Chihayafuru – 20: Taichi’s Ex-Hex and Arata Strikes Back

If only Taichi were Tall Dark and Bishoujo...or at least Class A.

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.

THE DESIRE TO WIN.

Kana-chan is so happy that Chihaya is becoming more like Shinobu by the day.

And people wonder why she never married...

Can't wait for Lan's first day at Seaworld eh?

Look who's not on there...Taichi.

OMG so Desk-kun and the Old Hag were going at it... This is one ship I do not want to see, but refuse to sink for the greater good.

OH HELL YEAH A BRIGHTSLAP!

Chihaya is even adopting Madoka's top knot...soon she will be a member of the Jersey Club and will be full of Jersey Spirit.

Frozen by fear again? What did you mother show up or something...?

Wow...Arata thought Taichi would have begged to be let into Class A.

In absence of orders go find something and kill it.

BANG! DOWN GOES TAICHI, DOWN GOES TAICHI! I guess we can now call it the Ex-Hex because it all started when Taichi cheated on his girlfriend.

Careful Chihaya, the Ex-Hex can rub off on people.

Guess who's back? Back again...Arata's back, tell a friend...

Dang all Arata needs to do is show up to take Chihaya's breath away...

There, there Taichi even if Chihaya habitually ignores you in favor of Arata, you can still bag the Old Hag because she's only one who really likes you.

She was totally immersed in Arata's game.

Arata only wanted to wash away Chihaya's tears...he over did it by a tad...

Thus does Arata take on the mid-boss in the real battle for Chihaya's affections.

No off the couch miracles here, and certainly one would expect Arata to have more rust than rest.

There is no crying in Arata's Karuta...

Instead Arata put Hiroshi on his shit list of players he will demolish when they next meet.

Wait are you trying to take credit for Hiroshi's win?

Taichi was overjoyed that Arata didn't win.

Come to think of it...Taichi better confess soon because Chihaya is a probable for confessing to Arata, and we all know who has more insane courage...

If only Taichi knew who Chihaya has been dreaming about for the last few episodes.

Part of me wants to see Taichi in Class A if only to see how badly Shinobu would rout him.

jiiiiiiiiiiiiiii...

I wonder if they weren't separated at birth or something.

I guess the reunion match will have to take place some other time... as shame really.

I wonder how Taichi felt as he was all but ignored as Chihaya got lost in Arata's deep blue eyes.

Chihaya is shocked that Kana-chan looks so good as a megane.

What an honorable man Arata is even now, unlike that duplicitous lout standing before him.

So he assumed the worst...

Only now do you realize your magnitude of your failure...

I really can't see any Genji in Arata...motly due to loyalty and utter lack of philandering.

Also Arata never kidnapped her to be his waifu...

I suppose Kana-chan is right better to draw comparison between the author than the fictional character.

In which case if Chihaya is Murasaki Shikibu then maybe Shinobu is Sei Shonogan, but even the there is the lack of a true blood rivalry...

Her heart is swooning...and not for Taichi.

SAY IT LOUD, SAY IT PROUD.

Need you ask? Taichi being depressed is as indisputable as sunrise.

I see this happen all the time you win an emotional game only to get rolled in next one.

I just wanted to know why it is that Taichi is the one who was selected to be the exception to the rule...

DO IT, SELL OUT OLD MAN may as well start charging a fee while you are at it.

I don't know the Cubs are cursed and haven't won a championship for more than a century. Then there is Cleveland...

I suppose Taichi hardly counts as some one in karuta...

As a long suffering Golden State Warriors fan, I suggest, unless you wish to sell out, you give Taichi a Shinobu Bobblehead as a reward.

Can't make Class A change your life goals... it's not that you are running away, IT'S THAT YOU WON'T CONFESS, big difference.

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24 Comments

  1. Aleator
    Posted February 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Interesting episode. I’m wondering crusader, what exactly *would* it take in your mind for Taichi to redeem himself? Or to at least start the (perhaps rather long) process of rising to the occasion?

    • Crusader
      Posted February 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      He could start reversing the curse by apologizing to his ex-girlfriend for the way he treated her. Only Ex remove the Hex.

  2. ectholion
    Posted February 25, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    This was a good episode!!! I Like how Arata and Taichi are both filling out as characters. Chihaya though her lack working at school is troubling and her running out on her tutor who was helping her i assume free of charge was really wrong of her. I hope neither Arata or Taichi confess to her… i would rather see each of them with someone else since it would not strain or damage their recovering friendship. Plus she seems a bad match for either guy she is way too immature. I would like to see a TaichiXKana and ArataXShinobu though. Welcome back Hana!!!

