Chihayafuru 11 ~ I didn’t think she would fall apart
December 14, 2011
Chihayafuru is the show that keeps delivering flawless episode after flawless episode. In Episode 11, our protagonists are up against their toughest challenge yet, a team that habitually wins the Tokyo Regionals, and has a good shot at the National title. And, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, we see the return of Arata Wataya!
One of the issues that was raised last week was how they would structure their line-up to best meet the challenge in the final round of the tournament. Chihaya’s team can’t plan the match-ups, because they don’t know how Hokuo will order their players, but Hokuo uses divination to pair up some particularly difficult matches. In general, from a sports anime perspective, going in to a big match like the final round of the regional championship, you want a team that has been built up, and you want some indication that the protagonist’s strengths are unusually vulnerable. This builds up the tension necessary for an exciting game.
All of the match ups were good. Of particular note, however were Chihaya, who was matched against the “sadist” we met last week, Nishida, who was matched against an A-class player he knew from his youth, and Taichi, who was up against Hiro Kinashi, AKA Retro-kun, who was introduced in episode 3. In other words the three best players are all paired up in tough matches, making the outcome far from certain.
But one of the great things about this episode was that it truly was a team episode. The drama was balanced amongst several characters, and all the characters had a moment, even if brief, to shine. Whereas last episode saw the team fighting individually, but lacking cohesion as a team, this episode showed that they had overcome the challenge, and grown closer by their struggles.
And as if that wasn’t enough, this episode also brought back a character that has been haunting various cast members. Arata is shown finally checking his email. The way this whole section was handled was pretty funny. First he is shown doing basically nothing. The store he is working in apparently has close to no customers. Second, we find that the reason he hadn’t been responding to Chihaya’s emails wasn’t some deep understanding between him and Taichi; it was just that his home computer is broken. In the end, we don’t get any real clue from him as to what he will do, or how he feels about Chihaya, or Karuta, but this strongly suggests that he will appear at the Omi Jingu temple for the national tournament. After all, it has to be more exciting than watching a cat sleep.
The artwork in this show is great. Watching is always a treat. I am so glad that an inspired story was put together under Madhouse, who have done some wonderful projects in the past. The direction is awesome. I truly mean that. I am always wrapped up in the episodes, and these tournament episodes have been even more riveting than usual. Consider that last week covered at least three games, but in this episode only one game filled the entire episode. Somehow last week didn’t seem rushed at all, nor did this episode seem to drag. There is no doubt in my mind that Chihayafuru is the greatest show of this season, and I am very glad that it will be continuing with a second course during next season.