The over-analysis of Chihayafuru 2 continues with Justin from Organization Anti-Social Geniuses! This week, Sumire's love story continues, but not in the way she expected...
Justin: If there was anything that one could take away from Episode 1 of Chihayafuru, it would be the disconnect that was shared between the five core members of the Karuta Club, and the new character who desires to have a boyfriend in Sumire. The other questions -- like the other first years who joined and the only boy to join the club -- they would be answered. But from the start, it was curious as to why everyone except Chihaya was so cold towards helping the first years. It made her admission of trying to accomplish all of the goals of the club admirable, but still unrealistic. I was not sure if we would know her reason aside from her just having Karuta on the brain. But in the end, I may not have given her enough credit.
She’s still karuta obsessed as she showed at the end of episode 1, and she’s still that way when she attempts to chase after Sumire at the end of episode 2 but fails spectacularly. But I should have given her more credit when she said she wanted Taichi to get into class A, which inspired him to finally decide to go to the Shiranami society to train, and maybe should have given her a bit of credit for trying to clean the clubroom. In short bursts in both episodes, we have seen both sides of Chihaya -- when she’s obsessed with the game, but also a mature Chihaya. When she revealed her reasons as to why she wanted to keep all the first years, it made a lot of sense, and gave me a reason to understand her motivations. In this respect, the reminders of S1, where she passed out in the National Championships and forced the team to only play with 4 members, help serve to show us why she felt it was important more first years joined the club. It kind of calls into question why the others did not feel the same way, but they may not have realized or underestimated how that affected her.
Now, the fact is, she would not have been able to convince all of the first years to stay. She’s not a very good teacher right now, and even if she was, she still wouldn’t have kept everyone around. Still, her actions in S2 feel slightly more understandable and shows she may have grown up, slightly. Chances are she’ll continue to distinguish herself as the episodes continue.
Muse: While I’d guessed it was going to happen, I still felt really bad for Chihaya when only two new members remained. Last time, we talked about how the other characters called her “greedy” when it might have just been ambition, but in this episode we get two reasons straight from Chihaya about why this mattered so much to her: first, the continued guilt she feels for thinking that she messed up the first tournament, and second, that she wants to share the love that she feels for karuta that has been made extremely clear to the viewers and fans of this show over the last season. The moment when she’s actually crying over the cards “not being able to make any new friends” would’ve felt forced or just plain stupid in any other show, but here it tugged at my heartstrings. Whether or not she’ll become the kind of teacher that can get previously uninterested students to see the appeal of karuta is something for the future, but her effort doesn’t seem to be completely lost on Sumire, which we’ll get to later.
The other new member though...He doesn’t have any problems about loving the game. Tsukuba seems like a perfectly nice kid, but that face he makes whenever he talks about becoming the very best
Aside from that, the introduction of another type of karuta was really interesting, since as I’ve said while blogging the first season, I know absolutely nothing about this stuff, so what this show presents is all I have to go off of. And it makes perfect sense for different regions to be developing their own versions of the game with their own rules, and the differences between the two were fascinating. I wonder if this season will show a second-verse-style karuta match.
Justin: It’s pretty clear that our two new characters have their quirks. While Sumire’s drive for love is clear, we never did know who the other mysterious new member was until this episode, and let’s just say Tsukaba showed his quirks. As I surmised about who he was in Episode 1, one of the thoughts I had was he definitely had to have played karuta before, or his family is involved with karuta or something, otherwise I couldn’t think of other reasons why he ended up joining the club. And as it turned out, I was somewhat right -- he did play karuta. What I didn’t know was of second-verse karuta.
This admission builds on some of the sneaky things I liked in the first two episodes: Bozu Mekuri and Second-Verse Karuta was something I didn’t know about for the game, and so far, while we have the drama, the comedy antics, and the romance in the anime, it feels like in S2, there is a bit of a step up to explain more about the whole game of karuta. If S1 had us dip our toes into just the normal karuta, we’re now challenged to check out all the other cool aspects of the game in S2. This definitely makes this season inaccessible to those who haven’t watched the first one, but for me, I’m pleased that so far, they’ve found a balancing act between all of these elements.