    • Ida
      Posted February 26, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Personally I like to imagine Chihaya/Shinobu (because she is the only one who may try to molest Chihaya when they are playing Karuta, as she is too clueless and everyone else too polite to do anything), and Arata/Taichi (that blush, damn it!). With Kana-chan as a mistress of them all.

      • ectholion
        Posted February 26, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        Indeed ArataXTaichi would make a cute couple i cannot believe i missed that blush!!! still though i think Chihaya need to focus on school and leave matters of love alone since she already cannot balance school and Karuta. I shall add this couple to the list of desired couples in this series.

        • Crusader
          Posted February 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          My goodness you can’t even stick with a ship, DUPLICITOUS VILLAIN! TRAITOR!

      • Crusader
        Posted February 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        OT3!

    • Crusader
      Posted February 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Leave it to you to blame the woman and exonerate Taichi for not confessing, since when did love make sense? I guess to you it’s all business. You saddle Kana-chan with Taichi to satisfy your own ego, there is nothing there and you are the kind of guy who would go for the best friend out of spite… As for Arata and Shinobu they haven’t even met yet. So with four episodes or so to go… well I think Zeus is going to remind you of how much he frowns upon you.

      • ectholion
        Posted February 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        well it seems you got me there i could careless for any pairing in this show. i just think they would make good couples.

    • Bob from Accounting
      Posted February 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Now, I know I can defend Taichi at the best of times, but I draw the line at allowing him anywhere near Kana-chan. Shame on you. Go and think about what you’ve done.

      • ectholion
        Posted February 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Alittle love would do Kana-chan good, and if Taichi was over his silly childish infatuation with Chihaya, then im sure they would make a good couple.

        • Crusader
          Posted February 26, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

          Kana-chan is not a piece of property to be doled out! Insolent CURR! Kana-chan already has plenty of love from Chihaya who actually confessed. Nishida too seeks her favor and did not dally with any one else. IF ZEUS wanted that ship HE WOULD HAVE MIRACLED IT BY NOW seeing as he has not do not presume to play cupid when you disregard TRUE LOVE. Why don’t you ship yourself with Taichi? You love him plenty while Kana-chan feels nothing. Do not presume to tell her how to choose her love. That is her divine right not your’s you filthy mongrel.

          • ectholion
            Posted February 27, 2012 at 5:53 am | Permalink

            …this personal attacking thing crusader isnt gonna get get me to do anything other then ignore your comments crusader. Please try to act more like an adult.

          • Crusader
            Posted February 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

            I am sorry I trampled upon your feelings. You are still wrong, it is shameful to put Kana-chan on a desperation ship to save Taichi from drowning in his loneliness. That’s what like two failed relationships, his Ex-girlfriend, and Chihaya, what makes you think Taichi can make Kana-chan happy when he never uttered her name during confession time?

            Pick a ship and sink with it if it goes down, desperation ships are disgraceful.

          • ectholion
            Posted February 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

            well for one i do not hold high school love very highly since in my opinion it is for at best teaching children how to date and love. Most people dont end up with high school sweethearts, why i say Taichi could be good for kana has nothing to do with them having any type of long standing romantic future since they both will most likely go away to different colleges and take different paths in life. Taichi is for many reasons is wrong for Chihaya which i realize now, in past i was blinded by bias from read the magnaka other works. I do not in any way think that Taich and Kana will get together in the anime or the manga. I simply think that a Taichi not infatuated with Chihaya could be a good match for Kana. And so im not Shipping them as a couple. I am not shipping any couple in this series, I could like an ArataXChihaya but its so late in the series it would be too rushed. Also i doubt she is ready for that type of relationship i mean she is having trouble balancing school with Kurata. What i do think is that Taichi/Arata/Chihaya seem like they have a good friendship and i would not like to see that ruined over a hasty end to shipping madness. And no, you did not trample on my feeling, It is just arguing opinions is better done without name calling, since that only instigates more of that and i would rather not call you names you are a great blogger and have put out alot of amazing posts.

    • Posted February 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      The character development was very enjoyable indeed. You mention Desk-kun, he (along with Kana-chan) had a small but dynamic role in the episode, so it’s probably worth (re-)emphasizing his brief but valid words of wisdom. I also enjoyed the irony of getting him to be Chiahaya’s tutor. (And thank you, ectho!)

