Chihayafuru Manga: Poems 127 & 128

This is what it means to be the Meijin...

This is what it means to be the Meijin…

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Poem 127

At the start of the chapter, Shinobu’s grandmother tries to watch the Queen matches on TV, having not realised that they are only being shown online.

At the Omi Shrine, Shinobu is so shocked by her first loss in the Queen matches, that she is unable to count the cards that she had taken (the two players are meant to do this after each match in order to make sure that all 50 cards were accounted for), and Haruka-chan does it for her. As the latter then brings the cards to the officiator, Shinobu struggles to remember which cards she had taken, and pleads with them not to leave her.

Suou also loses the second round, once again matching the card difference in Shinobu’s match, and leaving Harada just one win away from his first Meijin title. Chihaya gets up straightaway to grab Kana-chan so that they can boost Shinobu’s spirits…but realises that this might make things worse; Shinobu shuts her door even to her mother, who’s subsequent conversation with the owner of the kimino store suggests that its she – and not Shinobu’s grandmother – who thinks of Shinobu as a billboard. On the other hand, all of the spectators excitedly discuss who they think will win; unlike in previous years, the outcome is still completely up in the air. Inokuma, feeling ill, is unable to eat anything – the severity of her morning sickness in comparison to her previous pregnancies has her predicting that this one will be a girl!

During the break, Suou once again calls home, and finds out that a certain Yukiko-chan is at home. Yukiko-chan, we learn, has an eye disease that restricts her field of vision to a 30cm squared area…(Glaucoma, perhaps?)

The fourth round involves just the Meijin and his challenger (because the Queen and her challenger have won one apiece). This time, Suou stuns everyone by attempting to guard and take multi-syllable cards, something he has never done before (and he’s crap at it). The commentators speculate that it might be because the Meijin match is now the focus of the camera’s attention.

Chihaya spots Shinobu leaving the hall and follows her outside. At the shrine, Shinobu cries as she clasps a dried persimmon in her hand, having realised that she loved her grandmother more than she had thought (which is why her mother’s earlier suggestion that the latter only viewed her as an advertisement had hurt so much). Two nearby claps startle her, and she looks up to see Chihaya bowing her head in prayer. As both return to the match hall, Shinobu wordlessly takes off her Snowmaru scarf and gives it to her rival, who is wearing nothing but a thin jumper.

Suou has opened up a wide lead. In his mind, he urges Shinobu to join him in showing everyone else that they are not the ones who will be controlled; the result is a 17-card difference. However, whilst everyone thinks that Suou could easily win if he didn’t play around, Harada just smiles.

As Shinobu returns to the match hall, Chihaya grabs her and ties up her sleeves for her. Shinobu realises that although Chihaya is mainly here to support her own coach, she is also behind Shinobu all the way. Revitalised, she steps forward to bring her friends home once again.

Poem 128

The players all return to the floor for the next match. Taichi and Kitano realise that Harada relinquished the third match, so that he could throw everything he has left at the fourth. But the Meijin still has other matters on his mind, namely, ‘Kyoto-tan, why are you commentating instead of reading for the match!?’

Shinobu vs. Haruka-chan

Shinobu, having regained her composure, is playing well. With a start, Sakurazawa realises that Shinobu relates to the cards based on the images on the reading cards, based on the poets who composed the 100 poems, and on how they would interact with each other. In other words, Shinobu regards all the cards as her friends; they are her beloved companions and she knows how each of them ticks, who they’d want to be with, and which of them will return to her side after being sent across to her opponent.

Suou vs. Harada

Harada has changed his card placement completely. On top of that, he starts shifting his cards around on consecutive ‘turns’, even when empty cards are read (this is a mild violation of etiquette). Even worse, when he manages to swipe the first card – a one-syllable card, no less – from Suou’s side, he raises his voice in celebration (this is a clear violation of etiquette!).

