Well another tournament and what do you know Taichi once again fails to advance to Class A, I am sure that there are no shortage of people who will plead that Taichi is simply habitually unlucky that the law of averages does not apply in his case. Perish the thought that Taichi is just not that good or that the cream of Class B is simply better than a rich kid who can’t seem to buy his way into Class A. Yes Taichi is most unlucky to be the tragic fellow who cannot get over the hump despite three tries, but wait Harada-sensei has blatantly decided to go for favoritism and offer Taichi a place in Class A for coming close. Never mind that everyone else from the society had to earn their way in, but clearly the rich boy’s club is starting to make itself felt and favors are extended. How terribly unlucky it is that Taichi is getting preferential treatment from the leader of his Karuta Society. It is great though that Taichi declined this most dishonorable of paths; however he may soon regret it and shed FAKE TEARS of lamentation when he fails repeatedly to get into Class A the right way. Still losing three tournaments in a row can’t possibly be just bad luck, I think Taichi has been cursed. That has to be it, because Taichi’s life was going okay until he cheated on his girlfiend and treated her like garbage. I have seen this all before, and yes I can say with certainty that Taichi isn’t just unlucky he is in fact CURSED. The longer this goes on the harder it is to deny the Ex-Hex, because hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and Taichi’s ex-girlfriend, hell he never spoke her name and we still don’t know who she is.
So while every Taichi-fan out there was concocting some fantasy where Arata was just some demon given form from Tacihi’s nightmares, the truth is after some lost years Arata strikes back in dramatic fashion. I was pleased to see that Arata had been going through Taichi because he thought that Taichi would have been man enough to confess to Chihaya or die in the attempt in the year that they have been reunited. This is not the case, though, and while Taichi, being the loser he is, thought that Arata simply wanted to share Chihaya, he now knows full well that he had fiddled while Rome burned. I have saying all along that Chihaya was Taichi’s to lose because despite the ample opportunity and optimally proximity he has never dared risk his heart for the chance at happiness with Chihaya. Quite why this is so hard a task is beyond me, after all Chihaya isn’t going to eat him should she choose to reject him. So what is there to fear here? The worst Chihaya could do is say no, but I guess that Taichi is unlucky that Zeus did not miracle his ass some courage or replace the staff with the crew of Gundam SEED Destiny so he could be Jesus Mashima.
Chihaya is finally on her way to getting back on track academically but it was most unfortunate that Desk-kun was given any authority. Clearly the Old Bag wants to remind Chihaya of her inferiority to Desk-kun because she is a girl. Never before have I seen a more ragged old hag that was so hateful and dispeicable. First she meddles with a club Chihaya founded, then she crown’s Class B Taichi as president for life, and now to further embarrass Chihaya she puts Desk-kun in charge of her schooling. I dare say what a decrepit system of education they have at this school, parents pay them to teach and yet none of the teachers can bother to make learning fun and engaging and instead force upon their students useless tests that reward mere memorization instead of understanding and cunning. It is clear that Chihaya’s talents would be best suited for eavesdropping on conversations and a career in journalism or espionage would suit her best, but leave it to the unimaginative Old Bag to try and shoe horn Chihaya into being a housewife.
Taichi might be praying for his False Gods to make Chihaya confess to him, but Arata while just coming off of his couch is already retaking his place in Chihaya’s heart. While the Old Crone is an enemy of friendship Zeus has seen fit to bring Arata and Chihaya back together again. Clearly while Taichi has been making such glacial progress, distance has made Chihaya’s heart grow fonder of Arata. Arata has not lost much of a step and gave Hiroshi a bar fight, sadly Arata lost and had to settle for fourth place. Still a grand return considering every Class A player in the tournament was hoping to make the Meijin and Queen qualifier. So while Taichi is still facing an average field Arata decided to take on the cream of the crop and acquitted himself admirably. It is clear that Chihaya still sees Arata as her teacher and friend and while I am sure the water theme had Taichi fans all confused, it was simply a flood of AWESOMENESS. If we accept that Chihaya is a flower like her Hakama would have us believe then clearly Chihaya will need water to bloom. Arata is the water and she wishes to drink deeply from his well of knowledge and take in all that he has to teach her. More worryingly for Taichi though is that as Chihaya starts to understand the romantic aspect of the poems under Kana-chan’s tutelage, Chihaya has started comparing her situation with Arata as the something out of Murasaki Shikibu.
Now for those of you who do not know, The Tale of Genji (the principle work which Murasaki Shikibu is associated with) is considered to be one of the oldest known novels and is rather famous in Japan as possibly the greatest story their culture has produced. Basically it is about Prince Genji, son of the Emperor and his most favored concubine, and his many lovers, the very first harem series if you will. So Genji has many lovers but among the notables that he doesn’t get bored with are his first love, his step-mom, and his greatest (this is arguable) love, the niece of said step-mom who Genji kidnaps and raises to be his ideal woman. For the three of you out there who think this premise is simply awful (you are not alone), the issue is that when you look at the story it is hard to tell where Murasaki Shikibu’s influence ends. You see the Tale of Genji was likely incomplete by the time Murasaki Shikibu died, so other authors wishing to complete the work decided to finish it in her name (if you prefer they were all riding her coattails). Suffice to say the quality does decline in the later chapters but that doesn’t diminish how influential the story is not only for its literary merits but also because it paints a sordid picture of the decadent Heian court life before the rise of the Samurai and the AWESOMENESS that is the Tale of Heike (the Greatest and yet least celebrated Japanese tale OF ALL TIME).
