Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 121

"Long time no see"

“Long time no see”

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Chihaya’s career path

It’s time for Chihaya to choose the subject for which she’ll become a teacher. P.E. remains her best possibility, but her marks in Japanese history and Japanese classical literature have also risen admirably. Her homeroom teacher, Mr. Fukasaku, also reflects on how most doors of chance can’t be opened by oneself. Rather, someone else opens them, and its up to the individual to leap through them and give it their all.

The Tokyo Uni Karuta Society

Chihaya and Taichi turn up at Tokyo University, and the former goes into shock at the apparent fact that both Sudou and Suou (a smart idiot who’s repeated 4 years) both attend. As it turns out, though, Sudou had only sent them there to take in the magnificence of the clock tower of the Yasuda Auditorium; the Tokyo Uni Karuta Society actually practices off-campus in the Bunkyou district’s Shirayama Assembly Hall.

At the venue, Sudou is his usual sadistic self – both Taichi and Chihaya turn green in the face once they hear him, even before he starts teasing them for showing up together. Koishikawa from K university (probably Keio, methinks) has also joined them because autumn is “Suou’s season,” the only two months of the year when the reigning Meijin actually practices.

Interestingly enough, Suou actually seems to care for his underclassmen in the club, showing up to bring or make them sweets. This time, he’s made Oshiruko, a dessert of red bean soup made from Azuki beans with mochi. Two mochi for the C-level students, 3 for the B-level ones; and at least 10 for Chihaya and none for Taichi!! According to Sudou though, that’s still quite kind; Sudou himself would given him azuki with nattou mixed in!

The underclassmen also seem to treat Suou with affection. One of the girls of the club tells him that the NHK BS live coverage this year has been stopped; the Meijin and Queen matches will be broadcast on the Internet on Nico Douga instead, which Suou is excited about. And when preparing for practice, one of them lends him a schrunchie to tie his long hair up. The impression given by everyone else when talking about Suou is quite different, so why…?

Suou’s karuta

In response to Chihaya’s enquiry, Sudou notes that

But no one will play a match against him.
That he’s incredibly strong is a factor, but that’s not all.
The only people who are willing to play him again are myself and Koishikawa-san.
He really doesn’t have enough A-level practice partners.

Sidenotes: Sudou is too obstinate to give up, and Koishikawa just doesn’t learn his lesson.

That’s why you were called, right?
Go on, it’s your turn to be mincemeat.

Sudou continues teasing Taichi about Chihaya, but Taichi asks him for a match instead.

I came here to practice, for my own sake.

Feeling the pressure from her opponent at first, Chihaya has trouble breathing and thinking…until she recalls Arata’s words (and his match with Harada) once again. Refreshed, she remembers that Suou is the person that Arata and Harada both badly wanted to fight.

Suou is incredibly fast to 1-, 2- and 3-syllable cards, as expected, most of which he takes before the determining syllable. However, he never goes for the 5- and 6-syllable cards. Chihaya manages to take one of her special cards, the “fu” card…however, she thinks that the true battle between herself and Suou would be over the 2-syllable cards that can be taken on the 1st syllable. But then, she suddenly starts being drawn into faults. Just like Takemura made 5 or more faults per match against Suou at the previous Meijin match…

Sudou glances over, thinking…

Ayase,
Suou-san has no intention of taking 25 cards, he always takes fewer than 20.
Even if his opponents take 30 cards, they’re never able to win.

No one else plays karuta in such a revolting manner…

Chihaya realises that Suou is probably moving even when he knows that an empty card is being read. Why is he setting these traps? No, not to win…it’s all about controlling the game.

Commentary

Don’t know about anyone else, but I found this chapter absolutely fascinating. I’ve wanted to find out how Suou works for a long time, and Suetsugu-sensei has answered that brilliantly.

It is now of little surprise that Suou seems to be such a loner. A game that rests heavily on drawing people into committing faults would really make your opponent despise you. For a comparison, let’s look at Koishikawa at the Meijin qualifiers; he made more than 20 faults over the course of 6 or so games, averaging out to just over three faults a game. And that’s regarded as being excessively careless. But Suou’s opponents are known to commit more than 5 faults a game…

How does one challenge genius?

How does one challenge genius?

Chihaya’s thoughts about how to contest Suou’s domination are interesting, especially when contrasted with Arata’s. After watching the previous year’s Meijin match, Arata came to the conclusion that the real 1-syllable cards are incredibly important; in contrast, Chihaya thinks that the battle lies in the 2-syllable cards that can be taken on the first. Who is right?

Well, I think that this actually depends on the person in question. Arata doesn’t have the kind of hearing that Chihaya and Suou do, so he’s limited to an extent on his ability to take the 2-syllable cards that Chihaya is talking about. The truth is probably that you have to take absolutely every card that you can.

Another interesting thing revealed in this chapter is the reason why Suou feels that Harada would be a challenge. As someone who’s tuned his hearing so finely to his attacking style, such that he is largely able to avoid dead cards despite having gone for them from the first sound out of the reader’s lips, Harada is probably going to be drawn into far fewer faults than anyone else that Suou has played against.

I’m really looking forward to the Meijin matches now.

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

3 Responses to Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 121

  1. Lav says:

    (Possible Spoilers)
    Except Taichi. 😄 On a side note, isn’t it funny how the other karuta club members (of T uni) were saying that Taichi is someone who will succeed in the world.?

    Like

    • karice says:

      Ah well…I wrote this before chapter 122 came out, after all! But who knows? Perhaps Harada too won’t really get drawn into faults? (We haven’t been shown enough of the two Meijin matches to know for sure…)

      I did find those scenes amusing, but it is a reflection of Japanese society: knowing how it works, knowing how to get what you want is the key to success. ^^

      Like

  2. Pingback: For the record: かるたしょっさ | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: