The hunt to become Queen or Master is over for all of our major characters as Chihayafuru enters its final straight, but that doesn't mean that we shift away from karuta for these final episodes - far from it in fact, as we tune in for a TV broadcast of those two big finals.
Although the presence of Taichi's mother at his home makes life more awkward than Chihaya and company might like, they manage to find some solace in the "small" 42" television in Taichi's room to watch the big matches. But just what has happened to Shinobu Wakamiya in the intervening period since we last saw her? To put it politely she's... err... fleshed out a little, seemingly in the pursuit of limited edition merchandise from an ice cream manufacturer.
Despite the dual handicaps of those extras pounds of flesh and the heavy kimono from her grandmother she's wearing, it seems to be business as usual for Shinobu - after winning the first game, a couple of early card losses in the second give us some opportunities to get under her (now ample) skin to see how she came to reach her current place at the top of the karuta ladder, with a story that Taichi could doubtless empathise with. Regardless, Shinobu's love of the cards is clear to see, no more so than for Chihaya as she comes another step closer to understanding where her game is lacking as Wakamiya glides through to hold the title of Queen for another year. That leaves us with just the Master final to watch, which could well hold some more secrets to unlock the full power of Chihaya's game.
Even though this episode does as good a job as ever of actually depicting the game around which it is based and adding as much tension as possible, the focus on previously secondary characters and the disconnect between us and their struggle via the medium of watching the game of television makes it difficult to be drawn in. The result is an accomplished but ultimately rather bland episode - this should probably have been the time to explore the show's major love triangle and other such more personal matters, not ponder the intricacies of karuta yet further. It seems that we can't really expect all that much more from the show's final episode either, which could well leave us with a slightly downbeat ending to a series that has entertained so thoroughly from beginning to end for the most part.