Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 123

WAH!

WAH!

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Suou’s weakness

We don’t hear exactly what Suou’s weakness is, but Harada observes that it’s something that might be regarded as his strength as well. As he sends her home, Harada wonders how in the world Suou came to play a practice match with Chihaya, and cautions her to take care, for the Meijin has also been meddling with the Queen. And he also tells her not to share Suou’s weakness with others:

I’ll be the only one to make use of it.

For Chihaya, Suou’s “You won’t be able to (become Queen)” is still weighing on her mind…though it seems like Harada may have realised that she’s not her usual self…

The cares of Wakanomiya Shinobu

It’s time for Shinobu to think of her future. For the moment, she’s gone with the flow and put down a preference for studying humanities at what is probably a local university. The school she attends, the private Tsusaki High, seems to be a school for rich young ladies, and no one seems to be that concerned about what they are going to do career-wise…

On the way home, Shinobu reflects on the upcoming Queen matches and the strength of Inokuma, the challenger. Since summer, when she lost to Arata, she herself hasn’t been able to improve…but that same Arata had lost. Snowmaru distracts her as usual…but then she turns pensive again:

To be frank, if I lose in the Queen matches, there’ll be nothing left.

Suou’s impact

Since the practice session at the Tokyo Uni society, Chihaya has been in a slump; this time, she loses to Nishida. (NB: after practice, she’ll be heading to the Shiranami society to help Harada prepare for the Meijin matches.)

Taichi, on the other hand, seems to have gotten his motivation back. Chihaya asks him about his match against Suou, and he notes that it was difficult to play against him. But then Taichi silently reflects back on what Suou had said in the seven minutes it had taken them to walk to the station:

There are just four ways for cards to be taken, right?
You take them; your opponent takes them; you make a mistake; your opponent makes a mistake.

Most players strive to take cards themselves – Harada, Chihaya and Arata are the same – but Taichi feels that

A style that is based around causing your opponent to make mistakes…
Somehow, one part of me finds that absolutely fascinating.

Christmas

On Christmas Eve, the Mizusawa Karuta Club gathers at Tsukuba’s house to celebrate, but his three younger brothers refuse to join them until they’ve seen Santa deliver their presents. Following an elaborate screenplay written by Komano, the team manages to renew their belief in Santa – Chihaya makes for a convincing, and frightening, Father Christmas, because her sister taught her a lot of tricks used to make people appear fatter than they really are.

On the way back downstairs, Komano reflects on the difference between this year and the last:

Last year, we were all attending different Christmas parties, remember? That was fun too, but because I don’t have many friends, I think that being able to spend Christmas together with everyone is like a dream to me.

And Chihaya’s thoughts turn to Arata, as she imagines him being there with them (and thinks about him for the rest of the night, so it seems). Komano’s words from the previous year flash through her mind:

IMG_0546

If there’s someone you wish could be here, then that person’s already family, no matter how long for or how well you’ve known them.

They all agree to save up their New Year’s money to go to Omi Jingu to watch the Meijin and Queen matches.

As for Shinobu, her holiday is taken up by karuta practice. It seems like she’s not interested in having the Christmas cake – because of the strained relationship with her mother, the karuta cards feel more like family. But her grandmother returns, and Shinobu apologises (Grandmother: Never mind, it’s about time we change the tatami anyway) and tells her that this practice is about trying to get the shortest path to the most distant cards carved into her body. Her mother than speaks up, chiding Shinobu to practice in her own room rather than in the parlour (problem: Shinobu wants to practice on tatami, not carpet). But Shinobu’s grandmother gets out a marker and draws that shortest distance on the tatami, stunning everyone in the room. She has also ordered a new kimono for the match, and brought home some dried persimmons for Christmas…which Shinobu is happy to have.

Omi Jingu in winter

Everyone shows up at Omi Jingu, having caught the first train (Harada stayed in a hotel on the lake). Suou shows up with long hair and a beard, and Shinobu in furisode! (Kana: she’s playing karuta, so why has she come in a long-sleeved kimono of hand-painted yuzen-dye!).

