Buckle up – we’re gonna be here for a while.
As is so often the case with Chihayafuru, this chapter represents a kind of “good news, bad news” scenario. It’s nice that we get a break from all the ultra-heavy character drama the last few chapters have delivered, but there’s a price. We’re headed for another endless string of competition chapters, it seems – in this series there’s always another tournament. And that means the larger issues are likely to be put on the back burner yet again.
This time around it’s the individual tournament, of course. Taichi is long gone, but there’s still plenty of fodder for Suetsugu to work with here. We have Arata deciding to bail on the individual tournament over the guilt he feels over losing in the team event – or so he says. To be honest it’s kind of a classic drama king Arata move, and no doubt fueled in part by his sulking over losing to Chihaya. Fortunately for Arata his sensei pounds some sense into him, reminding him of just how disrespectful to his teammates and opponents such a move would be – not to mention costing his school a chance at a huge publicity coup that could be invaluable to the survival of the Karuta Club.
Then we have Shinobu, who even in a cast of self-obsessed teens stands out for her self-obsession. She’s decided to wear a kimono for the tournament (one of her sponsors is a traditional clothing maker), which of course prompts Kana-chan to beg Chihaya to wear one of her family’s (Chihaya demurs). Wakamiya is horrified that Arata has lost to Chihaya, and sets it upon herself to extract revenge in his name. And she’ll get the chance, too, as the two draw each other in the quarter-finals, after the Queen has made mincemeat out of Tamaru by 21 cards. This earns her a stern lecture from Nishida (who wins his first match), who chides her for giving up even when her own match was hopeless rather than try and at least make Wakamiya work a little harder before she has to play a teammate. As for Chihaya, I found it intriguing she muses that Arata is “like a God” to her – which for me just supports the notion that what she’s in love with is the fantasy, and not the real person.
The other Mizusawas are out there too, of course – Tsukuba (ignored as usual) has sneaked unseen into Class B along with Tsutomu, and Kana takes it upon herself to try and uphold the family business’ honor in the Class C tournament. But you know, for me what would provide the real drama here would be seeing Retro-kun finally bust through and make it to Class A – on the karuta side of things, he’s actually stepped up and provided the most emotional highs at this tournament.