Chihayafuru – Episode 9

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! Chihaya has her team now, the full squad of five necessary to actually make a club. In spite of that, her new crew haven’t really interacted in any meaningful ways yet – we’ve basically just put each character on the roster and then moved on to recruiting the next one. Chihayafuru’s heavy character focus makes me think we’re likely to see some bonding before we return to the initial love triangle, but that bonding could come in the form of any activity that forces the group to approach a challenge together, be it finding a faculty advisor or training for their first tournament. Either way, this last stage of Chihayafuru was an altogether strong one, so I’m ready for whatever’s next. Let’s get to it!

Episode 9

Oh my god, Chihaya’s Too Much Information club creation form is wonderful. Even in writing, Chihaya can’t help but say absolutely everything she’s thinking

A naturally funny personality is a real boon for a show like this, which can’t really go out of its way to make gags all the time, but still wants to maintain a cheerful mood. Chihaya creates jokes without trying to while still pushing the story forward

“I’ll serve as advisor for now.” Well, that was easy! And effectively means that this story isn’t interested in having the faculty advisor be a meaningful character. If they spent an episode finding just the right advisor, that character would have to be meaningful going forward – but Chihaya herself is leading this show’s drama, and this is too early for them to need some kind of new mentor figure

Taichi’s now the club president, and Chihaya’s… captain??

Kana using an old-fashioned calculator to manage their measly 3,000 yen is adorable

“To reach Class A, you need to place first or second in two tournaments.” Interesting

Nishida sets out a perfectly reasonable training schedule, but then Chihaya announces she wants to stomp on the noobies

Chihaya is certainly enthusiastic, but she doesn’t really think about the feelings of others. This has been true all along, and was pretty crucial to how she reinvigorated Arata – a more considerate friend would have given his perspective more respect

“If my first opponent had gone easy on me, I wouldn’t love karuta the way I do now.” Chihaya, that’s because you’re you. You are a shounen sports protagonist, someone who gets inspired to fight back even when it’s utterly clear you’re going to be stomped. Most people wouldn’t change their frustration at being paired with an expert into determination to win – they’d just walk away. The qualities that make you an excellent player also make you an absolutely horrendous teacher

The show frames this as a positive thing though, as a reflection of her need to rely on them and her respect for them. But it can only really get away with that because it shifts away from this scene with an inspiring music trill and jumps straight to them walking home after practice. Another five minutes of watching Chihaya destroy Kana without mercy would have pretty thoroughly hammered in the fact that this is a crappy thing to do

Tsutomu and Kana currently relegated to the “but that’s impossible” peanut gallery in the face of Chihaya’s relentless YES WE CAN. That’s pretty much what Taichi was stuck doing in the early episodes, so I hope we move past it quickly

Playing in a team is more important to Chihaya than the individual tournament – but it’s not for the sake of her specific teammates, it’s because she really likes playing as a group

I’m kinda torn on whether the show itself understands that Chihaya is a pretty selfish person. Her actions are framed in golden light and accompanied by uplifting music, but she’s doing almost all of this for herself

More karuta tactical stuff, this time concerning how you pick out card positions. You always get to place your own side of the board, so of course you’d get used to picking certain positions that are advantageous for you, and prevent you from having to memorize both your and the opponent’s sides. This is information that couldn’t really be used to inform some big tactical turn in the middle of a match, so it makes sense that it’d be doled out now, framed as an explanation for the new players. A huge info dump of all the expository setup stuff would come across as very boring, but including small bits of information one piece at a time like this actually makes things feel more interesting, and keeps the audience involved

“Are there any theories about how to place the long-shot cards?” The book-learner Tsutomu asks the first obvious going-for-pro question, “what do the experts have to say about the tactical advantages of different card placements?”

Welp, turns out Chihaya gets rewarded again this time – both Kana and Tsutomu immediately get interested in improving

Kana takes her first card! Friggin’ go Kana

I suppose Chihaya’s charity comes through in her happiness for her friends. She’s not very emotionally intelligent or uh, just normal intelligent, but she really does want to bring the joy of karuta to others, even if she can’t find the best ways to do that

Chihaya’s victory here is framed from below the floor, bathed in the golden light of the tatami mats. As usual, golden colors for Chihaya triumphant

The group decides to hold a “camp” at Taichi’s house over the long weekend

“You shouldn’t be running to a guy’s room like that.” Oh god Taichi, hide the Chihaya shrine

Oh dang, is Chihaya finally going to see Taichi as a boy, and not just as Taichi?

Chihaya showing off all of Taichi’s secrets, as she obviously would

An OP drop for their training montage. Work those kids, Chihaya

Oh my god she broke Kana

“Do you want to break people who are trying their best?” Alright, good. This is important – this is the first time this episode that Chihaya’s lack of understanding for other people has been pushed back against, or even framed in a negative light in the first place. That increases my confidence that the show itself understands that Chihaya isn’t always right, and that while her tactics can often succeed through pure enthusiasm, she’s not really a particularly thoughtful leader. This group needs Taichi to push back against her

“People always used to tell me that I was blind to everything but karuta.” Yeah, here we go. Even Chihaya can learn that she’s not very good at being sensitive to others

“I’m no good.” Man, if she actually learns from this experience, Chihaya is going to become way too powerful. Her single-minded insensitivity is easily her biggest weakness

“I don’t see any problem with what you were doing.” NO GOD DON’T ENCOURAGE HER

I mean, I guess this is a sports show at its heart. Relentless, often unhealthy dedication to excellence at your chosen passion is kinda par for the course

Waddaya know, it’s Chihaya’s birthday

Taichi gets a message from Arata, getting us back into love triangle territory. Nicely cathartic “goodbye kiss” with Taichi stealing the last bite of tart

And Done

Well, that was kind of a marginal episode. There were plenty of fine individual moments, but I ultimately felt unsatisfied with the way they handled Chihaya’s pushiness. Obviously “solving” her fundamental personality issues wouldn’t make for satisfying or realistic drama, but I do feel like she should run into more meaningful consequences for the way she is. On top of that, the finale promised a return to the show’s underwhelming love triangle drama, so I just have to hope that material improves. Still, it’s nice to have the whole team working together, and I’m guessing we’ll be reaching that first group tournament very soon. There’s plenty to look forward to!

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