Well one more to go and Taichi is in desperation mode. I knew it was only a matter of time before he would try and lure Chihaya to his bedroom so that he could try something. However if Zeus wanted him to be with Chihaya he would have miracled it by now. Instead it seems that Taichi has not only offended Zeus, disgusted Andy, put Patrick in despair, and chased away Noe; he even offended the Devil, Robot Devil, and Hades, who all sent his mother on a mission to disrupt any rapist designs that Taichi had that day. Yes Taichi’s mom is a vile person just like her son, but for all the hatred she has unjustly heaped upon Chihaya it has done some minor good in that Taichi will never realize his love through forcing himself on Chihaya. The forces of evil may have sent Madame Mashima, but Zeus also sent in the cavalry in Desk-kun, Porky, and Kana-chan. The first two needed some rocket punches to move along but Zeus is not so foolish as to trust a vile woman with Chihaya’s safety.
Try as Taichi might, fate is against him as even supposing he ever managed to confess or worse, channel his inner Zeke any relationship with Chihaya is doomed to fail. First Chihaya is hardly interested in his comings and goings. Furthermore, Taichi’s mom will always be in the way. When time comes for Taichi to go to college I am sure Mrs. Mashima will pack her son off to some foreign university that she will bribe her son into. Let’s be honest Mrs. Mashima is embarrassed by her son, his friends are not to her liking, Chihaya is her personal enemy, and Taichi isn’t excelling at the things she wants. The usual solution is to pack off the embarrassing child off to a foreign university and given her desire to look good I am sure that Taichi will be sent off to Cambridge or Oxford. Heaven help Taichi if he were sent to America for in America we would likely destroy him through our collective lack of empathy and rugged individualism. It is probably good then that Taichi is slowly starting to surrender and accept his fate of being forever alone for the weight of his sins have slowly begun to crush him. As much as Taichi thinks that all is fair in love in war, not all is right and the will of Heaven has a way of asserting itself to make things right eventually.
Chihaya is sitting this one out but it seems clear that Shinobu and Yumin were able to teach her a thing or two. Poor Yumin ended up on the losing end but it was almost inevitable. Yumin’s fear gave away to a false sense of security, but even if Shinobu has been eating ice cream bars by the crate, it was arrogant of Yumin to think that Shinobu’s skills had also diminished. Let’s be honest here karuta doesn’t burn the most calories of any sport and while Shinobu got bigger she did not get stupider. Shinobu did have amazing presence of mind in that she was never afraid of losing or worrying too much about Yumin’s lead. I think much of it has to do with being very comfortable with her skills and some of it has to do with her lack of consideration for anything other than karuta and snowmaru. Shinobu seemed totally unaware of her newly acquired additional weight, and even if Chihaya and Kana-chan were appalled to see Shinobu in such an unhealthy state, it just goes to show how Shinobu cannot care anymore less about appearances and public opinion.
Yumin seems to have rediscovered her fire for the game and while she lost once again, she seems to have also rediscovered her heart. It doesn’t matter if Shinobu beats her this year, next year is a whole different year and Yumin is going to play with the goal of reclaiming her throne. Shinobu on the other hand seems to have few equals though Suo seems to draw her ire. Perhaps the Master and the Queen have faced off before, in which case I would like to know who has walked away the winner more often than not. Shinobu was once again able to take a bit of the spotlight this week as some of the episode was dedicated to her past. Not only was Shinobu simply adorable, but she was a precocious child who was never fully nurtured by her mother.
Like Chihaya, Shinobu seems to have had some irritating boys play stupid jokes on her, but where Chihaya beat up vile boys like Taichi on a daily basis Shinobu never paid them any mind and enjoyed the favor of the cards. The only thing outside of Snowmaru and karuta that Shinobu cares about is her family which isn’t entirely functional. Her mother seems to have serious self-esteem issues and desperately wants Shinobu to excel at something to justify moving in back with grandma. Grandma on the other hand seems to be strict and cold. I am unsure about whether or not granny is fair, but at least she was willing to take in Shinobu and her mother. As much as I would like to pound on Shinobu’s mother I can’t imagine how hard it was to get a divorce in Japan which isn’t nearly as generous to divorced mothers as the West is. Still given the rather lopsided divorce laws that were standard in Japan I am glad that Shinobu’s mother won custody. Hopefully Shinobu’s mom will get it together and be her own hero and not need to be some lackey wife of some belligerent dude.
