn’t make any mistake while Yumi is left to reflect her ownself. She worked hard for 10 years to become Queen but that lasted only a year as Shinobu snatched the title away from her. The heat is getting intense that the windows are fogging up! Chihaya notices the calluses on Yumi’s hands and knows she’s been playing karuta since young. However because of her lack of passion and ironically in a room where the heat is getting hotter, her soul is getting colder. She won’t let this person take a card from her. Yumi further thinks back after her loss to Shinobu, Kitano gave her encouragement she can exact her revenge next year. But the more tournaments she participate, the earlier she exits them. Nishida realizes that it isn’t tired of losing nor has she lost her passion. Rather, she is tired of meeting expectations.

Meanwhile Kanade is saddened that everyone isn’t listening to the poems. Except for the reader whose voice is clear and maintains her professional composure. Tsutomu adds that readers undergo training and exams that there are less than 10 special readers who qualify to read for the Master match. Chihaya makes a wrong move and a double fault on her Chihayafuru card which brings relief to Yumi. Suddenly Kitano opens the window to let the air in. He argues with the officials that the heat is killing them and should wipe the windows (or else the spectators can’t see anything from outside). He tells Yumi to play her own karuta. Though she gets her confidence back, she is dismayed that the cool air also refreshed Chihaya and his words gave hope to other simpletons to play their own karuta. In a match that has both of them touching the cards at the same time, Yumi argues loudly that it is her little finger that touched the card though Chihaya claims that she knocked it over. Chihaya gives in to her persistence. This is the real Yumi. The one who stubbornly contests every card that are close call with absolute confidence. This happens frequently as Chihaya no choice has to submit to her. With Yumi back in her groove, Chihaya starts losing her confidence. In the end, Yumi wins and this leaves Chihaya depressed.

Episode 23
I know Chihaya is upset but does she have to go hide in the locker? Sudou isn’t forgiving either and wants a picture of her shaved head. When Harada learns about this, he challenges Sudou that if he wins, the bet is off. Taichi sits by the locker and thought news of Arata’s advancement would cheer her up. At least she’s replying. Knocking on the locker? Is she sending Morse code? Chihaya finally comes out when the fourth round match has Harada paired with Sudou. I guess they have to go cheer on him. That’s when we hear Taichi saying to himself that he likes Chihaya. Yeah, we figured that out like many episodes ago. Harada wins the match and Chihaya gets to keep her hair. However he tells her no matter how upset she is, she must thank her opponent, something she didn’t do when she lost to Yumi. In the end, Hiroshi and Yumi become Master and Queen respectively to represent the east and they will take on their western counterparts in a best-of-3 match to earn the right to face this year’s Master and Queen. And what is this? Chihaya getting hit on by a guy from another school? Can’t blame him. He doesn’t know. Chihaya doesn’t know what to do since this is her first time! Should she? Should she not? Well, Taichi seems pretty jealous though he ‘allows’ her to go out for experience but doubts it will last since he knows she can’t go out with those who haven’t seen her play karuta. Yeah well, Chihaya’s getting lots of mail from that guy already so Taichi blocks his address! There you go, his true colours.

Chihaya meanwhile wonders if she should call Arata too. He lost in the fourth round and wonders how he is feeling. Arata needs more practice but it seems nobody in his society dares to play with him. He is desperate enough to seek Murao’s help but that guy can’t help him. For a guy who abandoned karuta and then come back asking his help? Feels odd doesn’t it? Arata knows because he’s been through it and lack of practice means you’ll regret it one day if you stay away too far from karuta. But Murao knows he can’t play at that level to become Master anymore. All he plays for is for fun. Chihaya and Taichi attend the east versus west Master/Queen karuta challenge. In the end, Hiroshi lost to Keichi Takemura but Yumi wins. Hiroshi emotionally breaks down when Harada comes to see him. This bitterness of losing Chihaya knows it too well. Chihaya’s friend is worried about her. No, not her studies (she’s glad she ranked 290th in her grade!), but her social life since she’s spending too much time on karuta. Chihaya is forced to attend their class’ Christmas Eve party and what do you know? She really looks cute and pretty in that dress! She talks with the other classmates who are in lesser known clubs and they thank her because of the karuta club, it gave them inspiration to do their best. Taichi too attends his class party but I think he felt he got screwed because he’s the only guy around! After the party, Chihaya calls Arata. She is lost for words but Arata who is in the midst of his society’s party, knows it is her. Finally when she manages to say something, she tells him the awesomeness of handphones and some poetry thingy that has to do with the misty bridge. Huh?

