Living through poetry: some thoughts on Chihayafuru Poems 133-134

いい笑顔だね!大好き!♥
いい笑顔だね!大好き!♥

Wherein Taichi and Arata face off against each other for the first time, raising a few interesting questions that aren’t actually answered for a few more chapters. However, there is also one other really interesting point raised in 133, and that is where I shall start.

Taichi’s motivations…something for Chihaya and readers to ponder?

Chihaya is once again blindsided by Taichi’s decision to play in the Takamatsunomiya tournament, in which Arata is also participating. This time, however, rather than just ranting that ‘Taichi is getting the jump on me’, she realises that Taichi can’t tell her, for some unknown reason, surprising the other Mizusawa members with this slight increase in perceptiveness. But Kana-chan cautions her not to stop thinking about this question, because that answer is not where it ends. Why exactly can’t Taichi tell her? Who is he looking at? And why?

Who is Taichi’s greatest ‘enemy’?

As I observed in my previous Chihayafuru post, Taichi took a step backwards again when he thought it best that Suou retired after winning his fifth straight title and becoming an eternal Meijin. But at least he recognised it…which leads him to acknowledge again to us that his greatest enemy is…himself. Although Taichi asks himself several times how he should play against Arata, how he should fight against Arata if they meet in a match, once again, the root of his dilemma lies in the way he loses his cool, which he seems to regard as ‘losing to himself’ more so than losing to his friend. But why does Taichi lose his cool when he faces Arata? What is it about his relationship with Arata that upsets him so much…?

Friends and rivals? Or not quite yet…?

Part of the answer to that line of inquiry can be found in the scene where Taichi and Arata meet. Following an interesting conversation with Yoshioka-sensei, Arata is surprised when he spots Taichi in the crowd. And his immediate reaction is to look around for the other familiar face he expects to see. And Taichi walks up to him and lets him know that he’s the only one who stayed behind, leaving behind a charged “Yoroshiku.”

Ever since I first read this chapter, I’ve been turning this greeting over in my head, trying to figure out how best to translate it. The nuances to this scene are quite subtle: in looking around for Chihaya without even greeting Taichi, Arata has effectively disregarded Taichi’s presence, whether he intended it or not. In response to this slight, Taichi’s greeting, to me, encompasses a sense of the sarcastic “Well, hello to you too” as well as an “I’ll see you on the floor.” Though unintended, with this slip-up, Arata confirmed that he has indeed been ‘looking down on Taichi in terms of karuta’ (chapter 106), that is, not treating him as a serious rival. I’ve long argued that what Taichi seeks from Arata is acknowledgement of his karuta ability, which is why the feeling that he is being ‘looked down upon’ really gets to him.

Thankfully, I think that this issue may have been cleared up in chapter 134, where Arata and Taichi face off in the fourth round (quarter finals) of the Takamatsunomiya Cup. Both are obviously nervous, with Taichi unable to meet Arata’s eyes, and both sitting down in the wrong spots. But that mistake breaks the ice a little between them, as Taichi realises that Arata is just as nervous as he is. And Arata’s card placement brings back Taichi’s memories of getting into his friend’s head, which leads Taichi to quietly invite Arata to play in his own words (in the Fukui dialect). Taichi resolves to play Harada-sensei’s irritating brand of karuta, in order to fluster ‘someone who looks down on him’…but then he realises that Arata is facing him like he did Shinobu. This stuns and scares him, but he nevertheless manages to carry out some of the measures he’d developed against Arata’s key techniques. For his part, Arata reflects on how he thought it’d be more difficult to battle against Taichi (in the emotional sense, not in terms of ability), but he’s actually really happy that he can play against him in this way. To me, they’ve taken a big step towards realising Yoshioka-sensei’s hope that Arata finds a rival who will help him keep driving his karuta forward.

Are these developments in their relationship then negated by Taichi letting Arata know that he is also interested in Chihaya? Some people would argue that, in sending the ‘Chiha’ card, Taichi is being completely antagonistic towards Arata here, and declaring that he will fight to ‘claim’ her. Personally, I think that that interpretation goes a little too far, and actually misses how poetic his gesture is. In most anime/manga I’ve consumed, where two friends realise that they are interested in the same girl or boy, the normal thing to do is to let their rival know of their feelings and intentions before they confess to the person they like. Where the rivals aren’t friends, this is usually very antagonistic (Ao Haru Ride has a good example), but even where they are ‘friends’, it can be somewhat antagonistic if the rivals in question are male (Strobe Edge, Taiyou no Ie). For some reason, girls just generally do better at keeping it friendly (Macross Frontier, Ao Haru Ride). But in using the cards to let Arata know of his feelings about Chihaya, a lot of the potential antagonism is actually dissipated, because Taichi then doesn’t have to tell Arata the things that he should hear from Chihaya himself, and they both have to act and react according to ‘the rules of karuta’. As Kana-chan pointed out to Sumire long ago, the feelings that can be conveyed and the feelings that are conveyed are bound by these rules. (And here are my arguments for why Taichi could not have let Arata know in any other way.)

