I confused myself a little bit by both watching and reading Chihayafuru; as per the usual, the anime is no where near where the manga is, thus the confusion. But I suppose it says something good about Chihayafuru the anime if its story compels me to be so impatient that I seek its progress out in other forms. The only danger in this is that I lose interest in the anime and rely solely on the manga for entertainment.
But there is something about the magic of television and animation that’s enchanting. I mean, yes, sometimes a live action or animated adaptation can ruin the original, written work, but sometimes, it doesn’t. In the case of Chihayafuru, the animation of this series provides a clearer understanding of what Karuta is to those who aren’t familiar with the game, nor its traditions. Had I not watched the anime, I would never have been able to animate the images (or translate the sounds) of the manga in my head accurately; as a result, I’m sure a lot of the impact would be have been lost.
And I probably would’ve stopped reading. After all, no one reads – or even watches – something that’s boring. Unless you have to for some reason.
Things are again developing for Chihaya’s game: it had been mentioned that, while she aims to unseat the current Queen, Wakamiya Shinobu, Chihaya’s style of Karuta is more similar to the current Meijin, Hisashi Suo. In Mizusawa’s head-to-head match against Hokuo, Chihaya continues to mimic Shinobu’s style of Karuta, which not only irritates the current ace of Hokuo, but it gives him an advantage as Chihaya isn’t necessarily playing her best. In the wake of Nishima losing his match (a win they had been counting on), Chihaya switches up and adds the skill of adept hearing to her speed and growing accuracy.
Sudo returns as well! Though as a reader… for now. I’m not sure about other Chihayafuru enthusiasts, but Chihaya’s match against Sudo in the first season was one of the most memorable for me. Actually, Sudo’s probably one of my favourite characters, because he’s a really good player, and he’s worked hard to get to the level that he’s at. He was also one of the first characters Chihaya had to compete with on a high level, and because of his skill teamed with his arrogance, Chihaya was pushed to grow in many ways. Sudo’s return also serves as additional insight to how much effort people will put into something they truly love; Sudo’s ability to adequately read cards at a tournament level shows the complexity of Karuta, and how there are different ways to gain an edge. Kana’s understanding of the phrasing of the poems, as well as her love for the poems themselves, gave her a huge advantage against her opponent, and will likely help her win her match.
Remember last season when the Mizusawa players were watching the Queen and Meijin matches? Remember how Suo had expressed his “affection” for the reader? It seemed like a negligible detail at that time, but now that it’s been revealed that Suo studies readers more than he studies his potential opponents, we realize how important this will be for Chihaya (and maybe even for players like Kana) who relies heavily on her sharp sense of hearing to dominate her game.
I’m sure, by now, I should understand how the tournaments work, and which wins push you forward, and which wins don’t count, and which tournaments have nothing to do with each other, but I don’t. What I do know is that regardless of the “importance” of the match, I always expect Mizusawa to win, always expect Chihaya to win, but that’s not always the case. I remember when I was following Eyeshield 21, and the Devil Bats (the protagonist team) always won – except on one occasion, which sort of eventually played out like Canada’s Men’s Hockey Team in the 2010 Winter Olympics – and, not that their victories ever became dull, but due to the expectation that was always met, I subconsciously started to feel safe in knowing that they would always win. It’s a little different with Chihayafuru because a team win relies on individual wins, which means there’s a bunch of different heart-strings to pull on in each tournament (5 players per match, 5 matches per tournament); and despite winning a lot, it’s clear that Mizusawa is not immune to loss. Which is an important notion to reinforce, because it raises the possibility that the Queen and Meijin (despite reigning year after year) are also not immune to loss.
In many ways, Chihayafuru makes losing just as important as winning, and – very realistically, might I add – uses it as a vehicle to push the development of the characters. Which this show does so well.