This is their first time at Omi Jingu in winter, and it shows them a completely different face. The day of the Meijin and Queen matches: the one day where the wintry sacred ground of karuta burns with passion.

Commentary

I know I keep saying this, but Taichi’s development is becoming clearer and clearer with each chapter. It’s an interesting style of play: banking on make one’s opponent’s mistakes. To be honest, I don’t think Taichi’s karuta is completely in that style, as he does aim to take cards as well, perhaps because attacking karuta is what he’s been taught. But it is significant that Suou’s style has left such a deep impression on him.

Shinobu’s family is a little bit sad, as are her classmates. But it’s great to see that her grandmother really looks out for her and tries to understand her. The Furisode though…

And Chihaya, I hope you recover your spirit soon. It’s so weird to see you depressed!

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

11 Responses to Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 123

  1. ravenanne says:

    “To be frank, if I lost in the Queen matches, there’ll be nothing left.”

    Omg! I so feel for Shinobu’s thoughts here! It’s like her existence is being measured based on how well she do in karuta. I’m kinda touched that her grandmother did the marking of the tatami thing too. Shinobu badly needs a friend, the way they isolated her since childhood just made her more attached to karuta. It’s nice considering the cards her family but having that thought alone and not getting the “real essence of a family” is somehow sad. And because she doesn’t have a mentor or a sensei to run to, I bet she really felt her lost during the high-school tournament. No ones even there to give her support and encouragement. ;A;

    And regarding Taichi, I think this chapter pretty much coincides with chapter 122 (It’s already scanlated btw). Sudo’s remarked about him being the jack of all trade master of none but then still having the difficulty of beating him in the game, Taichi’s thoughts of saying I wanna be like them… even though he said “I’m trying to be my self” is another proof of some of the “thought inconsistency”. Or maybe Suetsugu san is trying to say that, the real Taichi is someone who is capable of “copying others” and that skill in itself is the “real him”?

    “But it is significant that Suou’s style has left such a deep impression on him. ”

    I wonder if he’ll apply that too to his karuta? Or he will find a style that he’ll develop and master in the future. Wow… Taichi is now becoming more karuta centric than Chihaya centric. ^_^;

    Thanks as always for the spoilers! 😉

    Like

    • karice says:

      Yeah, since the first season, I think Shinobu’s arc has been about understanding that she can have friends in karuta. I’m surprised it’s taken so long, but I guess that part in the second season was about Arata resolving his conflicted feelings about teams; given that Shinobu is a solid believer in ‘you can’t have friends if you want to be strong’, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s going to take a longer time for her to reach that point.

      ======

      Taichi’s thoughts of saying I wanna be like them… even though he said “I’m trying to be my self” is another proof of some of the “thought inconsistency”. Or maybe Suetsugu san is trying to say that, the real Taichi is someone who is capable of “copying others” and that skill in itself is the “real him”?

      When I first read chapter 122, I didn’t really understand what Taichi was thinking (which is why I left that part quite unclear when I summarised it – I really didn’t have the time to ponder it any further, though I’m not entirely sure more time would have made any difference). But after 123 came out, I think I understand the flow of his thoughts a little better.

      I think it all goes back to what Sumire helped Taichi realise at the Meijin qualifiers:

      I don’t want to be the person I am (at this point), but I do want to be my own person.

      He’s basically saying that he sees flaws and faults in himself that he wants to overcome, but he wants to overcome them in a way that is fitting for himself.

      Then, we’ve got his “I want to become like (Arata). I want to become like (Harada-sensei). Being unable to achieve that: that’s me” in 122.

      (NB: I take the last line to mean something like “that’s not possible for someone like me.”)

      This is confusing if you think that what Taichi is saying is “I want to be able to play at the same level as them.” But it makes sense if what he’s saying is that he wants to be able to play like them, as in, with the playing style that makes them so strong.