While her family was far from harmonious at least there was some silver lining in that Shinobu did end up functional if a little quirky. It could have been much worse given that potentially hostile environment, better that her mother agonize over Shinobu than her mother go through more relationship wrecks. Purity of intent might not be there but at least Shinobu found her own niche and isn’t letting family strife get to her. Even if granny is not the most expressive person in the world I give Shinobu credit for wanting to make her mother and grandmother proud.
I must say though that while Taichi is still a vile failure of a schemer, Pork-bun really made an ass of himself this episode. Yes Suo is great but so are Shinobu and Yumin. Suo is not the be all end all of karuta and if he had been paying attention he would have watched the last match. All this talk about the three of them being “men” made me laugh. Not one of them has earned honor on the field of karuta, last time I checked Sudo wasn’t apt on bragging. Furthermore, Sudo was the one roasting Porky, and the only one from their club to defeat him was Chihaya who is a woman. Also I distinctly recall the Mizusawa boys cowering in fear when Sudo was around and when Arata cast a shadow from Fukui.
Next week seems to be more about Suo who may be even better than Shinobu or at the very least faster. Hopefully Suo is better at giving a demonstration than he is at his studies. It is going to be something to see the Academically Lazy Three Time Master of Karuta do his thing. If Taichi is smart he will be watching the game instead of ogling Chihaya.
Hana’s thoughts: on Dem Faces…
…Seriously, it felt like these, both in terms of (exaggerated) design as well as impact, went up a notch in this episode. In a show that displays such detail and subtlety as well as sheer glee when it comes to conveying facial expressions and reactions, it was just such a hoot seeing Taichi’s mum ready to burn Chihaya alive simply by the flames of her furious disapproval, and in turn seeing poor Chihaya so terrified of the woman, in those opening scenes. In contrast, Taichi and Chihaya’s blushes regarding going up to his room to watch the Karuta final were just so shoujo, that I nearly died. Or, rather, KYAAed. In contrast, most of the other characters’ faces in this episode were more contained, either while watching or playing the central Karuta match between Yumi and Shinobu. And speaking of Ms. Who-Ate-All-the-Ices Queen Shinobu, hers was certainly a lot rounder than I – and I’m sure everyone else – was anticipating. Definitely not what I was expecting when I imagined seeing her again. Thankfully, Shinobu’s increased girth didn’t affect her ability to win the match, which would have been such a cop-out, if she’d lost and that had been the reason for the loss. Instead, Shinobu continues to grow (no pun intended) and Yumi continues to lose. Though I’ll admit that my heart did go out to the latter, a feeling that was no doubt aided by Nishida’s ‘…but she worked so hard!’-type comments. Finally, we of course met THE MASTER in this episode. Yes, I’d almost fogotten that we had yet to meet him and, even though we don’t know much about him yet, the brief glimpse we got was certainly interesting. It has been observed that Arata and Shinobu have similar facial features and colouring, so I thought that it was interesting that THE MASTER looked so much like these two, and also like Chihaya and Taichi (I’m thinking the shape of his eyes and mouth and also the colour of his eyes and hair). Aside from the fact that I like spotting such visual patterns, I guess it’s also satisfying to see how even the character design can be like a palimpsest in the way that Chihaya would like to be as a player; by learning from and taking on the best qualities of all of the top players that she knows. Clearly, Chihaya has already been booted out of this tourney already and there’s only one episode to go, but I also enjoy her little learning curves and epiphanies. Thus, like the rest of you no doubt, I can’t wait to see how the men’s final match will unfold and what our heroine and the rest of the Scooby gang will learn from it.