The preliminaries may have ended in the previous chapter, but it sort of feels like they’re still going on.
As we approach three years since the second season of Chihayafuru premiered, it may be time to accept the reality that we’re not likely to get a third. With each passing season that lacks an announcement an announcement gets less likely (though there is the upcoming live-action to sustain interest in the franchise). I’m certainly not giving up hope, but I am staring to accept the prospect of finishing the series in manga form only.
What does that mean, exactly? Suetsugu-sensei herself headlines a chapter with “the last vermillion days of summer have arrived”, and it’s true that the final high school tournament of the series (presumably, and certainly for the leads) has begun. There remains a sense of the late mid-game here, positioning the pieces for the final march to the finish line. But we still don’t seem very close to seeing how where that finish line might be.
There’s plenty of focus on the supporting cast here (though sadly not much on Taichi, though that seems to be his rank in the hierarchy now). It’s nice to see Hyoro-kun get some real recognition (an embrace from Chihaya, mainly) for the stalwart soul he’s turned out to be. Wakamiya is increasingly focused on life after high school, but no more comfortable with the notion of that meaning life after Karuta. Her stint at a part-timer at a bakery serves mainly to convince her that she’s not cut out to work a conventional job for a living.
It’s going to be interesting to see where Suetsugu is going with this notion of Wakamiya becoming “the first professional Karuta player”. But ultimately, no matter how much she sidetracks the elephant in the room is always going to be there. Sooner or later she has to confront what happens between Chihaya, Arata and Taichi. The latter is still acting as Sancho to the Meijn’s Quijote, this time getting ready to appear as his foil in a TV special exploring the secret of Suou’s speed (which has tapped Shinobu too at the last minute). Arata has arrived at Nationals with his two young kouhai in tow, and had a brief encounter with Chihaya. But there’s no movement on the big questions of the day.
Indeed, perhaps the most interesting page of these chapters was not even inside any of the chapters themselves, but the title page for #154 – which depicts Arata, Shinobu, Chihaya and Taichi as “King, Queen, Ace and Jack”. That’s the sort of thing that sets you to thinking, as obvious as it might seem in hindsight. I’m 154 chapters in, and I don’t yet see what Suetsugu’s endgame is – I can’t imagine a way for her to end this saga that will prove satisfying as regards the major threads in the story.