      But the thing is, Taichi can’t, because he’s not them. There are things that Harada and Arata can do because of their skills and strengths that he can’t. I think that the line of “Being unable to achieve that: that’s me” is about Taichi recognising this key fact. But at the same time, there are things that he can do that they can’t, which is to play in a way that draws his opponents into making faults.

      In other words, although Taichi can try to polish the cross-hand, or attacking karuta, that’s not where his greatest weapon lies. Rather, it lies in his understanding of player psychology, of how memory works etc, and being able to use that to his advantage.

      ——

      I know that some people will find this interpretation a bit of a stretch since Koishikawa’s problem is an actual flaw that he has to accept about himself, so they might think that the comparison is supposed to emphasise actual flaws that Taichi has to learn to accept about himself. But that’s my own take on it, and after 123, where Taichi reflects on how he admires Suou’s style of play, and Suou’s comment draws attention to how similar they are, it makes even more sense to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Guest says:

    Chihaya imagining Arata at the party with the Mizusawa team: what does it mean about the state of her feelings for him?
    This scene is reminiscent of Risa’s 18th birthday party in Love Com (yet another Shueisha shojo, so take this with a grain of salt); Risa (the protagonist) is surrounded by a group of friends she dearly cares for, and at first she’s happy, but inevitably she pines for her love interest, Otani. Arata, like Otani, is highlighted as the person who completes the protagonist’s circle; without that person, the circle is incomplete, even if every other member of the circle is there. This person doesn’t have to be a romantic interest, but usually is (as Ch. 124 makes clear, this is true in Chihaya’s case, as well.)

    It’s not even just these scenes – so many earlier scenes hint at the kind of ‘like’ that Chihaya has for Arata, so much that I was somewhat surprised at the people who claimed that her realisation in chapter 92 was not a realisation of love…

    Chihaya seems to be at the point referred to in the Chihayafuru 2 ending song, “as I search for the path that seems so easily lost,” in regards to her relationship with Arata. She still loves him, but other bonds (to Harada, to her team) are increasingly getting in the way of her path back to him.

    Hm…I wouldn’t say that the other bonds are getting in the way of her path back to Arata. I’ve always though that “the path easily lost” is the one about reaching the top in karuta, not about love per se – the connection is that Chihaya’s love for Arata is bound up in her love for karuta, just as everything else in her life is bound up in karuta.

    One thing that both Chihaya and Arata are going to have to learn is how to defend themselves against “sneaky” people without becoming (too) “sneaky” themselves. Arata has already realized this, but Chihaya hasn’t, which is part of why she’s still hurt by Suo’s evaluation of her, over a month later.
    This also explains, in part, why she doesn’t see Sumire as a rival, but just as a friend, despite Sumire’s explicit warning not to dismiss her as a future (karuta) rival in Ch. 95 (“I have no intention of staying in Class D forever”); that and a tendency towards unconscious and factually based condescension, which she also shares with Arata. That is, she isn’t being consciously condescending towards Sumire, and she has no reason (that she knows of) to believe that Sumire could ever be a rival to her in any way.

    Hm…I’m a little confused over how figuring out how to defend oneself against “sneaky” people, as you put it, has much to do with viewing others as rivals? And I think that Chihaya’s actually pretty simple – she’ll want everyone in the Mizusawa group to reach Class A, and then they’ll all be considered rivals.