Episode 24
Chihaya is over at Taichi’s home to watch the Master/Queen finals. I guess it’s because he has a 42 inch TV, eh? But Chihaya is getting nervous because Taichi’s mom is watching her. Their other friends arrive to watch the match together and they are surprised to see the defending Queen, Shinobu fat! MY GOODNESS!!! SHE’S SO FAT!!!!!!!! What happened?! While Kanade is more appalled about her choice of kimono, Chihaya notices some rare cards obtained by eating ice cream and collecting its stickers. Maybe that’s how she got fat. Will this affect her play because now she has additional body weight. Well, apparently not because Shinobu wins the first match of the best-of-3 match by 5 cards. Shinobu thinks back on her past. Her mother divorced when she was young and they went back to live with grandma on a condition that she finds a talent and becomes good at it. Though she is good in many things, she does them in a quirky way. Till she finds the drawings on the karuta card amusing, did grandma tell her to go to a nearby karuta society if she’s interested. The second round begins as Yumi puts forth her plan. Her sensei and her society members have done their homework and realize Shinobu cannot last in long matches so if she drags the match, her chance of recapturing her title will be brighter.

Shinobu realizes it is not the weight of her kimono that is affecting her. She needs to buck up or else the karuta cards will hate her. Flashback reveals her classmates find her creepy in starring at those cards all day long. So they played a prank by hiding them everywhere. But Shinobu didn’t cry and went to find all of them instead. And she found them all with ease. If not, the cards ‘come’ to her. That’s why just as she loves karuta, karuta also loves her. Despite Yumi making a great start, Shinobu gradually claws her way back, regains control of the game and wins by 13 cards. Yumi heads back to her room feeling frustrated. Despite knowing she had no chance against Shinobu, yet many of her supporters came all the way from Tokyo to cheer her. She starts crying but realizes they are eavesdropping from the next room. She hopes her sensei could help her out again as she wants to come back here next year. Now that the Queen’s match is over, the attention is focused on the Master’s match. Though it is running concurrently with the Queen’s match, it is best-of-5 match. And the defending Master, Suou (who hasn’t even graduated from college yet) has already won 2 straight games. His opponent Takemura is at his limit. He can’t take this anymore. He has worked so hard to achieve his dream and now he is beginning to hate karuta. If Suou wins this match, he will be Master for the fourth consecutive year. Nishida wants Chihaya to watch this match because her style is closer to Suou. Then everyone sees him pulling off the fastest move. Just as it seemed the reader hasn’t said the first syllable, his hand has already moved to the correct card. And the commentator mentions that most players have only 7 one-syllable cards but to Suou, he has 28 of them!

Episode 25
Suou continues to dominate the match and he is pulling off this extraordinary feat without much sweat. I’m sure the audiences are still so stunned that he reached the cards so fast but to him it must be the umpteenth boring same ol’, same ol’. So what is this guy? Is he a psychic?! Arata is also watching the match and tries visualizing playing against Suou. Of course reality bites. There’s only a limit on how confident you can be. In the end, Suou easily wins and defends his title. Yumi’s coach notes this year’s Master and Queen are very good and in a class of their own but have no teacher figures. He feels it’s a waste because they can’t be teachers. And Taichi and his friends are so depressed… It’s not like they’re the one who lost, right? I know. They can’t beat the Master at this rate, right? When they leave, Tsutomu cheers Chihaya up by saying she has 20 one-syllable cards. Taichi calls Arata and asks him about the Master’s match. Arata has asked some people in Nagumo and to help him better understand the way the Master plays, he is practising and learning how he lines up his cards. Arata gets a further boost when Murao returns to practise with him. In class, Tsutomu has a stack of notes that he has observed on Chihaya. That’s a lot of time writing it down. Based on his observation, that’s why he could conclude that there are probably 20 one-syllable words that she herself should’ve noticed. She isn’t too sure but if you can’t trust yourself, trust his data! He also notes not only her or Suou can do this but most people with good game sense that enables them to anticipate the next sound. Kanade sees Chihaya going through Tsutomu’s notes and saying out those on-syllable words. Chihaya gets startled when she realizes she is watching her weird activity. She just admitted it was weird… Anyway Kanade realizes she has a dream now. She wants to become a certified reader and read the cards in Chihaya’s Queen match. Chihaya is so happy for her because it means Kanade is going to work hard to become a Class A player. Eh? Say what?