  3. paj
    Posted February 26, 2012 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Thank you both for a wonderful summary and thought provoking analysis of the water theme and the poem.

    And yes!!!! I have two people who agrees with me about Chihaya being a flower and Arata is the water that nurtures her growth. And it is also AWESOME how I am not the only one who understands the implication that Taichi is a coward; since Arata believing Taichi to have grown into a better man since last they met, should of made the move to get Chihaya’s heart, all but just declared his intentions to Taichi that he will pursue her, if Taichi hasn’t yet. (That blush was what gave his intention away) AHHH thank you both for a riveting recap and opinionated piece.

    • Crusader
      Posted February 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      If nothing else Arata has fewer confidence issues to pursue a relationship. He knows full well that Taichi is more of frenemy and true friend.

    • Posted February 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      I also found it slightly odd that Arata would try to go through Taichi, rather than give Chihaya that note himself, or reply to one of the emails that she’s sent him before. Guess he might just be playing the cautious gentleman, thinking that if Chihaya’s in a relationship with Taichi, then speaking to Taichi first might be a less embarrassing way to see if (a) she’s available and (b) if Taichi has/ intends to make a move… Just another lingering thought, I guess! Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Dein
    Posted February 26, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Good to see Arata back in action. Very exciting episode, and Aratas game and water theme were both excellent. I’m not exactly sure if Arata is really the water for Chihaya as a “flower” though, simply because I think that Chihaya is at that stage where she needs to work on herself by using her own effort, rather than be mentored or guided by someone. I also think the water is fitting to Aratas playstyle and mindset during a game. How he’s one of the calmer and more collected characters I’ve seen on and off the field, who at the same time can turn into a “storm” at the blink of an eye (if you pardon the lazy comparison). as opposed to Chihayas highly emotional ways. Either way. love Arata back on screen and hope to see him both in team matches with Chihaya as well as against her and Shinobu.

    As for Taichi, it seems to me that he’s not so much of a coward anymore as he is simply a rather empty person lacking any kind of real drive or passion. He gets his very brief moments, but they fade away just as quickly as they happen. As much as I dislike him, it would be nice to see him man up a little in a sense of action, rather than words, and do a big gesture of some kind (*cough* confess *cough*) rather than what he’s doing right now. Would at least put him close to the same level of progress that both Chihaya and Arata have achieved, desptie one of them having very little screen time.

    • Crusader
      Posted February 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      There is nothing wrong with seeking help when it comes to school, some people simply learn things differently. That schools only teach students one way is simply due to a decided lack of imagination and budget. Taichi may well be a shell of a man certainly his name is fast becoming a byword for inaction. Certainly he has never taken on a task or ordeal because he felt passionate about something, He seems more content to be just swept away by events while taking baby steps towards action.

      • Dein
        Posted February 26, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I didn’t mean it like that. I wasn’t implying that Chihaya shouldn’t ask for help or support of she needs it. More like it seems to me that the best way she can improve herself (game-wise, anyway) is by working everything out in her mind.

  5. snuberr
    Posted February 26, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Bah, I know that romance isn’t played out much in the anime/manga, but shipping will always find it’s way~ *Nostalgic sigh* Ahhh….shipping~

    I have to get this out of my chest: the Taichi guards can be so damn annoying with their long list of praise for Taichi, even patronizing how great Taichi is that he breaks up with his girlfriend (over the FUCKING phone, as a woman, that is one of the biggest insult you can do!). Every jerky action always comes with a reason or excuse, but when it comes to Arata, it’s always a never-ending whine of how he’s not present or for kicking cards (or the simple fact that he’s not voiced by Miyano Mamoru). With that said, I love the subtlety of how their laying out Chihaya/Megane (and Kana/Chihaya), as well as how the anime still manages to screw Taichi despite his so-called advantage of proximity.

    Biased or not, I salute you Crusader for perhaps being the few people that doesn’t fall for the rich boy trap.

    • Crusader
      Posted February 26, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Fundamentally though it’s because a lot of people see so much of Taichi in themselves, the awkward kid with no direction who can’t take the bold step and forever live in the realm what if. Seeing that they argue a break up over the phone is a good thing perhaps there is a reason why Taichi seems so socially dysfunctional and seems to be broken in more ways than one. He doesn’t dare so he dies daily.

      Nostalgia is a funny thing, it gets better with separation in distance and in time. Moreover we never see Arata making a total ass of himself every episode.

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