Chihayafuru – Episode 5

It’s time for Chihayafuru! We’ve fully transitioned over to the modern-day narrative now, though things certainly haven’t settled into any kind of reliable neutral. The main issue now seems to be that Arata’s gloomy-ass self has given up on karuta for some reason, leaving Chihaya with only two legs of her three-legged karuta stool. Taichi would clearly be fine with that, since he’s never really demonstrated much passion for katura outside of its ability to bring him closer to Chihaya, but Chihaya herself is presumably not pleased.

The depth of her desire is frankly still pretty unfathomable to me – not only did Chihaya only spend a few days playing karuta with the boys back in elementary school, but she’s passed through the entirety of middle school since then. I suppose I kind of have to accept some contrived “destined companions” stuff given the genre, but that disconnect keeps making it tough to engage with this show’s drama on the terms it demands. The matches themselves are great, but the connective tissue is a little iffy. But we’re still early in the show and it’s still fun to watch, so hopefully Chihayafuru will earn its drama over time. Let’s get to it!

Episode Five

Welp, looks like they’re already racing out to confront Arata about quitting

And yeah, Taichi’s already rumbling about how the trip wasn’t worth it. Taichi, this crush is a lot more trouble than it’s worth

Though I suppose Arata’s call was dramatic enough to enter “call for help” territory. Then again, that level of dramatic affectation is pretty much par for shoujo dramas, so it’s not necessarily meaningful. Attempting to translate from the assumptions of a genre to human speech is an interesting conundrum!

And yeah, just not wanting to give up on a formerly close friend is perfectly reasonable

“The Sight of a Midnight Moon.” “A light in the night sky” seems to imply Chihaya reaching out to Arata

Taichi’s trying to engage Chihaya and just enjoy the trip as if it’s a date, but she’s ignoring him. Their relationship is going to have to move beyond “Taichi lusts after Chihaya from afar, Chihaya ignores him” at some point

“Is there anyone you like?” Alright, Taichi’s at least trying to push this forward. Simply hovering in her orbit and resenting her for not acknowledging him isn’t healthy or fair – she’s under no obligation to date him just because of his proximity, that’s Friend Zone nonsense. Lying about the basis of your friendship is no way to start a relationship, either

Chihaya’s expressions are so great. They feel like they possess more subtlety than her actual statements

“Love is when it isn’t fun to be with that person.” Oh my god Taichi

Dear lord, Taichi’s learned to associate love with Chihaya’s total non-interest. My boy you have to get over her

Chihaya blushing as soon as she gets off the train in Arata’s town. Taichi, this was a bad idea

And we’re still at the exact same dynamic as when they were kids – Chihaya staring off towards Arata, Taichi staring at her back. If the show continues to lean on that for a huge number of episodes, I’m gonna have trouble with it

I like Chihaya’s boots

Running through the sakura petals, as you do

This scene focusing on the distance between their hands is nice

Buuut it’s a fakeout, interrupted by Arata at precisely the right time. I think I’ve passed the point in my life where I can sit easily with these kinds of bait-heavy romantic moments – I can’t invest in “will they or won’t they” when I know the answer to that question is just “they won’t until the author has run out of ideas and then they probably will or it’ll at least be implied.” When the strings are so obvious, and things don’t actually progress, it is very hard to care

While Taichi is content to go for the casual hand hold, Chihaya leaps straight to the dramatic tumble with Arata

Arata’s home is as gloomy as ever

Yuu is the neighbor girl

Ahaha, Taichi just casually lying about his height. I actually like Taichi a lot – he feels like he’s just kinda trapped in all this fated lovers nonsense

And Arata immediately goes to “you always were a coward.” God damn, Arata

Chihaya bringing a letter to read off is unusually clever for her. But of course, using karuta is the best way

Ah, it’s the classic scenario. Arata never lost his passion for karuta, but something is preventing him from playing, and so having Chihaya arrive is just rubbing salt in the wound. Chihaya’s gonna have to open the windows

His grandfather’s death, of course

Taichi’s anger is excellent. He doesn’t like seeing Chihaya get tossed around by Arata’s emotions

This conversation between Chihaya and Yuu is also great. This is probably the first time Chihaya’s insistence that Arata keep playing has made sense. Arata gave her a goal that made her feel special and meaningful, but him abandoning his own goal calls her dream into question. I can’t buy into “we all have to play together no matter what because we were friends in elementary school,” but I can definitely buy “you gave me this dream, you can’t abandon it now”

And of course, Arata’s grandfather suffered a stroke while Arata was out competing to become Class A. That’s a spirit breaker

Grandpa was the essence of karuta itself to Arata. His love of his grandfather was inextricably tied to his love for the game – and so now, playing the game only reminds him of his own guilt

“My sister’s going to be on a quiz show. But only mention this if I have nothing else to say.” Oh my god, Chihaya’s notes to herself are the most adorable things. How can Chihaya be so good

Chihaya’s letter refers to Arata as a “karuta god,” in the same way Arata himself felt the god of karuta would look like his grandfather – meaning Arata has become to Chihaya what Arata’s grandfather was to him. Inspiring others through your own passion for the sport seems like an important thread at this point

“I’m no god. But I want to be your friend.” A very sweet line

Whew, wonderful moment of Arata chasing the train. Love the dramatic pan out to reveal his bike, and the lighting of this sequence

I’m also a fan of the show’s big musical motif, that horn melody that always accompanies the big moments

Taichi agrees to help form the club, and a new challenger appears!

And Done

Well, that was an interesting episode. The first half really didn’t do much for me – I’ve seen/read enough of this style of shoujo romance that the totally artificial “are they gonna get together” stuff just feels empty, and Taichi’s role in the plot isn’t really kind to either his or Chihaya’s characters. But the second half did a great job of explaining and then resolving Arata’s feelings, so it more or less evens out. I really, really, really hope Taichi isn’t permanently stuck in “silently crushing on Chihaya” mode, but frankly, I don’t think this show would have the reputation it does if that generic, artificial conflict were the main driver of the plot. After a full episode of sad romance times, I’m hopeful that starting the club will get us back into sports mode. We’ll see!

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2 thoughts on “Chihayafuru – Episode 5

  1. Chihaya loves the idea of being a karuta “queen” because of her sister.

    She believes this is the only thing she could truley be good at because of Arata’s comment as a child. Her amazing sister who is fawned over by herself and her parents have made her hold on to the dream to be the best in the world at something, anything, and karuta has filled that void. Which is why she still loves it.

  2. I think Chihaya embraces karuta for a number of reasons and I think one of her reasons is Chitose but I also think there is simply the uncomplicated reason found in the joy of Karuta itself. The revelatory discovery of something that fits Chihaya’s natural gifts and abilities. Something which also becomes fun not just because she is good at it but because it is fun, for its own sake.

    There seems to be an under-current in a lot of commentary on this series -and its central pursuit- to challenge that someone could simply love karuta because engaging in karuta competition is an enjoyable way to spend your time.

    People do also watch karuta matches for that aspect. To see ordinary people participate and to marvel at the skills of those who excel at karuta.

    That isn’t the only reason either. I think the series is good because it is multi-layered and there is more than one motivating factor behind the actions of its cast members. Chihaya included.

    A lot of people watch this series and are not rarely told to watch and read it “in spite” of it having karuta in its storyline while the series exists because of karuta.

    S1, E5 title, 「よはのつきかな」from「こころにも」.

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