Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Chihayafuru - Episode 14

After the drama and disappointment of the team finals last week (which were over surprisingly quickly, I must say), it's time for Omi Jingu to host the individual competition of the national karuta finals, which of course means that it's a now rejuvenated Chihaya that's our focus.

Although we already know all about Chihaya's own prowess when it comes to playing karuta, this week's episode allows us to meet the reigning Queen of the individual class A game - a high school girl named Shinobu Wakamiya with a slightly frosty personality and a penchant for bad t-shirts.  While Chihaya makes it through her opening game eventually, her progress is eclipsed by that of Wakamiya who absolutely slaughters her opponent, allowing him to take only a single card.

After that performance, Shinobu is the girl that everyone wants to avoid in the next round - everyone, that is, except Chihaya, who seemingly can't decide whether or not she wants to play perhaps her biggest rival.  Of course, the decision is ultimately out of her hands, and lo and behold fate draws up exactly the draw we might have expected - Chihaya versus Shinobu.  From here, we get a close-up look at exactly why Miss Wakamiya is the Queen, with a ridiculous turn of speed and precision when it comes to taking cards as she looks all set to dole out another thrashing to poor Chihaya, who simply can't find an opening.  Ultimately, it's back to basics for our protagonist, as she finally sees the light and begins to gain the confidence and focus needed to turn around the substantial deficit stacked against her.

For a series about karuta, this is the first time we've had an episode of Chihayafuru that has focused absolutely upon the game itself in lieu of human drama and more personal matters, which seemed sensible for a game that seems tough to liven up.  However, this episode somehow manages to focus on the card game at its core and delivering it with sufficient aplomb and tension - I confess, I even founding myself shouting "come on Chihaya" at my monitor at one point, which pretty much says it all about how much this episode drew me in.  Of course, there's still more to come, with this instalment leaving us hanging at a pivotal moment, and much as I hope we get to learn more about the girl between the cold mask of Shinobu Wakamiya, I can't deny that I've thoroughly enjoyed this outright focus on such a pivotal battle of wills.

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