The next card (Kisasagi no) is a close call…but Harada claims it and Suou doesn’t challenge him. Harada is completely focused on taking the cards in Suou’s territory: “if you can’t take the one-syllable cards from your opponent’s formation, you can’t say that you’re attacking the lower right)! But at the same time, he’s moving the cards in his own field around a lot, going completely against what he has told his students to do. As a result, the cards on both halves of the field are being shifted all the time – the whole point is to take advantage of Suou’s weakness, his eyesight…

As Harada opens up a seven-card lead, we flashback to what Chihaya revealed:

Harada-sensei, the Meijin’s weakness is probably…his eyes. At first, I thought that he just had poor eyesight, but that’s not quite right. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s like he can’t really see the cards at the edges of his field of vision.

Harada’s strategy involves successfully attacking Suou’s formation, and then sending cards that the Meijin will place at the edges of his field. The card movements on his own side are also designed to prevent Suou from targeting cards. In other words, Harada’s answer to Suou’s genius is to play a ‘nasty’ form of karuta, and to attack.

Chihayafuru128Unlike you, I have someone whose happiness means everything to me. I will take the Meijin crown!

Far away, in a living room filled with a large plasma TV and numerous trophies, a lone woman flicks through the channels and wonders: is it not on yet?

** COMMENTARY **

Who will emerge victorious in both matches is really still up in the air here, so I’m not going to comment on that other than to say that I hope Haruka-chan wins, because I really like the message that she wants to convey to all the other female karuta players out there.

On the other hand, I don’t really care who wins the Meijin match anymore, because both Harada and Suou are playing in ways that I personally do not condone. As I have previously mentioned, I don’t like the way Suou doesn’t play seriously, because that’s just disrespectful to your opponent – it would serve him right if the two victories he literally gave to Harada end up leading to his downfall.

But on the other hand, I also don’t really like how Harada is once again bending and breaking the rules of etiquette – that’s just rude and also something I don’t think should be condoned. As much as his victory would give our main characters a boost in confidence and demonstrate that genius can be defeated, I’d much prefer he did it whilst showing respect for his opponents and the officials too. After all, he’s meant to be setting an example for his students to follow, right?

Back to Suou for the moment though: it’s obvious that Yukiko-chan is the key to understanding him. My own suspicion, for a long time, has been that there has been someone back home whom Suou wants to impress, to bring joy to, with his achievements, and that would be this lady. Another significant thing to note is that her eye disease/problem may help explain other parts of Suou’s behaviour. For example, if she is a relative and Suou has the same problem that she does, he might not play in tournaments etc because that increases the likelihood of people realising his one weakness. It would also explain why he wears sunglasses even when dressed so traditionally. Finally, it also means that he has a good reason for leaving karuta now, when he is still at the pinnacle of the game. That said, I still don’t particularly care…let’s see if whatever else Suetsugu has to reveal about him changes my mind..

