After spending most of its penultimate episode focusing on the Queen match broadcast live on TV, it's the Master match that grabs our attention as its final instalment begins.
Then again, this particular match-up is so one-sided it doesn't actually occupy much of the episode, with the reigning champion wiping the floor with his opponent largely based upon his ability to pick out cards being read by their first syllable alone - an ability not entirely dissimilar to Chihaya's own unique ear when it comes to karuta. Not that Chihaya herself actual clocks this ability however, leaving up to Desktomu to run the numbers from his statistical analysis and point it out to her.
From here, the rest of the episode pretty much becomes a missive for following your dreams - Taichi blazes new trails in his goal to become a "Class A" player, Kana finds a dream of her own to pursue (although she doesn't realise quite how hard achieving that goal is), and Arata finds renewed vigour with which to follow in his grandfather's masterful footsteps. This finale even finds time to tantalise us in the direction of a second season (or at least an OVA), setting out the rules by which the karuta club must play if they want to keep their club room into the next school year. Let's hope there's something rather more solid behind that than simple wishful thinking.
It might have had the occasional episode which was "off" (with last week's probably the weakest of the bunch), but overall Chihayafuru has been, for want of a better word, charming. Despite centring around a game I had not a clue about, the series worked its magic thanks to a wonderful roster of characters backed up by near-perfect doses of drama, emotion, tension and comedy to create a compelling blend that has been entertaining to watch week after week. There really isn't much more to say about the series than that - Chihayafuru has been a simple triumph of characterisation over flashy sports action, resisting the urge to go down the Saki route of pseudo-superpowers for something a little more grounded in reality for the most part. That it's managed to keep its level of quality so high after twenty-five episodes is testament to its pacing and story-telling, and it's something that a lot of other series could learn from for its understated yet eye-catching presentation. Put simply, it's a triumph.