The karuta members being practising their usual game among themselves. Kanade seems down. She just realized how hard it is to become a certified reader. Yeah, so many requirements. How many years will it take her to be Class A material? They see Taichi practising his swings, something he would never do. Taichi remembers Arata told him something extra. His grandpa told him you don’t need game sense to play karuta as long as you can take the cards faster than your opponent. It might be difficult to reach a similar level of game sense but there are lots of other ways to take cards faster. With that, Taichi turns into a sadist and plays psychology on Chihaya. If she loses this match, she must burn her teddy bear dolls! Scary! True enough, her concentration level drops by 10%! Oh dear. I hope he won’t turn into the next Sudou. Kanade reads the cards and she realizes how hard it is to keep her focus and consistency. Sometimes she’s fast, sometimes she’s slow, sometimes her voice jumped. But this isn’t going to stop her from achieving her dream. Meanwhile Miyauchi is in a discussion with other teachers. She vehemently puts her foot down when they want the karuta club to be relocated so that the concert band could use their room seeing they do not have many members. Miyauchi argues they need a sound proof environment and that’s that. Nobody dares go against her. Wow. That’s how much she is loves her club. Till an old teacher challenges her if she manages to recruit 5 new members next year, they’ll stay where they are. So Miyauchi slips a handwritten letter about this seemingly impossible task to recruit 5 new members though they manage to increase their budget to 30,000 Yen. Everyone is dismayed except Kanade. Because they will have more funds! The new term begins and it’s like a sense of deja vu. New students overhear a pretty sister of a pretty model in this school and want to go see her. Till they of course see her trying to put up karuta recruitment posters in track pants. Yeah, getting an earful from Miyauchi too, huh? And what’s this? She failed her final exams! Oh dear. Once the commotion settles, Miyauchi secretly points to another spot she should put up another recruitment poster. Oh, you devil.

The Hand Is Faster Than The Eye
If the ending doesn’t seem anything much, that’s because a second season was given the green light in early 2013 (which is already in the midst of running by the time of this blog). So I guess Chihaya and her members will have another shot of trying to become the best as they hone their skills and face even tougher and equally eccentric opponents from across the country in various karuta competitions. Yeah, I anticipate this is how the second season is going to be. Or they could be searching high and low, trying to recruit that elusive 5 extra members to double their number. What else can they put in? Go on a journey to obtain a magical item that will save the world?! Maybe if they do it as a single episode filler-cum-distraction (which turns out to be somebody’s dream) then maybe. Just maybe. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

So I’m not really hook on karuta because I’m still lost about the game. Thought I do have a basic idea on the very basic game play but that is just about it. Because for most of the matches shown, I will just be sitting there dumbfounded with my mouth wide open (okay, I exaggerated this part) without understanding what is going on simply because everything happened too fast. Actually the anime slowed it down for us to see and you know TV shows, they have to otherwise viewers won’t really see anything. In real life, everything will be over in a blink of an eye. Blink and you’ll miss. It also goes to show that karuta isn’t just a simple game and just like any competitive games, the competition gets intense. It’s not about just your skills as there are many factors to take into account just to defeat your opponent. Well, I’m not really well verse into karuta so it’s somewhat an eye opener that it’s just not speed and memorization but also your opponent’s habits, psychological tactics and environmental factors that could tilt the scale in your favour. Nobody ever said karuta was easy, right? Amateurs who know nothing about the game can still learn about the rules as it does a decent explanation to fill you in. Therefore it’s rather strange that for a game that really doesn’t interest me (nor I can see myself picking it up as I grow older), somehow I find the series an intriguing watch. It’s like there is something interesting that compels me to watch the show despite not understanding the game mechanics in full. Maybe it’s the suspense and intensity in the matches that keeps you on the edge (even if I don’t know what’s going on). Maybe it’s the interaction between the characters and the fact you can’t help root for Chihaya and co to do their best. Maybe it’s just Chihaya. She’s pretty… Oops.

