Chihayafuru 13 ~ I wanted to play more
January 3, 2012
Chihayafuru 13 kicks off the second half of this awesome series. We start right where we left off last time, looking up in awe at the Omi Jungu temple entrance. The National tournament is about to begin. What will happen?
After a little Shinto ritual, the Karuta club heads to the tournament location, but there is a fateful encounter along the way. I really liked how this was handled. First just as Arata (via flashback voice) was saying “the queen” a young woman appears at the base of the temple steps. As she walks past Chihaya, there is a flash of light, and things slow down for a moment. After this Chihaya turns around with a look of shock on her face. This is a reference to a convention often seen in samurai movies. The conceit seems to be that great warriors are able to recognize each other. I previously mentioned use of this in my mid-season review of Giant Killing, where I described it as a “shock of recognition”, whereby one warrior senses the warrior spirit emanating from another. The purpose of this device is to build anticipation for an upcoming battle.
We get into the match pretty quickly, but there is a problem. Chihaya is having difficulty concentrating. Since she complains both that she is too hot and too cold, it seems she is sick. Meanwhile the perspective switches to a character we haven’t seen much of lately.
Arata is heading for the tournament site, so he can watch Chihaya’s team play, but on the way he thinks over the events that caused him to stop playing Karuta. We finally get to see what happened from his perspective.
Arata’s sense of guilt makes more sense now. He literally was supposed to be taking care of his grandfather when the old man died. His grandfather realized Arata was supposed to be in a match, however, and sent him off, personally. This can be looked at in at least two ways. On the one hand, going to the match instead of watching over his grandfather probably can be fairly described as a selfish act. Arata wanted to play Karuta, and get the A-rank certification that his classmate had beaten him to. Even if his grandfather understood, it was his responsibility to stay by his side, and he didn’t. On the other hand, his grandfather is dead, and no amount of self-punishment is going to change that. Even setting aside what his grandfather might have wanted for him, Arata is not helping the situation by refusing to play Karuta. All he is really doing is hurting himself. Essentially Arata is wallowing in self-pity.
Arata arrives at the tournament hall in time to see Chihaya collapse. Taichi announces that she has resigned her match, and tries to carry her out, when he sees Arata. Taichi turns Chihaya over to Arata for safe-keeping. When she finally comes to, Chihaya breaks down as she realizes that without her participation, the team won’t be able to advance very far. She feels bad, not because she doesn’t get to play, but because she has let everybody down.
So a big question was “how far would the team get?”, and now we have that answer: not very. They lost after just a few matches, but it seems to have buoyed Tsutomu’s spirits as he has some victories under his belt at last. Truly there is no shame in having participated in the national championship, even if it is nicer to come home a winner.
So where do we go from here? This episode set a couple of things up. First, Arata has returned, and he has made his intention to return to the world of competitive Karuta clear. Second, despite her illness, Chihaya intends to compete in the individual matches to be held the next day. Third, they have foreshadowed, but not yet formally introduced, the reigning Queen.
There was some talk, in the aniblogisphere, that the nationals would be stretched out to cover the entire second half of the show. I can’t see that happening now. Further, regardless of how well Chihaya does in the individual match, it doesn’t seem possible for Arata to compete in a match against her (since he was not already signed up). I think it is more likely that the team will return to Tokyo, and work towards a return to Otsu the following year.
Bonus Wasted Beauty: