In Chihayafuru 2 23, with Chihaya no longer in it, we switch at last to the other players, well, two of them. For two interesting matches.
They contrast each other. Arata and Shinobou are going for the A level championship while Taichi and Rion tangle for the B, and if Taichi wins he’ll become an A player at last. A and S are two otherworldly players who play coldly and efficiently, while at the start T and R have a competition over who can bumble the most. T and A are playing mind games with each other, well, I don’t know what Shinobou’s mind is all about. She mutters things about how it’s best to play alone, and she’s rebuffed by Arata simply smiling at her. T and S’s mental battles are with themselves.
Which is more interesting? That’s a dilemma for Chihaya, too. She would love to see Arata play and study the queen some more, but it’s her steadfast friend Taichi in the other match. That she chooses Taichi says a lot about the possibly-nonexistent love triangle, so much so that when Taichi sees her come into the room he loses his sense of purpose for the first time all day. Luckily for him, Rion is facing issues of her own. Her team resents her success because of her failure earlier against Chihaya, but she regains her purpose when they turn back to her side, and soon it looks like another failure for Taichi, who hasn’t beaten five players in a row before. But, as we learn, neither has Rion.
Taichi is undone partly because he wants to finish early so Chihaya can watch the other match (not that there’s room for her), but when he finds his answer and finally gets the monkey off his back, we get one of the most moving scenes in the season so far. He grabs Chihaya by the arm to drag her upstairs, but she collapses in tears. He’s Class A now. She’s unbelievably happy. Meanwhile, Taichi had forgotten all about the rankings in his attempt to do what he thinks is best for Chihaya, maybe only now realizing that watching him was what she most needed to do. Well done. Next week we’ll get the tail end of the Arata/Shinobou slugfest.
Something interesting finally happens in Red Data Girl 11, and instead of mailing in the conflict like every other one, they actually do something interesting with it. That is, eventually. First we have more cultural festival scenes, where the kids enact the fight for the castle in, er, cultural festival ways, such as a backgammon tournament for the generals match, and capture the flag for the soldiers and in the latter we got a lot of ghosts from the original battle standing around looking unhappy. Among our main characters Izumiko is somehow entranced by Takayanagi, so subtly that I was saying “What the fuck is wrong with her?” while Miyuki runs around frantically looking for her. This works because the manipulation is subtle, no special effects, and because we don’t like anyone messing with Izumiko’s head. So it’s more satisfying when she snaps out of it, whipping up the wind around her, and, so she thinks, totally ruining any chance she has to become a normal girl. I guess that’s what the finale is all about.