As it goes to show that despite Chihaya having found her true love and calling in karuta and perhaps showing lots of great talent, she is not perfect in the game. Where would be the fun if the main protagonist keeps winning all the matches from start till finish? You can only gain such valuable experience by playing with different opponents. Thus Chihaya definitely learnt a lot throughout the year and hopefully she’ll return much wiser in the new year. So you see her imperfection (and of course her character quirks) as she tries to improve herself. In both her game level and her relationship with others around her. Sometimes she might not realize it but she often needs others to point out her weaknesses. It is only then she realizes perhaps what she is doing not right and starts thinking. I guess this applies to most of us too because we usually see everyone else except ourselves. As said, Chihaya’s honest nature can be a double edged sword but it’s fun to see her react especially when she panics or looking very surprised. She looks pretty funny (yes, also pretty and funny. Geddit?). Can I consider that her charm point? You can say that Chihaya in this mode provides much of the comical relief in the series.

Not only Chihaya, but the other characters also develop and grow. Taichi seems like the guy who is keeping the glue on everybody to stick together. Would Chihaya have done a better job? Think not. I’m sure we must have guessed it by now that Taichi indeed loves Chihaya deep down in his heart but trying to confess that might take a while. I think that will be on a whole different level too. Maybe it’s because of that love for Chihaya that he’s seemingly making the karuta club work and stick together. Worried what will become of her if she is left to her own device? She only knows how to play karuta her way and everything else close to zero. How often do you hear main characters failing their crucial exams at the end? Even no hopers have more luck than her. For a guy like Arata, it must be hard being the grandson of a famous Master because expectations from others are high. Even if he is a karuta genius, he is still human. So when he lost his dear grandpa, his world came crumbling down and the karuta he once loved became his nightmare. But it’s all thanks to Chihaya and Taichi that he finally found the flame to love the game once more. It’s not that he hated the game, he was just running away from himself and reality. But karuta is an unforgiving game. You slip up a little and you fall several rungs below. I suppose Arata has to work his way up and just like the rest, he’s putting in that effort so that the childhood friends could once again meet and fulfil their promise.

As for the other karuta club members, they might not be the main stars but their support is crucial especially to Chihaya. And because of Chihaya, they also realize what is important and their own dream. Nishida seems like he is eating away if he is not playing or observing karuta, Tsutomu has brilliant notes in data keeping on karuta (he is like Prince Of Tennis’ Sadaharu Inui) while Kanade’s love for poems knows no bounds. Each of them have their own way and approach in karuta so don’t brush them off just yet. All a person need is just a chance. Maybe some need more :). We see how Miyauchi has turned from a non-believer into a dedicated advisor of the club. She realizes this isn’t a club where a few oddballs hang out and play together but one that builds character, strengthen bonds, friendship and teamwork. The current Master and Queen are still mysterious and their speed in catching their opponents off guard must have taken the world by storm. Chihaya played Shinobu and lost so we know there is unfinished business between them. There is a high chance that they might run into each other in another competitive match in the next season. Suou may look like a scruffy graduate who is on the verge of becoming a ronin but it tells you not to judge a book by its cover. Many people who play karuta hold day jobs like in Yumi’s case she is a bank teller when not playing. For Suou, there is more than meets the eye to this guy. Not much is revealed seeing he only made his appearance in the penultimate episode. But no matter how good you are, you’d be knocked off your perch one day. Will that day be for Taichi or Arata or even Chihaya? I’m not sure but karuta is a game that doesn’t segregate you based on gender, right? Maybe only for top matches.

