Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Chihayafuru - Episode 15

Facing off against the reigning Queen of karuta, Chihaya finally finds herself up against the competition she so desired, although perhaps this particular competition is a little too stiff as she looks set for a thrashing at the hands of Shinobu Wakamiya.  However, with her first card finally won come the end of last week's episode, is there time for a spectacular comeback?

Despite finding her rhythm and getting back to her best, there's still no way back for Chihaya given the mountain she had to climb, and despite winning five games there's nothing our protagonist can do to stem the tide of Shinobu's masterful play.  Still, for all of her disappointment and frustration as it comes flowing out in a desire to immediately tackle her shortcomings, perhaps a more perceptive girl might have noticed that Shinobu was well and truly ruffled by Chihaya's performance, exhibitng her own blend of anger and excitement about finding a potentially worthy foe; a real coup for a lonely girl with no competition in the field to speak of.

So caught up is Chihaya in understanding where she went wrong as Shinobu strolls to the Queen's title again, that she almost missing out on an event bigger event, with Taichi reaching the Class B final.  Eventually however, she's dragged along to give her support, but a physically exhausted Taichi doesn't have quite what it takes to win the day either, and despite running his opponent close he too ends his run at Omi Jingu with nothing to show but defeat - a runner-up no less, the hardest defeat there is to take.  It's onwards and upwards for the team however, as they spend their summer break hard at work improving their deficiencies ready for their next showdows - an ethos which even extends to born geniuses Shinobu and Arata.

This week's Chihayafuru may not have had quite the excitement or tension of the previous instalment, but as is so often true of this show it's the little things that it gets right - more specifically, it's Taichi's final that really grabs the attention, showing both how Mizusawa's disparate set of karuta players have turned into a true team while also ably exhibiting the deflation and disappointment of defeat for all concerned.  The temptation with any anime series based on a sport or game is to see our main characters win through and emerge victorious, but is there really a story in that?  For Chihayafuru, it's clear that the real character of the story comes through defeat and facing those stronger or better than yourself, and it's something that it utilises ably and really quite wonderfully in an episode such as this one.

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