Chihayafuru – 23

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Damn, this show is seriously going to be the end of me.

I’m fascinated by the unusual choices Chihayafuru is making as it hurtles towards the gut-wrenching conclusion of what’s likely to be its only anime season. I’ve already been faked out a couple of times about what the focus of the final arc will be, and there’s always the possibility that Madhouse will go for an anime-original ending altogether (though I rather hope not). It now seems likely that Karuta won’t be the star attraction, but relationships – at least that’s the sense I got from this episode. While we’ll surely see the Master/Queen title matches all of the main Karuta storylines were settled with Arata and even Harada-sensei losing, and though there’s some interest in Yumin’s quest to reclaim her throne and the series has shown a willingness to focus on side characters, I can’t believe that would be the centerpiece of the anime finale.

I’m really at the point now where I care almost too much about the main cast here, and my emotions twist and turn with every jolt in their lives. I count Harada-sensei among that core group – I’ve always loved the character (his greatness was evident as early as episode 3, where he gently made Chihaya realize how selfish she was being in wallowing in her own grief), but he just becomes more and more heroic as the show progresses. It’s no wonder he stole Chihaya’s heart, and now Kana-chan’s as well? Poor Tsutomu – and while Taichi was worrying about Arata, the real enemy was right under his nose with a wife and kids. He defended Chihaya’s honor – and hair – by stomping Sadist-kun, and soldiered his way into the semifinals on strength of will, even as his body was giving out (I feel your pain, Harada-sensei!). But he found time to scold Chihaya for not thanking Yumin after their match, and to console Hiroshi after he lost in the finals of the Master qualifier. It says something about the writing of this series that this scene, involving Harada and a minor character, was arguably the most emotional of the episode. There are no throwaway characters in a show like Chihayafuru – they’re all real people, even bit players like Hiroshi – who wanted so badly to make Harada’s dreams for the Shiranami Society come true, and Arata’s sempai Murao-san. And as for Harada, I thought he’d reached the peak after the incredible scene on the platform with Taichi, but he just keeps getting better and better as a character.

But of course this show always comes down to Chihaya and Taichi and Arata (and Kanade and Tsutomu, too) and there was plenty to gnaw on there as well. To hear Taichi come right out and admit – even if it was just to himself – “I’m hopelessly in love with Chihaya” is progress. And he certainly lives the part, even if Chihaya is too dense to see it. He stays behind with her as she sulks in a locker after her loss (note that already here Kana sees that Taichi wants to do this job alone). Even as he frets that only Arata can get to her, Chihaya reveals that Taichi has reached her with his words – and later he gives her his jacket to warm herself in the cool Kyoto night. When a boy scams her number at the train station, Taichi off-handedly tells her “go for it” – then promptly blocks his number and declares that the two of them will ride together from now on. Chihaya still hasn’t realized, but Kanade certainly has – she’s the most romantically inclined of the group by nature – and if nothing else, Taichi at least has an ally (“I understand!”) now in his uphill battle. Yet of course, she’s blind to the feelings Komano has for her. Kids!

I can rage at Chihaya and Taichi both, here, no question. Chihaya continues to reveal herself as the most immature of the group – shame on her for hiding in a locker after her loss. When her teammates lose, they get over it – and they support each other. She shouldn’t have needed Taichi to shame her (and bribe her with Arata’s contact info) into coming to support Harada-sensei – that should have been the first thing on her mind. But shame on Taichi, too, for keeping his feelings to himself for all this time. Dammit, Boy, just TELL HER ALREADY! Ano Natsu has spoiled me for directness in anime romance this season, I guess, but Taichi’s love for Chihaya is eating him alive and he knows better than anyone that her cluelessness isn’t an act, it’s just who she is – it’s as if he’s waiting for Arata to come and steal her away from him because he thinks that’s what he deserves. And it’s not – he deserves a chance to be happy, and he’s put in the hard work and been as loyal and devoted as anyone could ever be. If he’s striving to be a person who doesn’t run away, seems to be that this is the place where Taichi needs to start, as it’s the most important thing in his life.

Ah, well – I suspect we won’t be getting satisfaction on these fronts in the anime, but that won’t stop me from caring deeply about what happens. Arata’s arc actually seems to have the most life left in it in anime terms – he’s confronting the regret over his own act of running away, and getting an unwanted taste of adult concerns in watching Murao drift away from Karuta. He has no one at his level to practice with (seems to be that coming to Tokyo could fix that) and is reduced to terrifying small boys for sport, and seems the most isolated of all the main cast. That theme was the highlight of the Christmas party scenes that provided a lovely coda to the episode, with the Mizusawa club members realizing that they’ve grown as people and gained the respect of the school, but also that they’ve come to love each other as family. Even as Taichi is at his party surrounded by girls he has no interest in, Kanade lectures on hot pot, Nishida bowls and Chihaya and Tsutomu realize that the rest of their schoolmates exist too, their thoughts turn to each other. Arata doesn’t seem to have that with anyone, and that’s a sad thought.

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  1. d

    What? Still no comments? That's rare.

    Are they in Kyoto?
    Even as he frets that only Arata can get to her, Chihaya reveals that Taichi has reached her with his words – and later he gives her his jacket to warm herself in the cool Kyoto night.

  2. e

    *tears* while I'm glad to see more of Arata, Taichi you're killing me. I'm getting André Grandier's Terminal Supporter Syndrome all over again.
    Actions can speak louder than words, but Chihaya's superhearing abilities in the figurative sense still are not up to par ^__^;;;. Baby steps, baby steps…
    Thanks goodness there's Kana-chan there as well. Her lovely maiden her <3.
    Indeed, Harada-sensei was great all around in this episode. I'll miss these characters once the series is over.


