Well, that shows how much I know. Chihaya didn’t beat Shinobu after all – the circle of life continues.
So here we are, deep in the midst of another Karuta tournament. My gut was telling me that we were approaching a sea change of sorts, that Chihaya had finally matured enough as a player to bear The Queen and stake her place in a rematch against Arata. But no, we’re on very familiar ground here – the difference was smaller, but 7 cards really isn’t all that close.
If this is a signal that Suetsugu is going to stay true to form for the rest of the tournament, that means Arata will surely win, as he’s facing a zaku from Fujisaki. Sadly Nishida is basically a zaku in Suetsugu’s scheme too, so he’s probably destined to fall – as is Retro-kun. He, at least, had the entire Hokuo cheering section pulling for him – which is only as it should be I suppose after all he’s done for them, though hardly fair to their A-Class first year. It’s Hiro’s match that holds the most interest for me, given how long he’s futilely struggled to reach Class A, though predictably it gets almost no focus in the chapter.
This is fairly routine stuff for Chihayafuru to be honest, though there were a couple of interesting moments. Chihaya helping Wakamiya with her tasuki for one – it proves to be the turning point in their match, ironically. And the interjection of team tactics in an individual event – a reminder of the gulf that separates players like Nishida and Hiro-kun from Shinobu. Chihaya is interesting in that light, because she’s always been something of a bridge between the two worlds – an individual playing in team events rather than one of those kids “missing” something who draw their strength from others like them. Since there are almost no others like Chihaya (or Arata) they need to draw their motivation from their own struggles, even as they go through the motions of being part of the team.
If there’s a distinguishing element in this tournament arc (which has on the whole been pretty routine, if we’re honest) it’s that reflects the last stage in Chihaya’s life cycle as a team player – now that she’s at the end of her time at Mizusawa and Taichi has left a leadership vacuum behind him, she’s finally embraced the notion of team in a fashion she never had before. Even Arata has tried to do the same, though too late to do more than grasp at the fringes of the dream – he envies what Taichi had, and Taichi envies what Arata has. Such is the nature of adolescence I suppose, and not just adolescence either…