When it comes to anime romance, it either gives you the warm fuzzies or it makes you roll your eyes and want to hit something.
If you’ve been watching Chihayafuru (or even if you haven’t; with the character set up of two male protagonists and one female protagonists you pretty much expect some sort of love triangle), you know there’s love in the air – even if the people in love aren’t quite sure of it or know what to do about it.
Let’s start with Taichi.
It’s pretty clear that Taichi likes Chihaya; in fact, I suspect he’s harboured feelings for her since elementary school. But aside from the pining expressions, childish teasing, the vague questions, and internal monologues, Taichi hasn’t actually made his feelings clear to Chihaya. I suppose reaching for her hand during their time in Fukui was supposed to be his telling gesture (even though I personally think that would’ve been a bad move). The problem with Taichi liking Chihaya is that Taichi is (as Arata duly noted) a coward. And Chihaya is completely oblivious. Without being overtly obvious, Chihaya’s never going to catch on to the fact that Taichi has feelings for her. The girl apparently hasn’t ever seriously considered a ‘romantic relationship’ (Dr Harada aside), considering her response to Taichi’s question on the train. Taichi, on the other hand, seems haunted by love.
Which makes me wonder if his relationship with his current girlfriend is an attempt to attract Chihaya’s attention – you know, stir up some jealousy by proving to her that someone finds him attractive and wants to be with him – or an attempt to break free from Chihaya’s unknowing hold on his heart. Perhaps that will be revealed later on as the series continues, but I have a feeling Taichi and his girlfriend won’t last for very long. Especially now that Taichi and Chihaya are going to be starting a competitive Karuta club together at school.
Okay: I said Chihaya was oblivious but she isn’t completely oblivious. She’s very aware of Taichi’s presence and recognizes the importance of him being a part of her life. She depends on him as a close and reliable friend, knowing that he’ll be there to support her even if he huffs and puffs about it. She knows that behind his short-tempered teasing is a person who truly cares for her, and that’s also why she gets away with the things that she does. And that, I believe, she knows. When it comes to Taichi’s girlfriend, she acts – not jealous – but slightly possessive. She isn’t opposed to Taichi having a girlfriend, but isn’t very fond of her either, and makes no attempt in getting to know her better, or even in becoming friends.
Taichi is to Chihaya that staple, pillar of a guy that many girls have in their life. The guy you would date – if only you had thought about it, or him, in that way. Unfortunately, sometimes, when the girl does realize she has these feelings for this load-bearing man in her life, his interest for her (if it ever existed) has diminished, thus creating a whole new side to the dramatic love triangle.
Arata is the last piece of this three-piece pie. He’s also the character we know the least about in the sense that not a lot of ‘relationship emotion’ has been expressed on his part. I imagine Arata as the kind of person who never even considered Chihaya as a potential love interest because, being the outsider (and now adding his bad behaviour since her phone call) he never imagined he would even have a chance, and therefore simply never thought about it.
Oddly enough, out of the three of them, Taichi is probably the only one who’s given any thought of Chihaya and Arata being a couple.
In Episode Five, the scene where Chihaya and Taichi are walking back toward the train station in Fukui and Arata rides by on his bicycle, is a very good representation of this little love triangle: We have Chihaya, who was running full speed toward the book store near the train station where Arata works. She isn’t really thinking as she runs; all she knows is that she has to see Arata. Chasing Chihaya is Taichi. He won’t physically stop her from running, but through his words and his attitude, he tries to slow her down, delaying the moment she and Arata meet. But Taichi isn’t just idly sitting by, trying to steer Chihaya away from Arata; he’s also doing his best to express his feelings to Chihaya, and draw her to him. And while Taichi is aware of his feelings for Chihaya, aware of Chihaya’s lack of feelings toward him, as well as her attentiveness to Arata, Arata has no idea; just like how he flew by Taichi and Chihaya on his bike without even recognizing them. And if the bike scene is telling of anything, it won’t be until Chihaya decisively reaches out and pulls him off his bike that he really takes a good look at the girl right in front of him.
I know the romance in Chihayafuru is only going to get more intense as the series progresses, and unlike many people, I don’t have and won’t be pushing for any one pairing. Generally, in a situation where there’s one girl with two great guys to choose from, I tend to resent the girl (haha) – but only because in many cases, the girl is so undeserving of the guys she has to choose from. Chihaya, however, would be a great match for either Taichi or Arata. And I feel both Taichi and Arata deserve to be with Chihaya. The favour seems to rest with Arata at the moment, but like I mentioned earlier, sometimes, when that pillar-of-a-guy-friend suddenly disappears, the girl who depended so heavily on him feels the loss – and often translates it into the loss of more than just a friend. So… we’ll see.