Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 126

Who will grasp the start of victory this time?

Who will grasp the star of victory this time?

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

The second match is to take place after lunch. The Shiranami Society’s members hang out in Harada’s waiting room, whilst he is recovering as usual, and Chihaya decides to head out for a bit.

A number of the Tokyo Uni Karuta Club members have also come to support Suou and they’re helping themselves to all the snacks (“snacks tend to gather around him, after all”). Suou himself is on the phone again: this time, the person has managed to find the match on the Nico channel; however, he or she keeps getting kicked out because there are too many viewers trying to watch it online. The Meijin tries to tell them about Nico’s premium service, but then gives up.

Inokuma is busy feeding Jin again, and Aki feeds her an onigiri (“Mama, you’ve gotta win next time. Eat this onigiri!! Here, eat up!”…he is sooo cute!). Rion comes to visit, having made the trip down because her grandmother will be reading for the Takamatsunomiya Cup – she’s also decided to participate. Impressed/touched, Inokuma tells her to watch her closely, for this is likely to be her final Queen match.

On the other hand, Shinobu is alone with her mother in her room. She reflects with pleasure on the match with a somewhat creepy smile on her face. (“It was interesting, really interesting…normally, that card placement would be difficult to deal with, but I get to find out just how strongly I am connected to the cards, so it’s interesting. She’s strong, so it’s fun.”) Shinobu accidentally knocks over a cup of tea, and worries that the kimono will stain. Her mother grumbles about how her grandmother knows nothing about karuta, as demonstrated by the fact that she ordered a furisode. Shinobu doesn’t mind, because she’s strong (she obviously wanted to wear the kimono because her grandmother bought it for her). Then her mother inadvertently drops the bombshell: it seems that her grandmother did not buy the kimono for Shinobu per se; rather, as a politician, she’s cultivating favour with the owner of the Hidaka store, who is the president of the Traditional Clothing Cooperative Group in Kyoto. Shinobu’s face changes as her mother bluntly states that she nothing more than a billboard for her grandmother.

"You're like a billboard for your grandmother."

“You’re like a billboard for your grandmother.”

Just at that moment, Chihaya comes by with some snacks – Snowmaru Red Bean Cakes – for Shinobu, who perks up instantly, and surprises the former by dropping all formalities with her. In the course of the conversation, Shinobu wonders how Chihaya can call herself and Inokuma rivals when she couldn’t even win the Tokyo prelims…and Chihaya reveals that she had chosen to go on her school trip instead. Shinobu’s face changes even as Chihaya changes the topic to suggest that Shinobu tie up her sleeves to make it easier to play… She crumples the red bean cake in its packet, and gets up wordlessly when the announcer calls for the players to return to the match room, leaving Chihaya momentarily stunned at her reaction.

The commentator for the second match is President Ise, from Shinobu’s former karata society in Kyoto. Shinobu recalls a conversation with her grandmother when she’d first risen to Class A: there has never been any warmth in her words. She recalls what both her mother and Chihaya revealed to her earlier, telling herself that she isn’t disappointed…

Inokuma leads 10 to 15 cards – the 5 card deficit is unusual for Shinobu. Both players are largely picking up the cards on their own halves of the field, but more of Inokuma’s side have been read. As she takes yet another card, Rion recalls their conversation in the waiting room. As it turns out, Inokuma is pregnant with her third child. For the sake of all the women who love karuta their entire lives, she wants to show them a miracle: that even someone with three children can become Queen.

As viewers look on at the match in shock and surprise, Chihaya realises that she’d broken her promise to meet Shinobu in the Queen match.

Suou is also more concerned with the Queen match, and the Meijin match seems to be going in Harada’s way. As Harada resolves to grasp the star of victory, Shinobu slips even further behind, and is stunned to receive her first loss as Queen.

Chihayafuru_126-3This is strange. This isn’t how it should be. Ise-sensei, you liar. If I become stronger the more alone I am, then shouldn’t I be at my strongest now?

** COMMENTARY **

Is there anyone whose heart has not gone out to Shinobu here? For several years, Shinobu has been alone at the top of the game; but now, the full meaning of this fact has sunk in for her. Unlike Inokuma, her family isn’t there supporting what she wants to achieve. Unlike Chihaya, she doesn’t have friends to make school trip memories with. And although the latter is a kindred spirit, they are still effectively acquaintances rather than friends. Shinobu is well and truly alone, and the loneliness is now crushing her.

