Chihayafuru2 8, i.e., first round of the Nationals, is relaxed (mostly) and funny. A good way to start what’s going to be a very tense story arc. After the usual settling in routines (Why aren’t they wearing formal garb this time?), such as Retro trying to get in some friendly trash-talking with Taichi, Akihiro amazed that he’s a starter, and everyone else amazed that Desk-kun selflessly gave his spot to him, and Sumire discovering yet another ultimately dorky karuta-girl while scouting, we quickly settle into the first match.
This leads to the funniest moment of the episode, after Taichi gets a good listen to their English. Even after the opponents are exposed, there’s still plenty to distract the Mizusawa team. After all, they wouldn’t be spending screentime for a match unless there was something for our gang to angst about, whether it’s Akane’s bothered by her blonde opponent wearing her outfit backwards, or Akihiro intimidated by his opponent being black. And so they fall behind even though the Chiba team are barely beginners.
I’ve heard of this before. An expert player being bamboozled by the sheer guilelessness of the opponent. And if it had gone on for too long I would have been disgusted. Can’t the team get through a single match without throwing all their hard work in doubt? But happily the episode handles it well. We get a glimpse into the Chiba opponents world, the difficulties of growing up in Japan looking like a foreigner, discovering and falling in love with a game, just enough so that Mizusawa and we see them as fellow karuta-nerds. Then it takes a shout by, of all people, Chihaya, to get the team focused; after that’s it’s all as it should be. The Chiba team get a learning experience and encouragement from the people who beat them, and we can move on to the REAL stuff, like Arata and Shinobu, who show up at the last minute. This could be fun.
Though these days I only write about a couple of shows, I’m watching a few more. Tamako Market has been one I’ve enjoyed not writing about. It’s a thoroughly modern KyoAni series that feels old-fashioned. I sometimes go through an episode wondering if it’s actually happening in the present day, until someone mentions the Internet or something, and I feel both disappointed and reassured. Reassured because I like the idea that these people can live like they do yet allow modernity into their lives when they want it. In other words, I could live there. There’s still too much of the damn bird, especially in episode 8, where he’s finally forced into a diet. But the episode isn’t really so much about that as it is making Choi more comfortable in their happy community. New friends, warmer clothes, all of it happy and chatty. At the end we get a bit of actual plot with another Dera-vision message, but as far as I’m concerned they can hold off on that as long as they want. I’m having much too good a time the way things are.