Chihayafuru – Episode 6

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! When we last left off, Chihaya and Taichi had successfully rekindled Arata’s passion for karuta, meaning it might be time to actually compete again! But I’m guessing the first order of business will be establishing Chihaya and Taichi’s school club, which means it’s also likely time to introduce some new characters. I’m totally cool with that – Chihaya’s been great, but Taichi and Arata both often feel like they’re stuck in her shadow, and I’d appreciate some characters who are less clearly infatuated with our admittedly charming lead. Either way, let’s get right to it!

Episode 6

We open with Chihaya and Taichi lugging a bunch of tatami mats all through the campus

I hope Taichi gets to find more motivations beyond his affection for Chihaya. His motivation is understandable, but it doesn’t really do his personality many favors

Chihaya’s excellent faces continue to be a highlight of the show

Apparently Taichi got first place in the school’s last mock test

And we have mention of our first potential clubmate, someone named Oe-san who’s skipping her own club practice

It sounds like she’s reciting karuta poems to herself in the archery clubhouse

She’s very cute, and the show knows it. The reveal of her face earns some blooming flowers. Shoujo this shit up!

The dark browns and greens of this potential clubroom set up an emotional expectation of growth, something about to wake up or flourish. This show is super good about matching its colors to the emotional intent of all its specific scenes

The lighting similarly evokes “poised on the edge of a new beginning” through the darkness contrasted against a single crack of light, which alternately comes from either the open door, the windows through the door, or the room’s own curtain

“Once we have five members, we’ll be recognized as an official club.” Welp, looks like we’ve got our immediate conflict

The tension is ratcheted up through their argument with a series of increasingly close shots

The window light and the relative positioning of the two make for a bunch of subtly pleasing visual compositions here. And Chihaya’s hair interacts with the light very well, creating some nice lines of division and symmetry. Her posture also echoes the beam of the light itself. She’s associated with sunlight even in subtle ways like this

The light briefly envelopes both of them as Taichi is taken by Chihaya’s dream, but then we cut when it’s clear Chihaya isn’t acting seriously

“You were just following in Arata’s lead.” This rings pretty true, particularly given how insistent she was that Arata also continue playing

“Why must I run in a hakama?” Oe is not particularly enthusiastic about archery. The lighting here is extremely bright greens and blues, a different kind of new beginning

“I just want to wear traditional clothes.” Oe has simple needs

Oe’s fantasies of playing Chihaya just to wear traditional dresses are great. Looks like we actually will have someone with their entirely own motivation, as silly as it may be

Granted, the fact that Oe’s initial motivation is so silly may well mean it’s about to get steamrolled by her ensuing wonder at watching Chihaya and the others play. So I guess we’ll see

Yep, she’s pretty stunned by their play. Almost literally smacked in the face by the intensity of their karuta practice

“You rely on the advantage of your ears so much that you don’t really memorize the card positions.” Taichi coherently breaking down Chihaya’s tactical strengths and weaknesses

“People who play together often tend to use the same card positioning, so you get used to them. Against me, you kept touching the wrong cards.” We’re basically at the critical point as far as “karuta tactical worldbuilding” goes – we have enough knowledge of the sport that Taichi can say something like this and the audience response is “ah, of course, that’s kind of clever,” not “well I guess that’s how it works if you say so.” Teaching the audience enough that they can feel relatively fluent in the sport is the only way to establish a framework in which you can then impress them with specific tactical choices. New tactics being surprising or dramatically heightened is one thing, but when those tactical choices feel clever to the audience for real, understandable reasons, then you’ve really got them

It’s all a balancing act that’s a lot more complicated than that, though. The author of Chihayafuru isn’t some insane tactical genius who’s constantly thinking up legitimately new innovations about an established sport, so you sort of have to build your reveals of the sport’s conventions in a coherent way, and save plenty of established strategic interactions for the times they’ll be most dramatically effective. And reducing this to the balance of surprise versus audience comprehension still vastly simplifies the storytelling demands here

Talking about this actually makes me think about my own book, where I consider one of the biggest failings to be how I failed to properly seed the “trick” that resolves the final conflict. Things don’t have to be overt, unapologetic deus ex machina for them to come across that way in a dramatic sense – even if things make sense when explained, unless the story properly and coherently sells the core tenets of a dramatic conflict in natural terms, watching such conflicts resolve won’t be dramatically satisfying

Anyway, here’s Chihaya slamming into a window

Chihaya chases down her first club member!

