Although Chihaya and her comrades' team national tournament is in full swing, it's to Arata that our attention turns for the first time in quite a while within this week's Chihayafuru.
While Arata's focus might be on the individual tournament, he's decided that he might as well at least watch his old friends Chihaya and Taichi play in the team tournament before that begins - a decision that sees him bump into a few familiar faces, not least current Queen Shinobu, who has nothing but disdain for the team tournament as something that is "for people who don't like karuta". Arata's own feelings might not quite match that level of contempt, but he clearly doesn't much care for the team version of the game either himself.
In spite of this opinion, a chance meeting with a former school friend somehow leads to him being press-ganged into illegally joining their team for a match - with one of their three-man team running late, it's the only way to avoid instant defeat. Thus Arata finds himself disguised and without glasses, facing off against an opponent without really trying too hard lest he give himself away. However, seeing the determination and distress of his temporary team-mates, and the passion of his opponents, not only changes Arata's mind about team karuta but also leaves him unable to reign in his instincts, leading to him once again donning its glasses and getting serious his game - a decision which looks set to have even more serious repercussions.
After so long away from the limelight of this series, I wonder if I'm the only one who struggles to care about Arata's part in Chihayafuru's proceedings at this juncture? Hopefully he'll be integrated back into the series more fully in the future, but for now he seems a little too much like a spare wheel, which left me struggling to get engrossed in his particular scenario throughout this episode especially given that some of his decisions felt rather out of character. That said, there was still a certain amount of interest to be found here in the skewed opinions of players about team and individual tournaments, which at least added a little frisson to proceedings in the build-up to the major cliff-hanger which the entire instalment seemed to be built around.