How has this come about? Part of it stems from the fact that Shinobu does want friends, particularly ones her own age. Ever since Ise-sensei first said that she would be stronger playing alone, she has been kept away from them, for fear that she would hold back against them and thus not achieve everything that her raw talent demands. (There’s a huge contrast here with how Arata went all out against Chihaya when they were 12, despite the latter being a complete beginner.) The fact that Chihaya thanked her for not holding back and expressed such a strong desire to play against her again probably awakened that long-buried wish. But it is now clear to Shinobu that whilst Chihaya does want to play against her, there are other things and people that might be more important depending on the circumstances. In contrast, Shinobu doesn’t have anyone like that – even her family appears to be supporting her karuta only because it benefits them.

But is this just about Shinobu? I personally don’t think so. The solitary ways of Shinobu and Suou have been contrasted with the group-orientated drive behind the karuta of Harada and Chihaya for much of the manga, and it appears that Suetsugu is in the process of confirming where she stands on this dichotomy. There is actually an interesting contrast between Suou and Shinobu as well: whilst the latter is afraid that playing at her best against others will drive them away from karuta, the former harbours no such doubts. Suou is completely at ease crushing all before him in his quest to find someone who will not bore him. Might this have arisen from his belief (or realisation) that being concerned about others, like Shinobu, is a weakness? Perhaps. However, there are also worrying signs that his greatest enjoyment may come from playing around with others. It will be interesting to see where Suetsugu ends up with these two threads…

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

5 Responses to Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 126

  1. ravenanne says:

    Aww… Shinobu, I think, is the only karuta player that lives in solitude. Even Suo has comrades that he takes care and could play against with.

    Inokuma san’s third pregnancy is so timely. Do you think Shinobu will lose here but then because of Inokuma’s pregnancy, the queen seat will be vacant thereby having a possible Shinobu vs Chihaya as west vs eastern representatives?

    I think Shinobu should lose here. because if she will win, then she’ll believe more on what Ise sensei had instilled on her mind… that being alone will make her stronger.

    Can’t wait to see the end of their match. >///<

    Thanks again for your hard work!!! 😉

    Like

    • karice says:

      True, Shinobu is the only one that lives in solitude. But I still think that Suou, as a karuta player, is far more solitary than she is. Suou may take care of his underclassmen in terms of giving them food/encouragement, but he doesn’t appear to want to share his enjoyment of karuta with anyone else (whereas I think Shinobu has shown us that she does). Perhaps I’m wrong about Suou – but if so, I just wish that Suetsugu-sensei would show us already!

      Yeah, I think Shinobu may lose here, and that Chihaya and Shinobu will fight out the final next year as two Queen challenges.. But I’m not sure I want Shinobu to recover before this Queen match is over…but I guess we’ll see.

      Like

  2. YTAY2 says:

    Thanks for the translation! Will be looking forward to more translations/commentaries from your blog.

    Personally I think Shinobu would win eventually. Her losing here would lose some ‘impact’ of her being the strong, insanely powerful character that Chihaya was aiming for. Just like what would happen if Arrata would to lose to Shinobu. A lot of these ‘strong’ characters have their air or aura precisely (or even solely) because they are freaking good. Causing Shinobu to lose her would shock the general impression of her. For the fact that Chihaya beat Inokuma (if I remember right, while she was getting back into the game), having Chihaya challenge Inokuma for the queen title next year just feels anti climax because we have seen them play at an equal level before. and then like you mentioned the ‘real battle’ would be the queen challenger match between chihaya and shinobu.

    Again, I have not read the actual chapter (as in the manga) and only your summary.

    Like

    • karice says:

      You’re welcome, and thank you for commenting ^^

      I think I’ll refrain from taking a position on who will win…though I will say that I kinda hope Inokuma wins, because I like the message that it will bring to female karuta players.

      And it seems like you missed what Inokuma was implying: whether she wins or loses, she will not play in the Queen’s matches again, because she’s pregnant with her third child. This introduces uncertainty into the match again – I’d previously assumed that Shinobu would win, because we know that Chihaya plays her for the Queen title the following year. However, since Inokuma will retire whether she wins or loses, Suetsugu has opened the floor for the third match to go either way.

      Like

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

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