    As for Shinobu, her isolation will probably be broken by one-on-one encounters with people, rather than team play. Yuikawa will probably have something to do with it, as hinted by her being Shinobu’s card display person in Chapter 124; so will Suo, and to a lesser extent Chihaya.
    Arata isn’t the person who is going to be able to help her, however; they’re two people on the same “sinking ship” of isolation, and they’re going to need other, more extroverted people to help them out of it. For Arata, it’s clear that the main person who’s going to help him is Chihaya; for Shinobu, the main person who is going to help her seems to be Suo, with whom she has more contact than she does with Arata (and who shares the vol. 20 cover with her).
    Yuikawa has just been asked to do it because there is no one that Shinobu herself can ask – she doesn’t know anyone. I’m personally not sure how Shinobu’s development is going to proceed at this point, and I doubt Suou can help her, because the way he interacts with the karuta community actually isolates him, despite any outer appearances he might give off due to his ‘participation’ in the Tokyo U karuta club.

    There’s a parallel of sorts in the roles that Arata and Chihaya play for each other. Chihaya is helping Arata out of his isolation towards being part of a community, and Arata is helping Chihaya see herself as an individual, with goals and desires (including romantic ones, as Ch. 124 makes clear) rather than just part of a team or family.
    That is an interesting way of looking at it, one that is more delineated than the way I look at the manga. ‘Chihaya coming to understand the true meaning of the Chihayaburu card’ is the one sentence description which Suetsugu-sensei herself has used to describe this manga. To me, Arata is one of the people who is helping her understand this true meaning. -karice

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    • karice says:

      (P.s. and thanks for reading and commenting! I think that most of the replies I make will be as above – apologies if you find it a bit weird, but I find it a little bit easier to do)

      Like

  3. Guest says:

    Thanks again for your reply. Again, here are some brief comments in reply to your replies:

    ” I was somewhat surprised at the people who claimed that her realisation in chapter 92 was not a realisation of love…”

    That’s a matter of shipping goggles, to be blunt about it. The “people who claimed” that were almost uniformly Taichi fans.

    “I’m a little confused over how figuring out how to defend oneself against “sneaky” people, as you put it, has much to do with viewing others as rivals?”

    I was trying to point out that Arata has identified two love/karuta rivals (Suo and Taichi), both with sneaky sides, and Chihaya has not identified a possible love rival with a sneaky side (Sumire; I don’t see her becoming a karuta rival during the manga’s run, although possibly in an epilogue).
    There’s a possibility that Sumire’s growing closer to Taichi may confuse Chihaya’s feelings, as she confuses frustration at not being her friend’s first priority with jealousy stemming from romantic love. Hopefully not, but it’s a plausible scenario.

    Chapter 126-7 confirms that Suo and Chihaya are going to play major roles in reconnecting Shinobu with the larger karuta community, and with people in general. As for Yuikawa, that will be something for the future; I was just trying to point out that she’s being set up as a possible friend for Shinobu, and maybe her “karuta personalities” obsession will eventually include an interest in Shinobu.

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    • karice says:

      That’s a matter of shipping goggles, to be blunt about it. The “people who claimed” that were almost uniformly Taichi fans.

      Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the Taichi fans. If it had been, I wouldn’t have been surprised…

      I was trying to point out that Arata has identified two love/karuta rivals (Suo and Taichi), both with sneaky sides, and Chihaya has not identified a possible love rival with a sneaky side (Sumire; I don’t see her becoming a karuta rival during the manga’s run, although possibly in an epilogue).

      Er…huh? I’m sorry, but I don’t think “sneaky” is quite the right way to characterise either Suou or Taichi. And I think that the problem that Arata and Chihaya have is better described as “they have to develop greater mental fortitude.” To me, the issue is about the psychological side of karuta (it goes back to their problems with contestation, as revealed in their matches against Yumin, Harada and Megumu) – it certainly shouldn’t be framed as being something associated solely or primarily with the romance side of the story.

      What Chihaya will think if Sumire does become closer to Taichi is another issue…and it’s not something I’m particularly interested in pondering, I’m afraid…

      Chapter 126-7 confirms that Suo and Chihaya are going to play major roles in reconnecting Shinobu with the larger karuta community, and with people in general.

      I agree about Chihaya, but don’t see how Suou will help reconnect Shinobu with the karuta community, given that he thinks that they should show the community that they are way above everyone else, that they are the ones in control…

      Like

      • Guest says:

        “Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the Taichi fans. If it had been, I wouldn’t have been surprised…”
        Yeah, but it was mostly them; there might have been a few non-Taichi fans chiming in, but they were the majority. Did you see any significant non-Taichi-fan debate on the matter anywhere?
        “I don’t think “sneaky” is quite the right way to characterise either Suou or Taichi. And I think that the problem that Arata and Chihaya have is better described as “they have to develop greater mental fortitude.”
        I actually think that “sneaky” works; it speaks to a lack of straightforwardness which is the main quality I’m trying to evoke with Suo and Taichi (who are turning out to be two birds of a feather, in many ways) and is associated with “cowardice,” a word that is central to Taichi’s arc. Chihaya and Arata have to develop “mental fortitude,” I agree; and one part of that, in my view, is not falling prey to tricks like Harada’s mind games or Suo’s cruel words–or Taichi’s new style of making people make mistakes.
        “What Chihaya will think if Sumire does become closer to Taichi is another issue…and it’s not something I’m particularly interested in pondering, I’m afraid…”
        Just warning you of the possibilities; it was hinted at at the end of the last match between Harada and Arata, when Chihaya pushed Taichi and Sumire apart (they were sitting next to each other). If Taichi’s the main “jagged rock,” Sumire could end up being a minor one as well…
        “I agree about Chihaya, but don’t see how Suou will help reconnect Shinobu with the karuta community, given that he thinks that they should show the community that they are way above everyone else, that they are the ones in control…”
        I also said “people in general;” her connection with Suo is a connection with another person, however much you dislike him, and he can connect her with the karuta community in a way, even if it’s as a “rebel faction” of sorts, or as “antagonists” of a sort.
        Ch. 128 shows that Arata, whom many people want Shinobu to connect with, is not particularly interested in her; he ‘s not particularly curious about what happened to her, wants to see more of the meijin match, and takes her recovery at face value (which, to be fair, is all he can do at that point). The high school championship seems to have created a perception of a bond between them that doesn’t quite exist; especially since he doesn’t seem to give her a passing thought when he’s not reminded of her directly.

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      • karice says:

        Yeah, but it was mostly them; there might have been a few non-Taichi fans chiming in, but they were the majority. Did you see any significant non-Taichi-fan debate on the matter anywhere?

        Of course, if you divide the field into ‘Taichi-fans’ and ‘Arata-fans’, all non-Taichi fans will only ever say that the scene shows that Chihaya loves Arata. But the only other arguably self-professed non-shipper on MF (at least as far as I’m aware) made many comments to the effect that “we still don’t know how Chihaya really feels — it could be some other kind of love/it could still change.” I know I did it at least once myself, though I was playing devil’s advocate, but this other poster has said it so many times that I really wonder what he/she thinks.

        I actually think that “sneaky” works; it speaks to a lack of straightforwardness which is the main quality I’m trying to evoke with Suo and Taichi (who are turning out to be two birds of a feather, in many ways) and is associated with “cowardice,” a word that is central to Taichi’s arc. Chihaya and Arata have to develop “mental fortitude,” I agree; and one part of that, in my view, is not falling prey to tricks like Harada’s mind games or Suo’s cruel words–or Taichi’s new style of making people make mistakes.

        The reason I’m not a fan of “sneaky” is that I don’t think it can be used to characterise everything that you (and various others) apply it to. The use of ‘sneaky’ in English doesn’t always map to the use of its corresponding word, ‘zurui’ in Japanese. ‘Sneaky’ has really negative connotations, whereas ‘zurui’ refers to something or someone being unfair, but it’s often used without implying as negative a connotation as ‘sneaky’ seems to in English. I can think of two other examples where “zurui” has been used in manga, and in both cases, it was translated as “unfair.”

