Chihayafuru 2 ~ nobody’s gonna praise you for doing well at Karuta

October 12, 2011

It was a reckless bet, but it felt so right.

A brilliant second episode of Chihayafuru. After Taichi’s awful behavior in the premier, I was anticipating a showdown with Arata. Well, in episode 2, we got that and more. There was more beautiful artwork, more character development, and, of course, more Karuta.

Our first real Karuta match. The reading card is read aloud.

Parents observe the tournament from the sidelines. Taichi's mother has the red camcorder, and is shushing some other parents.

The day after Taichi pushes Arata and Chihaya into the mud, he follows through on his threat to make the other kids ignore Chihaya. Taichi Mashima is a small-minded individual. In this episode we get a sense of where he gets some of that attitude, as his mother is a jerk as well. Chihaya Ayase, instead, rises above everything. She declares that Arata Wataya is better than anyone else at Karuta. This leads to a challenge in the school’s Karuta tournament. As I said before, Taichi’s attitude bothers me, and I was hoping they would face off in the tournament, so Taichi could face a humiliating loss.

Arata impresses everyone with his speed and forceful style of play.

Arata Wataya displays his skill and the final round is set for Arata to face off against Taichi. During a break, Taichi plays a trick on Arata, that results in Arata covered with cola. As Arata washes his face, Taichi steals Arata’s glasses. Even that isn’t enough to tilt the game back in his favor, so he cheats again, re-arranging the cards, so that Arata can’t use his memory.

Chihaya's game face.

Chihaya demands to take over, mid-match, for Arata, and Taichi agrees. Though she hasn’t memorized as many poems, she is able to use her superior reflexes, and aggressive gamesmanship to win the 6th grade champion title.

Mrs. Mashima, the tiger mom.

Taichi’s mother declares that second place isn’t good enough, and she can’t show a video of Taichi losing to his father. Furthermore, now that he has lost the sixth grade champion title, he is forbidden to play Karuta again. Seeing this interaction with his mother does go a ways to explain Taichi’s character, but I still think he is a jerk, and that someone needs to punch him.

Chihaya's frustrating phone call.

Chihaya is immediately congratulated by Arata. He says she could be the “Queen” of Karuta, meaning the strongest female player in the world. Arata’s reaction is immediately contrasted with that of Chihaya’s family. Neither her mother nor her sister care that she was in the tournament, so she can’t even tell them that she won. I like the way this was handled. The contrast with first Taichi’s mother, then the praise and support from Arata, and finally completely ignored by her own family.

Go ahead, punch him!

Chihaya is on edge, and knocks her own ability (apparently she has very good hearing), but when Taichi dismisses the match, she practically loses it. I have seen comments around the aniblogisphere complaining that she doesn’t have a good reason for her Karuta passion, but I really think this episode sets it up nicely. First, as Arata said last week, seeing her sister become a top model isn’t a real dream, since it isn’t something Chihaya can achieve for herself. Second, when she was forced to perform, by playing against Taichi, who was a strong competitor, she had fun. And finally, she understands that being the best in the world is something big, even if most people don’t understand or care.

Chihaya searches trees for the missing glasses.

Taichi and Chihaya find Arata alone practicing his Karuta without cards. Chihaya, thinking a raven might have stolen the glasses, runs out to check every nearby bird nest.

Taichi deserved worse, but I'll take it.

Taichi gives Arata his glasses back, and even admits to having stolen them. Arata tells him he is a coward, but he agrees to keep his crime a secret from Chihaya. Really Taichi should at least have been punched repeatedly, because he is a jerk. And, no, having a jerk for a mother doesn’t make it alright. I am glad that Arata put his behavior in context, though. Taichi stole the glasses because he was afraid to face Arata in a fair fight.

This show really knows how to capture the colors of Autumn.

When the boys go out to find Chihaya, Arata follows Taichi’s lead, and calls her by her first name. Chihaya then jumps out of a tree knocking them to the ground. The episode ends with a lot of nice Fall imagery. Natural imagery is very important in traditional poetry, and the “Chihaya poem” talks about the Tatsuta River flowing red. In the ending credits we see exactly such a thing, as a stream is shown full of red maple leaves.

This episode provided character development in two senses. Chihaya and Taichi were both more fully described, which is to say their characters were elaborated, though not changed. Arata, on the other hand, underwent character development in the sense of growth; he overcame his shyness, both in telling Taichi off, and when calling Chihaya by her first name (a bigger deal in Japan than it is in America, to be sure).

We have also seen the basics of Karuta explained, including some details about tournament rules. Where is the show going now? That is less clear. We might be able to return to high school, and watch Chihaya in the “present”. The OP shows several characters that appear to be high school age, so I guess they are important to the story. On the other hand, there is a shot of the principal trio as grade schoolers all dressed in red t-shirts; I assume there is at least one more important story to tell about them from that time.

7 Responses to “Chihayafuru 2 ~ nobody’s gonna praise you for doing well at Karuta”

  1. avvesione Says:

    I enjoyed the scene where Chihaya called home right after the tournament with the good news but was ignored by her family. I did find it interesting that Chihaya did stop in her self-praise to congratulate her sister, someone we know she admires, so it’s not like she was totally absorbed in her victory and was broken by her family’s dismissal of her accomplishments. I’m glad that scene wasn’t too over-the-top with the emotions in that scene, especially after the sister told her that karuta sucks and then hangs up. I don’t think I would’ve liked it had Chihaya broken into tears or shouted “I’ll show you” or something. I think it was great that she stayed there silently by the phone.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Exactly. I have seen commentary by anibloggers that this was melodramatic ~~ HUH? It was played out completely low-key, as you said. Further, when she walks away she is still slightly bothered by the call. Taichi picks up on her mood (even though she isn’t crying, she is quiet, which is different for her). That is subtle, good writing. Not melodrama.

      • Yes, for only two episodes in, I think the character development has been excellent, as has the writing in general. These characters are exceptional in certain ways, but very believeable. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the show switch back and forth between their grade school and high school years regularly for a while.

      • Joojoobees Says:

        I’m looking forward to Tuesday, so I can see more.

  2. Mushyrulez Says:

    One thing I’m definitely looking forward to is Taichi in highschool – after all, little kids are small-minded. It makes sense, since their heads are even physically small.

    I wonder whether this was intentionally put into the Fall season, just a coincidence, or even was painted with fall colours because it was put into the season. Either way, great scenic… scenes.

    (P.S. You should probably glue together pictures 11a and 11b, that way, the caption border won’t look so out-of-place)

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Image 11: I looked at combining them, but the colors are slightly mismatched. There is probably a trick to stitching together those panned shots that I don’t know.

      The Fall colors are explained somewhat in a future episode, but it is certainly timed well. I think they do try to do seasonal things at times (having a show with a Christmas episode in Winter, for example), so it wouldn’t surprise me if they thought the Autumnal theme would work for a Fall season, or maybe even decided to play it up a bit, knowing that Chihayafuru was going to premiere in the Fall.

      I won’t comment on whether Taichi grows mentally — you’ll just have to judge for yourself, when you see the later episodes.

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