Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Chihayafuru - Episode 20

The tournaments just keep on coming as we move gradually towards the final straight for Chihayafuru - however, for once other more pressing issues threaten to take over playing karuta, for some of the Mizusawa club's members at least.

With the final warm-up tournament for the Master qualifiers up that weekend in Yoshino, focusing expressly on Class A and B players, you'd expect Chihaya, Taichi and Nishida to attend.  That almost certainly would be the case too, were it not for Chihaya's precipitous place in terms of her study, having dropped down the class rankings to the point where she might even have to retake the year.  With her future under threat, Ms. Miyauchi forbids her from entering, instead setting her up for a weekend of study with Tsutomu - a session which Nishida also opts to join out of concern for his own exam scores.

Thus, it's left to Taichi alone to travel to the tournament in Yoshino, where he finds himself running into none other than Arata as he makes his big comeback into the world of karuta.  Despite his best intentions not to be distracted by this, Taichi finds himself knocked out of the tournament relatively early, while Chihaya slips away from her tutorial to cheer Taichi on despite arriving just a little too late.  She does, however, get to meet Arata, however briefly, in a reunion that proves to be emotional both for herself and Taichi.  Seeing the dynamic between this trio with his own eyes, Taichi's tutor Harada offers his pupil the opportunity to be promoted to Class A despite not having won a Class B tournament - an offer which is perhaps to underestimate Taichi's own motivations for playing.

It may be more subdued than a lot of its recent instalments, but once again it was the small moments in Chihayafuru this week that stole my attention and my heart.  More specifically, it's the relationship between Taichi and Arata in particular that's so strike - a fascinating blend of rivalry (both on and off the tatami) offset by friendship and mutual understanding.  It's a potent and confusing mix, as can be seen from Taichi's reactions to Arata and their reunion, particularly once you bring Chihaya into that mix given her own unique take on things, as even she seems to be starting to catch on to her own emotions at this juncture.  Regardless, it feels as if everything is coming into place for an excellent end to this wonderful series, so hopefully it'll all end in a satisfactory manner without leaving us hanging.

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