Chihaya likes lolis. Taichi has a new Class A act. Sudo returns and baptizes Nishida. Desperation ships, bold text messages, daring wagers and Kana-chan got denied by an old man; this week had plenty going on but not one confession. People want to call Taichi a karuta genius but he can’t match a 6 year old phenom when it comes to making Chihaya’s heart skip a beat.
Now that the Empress’ feeble attempt to publicly embarrass Chihaya for passing the meaning less exams, it was time for her to return to the field to sharpen her skills for the inevitable rematch between her and Shinobu. Sudo might have drawn Nishida as his first victim but that did not stop him from lighting Chihaya’s inner fire and bait her into a friendly wager. While the peanut gallery is already looking for the next big thing and have prematurely crowned Shinobu’s successor, Chihaya was able to take page out of the Sakura playbook to demonstrate to Ririka that karuta is not just about speed. While Ririka wasn’t going to blast her way out of this one, she put up a tough fight in the end faults cost her dearly and Chihaya emerged the victor after Harada sensei remembered to take off the training wheels. Sadly while Ririka, it was even more tragic that everyone else wrote her off after a loss. She’s only six and has plenty of room to grow and improve, more over it was disrespectful to write off Shinobu to begin with and ignore that Chihaya was still going to play the game and not just roll over. The kid will be back and certainly while she got over confident Chihaya did not hold it against her.
Rather Chihaya was duly impressed and most sympathetic because she was just like the kid not too long ago. While victory is never guaranteed it was good to see Chihaya win gracefully and for her young opponent to ignore the peanut gallery that turned on her faster than the New York Media. Sudo on the opposite side crushed Nishida mercilessly despite the latter swearing that he would defend Chihaya’s hair. Having Sudo around is always fun as he always seems to have a way with words and his belligerence and bold bluntness is refreshing compared to the rest of the boys in the east who can make boasts but rarely back them up. A terrible shame that Sudo vs. Nishida was omitted and we did not get to witness how Sudo trashed Nishida and made Nishida squeal. Should Sudo win it will be interesting to see if he will demand that the bet be honored or show leniency to Chihaya. Should it be the former it will be a test of Taichi’s “love” to see his reaction. I am hoping for the latter though where Sudo graciously allows Chihaya to keep her hair and demands another form of compensation, possibly some of her time. That way we can see if Taichi will be assertive and try and fight off Sudo should Sudo choose to be one of Chihaya’s suitors. I would be most amused if Chihaya started collecting boys and Sudo and Taichi had to fight it out for her favor.
It would be a fight the Sudo would win because he’s better at karuta, has a mean streak a mile wide, and is not afraid to speak his mind. Given how Sudo turned Nishida into paste and paralyzed him with fear with but a word, Taichi better pray that he will never have to face Sudo for he would not survive the encounter intact. However a strong threat Sudo is it seems that the current Meijin, Sou Hisashi, is no fool and is likely more than capable of crushing even the likes of Arata. I am curious though if we shall see the Meijin himself in action given how few episodes are left, granted Shinobu was introduced rather early we have no idea of how mighty Sou is. The tournament continues and both Chihaya and Sudo advance, perhaps they will face each other once again; perhaps they will meet only at the end. Should Chihaya earn the right to go on, I hope that we will get to a point where she will have the chance to play with Arata again and perhaps even Shinobu. While Harada is a doctor, I am disappointed that he believes that Shinobu and Sou are at the top simply because of talent and that neither one got there because of hard work. It’s lazy and false to say that the ones at the top are only there because of talent. There are plenty of examples where simply being talented is not enough. Wilt Chamberlain held the most NBA records but he only won 2 Championships in his 14 year career despite being bigger and better than any other player individually. Bill Russell was no where near as talented and yet he worked his way to 11 titles in his NBA career. By saying talent trumps all Harada reduces the feats that Shinobu and Sou accomplished to get to their respective thrones. Once upon a time they two were unproved rookies that were nobodies, Shinobu worked hard and trained hard to get where she is. She didn’t luck into or talent her way to being Queen. Shinobu doesn’t have just one thing she has plenty in her tool box. Just because Taichi never practices his motions because he thinks it’s stupid doesn’t mean Shinobu is doing the same.