Oe’s a history nerd in general. She loves the story of the 100 Poems. A very different angle from Chihaya and the others’ totally sports-oriented approach to the game

Oe’s big speech about her love for the 100 Poems is accompanied by a light, woodwind-led rearrangement of the show’s default “inspiring victory song,” something that’s usually played on deeper horns. It kinda fits the lighter but still momentous nature of this sequence

“Do you like competitive karata?” Her face falls. Chihaya, everyone can’t love everything the way you do

Oe getting all emotional about the hakama

“My family has owned a traditional clothing store for many generations.” Aw jeez

“Our sales are so bad that we can’t even afford a model for next year’s catalog.” JEEZ OE, YOU JUST MET THESE GUYS

“Her love of karuta is completely different. We don’t even pay attention to the cards anymore.” Life isn’t all Fox only, no items, final destination you guys

“She isn’t cut out to play competitive karuta.” I wonder where they’ll go with this. The whole club doesn’t have to be invested in karuta in the same way, and in fact, it’d be pretty great if the show both celebrated different forms of appreciation for karuta and also filled in the cast with people who can provide different kinds of color commentary. I could see a version of this show where Oe’s commentary adds some of the context of the poems themselves to reflect on the drama of any given match

Chihaya tracks Oe down, which means Oe has now graduated to Kana

“My love of karuta is fundamentally different from yours. I’m not interested in a sport with no emotion.” Emotionally mature adults should understand that what each of these characters get from karuta is absolutely valid, but that won’t stop gaming forums from arguing about what a game “should” prioritize for the next million years

“There’s no point in pestering someone who doesn’t want to play.” Taichi is absolutely right, but this is a friggin’ sports drama, so we are GETTING THAT KANA

In contrast with Chihaya’s sunlight motif, Kana is very consistently associated with both flowers and bright blues/greens

“Would the mountain cherry blossoms return my affection, for there is no one else here.” I should read those poems, huh

Kana inspects a traditional dress that is absolutely, one hundred percent Chihaya-themed. Orange leaves tumbling across the river

Chihaya shows up and reps her namesake poem, which oh so coincidentally mirrors the kimono Kana’s inspecting

Narratives are collections of convenient events, and that’s not a failing. A sense of congruity is crucial to our perception of drama, even though real life never follows such convenient patterns

Whoa, the show is going pretty deep on Kana’s textual analysis

Chihaya’s genuine interest in Kana’s passion brings them together

They’re doing a solid job of elevating Kana’s textual analysis through distinctive imagery

Chihayafuru acknowledging the fact that all us nerds like Kana want is someone to let us nerd out for a while

“There is a rich and colorful world behind each card.” Yeah, this was kinda what I was expecting Kana to add to the narrative. Though we’ll see how her role works out going forward

Oh damn, I love these little images evoking the stories of the cards. Chihaya has leveled up!

“During matches, we all have to wear hakama”

Kana has already become the mom of the group, urging her absent-minded companions to actually clean up the club room

And Done

Well that was a solid episode all around! This episode’s Kana-centric narrative meant there was no wallowing in the melodrama that’s defined a bit too much of the show’s high school material, and Kana herself added an important counterpoint to the other leads’ passions. It remains to be seen how she’ll stay relevant in a show that’s so obviously focused on the competitive aspects of karuta, but that was a fine introduction. Two club members to go!

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2 thoughts on “Chihayafuru – Episode 6

  1. “I should read those poems, huh”
    You should … listen, read and -as Ōe’s introduction and her graduation to Kana indicates- you should also read commentary too- You probably already do.

    もろともに by Gyōson or Major Archbishop Gyōson 行尊 or 大僧正行尊
    According to a headnote, “Composed when he saw cherry blossoms unexpectedly at Ōmine.”
    Mostow – commentary poem 66 *

    Episode 6, title:

    These fourteen characters come from the last two lines of the いにしへの poem composed by 伊勢大輔 (Ise no Tayū)

    Mostow provides translations of two headnotes for this poem from two different collections, one from the poet herself, before giving his own commentary: “[…]It is this situation that must have appealed to Teika and the poets of his period: new to court service, Ise no Tayū is called upon for an impromptu poem in front of so formidable a poet as Murasaki Shikibu and so powerful a figure as Michinaga. Her poem is technically very accomplished, balancing “the ancient past” with “today” and “eight-petalled” with “nine layers.” Since this “nine layers” is also the word for the imperial court, her poem is not simply in praise of the blossoms […] but also a clever compliment to Michinaga and his daughter the empress […].
    Mostow – Poem 61 *

    From: “Pictures of the Heart” by Joshua S. Mostow.

  2. Kana-chan divides the one hundred poets into two groups, twenty-one women and seventy-nine men. That is significant for the story.

    The poets are sometimes further sub-divided and in that respect the “Major Archbishop” Gyōson is interesting since he is one of the thirteen men identified as「ぼうず」“Bōzu”, Buddhist priests or Buddhist monks.

    A reference with search tools, the website of “Shigureden”, the hall of Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, a museum in Kyōtō for the One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets.
    Available in Japanese:
    and partially translated into English:
    「坊主」 – There translated into English as “Priest”.

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