Chihayafuru_2-10 ~ Can you please not disappoint me any further?

March 17, 2013

Shinobu Wakamiya ~ a face in the rain

Shinobu Wakamiya ~ a face in the rain

In episode 10 of Chihayafuru episode 2, the story of the national tournament is split into two tracks. In the first, Mizusawa High faces a tough opponent. In the second, the judges agonize over whether Arata should be denied an opportunity to participate in the individual matches that follow the team tournament.

Although this episode had some tension from a hard-fought Karuta match, it stressed both the comedy and personal dramas at least as much as the Karuta action.

Kanade Oe and the blind monk, Semimaru

Kanade Oe and the blind monk, Semimaru

Although the opponents for the second team match were tough, Mizusawa managed to win. This time the obstacle was a team that relied heavily on their memorization skills. Of course we have seen this technique presented dramatically before, because memorization is Taichi’s specialty. The most unusual aspect was that the team kept shifting the cards on their side of the board, which meant Mizusawa had to re-memorize them repeatedly. My favorite part of this match, however was the way it gave Kanade an opportunity to shine.

Four poems by women on the field

Four poems by women on the field

Back in the first season, there was a moment when Kanade was placing her cards by things like all those bearing poems written by members of the same family. At the time, she was told to change her placement to something more useful for snatching cards. Here that previously demonstrated skill comes back as a big advantage. Instead of memorizing the cards by their placement, she has awareness of the cards on a level that defies mere memorization. It is great to see her dominating a strong opponent.

Arata Wataya awaits his punishment.

Arata Wataya awaits his punishment.

But, frankly, the story of this tournament could never have been that of Mizusawa’s loss in anything other than the finals. The main dramatic point was what will become of Arata, given his violation of the substitution rule.

The judges were clearly looking for some way to let Arata play. The discussion about how Suo is a big pain in the ass, and the way their serious expressions melted as soon as they saw an opportunity to be lenient was pretty funny.

Shinobu Wakamiya becomes an unlikely white Knight.

Shinobu Wakamiya becomes an unlikely white Knight.

Shinobu’s attempt to get the judges to allow Arata to participate was both an effective tactic, because having the Queen drop out would clearly be damaging, but it was also touching, because, even if her reason was selfish it was sincere. Shinobu has been shown as having no substantial personal relationships, and her love of playing Karuta is really her defining characteristic.

Shinobu is probably my favorite character in the Chihayafuru-verse. She is as crazy for Karuta as Chihaya, but she is less well adjusted socially. She is basically the dark side of the Chihaya coin. Where Chihaya is genki, kind of an energetic blockhead, Shinobu is melancholic (she probably sits all day in a dark room obsessing about how nobody plays Karuta with her), and yet she has her pride in her Karuta skill, and her peculiar obsession with Snow-maru themed objects.

In so many ways Shinobu is a social outcast, even if she is a Ninja Queen. She also, as this episode showed, has a sincere and human need to interact with others. Her line to  Arata, “Can you please not disappoint me any further?” was the most personal and human thing she has said in either season.

And, hey, I’ve been looking forward to these matches, as well. I don’t want to be disappointed either.

Tsutomu Komano assemble the scouting notes instead of playing.

Tsutomu Komano assemble the scouting notes instead of playing.

One last note: I am interested in seeing what they have planned for Tsutomu (AKA Desk-kun) next week. There was an exchange between him and Sumire, and at the very end Nishida is in the middle of explaining that he doesn’t want Tsutomu to play in the next match. Maybe he wants to hold Tsutomu as a trump card to be revealed at the last minute. After all, opposing teams could well be scouting Mizusawa as well.

Bonus Service: Shinobu Wakamiya

Shinobu Wakamiya in a rare moment of vulnerability.

Shinobu Wakamiya in a rare moment of vulnerability.