On the recent developments in Chihayafuru (chapters 130-133)

Just a quick comment on the finale and aftermath of the Meijin title matches. Do read them before reading this please, though I do apologise for referring to the as-yet untranslated chapter 133 as well.

The cover for volume 25...now, what about the special cover for the electronic version? ワクワク!
The cover for volume 25…now, what about the special electronic cover? ワクワク!

To quickly summarise my reaction: I absolutely loved how the title matches turned out. As my past commentary shows, I’ve been very disappointed with aspects of both Harada and Suou: I really disliked how the former was always bending and even breaking rules of etiquette, whilst the latter’s complete disregard for the game and his opponents left a really sour taste in my mouth. For a while, I really wondered if Suetsugu Yuki could create a narrative that would allow me to reconcile my disconnect with these two characters and the love I have for the themes of her story…but she did not disappoint.

Starting with the flow of the matches, to me, the deciding point was the end of the fourth match: whilst Harada’s intuition that Nanishi (Poem 25) would be the losing card if it came down to the luck-of-the-draw turned out to be right again, it was Suou who won the mental battle. Though technique and stamina are important, at the end of the day, even the most talented can only polish their skills so far: the ultimate decider in competitive karuta, like so many other sports, lies in the psychological dimension. Alternatively, you could argue that all three aspects of preparation are necessary; however, I think the difference is that technique and stamina can make up for talent, whilst mental strength is something that only comes with experience—not so much the experience of age, but rather the exposure that one has to the mental games being played. That is where Suou won, as he is one of the few practitioners of a playing style based around inducing faults in one’s opponent.

I suspect that most Chihayafuru fans who I’ve interacted with over the past few months would think that I should be ambivalent about the outcome of this match. That would be a great misunderstanding: I can’t actually imagine an outcome that makes me happier. To me, the fact that Suou has finally come to enjoy karuta resonates with both themes that Suetsugu has written into Chihayafuru. Karuta is fun not because of one’s ability, but because of the way it connect you to others; and the connection is not simply about feeling affinity with someone else in the community, otherwise I’d have considered Suou and Shinobu to be ‘connected’ through their solitude at the pinnacle of the sport. Rather, it’s a connection that manifests itself in the enjoyment that one gets out of playing with and against others, in trying to reach some higher pinnacle or prowess together. With these Meijin and Queen title matches, both Shinobu and Suou have finally joined that shared karuta community, and this is reflected in the respect that they are now showing to at least some of the people who are trying to reach them. Whilst I expect them both to continue playing in very few tournaments compared to everyone else, the new-found respect that Suou feels really came through when he cleaned himself up for the final match against Harada. As for Harada, I think that it’s fitting that he didn’t win, but I’m glad that his passion has infected some of the younger generation.

The individuals I’m referring to as part of that younger generation are, of course, Suou—whom I’ve already written extensively about—Chihaya, Arata and Taichi. Chihaya and Arata’s reactions in chapter 132 also made me smile. First of all, I’m glad Chihaya realised that it was the hurt she’d felt from Suou’s words that were clouding her willingness to see him as a valid part of her beloved karuta community. This is associated with another nuance in my attitude towards Suou until now—what I disliked wasn’t Suou’s so-called ‘sneaky’ tactics of forcing his opponents to commit faults, but rather his lack of respect for the karuta community. Whilst I can fully understand why people playing him hate the way he plays, I’ve always thought it to be a valid tactic that makes brilliant use of his greatest weapon, his peerless hearing. Hence, I was actually a little disappointed that Chihaya was so incensed about how Suou won the fourth match, and am pleased that she seems to have realised how unjustified her reaction was. Arata also had a little character development here, completely surprising me by disregarding the fact that cameras were rolling when he asked Suou to stay on, declaring that he would come to defeat him next year. Such a display of arrogance is never looked on favourably in Japan—in fact, Japanese blogs covering chapter 133 suggest that Arata has gotten a lot of flak for his behaviour—coupled with how shy Arata has been shown to be, this marks a significant leap in his determination. And I’m totally loving it. On the other hand…Taichi’s reaction surprised me in a more negative way . As he observes in 133, it’s very sad that one of Harada’s students had given up about reaching Suou’s level, as his relief at the thought of the Meijin retiring showed. I’d thought that Taichi had been improving, but recently, Suetsugu always seems to have him taking two steps forward and one big step back. Whilst I do think that this makes him an interesting character, I’m not sure how patient I can continue to be if those little hints of development don’t become more concrete. But I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh: like Suou, I fully expect Taichi and Arata to be in the next Meijin challenger playoffs…

At any rate, chapter 134 will be very interesting, as Taichi and Arata are set to play each other in the 4th round of the Takamatsunomiya tournament…

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

6 Responses to On the recent developments in Chihayafuru (chapters 130-133)

  1. Andreia says:

    This is very nice, I didn’t notice the subtle things when reading manga, cause I read fast. lol. very intellectual review. I just want Chihayafuru to focus on Chihaya’s karuta. I am so tired of her losing to the queen.


    • karice says:

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I wouldn’t worry about not noticing ‘the subtle things’, as that’s how it is for me with most other series I read or watch. The main reason I have so much to say about Chihayafuru is simply that I am quite heavily involved in the fandom – it forces me to read or watch things carefully, to go back to particular chapters or episodes, and to explain and defend my interpretations and arguments.

      As for a focus on karuta…I’m afraid that’s probably what volumes 10-17 (the 2nd season of the anime) was for. My sense is that the manga is going to be delving into the ‘love triangle’ part quite a bit more than before…

      I think Chihaya will eventually be able to beat Shinobu, and unlike a certain other sporting series, I think we will actually see that happen before the manga ends… ^^


  2. Seru says:

    Hello! I just want to say that I really enjoyed reading your commentary on Chihayafuru. I’ve been reading the english fan-translations, chinese translations and japanese raws for the series and I think that some nuances are lost in english. I’ve been avoiding the english forums because it feels like there’re some strong negative emotions running around, and I truly love and enjoy the series and its characters, so it was nice to read your blog! I hope you will continue to write recaps. =)


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

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