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

5 Responses to Chihayafuru Manga: Poems 127 & 128

  1. Guest says:

    With Chapter 128, Harada’s finally gone too far, according to some MF commenters. He’s seen as taking advantage of Suo’s physical handicap in order to win, as well as belittling his motivation (assuming he has no one to play for). It’s kind of funny that they’ve only started to oppose Harada’s behavior now, when you were pointing out his breaches of etiquette and other questionable behavior back during the meijin qualifiers.
    It’s most likely not a coincidence that most of the critics of Harada/defenders of Suo are Taichi fans. They seem to see Suo as a kind of proxy for Taichi, a fellow “jerk with a heart of gold” who isn’t as bad as he seems, and who needs more sympathy (or as one commenter, “Biribiri_chan” put it, “mostly misunderstood but essentially a good character,” comparing him to Snape from HP.)
    The Taichi/Arata rivalry, and the tendency to see Taichi as the protagonist, even affects the analysis of matches that have nothing to do with either; there are Taichi fans/Arata detractors who were willing to excuse or turn a blind eye to Harada’s bad behavior when it was against Arata, the “rival” of the “protagonist” Taichi (while Arata fans were willing to cut him much less slack), but when it’s against someone whom they see as resembling Taichi, it’s “going too far”.
    That being said, both Harada and Chihaya come off really badly in using someone’s impending blindness against them, however nasty the person with the handicap may be. If Harada and Shinobu both lose, Chihaya will be 3/3 in giving failed advice/support (counting Arata in Ch.115-16). This will most likely lead Chihaya to consider how she can help become better at supporting people she cares about; she may want to consider how to do so without crossing too many moral lines.
    Moving on, there’s something else going on. Harada has an extensive monologue in Ch. 105 about people who believe that trying their best is its own reward, vs. people like him, who find that a “bitter” pill to swallow, and believe that only a win really matters. A win in the Meijin matches would only affirm that view. A loss would force him to truly see the other things he’s gained from his years playing karuta, even though he never became Meijin, and it would help Taichi see “by example” that there’s value in doing something, even if you never reach the top. It’s significant that both Chihaya and Arata, the two protagonists, are people who believe that trying their best is its own rewards. This is confirmed at the end of the Tokyo qualifiers for Chihaya and in Ch. 106 for Arata.
    The idea that Taichi needs to find other motivations for playing other than winning is connected to the idea that Taichi, unlike Arata, has to learn to deal with loss, and irreversible loss in particular. If Chihaya were to choose to pursue a romantic relationship with Arata, Taichi would be dealing with something that he hasn’t had to deal with before: a loss (of his hopes of a romantic relationship with Chihaya) that he can’t reverse with more hard work, more thinking, more of anything. “There’s nothing uncool about losing a match fair and square,” Chihaya told Taichi in Ch. 2; by the end of the manga, Taichi has to get to the point where he accepts loss, and the strongest way to show that is to have him accept an irreversible loss, rather than a reversible one (e.g. not becoming Meijin).
    It looks like the next arc is going to focus on Arata, with an implied matchup between him and Rion. Could a powered-up Rion beat Arata? Possibly, although it would have to be shown how she got there. Will her playing style remind him of Chihaya’s? Yes.

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    • karice says:

      It’s most likely not a coincidence that most of the critics of Harada/defenders of Suo are Taichi fans. They seem to see Suo as a kind of proxy for Taichi, a fellow “jerk with a heart of gold” who isn’t as bad as he seems, and who needs more sympathy (or as one commenter, “Biribiri_chan” put it, “mostly misunderstood but essentially a good character,” comparing him to Snape from HP.)

      *snip*

      Whilst I am bemused by how so many people seem to be agreeing with a certain poster now, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t keep trying to generalise the various groups of fans based on two or three extremely vocal posters. I actually see less of a correlation between people defending Suou now and Taichi fans, than between people who were defending Harada back during the qualifiers and Taichi fans. It seems to me like different people have different ideas about what ethical and sportsmanlike behaviour is. I also think that different people have different reasons for sympathising with Suou, though I’m sure that the direction of the discussion also influences a few of them. I know that I sometimes make comments about the general trends of responses that I see from the various camps, but I really don’t think it can be applied to everything, which is what you seem to be trying to do.

      As for Snape being “essentially a good character”…hah. Snape wasn’t a nice person; it’s just that his capacity to love and the way he did come to care for some people he worked with meant that he wasn’t irredeemable. Suou is borderline to me. Taichi though, yes, I personally think that he is essentially a nice person who cares for the people around him, and I can provide evidence for it. I also think that he has a few issues that he struggles with a lot. But for me, a defining point of Taichi’s story is his struggle to become a better person, to overcome those issues. That is precisely why a lot of the so-called Taichi fans like him, so go ahead and call me a Taichi fan if you want. But I like Arata at least as much as I like Taichi, and I am very happy to point out negative aspects of both of these characters (and Chihaya too, of course), so where does that place me? I’ll let you ponder that.

      That being said, both Harada and Chihaya come off really badly in using someone’s impending blindness against them, however nasty the person with the handicap may be. If Harada and Shinobu both lose, Chihaya will be 3/3 in giving failed advice/support (counting Arata in Ch.115-16). This will most likely lead Chihaya to consider how she can help become better at supporting people she cares about; she may want to consider how to do so without crossing too many moral lines.

