There’s a lot on the line in Chihayafuru 18, but it doesn’t feel like it.
The team is off to a tournament, nothing particularly big about it. The only thing worth notice is that it’s Chihaya’s first tournament match as an A player. What’s more, it’s not limited to high school players. So in the first round she gets a nice middle-aged lady who loves Chihaya’s kimono and smiles sweetly a lot. Now, Chihaya’s trying to change her style a little, rely less on speed and instinct and more on card strategy and cutting down on her mistakes and you can’t do that immediately, especially when she tends to forget that and go for speed anyway, as she does here. Also, she’s nervous as hell. It comes as no surprise that the lady, with 35 years of experience we learn later, schools Chihaya. Almost literally: at one point Chihaya looks as though she wants to stop going for cards and just watch how this lady handles herself. The lady’s little chuckles and smiles belie a sharp mind and her friendly little comments, we realize, are perfectly designed to get in Chihaya’s head. Chihaya, for all her experience and talent, is officially a rookie again, in a league full of people just as good as she is, whom she must defeat if she’s going to be queen. All of a sudden that dream seems a long way off. It’s to her credit that she makes adjustments, doesn’t lose too badly, and … learns.
That was fun to watch. We sort of figured she would lose, she loses in an interesting way. The other two matches have a lot more on the line. All the other team members have made it to their finals and are facing each other. This is hugely fun for several reasons. First, poor Chihaya feels she let her team down by not winning; second, the matches are taking place in the same room, at the same time, and she can’t pay attention to both at once. Which match should she follow? Third, she seems drawn to the Kana/Desktomu struggle, the class D players. Fourth, their match is actually entertaining. Things we’ve seen before, little bits like Kana’s posture training (the audience thinks the way she retrieves slapped cards in that kimono is adorable), not to mention Desktomu’s typical analysis-heavy commentary AND his knowledge of how she plays is so riveting that Chihaya can’t take her eyes off it, never mind the much more compelling class B matchup between Taichi and Nishida, watched only by Retro-kun and saved for next week, I suppose, to give it the time it deserves.
Ano Natsu de Matteru looks to develop the love triangle, such as it is, between Kaito, Ichika and Kanna. I find myself rooting for Kanna, that is, for some guy who actually deserves her to come in and steal her heart before it gets broken by this Kaito person and his hair. The episode spends some time showing us just how Kanna feels about him without stating the obvious, you can see how Kaito’s familiarity with Ichika is hurting her, and how powerless she feels, and how she hates herself for being upset about it without her saying a thing, though in the end she does. The nervous Kaito/Ichika relationship is less interesting to watch. The show is laying on the first layers of possible future regret. All this helps make up for the fact that the rest of the show isn’t much fun. Remon’s smug “I know something and I’m going to mess with your minds” attitude got tiresome after episode one. Tetsurou is equally uninteresting but at least he keeps out of the way, as does Mio. But now that we’ve got the basic character dynamics going, they better come up with something new. The revelation at the end will help, but for how long?
While I watched Papa no Iu Koto o Kikinasai! 5 and thought once again whether I should drop it or not, a couple questions came to me, both concerning Sora, the oldest and supposedly most sensible of the three girls: Twice this episode she is surprised by Yuuta while wearing only a towel. Both times, in shock, she drops the towel. Did it ever occur to her to run into the next room, or partition rather than exposing herself further? Secondly, when you’re caught in a rainshower, what do you do? Do seek shelter or do you continue to walk and get soaked so that your dress clings to you … Oh, okay. I think I got that one figured out. But this begs another question: is she doing all subconsciously, having a crush on Yuuta and all? Never mind. When I wasn’t thinking of that I was cheering for Raika when she was beating up Sako, and giggling at that weird part-time job Yuuta goes to at the end. Neither of these scenes, by the way, involve the girls.