Whitherto now?

The match ends in Taichi’s defeat; Arata is runner-up to Murao, and Taichi claims one of the four “4th place” commendations for losing in the fourth round/quarter-finals. On the way home to Tokyo, Suou finds Taichi sleeping, but with tears in his eyes? Why the tears? Is it of his loss and what that symbolises in terms of his romantic desires? Well…the answer lies in chapter 136…which I should be able to get to some time next week…

NB: I do know about the recent chapters, of course. In fact, I have chapters 137 and 138. However, I’m waiting for volume 26 to be released on Oct 10, because I want to read 135 and 136 in Japanese before commenting further on them. So this will be it for the time being.

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

16 Responses to Living through poetry: some thoughts on Chihayafuru Poems 133-134

  1. pira97 says:

    warning ****spoiler**** warning

    Taichi knew his chances with Chihaya were very slim because for Chihaya, karuta and love are the same thing, he dedicated himself to karuta with the hope that maybe, just maybe she will look at him. After he challenged Arata, his tear in the train basically symbolize his chances with Chihaya was nil.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Sorry – spoiler tags don’t work here cos I haven’t got any plugins for that. Not sure if I can get them without a paid account! But I’ll fix it later.

      And well…I’ve got quite a different view on what Taichi wanted from his confession than almost everyone else in the fandom, as far as I can discern. My next post will probably cover it. 🙂

      Like

      • ravenanne says:

        Gah!!!! I was hoping to read your insights more on Chapter 136 to 138. But nevertheless, thanks for this! Although you just made me want to read and know more. What you PM us on MF is one of your speculations perhaps? 😉

        Anyhow, I’ll be on a look out in case you updated your post. 😉

        Like

      • karice says:

        sweatdrops

        Well…I really want to get to those chapters too. But I have to get to the intervening ones first!! ^^

        Like

      • karice says:

        And btw, ravenanne, I just read the comment you posted on your DA blog last year, the one on Taichi written by the friend of your friend. And I thought it was fantastic – pretty much how I think about Taichi and his relationships with Chihaya and Arata, but articulated far better than I probably could have done!

        Like

  2. pira97 says:

    @ravenanne, I was going to nominee you as the new sheriff, since you sort of disappear I nominee biribiri instead. Karice like “なに?”, that will teach ya of not leaving the forum because we going to have fun without ya! LOL

    @karice, don’t worry about spoiler tag, I knew it is not going to work but I wanted to try anyway. I think I know what you are going to say and has to do with what he said before the confession.

    warning ****spoiler**** warning

    He wanted the most Chihaya’s forgiveness for stealing Arata’s glasses. He was expecting Chihaya’s rejection as I talked before. The fact that he got a girlfriend in middle school proves that he knew he didn’t have a chance with Chihaya, but when he re-united with Chihaya in high school, his heart spoke louder than his mind, ah those NTR faces, told ya?! It was very clever of him to ask her forgiveness and then confess, when I said he is a calculating guy, no one wants to believe, Taichi is a smart guy and that what smart guys do like Inaho in Aldnoah.

    Of course, I could be wrong. Shall we expect your next blog this Saturday or Sunday, your time?

    Like

    • karice says:

      LOL. Must admit, the more I see what’s being posted on the forums, the less I want to return. I really do not agree with the overall frameworks that many posters — across the whole spectrum of fans — have chosen to use to view Chihayafuru, and I think it really is best for my sanity and personal enjoyment of this series to stay away!

      Not commenting on Taichi here, but yeah, that’s not how I interpret his actions.

      The post is getting too long, so I’ll probably be splitting it into two or three. I’m not going to promise any dates though, because there are a few things I have to do on the weekend too!

      Like

      • pira97 says:

        Thank you for doing this, we really appreciate and don’t worry about release day, we still have to wait another 6 weeks for the next chapter anyway. Thank you for correcting me in MF, sorry I shared it without asking first, but it is for a good cause, I hope now we will have a more productive debate. Maybe one day we will surprise you, just a wishful thinking.

        Oh, I know I exaggerated on Taichi here, I guess sometime I couldn’t avoid it, LOL.

        Like

  3. pira97 says:

    Ops, I noticed that you did to my first post, so you are welcome to do the same for the another post, I think I said it too much.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Done. ^^

      Here’s the code I use to do it, if you want to try:

      <span style=”color:#333333;background:#333333;”> (whatever you want to say) </span>

      However, the last time a friend and I tried to copy and paste it, it didn’t work. Might be something you have to type out each time…so I don’t mind doing it that’s the case. (I just copy and paste it from a html coding file that I keep on hand. ^^)

      Like

      • pira97 says:

        I don’t think it going to work from my end because it is not “a html coding file “. I am going to give a try anyway, you can delete this message after that.

