Chihayafuru 18 ~ my obi helps to support me
February 8, 2012
The series of tournaments that were introduced last week are now enjoined in full. The entire Mizusawa Karuta club shows up for the Saitama prefecture tournament, and you know what that means, it’s Hakama time! This time the episode was mostly split in half, between Chihaya’s match and the final round of the tournament, which has a double shocker. Kanade and Tsutomu are playing for the rank D title, and Taichi and Nishida are battling over the rank B title. Winning these matches won’t just mean taking a prize, as they qualify the winner to advance in rank. Despite Chihaya’s poor performance in the A rank matches, Mizusawa is destined to go home with two prizes, which should feel pretty good, but for those on the tatami mats, the pressure to be the one who advances is intense.
Chihaya’s match went very poorly, although it had a positive outcome in that it hammered home that her “speed” style of playing is causing her to fault way too often. This match featured an interesting situation that we haven’t seen before. The caller read out a long string of “dead cards”. In Karuta only some of the cards are in play, but the caller reads from all reading cards. This can lead to someone attempting to snatch a card when no corresponding card is actually in play (essentially a fault). In A rank matches such mistakes are rare, but here the caller somehow managed to call a long string (longer than 5 at any rate) of dead cards, this eventually overwhelmed Chihaya’s restraint, and she ended up faulting.
After her match is over, Chihaya has to decide whether to watch the B-rank final or the D-rank final. We, along with Chihaya, end up watching the D-rank final, but the stakes in the B-rank match are even higher. In general getting to A-rank is a major victory, but Taichi is chasing Arata, and he needs to get A-rank to qualify for the Eastern Meijin Qualifier. Nikuman knows what Taichi is thinking, but he his pride won’t let him go down without a fight. Nevertheless, Chihaya’s inattention to this match means that we have no idea how it is turning out, even as the episode ends.
What we do get is a very satisfying match between Kanade and Tsutomu. This was satisfying in part because these characters rarely have a chance to shine, but also because here they really came across as playing at their best. Many have commented that this was a classic conflict between styles, such as Kanade representing Art and Tsutomu representing Science. It also was simply fascinating in the insights into Kanade’s play style, with Tsutomu remarking on her tendency to search out cards by relationships that others would not consider, such as mother-daughter relationships between the poets. We also had some unexpected payoff for Chihaya’s previous comment about back exercises. Since traditional attire requires a more formal posture, wearing the hakama turns out to be very helpful to Kanade, changing her play style to be a bit more aggressive, since she can hover over the cards more than when she is playing in “comfortable” clothes.
Nevertheless this episode ends without showing who won either match. I have a feeling Kanade versus Tsutomu will wrap up early next episode, and we will get to see Taichi and Nikuman finish theirs. I liked Retro-kun’s assertion that he was going to study the finals and learn what he could from them.
It’s difficult to believe this show is heading into its final climax.