  3. I

    I would like to post how this series makes me feel.

    This series is like a friend or a group of greater friends you have. We hang out and meet, have fun together and laugh, we cry together and share each others wounds. That is what kind of series this is to me. When it comes to an end it will be like those friends leaving you because they have to. We can chat, but I feel that I won't ever meet them again.

    So I can read the manga but I don't think it'll ever be as good as the anime. It will be like chatting not skyping. When anime about friendship, like this one in some ways, becomes friends with you, the end of that friendship is the greatest wound it can give you.

    I have watched anime for 4 years now and I don't think any anime before will make me so sad when it ends. But when the time comes to say part ways I will wipe the tears from my face and wave goodbye with a smile on my face.

    Nothing lasts forever so cherish what stands by your side

  4. Well put. There will be many tears on that last Taichi Tuesday.

  5. I

    Thanks. Many manly tears to come

  6. A

    Damnit Taichi, confess already!

  7. t

    Morio Asaka has gone anime original in a few of his previous works like Gunslinger Girl and Chobits so it wouldn't be a first for him.Still I'm not sure what I want to,seems like S2 isn't happening and trying to end things now with an original ending could lead to a disaster.So I fear that either way I won't be satisfied with the ending.

    Madhouse certainly assembled quite a staff of "young prospects" and "seasoned veterans",the latest notable name is Chiaki Kon who brought you this episode.

  8. M

    The closer we come to the end, the more I am convinced I will be sobbing like an idiot in front of the screen once the final episode airs – for good or bad (though I'd obviously preffer it to be tears of joy).
    Please… Taichi x Chihaya…. pwetty pwease? ;//////; I mean, how can they NOT end together after this episode <3 ? -drifts off on her fangirl-cloud-
    Then again, this show has this tendency of 'not everything ends the way you want it to', which alwas reminds me more of josei than shoujo (but of course, it's hard to squeeze Chihayafuru into a single genre…). And that scares me. It really, really does!

    I started watching Chihayafuru on a whim, because I just liked the artwork. Never ever did I expect it to hook me up so much that I catch myself every Tuesday night checking whtehter or not the stream has already been uploaded…

  9. If anything, Chihayafuru seems more like a mix of josei and shounen than shoujo to me. But I've never been big on rigid genre classifications anyway.

  10. t

    I think it's pretty telling that I listen to the chihayafuru OST every week while reading the latest bakuman manga chapter and it fits perfectly.

  11. f

    I just feel so bad for Taichi because it is obvious that the only thing Chihaya thinks about when she is not thinking about Karuta is Arata.

    Taichi knows this so it must be hurt even more.

    Maybe he needs to leave town for a while to make Chihaya realize that she misses him?

    However, Chihaya only blushes or is speechless when it comes to Arata. I don't think Taichi has a chance. I think he is permanently "friend-zoned."

    I am on Taichi's side 100% despite this.

  12. M

    I don't think Taichi leaving town would make Chihaya realize anything – they have been apart during middle school, too, so it'd be probably the same result… Unless Chihaya finally grows up and starts to 'think about love issues'… apart from random strangers who confess to her at the train station… But for this, Taichi would need to finally tell her! GYAH! Come on Tyichi, go!!
    Ekhem… yes…

  13. R

    Yes she almost dated a complete stranger so maybe all he has to do is confess!


  14. p

    Hmm just trying to figure out how to post…

  15. R

    Goshdarn, I figured it out maybe.

    I was fungku above.

  16. Ryan/Posts/fungku (LOL):

    I'm still not seeing Chihaya's interest in Arata as confirmably romantic. He's the God of Karuta. He has an air of mysticism around him because he's not present in her life, and Taichi is, and I agree he's the favorite. But I still say it's not decisive.

  17. R

    This is also a good point. When she thinks of him it is typically always karuta-related.

  18. R

    ….but at least she thinks of him at all <_<


  19. M

    I agree!! Arata was always something for Chihaya to reach, something that inspires her to move on, and I feel he gives those some aspirations to Taichi, but he feels unreachable for both of them.

    The “I’m hopelessly in love " really killed me in that episode :'(
    Is there no hope that there's gonna be a season 2??

  20. I would never say "no hope". The manga remains quite popular, and it did see a modest bump in sales as a result of the anime. I don't think it's totally impossible we could see a second season someday (there's enough material for it now) but I think it's pretty unlikely.

  21. A

    Damnit Taichi – just say it. You're supposed to be the one who doesn't run away…

  22. d

    He aint running away. He is hiding in Arata's shadow and Chihaya's blind spot. A ninja waiting to strike. If he ever decided to.

  23. A

    Taichi should date chihaya,I mean she was about to date a complete stranger just because he asked her… she was like a slut in this episode

  24. Yes, but would still need to ASK HER.

    Seriously, I tend to think Chihaya was only willing to consider that because there was no emotional attachment in it for her – that would be "practice". If Taichi asked her out, she'd give it a lot more consideration before deciding. But I sure wish he'd take his chances and go for it.

  25. R

    Yes. Damn idiot. If he doesn't do it before Arata makes a move I'm going into rage mode.

  26. d

    Most likely Arata will ask her out. And Taichi must fight even harder for her.
    All in the name of Taichi being the underdog and Arata being King. More Angst to further the storyline

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