Anybody can pick up karuta but you need lots of hard work and practice before you can be really good. Some take years and it’s frustration for some that they are nowhere close to their dream after so long. Only a few can make the cut and become true masters. The suspense of each match is intensified with the drama and thoughts of the players. You’re also not facing your opponent but the enemy within yourself. So I guess that the ‘action’ is where the players start swinging their hand towards the card to take them. When I first saw how they passionately swing with such intensity, I thought it was just ‘brutal’. Well, some really swing it in style and grace. Is there an art in swinging your arm? Sometimes I feel if they swing too hard, I envision the card will be flung away and get stuck on somebody’s forehead, turning it into a comical slapstick. Because of the violent frenzy in going for the card, the scene reminds me like how similar it is to button mashing in video games. You don’t know the moves, just hit away and you might just get it right. Also, the way I see some players violently swinging, thus causing some adjacent cards to be flung away too, it makes me wonder if you can use both hands (or your feet) to do the swinging. Because I read that as long as you touch the correct card on your side, those adjacent cards even though touched won’t amount to a fault or penalty. And cards do get shuffled around, right? So what’s the point of memorizing? See, I barely understand the rules so how can I really further my interest?

The drawing and art at first may look like it has lots of beautiful people especially when you have pretty girls like Chihaya and Chitose and pretty boys like Taichi around. But for some characters, they just look different. I won’t go so far as to say that they are ugly but well, not pretty. For example, Hiro looks like a bag of bones if you ask me. Tsutomu and Nishida’s simple facial details make them look slightly comical. A nerd and a fatty. See what I mean? But there is one thing about the art that bugs me the most. I notice that at times and at certain angles, the characters will have one strip of white line straight down their sideburns. It is like though they put too much and excessive Brylcreem cream and forgot to wipe it off. Sometimes it becomes too ‘glaring’ that I couldn’t take my focus away from it. I just kept staring and staring… I thought it was some sort of light reflection but really, how come only that part is ‘white’? Trademark art? Well, I thought they could really do away with this unnecessary distraction.

I’m not really familiar with the Fukui accent and perhaps from my point of view it isn’t as ‘popular’ as the Osakan accent. That’s because I really find it odd that Arata and his fellow townspeople really speak in such a deep local accent that it sounds like as though they’re partly singing. Yoshimasa Hosoya as the voice of Arata probably sounded like the part because he definitely didn’t sound like Katanagatari’s Shichika and Inu x Boku SS’ Sorinozuka. Other casts include Asami Seto as Chihaya (Konatsu in Tari Tari), Mamoru Miyano as Taichi (Shinku in Dog Days), Tooru Nara as Nishida (Scarecrow in Jormungand), Tsubasa Yonaga as Tsutomu (Nova in Arcana Famiglia), Ai Kayano as Kanade (Inori in Guilty Crown), Unshou Ishizuka as Harada (Bunta in Initial D), Takahashi Oohara as Sudou (Tsurugi Kyousuke in Inazuma Eleven Go), Kazuya Nakai as Hiro (Hijikata in Gintama), Mihoko Nakamichi as Shinobu, Yuko Kaida as Yumi (Ryoumou in Ikkitousen), Toshiko Fujita as Miyauchi (Saniwa in Kurozuka) and Aya Endo as Chitose (Matsu in Sekirei). The opening theme is a lively rock piece, Youthful by 99RadioService that gets you into the action and feel of karuta. I guess every sports themed anime needs this sort of beat to get you into the pace of the game. As for the pop-like ending theme, Soshite Ima, although it is sung by Asami Seto, at first I thought she sounded like Madonna singing in Japanese! Maybe straining my ears too much in this show has got some side effect…

As you probably guessed, though I would gladly watch the anime, but I won’t be taking up karuta. My memorization skills are so bad that I can’t even remember a single poem (though funnily I can remember the lyrics for my favourite anime songs). Even if the reader reads the poem finish, I still won’t guess the correct card. My hearing is so bad since I haven’t dug my ears in years. My reflexes are so slow that a turtle would’ve probably reached its destination by the time I picked the card. I guess those are just excuse for me not wanting to try the game ;p. So can karuta actually improve your memory power, hearing and reflex? Best of all, can it really make you lose weight? If it was everybody would’ve been playing karuta. Maybe all I’m interested is the chocolate one gets to eat to recharge. It’s a surprise that Japanese-popular only sports can appeal to the mass and non-Japanese when turned into manga and anime. We’ve got judo (Yawara) and I had my stint with kendo (Bamboo Blade). I’m pretty sure that if they decide to take on sumo wrestling, I’m sure they can. Oh wait a minute. On second thought, who would want to see fat man pushing each other out of the ring? What again? Turn them into girls? Even worse. Who wants to see fat women pushing each other out of the ring even if they’re scantily clad???!!!!