        Also, I don’t see Taichi’s new style of making people commit mistakes as being ‘sneaky’. It’s a perfectly valid tactic that target’s the mental fortitude of one’s opponent, and it’s similar to what Arata does,and that his grandfather did with their card movements.

        Just warning you of the possibilities; it was hinted at at the end of the last match between Harada and Arata, when Chihaya pushed Taichi and Sumire apart (they were sitting next to each other). If Taichi’s the main “jagged rock,” Sumire could end up being a minor one as well…

        I don’t think you quite understand me: if it happens, it happens. But until then, I’m simply not interested in contemplating what would happen if Taichi starts paying attention to Sumire. To me, this involves heading into the realm of shipping, a realm that I do not want to visit at all.

        I also said “people in general;” her connection with Suo is a connection with another person, however much you dislike him, and he can connect her with the karuta community in a way, even if it’s as a “rebel faction” of sorts, or as “antagonists” of a sort.

        When I think of ‘connections’, I think of ‘connecting’ to as opposed to ‘relating’ to. Going by what you’ve said here, it seems like you’re saying that Suou represents one way for Shinobu to relate to the karuta community, and Chihaya represents another way. To be frank, those two ways are not compatible or complementary to me, so I think Suetsugu will have Shinobu taking one over the other.

        Like

  4. Guest says:

    “When I think of ‘connections’, I think of ‘connecting’ to as opposed to ‘relating’ to. Going by what you’ve said here, it seems like you’re saying that Suou represents one way for Shinobu to relate to the karuta community, and Chihaya represents another way. To be frank, those two ways are not compatible or complementary to me, so I think Suetsugu will have Shinobu taking one over the other.”
    And there’s no evidence that Shinobu will take Chihaya’s way of relating to the karuta community. There has been no suggestion that she will either join a team or a karuta society; the most that has been suggested is that she will practice with Yuikawa. There is no conflict between her forming a friendship with Suo and her forming a friendship with Chihaya (other than the latter’s current dislike of the former, which is not a “dealbreaker”–most people have friends that don’t like each other). She will connect to individual karuta players–Suo, Chihaya, and Yuikawa–but she will most likely keep some distance in her relations to the community as a whole.

    “Also, I don’t see Taichi’s new style of making people commit mistakes as being ‘sneaky’.”
    Given that Taichi himself draws a contrast between the “straightforward” way of taking cards of Harada (despite his tricks, as he notes), Chihaya, and Arata and the new style he’s attracted to, there’s a clear implication of non-straightforwardness in the method. Is it valid? Yes, Is it straightforward? No.

    Like

    • karice says:

      And there’s no evidence that Shinobu will take Chihaya’s way of relating to the karuta community. There has been no suggestion that she will either join a team or a karuta society; the most that has been suggested is that she will practice with Yuikawa. There is no conflict between her forming a friendship with Suo and her forming a friendship with Chihaya (other than the latter’s current dislike of the former, which is not a “dealbreaker”–most people have friends that don’t like each other). She will connect to individual karuta players–Suo, Chihaya, and Yuikawa–but she will most likely keep some distance in her relations to the community as a whole.

      I think we’re looking at Suou’s and Chihaya’s ‘connections’ to the community in different ways. I see Chihaya as connecting to people through a shared love for karuta, with Suou basically unable to do that at this point. I do not expect Shinobu to join a team or society, but I do see her starting to feel connected to other people through karuta. I would like to see Suou start to connect to people through karuta, but that involves him making the shift to seeing karuta a bit more like Chihaya does. Does my point make a little more sense now?

      Given that Taichi himself draws a contrast between the “straightforward” way of taking cards of Harada (despite his tricks, as he notes), Chihaya, and Arata and the new style he’s attracted to, there’s a clear implication of non-straightforwardness in the method. Is it valid? Yes, Is it straightforward? No.

      Can you tell me where Harada’s way of taking cards is described as “straightforward”? As I have noted a few times, I rarely read the scanlated version of the manga, so I would appreciate a link to the page rather than having to search for it myself.

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