It’s Team Mizusawa vs. Team Hokuou in the finals, and we got some excellent matchups, ranging from Leero taking on Taichi to Amakasu facing Chihaya. So why is Chihaya once again off in her own world when she’s also on a team? And Chihaya, maybe you should look at your surround…welp. Nishida sums up the situation really well by internally saying many oh no’s, and now because of terrible luck, their experienced opponent, and Chihaya’s tunnel vision, it’ll all come down to a Battle of Fates.
The problem is Mizusawa is very much on the shortend of winning it. At least Chihaya realizes her team is in a bad position, just way too late though!
Chihayafuru volume 11 again summons forth compelling karuta playing and characters determined to stand out and show their growth. Chihaya continues her attempt to find the best way to play in order to beat Shinobu, but we see others, from Kanade showing that her chest doesn’t impact her play despite her opponent believing it will to Suou actually reading the cards properly despite his former team in Hokuou playing, stand out in this volume. There are not too much tactics here, but we do get some towards the climax of the match, where Mizusawa gets caught in a Battle of Fates (where with few cards left on each side it’s a 50-50 chance on what poem will be said next) and even despite that Hokuou found a way to strategize to increase their chances of winning.
The conclusion to that match shook both sides, but in essence, the proper team won. But even despite the results, Chihaya can tell Arata she had fun. After the match the club ends up moving onto what they can do next, and it either involves putting on a hakama (so back to Kanade and her mom selling stuff!) or Chihaya managing to rub her stubbornness and one-track karuta mind to her sister Chitose — good timing, since some online comments got her down and made her think it was time to study for school instead of becoming an actress.
Volume 12, however, then shifts back into tournament time. This time Mizusawa’s aiming to win at the All Japan Senior High School Ogura Hyakunin Isshu Karuta Tournament. Do they? Well, we’ll have to find out in the future. This volume rather showcases the love of the Hyakunin Isshu and how people approach it. One of the examples involves Team Mizusawa facing a team of foreigners — ok, they’re actually born in Japan but have foreign blood — and a group of quiz bowl people. Both matches exhibit some unusual ways of playing karuta, and that manages to throw off the team a touch. But as they do their matches, the love of the game is still there, so whether it’s constantly switching cards or one person showing their attachment to a particular poem, the admiration of karuta is present from the opponents they face.
That said, the biggest challenge to saying you love karuta is how you approach it. The example here is team karuta is for those who don’t love it — so says Shinobu to Arata. There’s even one of the officials who comments on you only growing stronger in individual karuta. The implication wasn’t negative, but rather explains your approach is what shows where you stand in the world of karuta. It’s easy to say that you can get better by working with a group, but if they don’t have same type of skill or drive, can you get better enough to challenge someone in a one-on-one match?
The basic takeaway is it depends on who you are, but I believe the benefits depend on your goals. Arata runs into this situation where one team had bad luck, leaving them shorthanded for their match. They would obviously lose without having three members so they ask Arata to stand in. The problem is Arata would take a penalty for taking part, and the team would also be reprimanded severely. Did that team care? The only thing they cared about was making sure Arata didn’t get caught. Other than that, them playing in a match after starting their club from the ground up was their dream.
So it’s certainly all individual, but there are many ways to show your love for karuta. Whether it’s an individual or a team, that passion and enthusiasm will show. This by the way applies to Sumire, who says she’s doing everything she can to catch Taichi’s attention, but maybe she’s falling for the game of karuta instead. And well, maybe getting rained out of what she truly wanted to do in the area might be the stand on Shinobu’s thinking about how to love karuta.
Chihayafuru again continues to be pretty terrific when it comes down to the matches. But this time it even brought the detail with some of the art. As always the humor is pretty sharp though I’m still shook by the main character of Chihayafuru not knowing what Chihayafuru means after 63 chapters (Yes, Kanade broke the fourth wall for this one!). What will shake my foundations as we move forward in this series? Gonna have to find out.