While Sudo was goading Chihaya, Taichi just gawked and stared. So much for not running away as Sudo seems to strike fear into the hearts of Chihaya’s friends. Despite the declaration that he would no longer run Taichi did not raise so much as a finger against Sudo and his only moment of feeble courage was a non-insult over text message to Arata where there was no threat of physical retaliation. If this is a test of Taichi’s new found courage I find it underwhelming, he’s not going to vie for the title of Meijin any time soon being that he is still a Class B. It is silly of him to crown himself as the heir apparent in the east but a shame he didn’t show enough confidence to use a smoke machine and an all caps lock text about how he was going to be Meijin for not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven years. Still now that Taichi has been emboldened by his new found nerve I am sure it will be easy once the games start, Arata beware for Taichi will be coming out as the favorite for the east for a passive aggressive text message is the new courage!
Kana-chan was sadly denied this week from dolling up Chihaya, it made sense, though I do hope Kana-chan will in the future ignore Harada and go all out should Chihaya make past the qualifier this year. Harada may have no sense of fashion but he is right in that Chihaya will need as many weapons as possible if she hopes to succeed Shinobu as Queen. I guess the knowledge that his society has yet to produce a Meijin and a Queen really rankle him. Arata slipped through his fingers, and Shinobu’s reign has yet to reach its zenith. He is pinning his hopes on Hiroshi and Chihaya and while his society has yet to produce a master at least he seems to have a heated crosstown rivalry with Nishida’s society. If we are in for a Romeo and Juliet scenario then Kana-chan and Chihaya are in the ideal position as their karuta societies are in the midst of a blood feud.
Arata seems to be well on his way to advancing though even if he does, Sou seems to have left a trail of broken challengers in his wake. It will be interesting to see how Arata will respond to the challenge and rise to the occasion. Even if Taichi is going to start making Arata his archrival, Arata should keep his focus on becoming Meijin, as much as Taichi has found a way to boast it will be a long time coming. Even if Taichi makes it to Class A the field is so much stronger and given how Nishida got lit up by Sudo and Chihaya got schooled by Sakura, Taichi will likely go through the same.
Next week promises to be a continuation of Sudo’s campaign of terror, I know Kana-chan is at the edge of her seat for I know she at least would truly lament the loss of Chihaya’s hair.
Hana’s thoughts: on learning curves
Yay! Congratulations on, er, not failing any of your exams, Chihaya! So, the hard work put into her studies last week paid off and this week Chihaya can focus on Karuta again and systematically apply the timing/ rhythm technique, as well as combine this with her existing speed technique, thus adding another weapon to her arsenal. As well recalling Arata’s water-like seamlessness at the beginning of this episode, Chihaya is again compared favourably with heroes/ rivals such as Arata and Shinobu through the repetition of the colour blue via some very pretty sky and bird imagery. As much fun as it is to see her ‘on fire’, I liked the image of her calmly seated before an open door that shows nothing but a clear sky, which was a great illustration of her new found focus and control, something the others also notice during practice and later during round one of the Queen qualifiers. Speaking of which, it was great to see Chihaya bantering with Sudo again as well as seeing her play against the 6th grade child prodigy, Ririka. Ririka’s brief appearance was also a great way to show how much Chihaya has improved from being a similar player who only had natural speed and instincts to rely on, to someone who is able to incorporate more considered playing styles. Someone else who also goes through a similar learning curve is Taichi, who seems to have been over-relying on his memorisation or ‘seeing’ skills, as opposed to ‘feeling’ the game with his body. As obvious as it now sounds to work on both mental and physical techniques, I thought that this was nonetheless efficiently and rather movingly conveyed through Nishida’s desire to improve Taichi both as a friend and as someone who wants to play against him on an equal footing. Finally, Taichi’s own desire to play against worthy opponents such as Arata is highlighted again at the episode’s close in his text message to Arata. Interestingly, the message was sent when Arata was also somewhat flagging, having just witnessed the disappointment of a senpai who he thought would one day be Meijin before him, so it was great seeing Arata get fired up again after receiving the challenge. Hopefully, with only a handful of episodes to go before the series is over, this sets the stage to see most of these individuals in action against each other, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see how they interact and develop if and when these opportunities arise.