The Mizusawa Club’s in the Top 8 of the All Japan Senior High School Ogura Hyakunin Isshu Karuta Tournament. That means there should be no distractions or arguments to bring the club down. But at the end of volume 12, Nishida suggests Tsutomu sits out for the round. Kanade’s angry at him for even suggesting it, but then Tsutomu comes around to that idea. Then Nishida gets angry for Tsutomu not even arguing about staying in and playing. He then hands the matchup sheet to Taichi and walks away.
This is “Ah…youth” at play for these characters. It’s also a distraction that they don’t need to bring the club down!
The emphasis on what defines a team continues technically in both volume 13 and 14 of Chihayafuru. Technically for volume 14 as it does have a different focus, with some team aspects revolving around it, but it’s here in volume 13 where everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but all of it can come together to play a significant role in your team. Not that I’m saying anything new, but as usual in sports, you have your star players and role players. Some role players are worse than others, but then there are those who, for some reason or another, find themselves either lasting longer on one team or they happen to still be in the league for 10-12 years. It’s not what the public sees, but it’s what the team sees that allows the player to stay around.
It’s not like Tsutomu is a bad player, and it’s not like the next person up (Tsukuba) is significantly better. For Nishida, maybe he was hoping Tsutomu would argue for his spot. But as someone who had to work to get back to his current karuta level, Nishida really did want Tsutomu to stay in — so he’s naturally dejected when Chihaya, who ends up taking the sheet from Taichi, tells him it will be Tsukuba taking Tsutomu’s spot. That dejection lingers into their match against Shouyou High, but would you believe things change as it continues? Certain habits crop up with their opponents, they appear to do something unusual…wait, why does this sound familiar…
Oh, that’s right: Tsutomu was scouting their current opponent and relayed that information.
Of course professional (and heck, college) teams have people that scout their opponents. For Chihayafuru, they only have 7 members and one advisor who wasn’t even into karuta. So Tsutomu playing in the Top 8 without resting would’ve been detrimental to their chances of winning. Sure he would’ve loved to have played, but him taking the time to watch other teams play and then let his team know is valuable enough. And that’s how with that knowledge, they’re able to advance to the semifinals, using what they’ve learned and their skills to win.
But yeah, they got some challenges ahead, all revolving around a potential Queen and an established karuta school.
The rest of volume 13 and all of 14 goes into belief, goals, and well, skills. Chihaya wants to be Queen and beat Shinobu, but she’s not the only one: Megumu Ousaka wants to as well. We do learn throughout her match she wants to be Queen for entirely different reasons, but as Chihaya soon learns, Megumu has the skills and tenacity (and, per tradition for top karuta players, the weirdness) to get there. That means she’ll need an entirely different skill set in order to actually beat her.
So would you believe Kanade would be the one to show her that? Well, it’s not unbelievable: her love for poems is unmatched on the team and she’s been training with everyone too. It’s that and her simplicity that allows her to snap Chihaya out of her rut. In general it was nice to see the usual supporting cast of characters and the ones who originally weren’t karuta players in Tsutomu and Kanade emphasize the T in team, but in their own ways — from their quirks to their skills in matches.
It’s always interesting to see what happens from one match to another, and this contrast comes up throughout both volumes. Like we know Hokuou, which beat Mizusawa not that much longer ago, is a strong team. Fujisaki absolutely wipes the floor with them in the semi-finals! The general saying, “there’s always someone stronger” is definitely true, and from their advisor to their own unusual quirks, they’re definitely a powerhouse school.
There will be much to talk about Fujisaki when I get around to volume 15, but before ending this, Shinobu and Arata are still in the building while the team matches are going on. Last time we understood Shinobu has her own mindset on team karuta…which is why her attending the finals is a big deal. She thinks it’s boring, but she also takes Arata’s feelings to heart when she sees him thinking he wants to see it. He chooses not to since, as punishment for breaking tournament rules, he has to stay away from the finals room. But he really did want to go…and Shinobu wants to see why. Can this shake her belief on the value of team karuta?
Well, if nothing else, she’s sure going to see one interesting finals match that’s for sure. Anyways, there’s a long ways to go in Chihayafuru, but catching up is a joy. From its descriptions of poems to the importance of the narrator, there’s much to love right now.