Chihayafuru 21, Natsume Shi 9, Bakuman II 21, Kill Me Baby something

A solid episode of Chihayafuru. A little of everything: foreshadowing, old rivals, new rivals and friends, and a good karuta match.

We start with the most revealing scene involving Taichi for a while. After we figure out what everyone’s reacting to (did they plan that shot where it looks like everyone’s looking at his crotch?) we realize, thanks partly to Nishida, what his biggest playing flaw is. He can memorize and recite all the cards randomly, but can he get a feel for the cards in play? It’s an interesting question, but not one we’ll see answered soon, or at least this episode, since we don’t get to watch him play. After we’ve taken care of Taichi for the time being there’s some business to attend to in passing exams (success!) and then we can get to the meat of the episode, the Eastern Qualifier. Sudo shows up so we can get some snarking, exposition about scholarships, and to make a stupid bet. Anyone could have done that exposition, in fact, I’m surprised Taichi or their advisor hadn’t already brought it up, but no one but Sudo would have bet hair. To hell with aspirations and meeting Arata in the finals! Chihaya’s beautiful locks are at stake! And then the tournament begins and we get to the meat of the meat of the episode, Chihaya’s first opponent.

This is what Chihayafuru and much good anime does. Set up a formidable opponent and gradually show their own hopes and fears, i.e., make them human beings. Chihaya must win this first round, if only for the sake of her hair, but to beat her might mean breaking the heart of a 12 year-old girl. And while Ririka is fast, Chihaya uses some experience and training to keep close to her, the girl starts making mistakes, and Chihaya is told to use her speed. In the meantime we get flashbacks about this tot gaining confidence with karuta and the support of her mother, who’s watching breathlessly through the windows outside. It’s a shame if either one of them lose.

But Chihaya instinctively knows this, and while she manages to win the match, her empathy toward the girl makes them friends at the end, to the point where she manages to break up some gossip as they leave the room. Poor Ririka! She gains confidence by playing well only to feel the weight of expectation because of it, much as, come to think of it, Taichi did. And after that, some Arata business which, frankly, carefully-worded phone messages apart, really doesn’t seem to matter much right now.

Even Natori can't believe what Natsume's gotten himself into now.

I haven’t been keeping track, but I don’t recall a Natsume Yuujinchou episode deal with sealing away a god before. That’s rather a step up from some troublesome Youkai. In this episode Natori might have to do just that to a moon god Fudzuki if he can’t unseal Fudzuki’s opponent, Houdzuki, so he can participate in a once-in-ten-years competition. And there are suspicious overtones. Natori is given only one day to find Houdzuki and unseal him, not enough, so it looks like he’ll have to seal Fudzuki instead (to prevent a drought). It sounds complicated, but the underlying themes are the same. Natsume tries to help out the Houdzuki faction (ridiculously), while Natori is not pleased with the thought of sealing away a god, even if it is to protect humans, his goal as an exorcist. Hiiragi wonders if Natori will ever soften up, while Natsume thinks is has already. In other words, the race to unseal the real Houdzuki, or catch the beast, are this week’s plot trappings laid over what’s really important. One good thing about Natori episodes is that it means Hiiragi will be there. She’s one of my favorite characters. Calm, sensible, devoted to Natori, yet she and Natsume share an intimacy formed by shared adventures. They can talk frankly to one another, they try to protect each other. It’s sweet to watch, in a human/youkai way.

In Bakuman II 21 the boys finish up with the gag manga they struggled with and are casting about for new ideas, and they only have three submission meetings to get one. I always liked starting a new project. So many things to try, so many ideas to put on paper! But the boys seem at a loss, as I, with my limited attention span, do whenever I’m free to write anything. Okay, they have some constraints; they’re writing for a boys manga, but even then there are too many possibilities. Often you need an additional constraint, a framework to attach your ideas on. So Miura suggests embellishing an early series of theirs, and later tells them to do a straight fantasy series. I find something satisfying about watching them initially reject the ideas, then try them out, only to find they maybe can do such-and-such a genre after all. It can lead to you discovering things about yourself you hadn’t realized before. So when both ideas are rejected in committee it feels like a low blow. Also sort of ironic. It’s a good episode. I was not expecting both submissions to fail, and you can feel the sense of impending doom hanging over them. Now they’re in a corner but now they have Miura AND Hattori working with them. I guess the latter is trying to get away from the smitten Akina for awhile.

Oh yeah, I also watched Kill Me Baby. Guess how long it takes for Yasuna to get that thing off her head.

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