      I personally wouldn’t expect Chihaya to have any idea that Suou might have an eye handicap — all she reported to Harada was what she thought Suou’s weakness was. Since he is a doctor and thus probably knows that Suou might be suffering from RT, what Harada has done is another matter…

      And…out of those three, the only person that Chihaya actually gave advice to is Arata. What she’s done for Harada and Shinobu is basically on the level of supporting them (in the case of the former, by telling him of a weakness; in the case of the latter, by giving her a boost and tying up her long sleeves). And Chihaya’s advice to Arata wasn’t specifically so that Arata would win, but rather to help him try to play to the best of his ability (I personally think that is very admirable on her part, though the way he tried to do that ended up being the wrong way) — she was trying to support him too, as a friend. So I really don’t think that she crossed any moral lines there.

      Moving on, there’s something else going on. Harada has an extensive monologue in Ch. 105 about people who believe that trying their best is its own reward, vs. people like him, who find that a “bitter” pill to swallow, and believe that only a win really matters. A win in the Meijin matches would only affirm that view. A loss would force him to truly see the other things he’s gained from his years playing karuta, even though he never became Meijin, and it would help Taichi see “by example” that there’s value in doing something, even if you never reach the top. It’s significant that both Chihaya and Arata, the two protagonists, are people who believe that trying their best is its own rewards. This is confirmed at the end of the Tokyo qualifiers for Chihaya and in Ch. 106 for Arata.

      Sadly, your interpretation here is based on a translation that misses the point of what Harada was thinking. Here’s my translation, using the page numbering on MF:

      p.2

      “Which of them will claim this win?”

      P.3

      “A win…”

      “In this world, there are people who think that effort is more important than winning.”

      “But for coaches and their charges, that is an agonising way to think.”

      “‘I did my best’…’That was a tough fight’… Words like that just blow away in the wind.”

      “A win is a stone. A rock that anchors those words to you.”

      P.4 (bottom of page)

      “And those wins will gather…”

      P.5-6

      “…a strong tailwind.”

      i.e. It’s not that ‘only a win really matters’; rather, a win, a favourable result, is something that will keep you trying, that will give you the momentum to keep following the path you have chosen. It was fitting for the Yoshino tournament, because both Chihaya (see ch 92) and Taichi (e.g. his doubts throughout the tournament) had been seeking that kind of anchor for their efforts, but it doesn’t fit with this Meijin match in the way that you have argued.

      But thank you for drawing my attention to yet another problematic translation — because I read the manga in its original language, I seldom catch these unless someone else brings them up.

      The idea that Taichi needs to find other motivations for playing other than winning is connected to the idea that Taichi, unlike Arata, has to learn to deal with loss, and irreversible loss in particular. *snip*

      I think that Taichi has already found some of those other motivations. But, like Harada, I think that a win will help keep him going, and will help him achieve his ultimate goal of “becoming someone who doesn’t run away,” even in a battle that he knows he will probably lose.

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      • Guest says:

        I just wanted to clear up a few points:
        I’d appreciate it if you didn’t keep trying to generalise the various groups of fans based on two or three extremely vocal posters.
        And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t imply that I was saying that ALL Taichi fans were saying this when I made clear that some posters on MF was what I was writing about. My claim was that some Taichi fans on MF (a small subset of Taichi fans) didn’t criticize Harada until the meijin arc, and that part of their criticism was based on their sympathy towards Suo as a Taichi proxy, was based on the evidence available on the time. None of the four (out of seven posters initially criticising Harada) Taichi fans/Arata detractors (including the Chihaya/Arata basher) commented negatively on Harada’s behavior at the time of the qualifier match arc, and the Chihaya/Arata detractor actually praised it. All of them have expressed marked admiration and/or sympathy for Suo, and two of them invoked the “jerk with a heart of gold ” trope (the Snape commenter, and one who wanted to ‘see what was behind the bad-boy facade’ (paraphrased)). Similar opinions have been espoused outside of MF by Guardian Enzo (another vocal Taichi partisan) on his blog; he’s expressing ambivalence about Harada (whom he was deeply sympathetic with during the qualifier arc) and sympathy towards Suo. Arata fans on MF (the “two or three” that commented, initially or later), on the other hand, have been criticizing Harada since the meijin arc, are somewhat more mixed in their opinions of Suo, and more unequivocally want Harada to lose.
        I understand that you’re irritated with the mention of Taichi partisans at this point. This is the one point I’m trying to make: the fixation of some (not ALL, as I’ve always made clear) Taichi supporters with the character is causing them to misread the characters and the the text, often in a sexist manner when it comes to Chihaya.
        Chihaya isn’t a trophy that “poor” Taichi “must win/is owed/deserves” because “he’s always by her side/his suffering/his support/his hard work,” and there hasn’t been an argument for their relationship made by his partisans yet that hasn’t invoked that sort of sexist language, however fleetingly. If you have seen such an argument, please share, since it is possible to make it. In saying “even in a battle that he knows he will probably lose,” you invoke it as well. Chihaya can’t be “won” or “lost” as the result of a battle; in the end, she is the one who should and will decide who she will be in a romantic relationship with, not Arata or Taichi as the result of some “battle”.

