If you've been wondering "where's the karuta" for the first couple of episodes of this new season of Chihayafuru, then wonder no more, as this week's episode brings us the regional qualifiers of the national high school karuta championship. Oh, and remember that guy named Arata? He might just be putting in an appearance there too.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves however, as first there are those potentially tricky regional qualifiers to navigate before Chihaya and Arata have any chance to coming face-to-face, and with a couple of newcomers in there team there's a question as to how they should line up in their opening games. Mind you, it's a question that seems to have an obvious answer - leave the first years on the sidelines - but with Tsukuba desperate to strut his stuff in front of his watching brothers (despite having never won a match in practive) and Sumire having some... charms... of her own, Tsutomu figures they might as well switch things up and try and use the newcomers to their tactical advantage.
With Chihaya, Taichi and Nishida leading the way, there isn't actually that much pressure on the two newbies to perform, but regardless both of them still show a competitive streak when it comes to the crunch. While this is expected of Tsukuba (despite being pitted against a class A player), it's more of a surprise in the case of Sumire - as predicted by Chihaya, watching the club founder wiping the floor with her opponent in comparison to her the way her own opponent looks down on her as "just a cute girl" leaves her determined to make her mark and gain an unlikely (and ultimately impossible) victory. With Chihaya seemingly playing better than ever, is she at a level where she can face Shinobu at the national tournament? For Shinobu's part, she sees more interested in the return of Arata...
Another week brings us another incredibly enjoyable episode of Chihayafuru - pitting Mizusawa against the same clubs as they faced in season one was perhaps not the most exciting narrative decision, but it did offer us a chance to get to know the group's newcomers a little better and there's a whole lot of pleasure to be found in watching both Sumire and Tsukubua grow and develop under the nurturing gaze of those who have trodden in their footsteps before. Plus, this week reminded us of Arata's existence - am I a bad person for having practically forgotten all about him?