        TEST

        Like

      • karice says:

        Yeah, looks like it’s not working. Don’t worry about it!

        p.s. The “html coding file” is just a file with a lot of longer html codes that I use ^ ^;;

        Like

  4. ravenanne says:

    @Karice chan- Yeah, that’s the reason why I kept featuring that journal on the main page.

    @Pira chan- I probably have same reasons with Karice chan. Although I do post once in a while in the official thread, mainly just putting in spoilers link, I also do not want my enjoyment of this manga to be diminish being sucked in by the forums. 😉 XD

    I appreciate the thought though. 😉

    Like

  5. biribiri_chan says:

    Absolutely loved this post! I think the “hello” scene has bugged me for quite a while, because Arata’s response/reactions bugged me, but it wasn’t until I read your post that I realized why. Its because he was looking down on him!

    Although Arata faced Taichi seriously during the match, I do wonder if this whole issue of being looked down upon is completely resolved….During the Yoshino tournament when Arata realized that he had been looking down on Taichi, I had thought that the same thing would not happen again. But this chapter sort of makes me wonder if Arata still harbors some form of resentment towards Taichi, and despite trying to not look down on him, actually still looks down on him in some senses.

    With regards to your question about why Taichi loses his cool – I think its because Arata encompasses (to him) everything that he wants to become. Someone who is not a coward and someone who holds Chihaya’s heart in his hands. I think the conversation with Hiroshi in the next chapters illuminates this some more.

    • Biribiri

    Like

    • karice says:

      Absolutely loved this post! I think the “hello” scene has bugged me for quite a while, because Arata’s response/reactions bugged me, but it wasn’t until I read your post that I realized why. Its because he was looking down on him!

      I think it took me a little while to realise why it bugged me as well! I know that this analysis is probably slightly controversial, but I think Taichi’s behaviour really makes sense if this is how he interpreted Arata’s behaviour!

      Although Arata faced Taichi seriously during the match, I do wonder if this whole issue of being looked down upon is completely resolved….During the Yoshino tournament when Arata realized that he had been looking down on Taichi, I had thought that the same thing would not happen again. But this chapter sort of makes me wonder if Arata still harbors some form of resentment towards Taichi, and despite trying to not look down on him, actually still looks down on him in some senses.

      Hm…yeah, I think I’m a bit premature in saying that it’s completely resolved. But I feel – or maybe it’s just a very strong hope – that they’ve taken a nice big step towards resolving it. Maybe I’ve being too positive about Arata here, but I think he may have realised what he was doing, in which case what he has to do next is actually convey to Taichi how much he looks forward to playing against him.

      With regards to your question about why Taichi loses his cool – I think its because Arata encompasses (to him) everything that he wants to become. Someone who is not a coward and someone who holds Chihaya’s heart in his hands. I think the conversation with Hiroshi in the next chapters illuminates this some more.

      Hm…this may indeed be the best way to summarise it. Though I’m personally not so sure if the fact that Arata holds the foremost place in Chihaya’s heart is as big as the point about how Arata is able to dedicate himself to karuta. Though perhaps that’s all part of it – because that passion that Arata shows for karuta is what drew Chihaya to him in the first place!

      Thank you also for your really kind words in your last PM on MF. I’m glad this analysis brought some relief to you at this really important juncture in your studies! If it’s ok, I’d like to respond to some of that analysis here rather than there.

      Also, I just read through the translations of chapter 136, and there seems such a strange disconnect between 136 and 138 in Chihaya’s reactions. Its almost as if 2+2 doesn’t add upto 4. Chihaya’s reaction to Taichi’s confession in 138 doesn’t (to me) fit in with the amount of effort she gave to try and make Taichi happy in 136. How can she be so considerate in one (going and asking their senpai to talk to Taichi and listen to him) while so inconsiderate in the other (think about Arata while Taichi lays his heart out). I’m so perplexed by this.

      It really puzzled me as well. Perhaps it just goes to show just how immature Chihaya still is? Come to think about it though, I feel that the way Chihaya thinks about ‘why Taichi goes off on his own’ actually reflects how self-centred her way of thinking still is. (Perhaps this – and the next point – should be moved to the chapter 138 post instead?)

      And somehow my anger over Taichi (which had simmered down after I thought of Chihaya’s inconsiderate attitude) rose again after reading 136. Because you see how much the other club members care for him. He’s being like Chihaya, looking only at the goal in front, not at those supporting him by his side. Sigh

      To be honest, I can’t really blame him for this. After seeing Chihaya not even think about what his feelings, I think Taichi really needs to get away from karuta and Chihaya for a while.

      Thanks for commenting here, and apologies about shifting some of our PM conversation here. If there’s anything you’d rather us not discuss out in the open, let me know, and I’ll edit this reply (though perhaps we need to shift out discussion from here anyway – perhaps if you wanted to comment more on 138 itself)!

      Like

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

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