        …rather, a win, a favourable result, is something that will keep you trying, that will give you the momentum to keep following the path you have chosen…
        It seems like there’s still a contrast being made between “people who believe that doing your best is its own reward” and “people who need a win to really believe that doing your best is its own reward.” To me, it would be more interesting if someone who believes the latter were to lose, and to see how they deal with an irreversible loss; and Ch. 131 all but confirms that that’s the most likely result. Thanks for the translation.

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      • karice says:

        And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t imply that I was saying that ALL Taichi fans were saying this when I made clear that some posters on MF was what I was writing about.

        I wasn’t referring to a claim on Taichi fans in general, but rather your statement that “most of the critics of Harada/defenders of Suou are Taichi fans.” If you actually went and counted the critics of Harada and figured out that the vast majority of them were Taichi fans, my mistake and I apologise. But I still would prefer the use of words other than “most.” To me, four out of the current seven Harada critics on MF being Taichi fans (eight if you haven’t included me in your count – I defend Suou’s tactics, though not Suou himself or his attitude) does not represent “most” to me.

        Besides, it looks like what you are saying is actually that “it’s interesting that most if not all of the Taichi fans now criticising Harada were admiring him back during the Meijin qualifier finals.” You might think I’m splitting hairs, but the difference in meaning between this statement and what you actually wrote is quite significant to me. If this is indeed the meaning you have intended, then apologies (but please use “AND” rather than “/ (= ‘OR’)” next time).

        But if this is the case, you’ve missed my main point. Your statement here is implying that the only/main reason they are criticising Harada and backing Suou now is because they like Taichi and see him in Suou. My point is that we can’t and shouldn’t assume that, because some of them may really dislike whatever they say they dislike about what Harada is doing, which they say is a step further than what he did at the Meijin qualifier finals.

        In saying “even in a battle that he knows he will probably lose,” you invoke it as well. Chihaya can’t be “won” or “lost” as the result of a battle; in the end, she is the one who should and will decide who she will be in a romantic relationship with, not Arata or Taichi as the result of some “battle”.

        You’ve misinterpreted me: I was using it as a metaphor for any challenges Taichi might face, including perhaps facing Arata in karuta and the idea that he will probably have to confess to Chihaya despite knowing that she actually loves Arata. I don’t see how that amounts to me treating Chihaya herself as a prize/trophy to be won.

        It seems like there’s still a contrast being made between “people who believe that doing your best is its own reward” and “people who need a win to really believe that doing your best is its own reward.” To me, it would be more interesting if someone who believes the latter were to lose, and to see how they deal with an irreversible loss; and Ch. 131 all but confirms that that’s the most likely result. Thanks for the translation.

        To me, that quote doesn’t apply to the Meijin matches because Harada has had success already: he won the Meijin qualifiers. He’s gotten the confirmation that he belongs in this world, that he can compete at this level.

        That was the confirmation that both Taichi and Chihaya would have benefitted from at the Yoshino tournament – and it appears like Chihaya did benefit.


        And if you find and read this reply first, please have a look at this one as well.

        Like

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

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