The other notable work of Murasaki Shikibu is her diary, in which she seems to rail against the reality of Heian court life about drunken courtiers and other women at court who annoyed the hell out of her. While the Tale of Genji is more widely known it is her dairy which serves as a nice read for historians if only to get a picture of how one person lived at court and how she viewed court life. As for Chihaya’s confusion over the poem on on how a girl can speak so lovingly of an osana-jimi who is also a girl, well there a couple ways to interpret it. Firstly same sex intercourse was allowable and was considered beautiful in that period and beyond, at least for men, possibly for women too. Prince Genji even beds a young boy early on after he failed to get into some girl’s bed. So yes it is possible that the poem is also referring to a young lover or a bygone days. It cannot also be denied that in her diary Muraskai Shikibu does pay particular attention to Sei Shonogan, her blood rival (they served competing Imperial waifus). While she rails at men for being drunk, Mursaki goes into detail about how much she hates Sei Shonogan while admitting that Sei Shonogan was talented at writing. The malcontent in me holds that Murasaki Shikibu was tsundere for Sei Shonogan, and even there is evidence that Murasaki at least was married the truth is in that decadent court for poncy people wearing make up marrying for love was the exception, political expediency was the usual cause.
So now that you have digested that you all should know that Taichi should be worried because Chihaya is likening her situation to the Tale of Genji. That longing stuff and all the lamentation that her meeting with Arata was so fleeting, yeah it hints that Chihaya is the lover and Arata is her Genji or is it the other way around. While this is not a perfect fit for Arata knows a thing or two about honor and dignity, back in ye olde days in Heian Japan harems were allowed, illicit affairs were rather celebrated by men and women (at least in fiction), and Imperial succession was determined by the possession of a jewel, mirror, and sword. So yeah while Arata is nowhere near as flirtatious as Prince Genji, to Chihaya he is that dashing figure who gives her so much and all she wants to do is study under his AWESOME GLOW. The only thing that would fit Arata as Genji is that both were prodigies and if nothing else Chihaya is always over awed by Arata’s presence in the same vein as the women go gaga for Genji while some dudes go gei Genji.
On the Yuri Front though while Arata has returned Kana-chan’s devotion to Chihaya has not diminished and Kana-chan seems to be weeping tears of joy that Chihaya is redoubling her efforts to challenge Shinobu. Desk-kun may have been put in charge but it is Kana-chan who at the end of the day still cares the most about Chihaya. When Chihaya wanders it is Kana-chan who brings her back and keeps Chihaya on the right path while Taichi would make snide remarks and Desk-kun couldn’t care less. Now that we know that distance makes Chihaya’s heart grow fonder I wonder what will happen when Shinobu returns. I am hoping that since Chihaya and Shinobu have common interests that they can have a better relationship, though with four more episodes to go we might not get to it. I still want to see Arata vs. Shinobu if only so that we can start establishing a pecking order. I think that would be a great match and a match that Chihaya would remember forever in her heart.
As for Taichi giving up on making Class A and focusing on being a man who doesn’t run away, the problem is though I fail to see what he is running from. The problem is he can’t run to Chihaya and confess because at the end of the day it wasn’t that he was fleeing from her. Rather he had been waiting in vain for the better part of his life. This is hardly an epiphany and if Taichi can’t stand out in karuta I wonder what master plan he has for getting noticed because it seems that confessing still has not occurred to him.
Hana’s thoughts: on underwater love
Loved this episode. Not only did we get a proper amount of Arata screentime that included him playing in a Karuta tourney (finally!), but we also got some great development of all three main characters, an interestingly used ‘reality check’ in the form of impending end-of-year exams, and some of the most striking imagery and use of poetry in the series to date. And a cute montage of mini-flashbacks of the main three as littl’uns. So, the episode was framed by Chihaya’s perspective, beginning and ending with her thoughts on Karuta vs. the pressures of study, before concluding with her realision of the importance of doing ‘the things you don’t want to do, before you can do the things you truly want to do.’ Which doesn’t exactly need a rocket scientist to figure out, but it was satisfying seeing Chihaya’s shifting perspectives, from someone who is so short-sighted at times, to someone who is able to see and deal with the bigger picture. Thus, the process seemed like a mini-journey for her, if you will.
Moving on, I very much enjoyed the development of the three leads and the way this was portrayed via the ‘cinematography’ in the episode. Red/ fire vs. blue/ ice/ water are oppositions that have been used before in the show, but I found the underwater imagery completely captivating. Water… being engulfed in it, gulping it, the difficulties of walking through it, while others move through it so easily, being doused by it, water as a tranquil presence, but also a fast moving, throbbing, gushing force… Coupled with the poetry and the Genji story (see above for Crusader’s explanation), this puts Chihaya, Arata and Taichi in other interesting lights. While Arata isn’t exactly a traditional Genji figure in any sense, the excitement and sadness in Chihaya’s reading of the respective verses was quite moving, conveying the passion and loss that goes hand in hand with chasing after someone you admire so much and yet being repeatedly torn away from them and their love/ friendship. In short, Chihaya’s admiration and passion seemed to be reborn after watching Arata play, and yet she allows Kana-chan to take her away and back to the reality of her academic responsibilites. Thus, to extend the water metaphor further, you could say that Chiahaya was both ‘engulfed’ by her passion, but it was also ‘doused’ or tempered by the reality of her circumstances. Finally, Arata and Taichi’s blushes did nothing to sway the ‘Chiahay x ??’ shippers, as clearly both consider her as a potential romantic partner, but I will add that I was pleased that Taichi did not take an underhand or easy way out in either of his roles as a romantic rival and as a professional. Clearly, he, like each of the others, has come a long way.