Taichi's victory in the Class B final has reduced both himself and Chihaya (and the viewer, to be fair) to tears... at least for a moment, until Chihaya realise that she's now staring right into the face of another Class A rival.
There's little time to reflect on this moment between the two of them however, as another dilemma rears its head - should the pair of them go to cheer on Tsutomu in his final, or see the Class A final between Arata and Shinobu? Once again, Chihaya is oddly reticent to watch the Class A match, seeming almost scared to lay eyes on it for reasons that she never verbalises. Not taking no for an answer however, Taichi leads the way to take her to see the remainder of the game and eventually they make it into the packed hall.
After a recap of everything that we've missed courtesy of Nishida, we settle in to see Arata with an impressive but not insurmountable lead against the Queen - a lead borne from his mixture of ferociously competitive play and his cool outer demeanour, coupled with a fierce burst of speed - or rather acceleration - in taking cards when required. Although Shinobu still has the overall edge in speed, and more specifically the coupling of that speed with unerring accuracy, it isn't enough for her to claw back her lead. Thus, the Queen is defeated... but perhaps there's a little more to Arata's victory than just his abilities alone.
Engaging though this week's episode was, I still assert that Chihayafuru just isn't quite the same when its main cast of Mizusawa's team of karuta players are out of the spotlight - there were some nice moments to be found in the match between Arata and Shinobu, but the real star of the episode was Chihaya's face. Her expressions and reactions throughout the match were priceless, and her largely wordless engagement with the match panning out before her was fascinating simply because it's so hard to gauge - is this really the face of a girl in love with the high-level karuta unfurling before her, or is there more to it than that? It's these touches which make the series what it is, and equally it's what makes me sad that we're almost at the end of this second season. It seems entirely too much to hope for that we get a third series of this show some day... doesn't it?