Nishida may have lost his game, but there's still plenty to play for in the regional final as the match between Hokuo and Mizusawa continues.
Despite that early surprise defeat for the school's Class A member, it seems that things are looking up for the rest of Mizusawa's team - Chihaya's switch towards her more typical speed-based style is wreaking havoc with her opponent Amakasu, and Tsutomu is proving just how far he's progressed over the past year by giving his rival a rough time.
Ultimately however, these remaining four games are so tight that all go down to the final two cards, an almost unheard of scenario where all four games are to be decided by what is effectively the luck of the draw - if the card on your side is read first, you win. Unfortunately, Mizusawa's players are so focused upon their own games that they don't see the bigger picture, giving Hokuo the upper hand it seems... however, both Chihaya and then Taichi decide that there's nothing for it but to go on the offensive against the odds, effectively out-psyching their opponents in the process and setting the cat amongst the pigeons for a moment. It's a strategy that ultimately proves to be in vain as the match is lost, but there are still plenty of positives to come out of the experience as a whole.
Chihayafuru might have many other reasons why it's such an excellent series to watch, but this episode in particular shows that it can create some fantastic drama and tension using its core concept of karuta alone - sure, the scenario which unfolds sounds pretty far-fetched in the grand scheme of things, but the build-up to it was great in continuing the theme of personal growth we've seen throughout the series so far, and once it came to the crunch those final minutes of the match provided nail-biting, edge of the seat stuff. It feels like every week gives me a different reason to highlight about why I enjoy this series, which in itself speaks to one of the major strengths of Chihayafuru as a whole. Now, roll on the nationals!