Now, the first years who have stayed in the club showcase some of the potential problems, but potential talents they have. Tsukaba has a lot to learn, since his style of karuta (using both hands, taunting his opponent) is not allowed, and this includes him learning the poems themselves. Chances are we’ll know a bit more about him as the series goes on. But the conversation between Kana and Sumire at the end of the episode provoked a bit of an impasse for me. Throughout the episode, Sumire was focused on love, but she showed signs of becoming interested in the game when, after she saw Taichi in his practice match swipe a card quickly, she immediately went to her notebook to check the poems out. She then showed it again when she remembered the poem that stuck out to her clearly. Remember when Chihaya talked about making friends with the cards? Well Sumire was starting to wonder if she had any after she couldn’t connect with the ones she hung out with. But her saying a line out loud showed me she was definitely interested in karuta. Her progress ended up being stopped when Taichi ended up thanking her after she arrived in the clubroom. Her desire for love then burned and brought out the worst in her since her heart was not in karuta. This eventually led to her half revealing her love for Taichi and her leaving the club room. But when Kana and Sumire talked, I kind of balked and had to think a bit when Kana, after explaining what the Hundred Poems meant, said this:
“The feelings expressed are dependent on the rules.”My initial reaction was of confusion, but then it seemed Sumire understood it. That ended the conversation, and suddenly it seemed Sumire finally was going to take karuta seriously. My question began with why? Why did it end so fast? Was this a case of me not having a full understanding of what the Hundred Poems are, despite the explanation given in the episode? Or is this just how love works in the grand scheme of things? Whatever the case, I was left with asking questions and wondering why this scene seemed so vague.
Muse: Aside from the possibility that the line was badly translated (I can’t comment on this since my Japanese is grade school level at best), it brings up some interesting ideas on creativity and writing, specifically applying to poetry here, since Kana was referencing the Hundred Poets. For example, say that someone tells you that you can write whatever you want in an unlimited amount of time. The possibilities are endless, and chances are that you’ll be overwhelmed until you can figure out a method to decide. On the other hand, if someone gives you a template or a strict set of rules to write in and tells you to be as creative as possible without pushing those boundaries, you’ll be able to spend more time trying to express yourself as uniquely as you can. That’s not to say that you can only make art by following the rules, but limits make an interesting challenge for creativity. There are many styles of poems that use strict guidelines to define themselves; sonnets and haikus are among the most well-known. In a literal sense, Kana is saying that despite the rules of structure that the Hundred Poets had to follow, they still were able to craft beautiful poems that speak to people nearly a thousand years later.
So what does this have to do with Sumire? She’s made it incredibly clear in both episodes that she only cares about love, and by love, she means getting to date Taichi. She frequently states throughout the episode that it “doesn’t matter” because she “isn’t going to try that hard.” It’s easy to see why Kana is so frustrated with her for most of the episode, because judging by the most dominant parts of their personality, they’re opposites; Kana values traditional Japanese beauty, elegance, and adherence to tradition over all else, while Sumire is much more the “modern” girl, if a bit shallow. All she wants to do is show up and look cute.
But while that would probably work in other clubs, we all know that won’t be acceptable here. But Sumire isn’t totally in this for superficial reasons, whether she realizes it or not. Crying over a poem in the first episode made her the first character since Kana to connect with the game through the meanings of the poems. She was excited when she took her first card from Tsukaba. Chihaya saw this right away and jumped on it, and Kana comes to that realization as well when she goes to talk to Sumire when she thinks she’s ruined her chances by blurting out her intentions.
I think that Kana was betting that Sumire was a budding poetry enthusiast and gave her advice wrapped up in a comment on the Hundred Poets. If your love is real, then apply yourself. Don’t just show up and expect that things will go your way. Show him that you’re dedicated, and that you really want to learn. Use the rules of love as your template. You might just create something beautiful out of your hard work, so that your true feelings are clear to everyone.
Justin: So in two episodes, we’ve established our seven members of the Misuzawa Karuta team. There will be some trial and error as the anime continues, but chances are these will be the characters to look out for. But now it’s time for the juggling act. With new characters means a new focus on what character gets the limelight. The three who will likely take center stage -- Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata -- will get their time. But it would be a disappointment if the show does not get a chance to let us see how the other characters have grown in their matches involving karuta. With 23 episodes to go, there is time to give everyone their moment. What that moment will be we will obviously have to see, but pacing and story will be a factor as to how Chihayafuru will turn out. But I’m betting it will manage to give everyone a chance, right Muse?
Muse: There will be internet rioting if Taichi and Arata don’t go head-to-head in a karuta match this season, that’s for sure. (Kidding. But seriously, a lot of people seem to be looking forward to that.) But it looks like Sumire’s romance has been put on the back-burner and now the show might focus a bit more on the upcoming tournament and Chihaya redeeming herself, if only for her own sake, since no one blames her for what happened. It should be interesting to see how the newbies handle the tournament as well. Pacing is definitely a factor at this point, although if the story is comfortable enough to spend the first two episodes on a new character, then I’m not too concerned. When I got worried about the possible direction of this show’s plotline before, it always showed me that I had nothing to worry about. The only thing we have to do is enjoy the ride.
Images from Crunchyroll.com.