Chihayafuru – Episode 19

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! It’s been a few weeks since I watched Chihayafuru on my end, since, well, I burned through both my monthly covered episodes within a week. And even now, I’m technically writing this a few days before my next month is covered, and dipping into that month’s prospective episodes. But here’s the thing: Chihayafuru is good, and I enjoy watching and writing about it. Every episode is so much fun that it can sometimes feel impossible to stick to my two-episodes-a-month structure. So damn the schedule, and let’s watch some Chihayafuru.

Last episode saw Chihaya learning some much-needed humility, as she found herself defeated by an opponent with slower hands but a much sharper tactical sense for the game. Following that, we saw all four of our other teammates pairing up, and right now we’ve got Kana and Tsutomu engaged in a brutal head-to-head battle. Let’s get right to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 18

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! It’s been a full one and a half episodes since the show’s last tournament, so given our prior pace, I’m guessing we’ll be getting back into the action soon. Last episode was necessary, though – Chihayafuru has established Chihaya’s play as binary in a very specific way, and interrogating her speed-focused play was a smart way to provoke her into growing as a player. Illustrating a sports hero’s weaknesses is just as important as illustrating their strengths, since if we’re to invest in their growth as a player, we need to see a solid progression from stage one to wherever they end up. In a show where the tactical mechanics of competition are critical to the stakes of the drama, characters can’t just grow in an emotional sense – they have to level up in a clear tactical one as well. I’m excited to see how the show illustrates Chihaya balancing out her skill set, and can’t wait for her next confrontation with the Queen. Let’s get to it!

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Chiyafuru – Episode 16/17

Let’s keep on chugging with Chihayafuru! Last episode represented the conclusion to another of Chihayafuru’s mini-arcs, as both Chihaya and Taichi found themselves defeated in the team’s first major tournament. That arc also introduced Shinobu, who is awesome, but I’m guessing we won’t be seeing her for a little while. Chihayafuru is fast-paced, but it still generally obeys the tenets of its genre, and concluding a tournament means it’s likely we’ll be cooling down with either training, character development, or some kind of lighthearted segue material. I’m guessing we’ll be shifting gears to focus on Arata’s return to karuta, but without a clear next goal already established, the show could go in a variety of directions from here. Wherever things end up, I’m having a great time with Chihayafuru, and am excited to continue. Let’s get right to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 15

Let’s get right back to Chihayafuru! Last episode put us halfway through the first duel between Chihaya and young Queen Shinobu, which already feels like the most dynamic and dramatically effective karuta match of the show to date. Chihaya has been against the ropes for basically the entire match, but the show still managed to make her slow defeat feel fresh and tense all the way through. After a long period of simply being overwhelmed by Shinobu’s ridiculous arm speed, Chihaya has at last managed to snag a couple cards, including one of her best single syllable cards and her signature Chihaya card. There’s pretty much no way she’ll actually win this battle (even if her opponent hadn’t been clearly framed as a far better player, there’s just no way Chihaya can beat the Queen at episode fifteen and still sustain a show afterwards), but if her slow losing stays this exciting, I’ll have no complaints. Let’s get right to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 14

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! Last episode saw the team competing in the team portion of the national tournament, where a sudden fever by Chihaya was contrasted against Arata’s journey to the tournament itself. Arata’s material there was both critical and very well-executed, simultaneously selling his complex relationship with his grandfather and his own multifaceted personality. The episode more or less shifted Arata from being a mythic, fated goal for Chihaya to being an actual breathing person the audience can truly invest in. Even a sports trope as hoary as “my passion for this sport killed someone I loved, thus I can never play again” can feel believable and emotionally charged with the right execution, and last episode’s mixture of warm memories and well-observed trauma fit the bill. Let’s see how Arata actually fits in to Chihaya’s present-day life!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 13

Let’s get right the heck back to Chihayafuru! Last episode covered pretty much the entire transition from the end of the club’s first tournament to the beginning of the second one, bringing the whole gang closer together and proving their dedication to their faculty advisor along the way. Chihaya’s breakneck pacing is certainly one of its greatest strengths, and I’m actually even more excited for this tournament than the last one. The club’s first tournament was largely dedicated to actually proving their ability to function as a team – with that soundly accomplished, I’m guessing this next tournament will be the first one that hews to a more traditional sports structure, full of ominous opponents and thrilling faceoffs.

The thing I’m most looking forward to seeing is the show demonstrate that karuta really can support a sports narrative’s dramatic weight. I know that’s an odd thing to question twelve episodes in, but the show so far has leaned heavily on personal drama over sports drama, and in spite of that, has still burned through a worrying number of easy tactical setups. The show’s done a great job keeping karuta interesting so far, but I’m still worried the sport just doesn’t have the complexity to offer fresh-feeling conflicts all the way through. But everybody loves Chihayafuru, so I’m excited to see just how it solves that problem. Let’s get to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 12

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! Last episode saw Chihaya’s whole team win their first tournament, defeating Nerdy Minor Character and his Merry Men in order to advance to the regional competition. Chihayafuru worked mightily to make sure that last episode in particular felt like a team effort, in spite of the fact that it was ultimately the team’s three ringers that actually won and pulled them through. The episode before that was chiefly dedicated to making sure Tsutomu felt valued in spite of his current, er, non-value, so I’ll be interested in seeing how the show does right by its weaker teammates going forward.

That said, I’m guessing that the last few episodes’ total focus on the new team means we’re likely to get caught up in Chihaya’s Arata fixation soon, and I’m also hoping the show can find a way to make that thread a bit more interesting. I’m not invested in Chihaya’s obsession with Arata, but Arata himself seems like he’s grown into a more well-rounded and endearing character, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him again. Let’s find out what’s in store!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 11

Alright everybody, it is TOURNAMENT TIME WOOO. Technically last episode was actually the start of the tournament, but in practice, that episode was mostly about figuring out how Chihaya’s team will deal with the fact that Kana and Tsutomu are so much worse than their other team members. I’d been worried the show would essentially just push them off to the side, but thankfully, Tsutomu’s feelings of rejection and inadequacy were given almost a full episode’s worth of focus, and the idea of using them to waste their opponent’s best players was raised and rejected. Even Chihaya was forced to acknowledge she hadn’t been accounting for her teammates’ feelings, and considering Chihaya has the emotional intelligence of a large rock, that’s a pretty major breakthrough. But with all that very necessary emotional material settled, the team is now in a position to SLING SOME GODDAMN CARDS. I’ve been waiting for Chihayafuru to fully stretch its sports muscles, and I’m guessing this is the time. Let’s get right to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 10

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! With her team fully established and a tournament goal already in sight, last episode saw Chihaya and the gang setting up a grueling training regimen. I had somewhat mixed feelings on how the episode handled Chihaya’s behavior there – it initially seemed like the show was going to acknowledge that Chihaya was acting in a pretty terrible way, but the finale saw her teammates forgiving her in a way that seemed like the show tonally supported her actions. Chihaya’s let’s-plow-ahead exuberance is her most powerful quality, but her actions aren’t always justified, and I’m hoping the show mines that for interesting drama eventually. Either way, we’re fast approaching the school team’s first tournament, so let’s get to it!

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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!

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