Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Chihayafuru - Episode 18

It's time for Mizusawa's karuta club to get their game faces on, as its members take on a tournament in Saitama - a great opportunity for the gang to see how much they've learned, but a nerve-wracking one for Chihaya in particular as she gets to play her first Class A karuta matches outside of the more limited field of high school opposition.

At first glance, it seems as though her first match-up is a relatively easy one, pitting her against a kindly older lady named Sakura.  With Chihaya still desperate to learn to play karuta without relying on her trademark reaction speed, this seems like a perfect opportunity for her, until those nerves get the better of her and lead to some early mistakes.  Even as she calms down and slows down, things don't get any easier for her, as her opponent takes card after card effortlessly.  It takes a while for Chihaya to realise that her opponent utterly has the measure of her, deploying tactics to negate and overturn any advantage Chihaya might have - by the time she's figured out what's going on it's simply too late, meaning an early exit from the tournament but some more important lessons learned about how to play at the top level of the game.

Perhaps even more frustratingly for Chihaya, her comrades are faring far, far better - indeed, Mizusawa's other members end up dominating both the Class B and Class D finals, with Taichi and Nishida competing in the former while Tsutomu and Ayase make up the other.  It's the latter of these two match-ups which take most of our attention though, with a striking and fascinating clash of styles which sets Desktomu's calm, calculating and mathematical approach to the game against Ayase's smooth, refined and elegant technique.  Who will win out in this epic final is, of course, one for the next episode...

To be honest, I was beginning to worry a little about this week's Chihayafuru - Chihaya's match-up didn't really do anything to light a fire under me, and for all of its revelations there was a "seen it all before" feeling towards it for perhaps the first time in this series.  Although you could arguably say the same about the second half of the episode, there was far more to grab the attention in the Class D final match - it's a classic battle of contrasting styles that you could find in any series of this kind, but the fact that it brings its particular characters into the spotlight in the way it does made it utterly captivating, to leave us with an episode that was ultimately well worth watching.  As you were, Chihayafuru...

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