Chihayafuru Manga: Poems 135 & 136

So, for the next few couple of months, it seems that I’ll be able to summarise Chihayafuru again. Sadly, since Suetsugu-sensei is taking a two-issue break, I’ll only be going up to chapter 140 at most. But let’s just make the most of that.

With that out of the way, let me begin. But since 135 has already been translated, I’ll skip right to a quick summary of 136 first.

Oh, Sumire....many many hugs for you!!
Oh, Sumire….many many hugs for you!!

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Chapter 136

The night of the failed Valentine’s Day party, Chihaya’s father brings her his ‘return gifts’ a whole month early, providing enough for her to share with her friends. But Chihaya is just annoyed that he managed to ruin that wonderful plan to cheer Taichi up…and she is determined to do something about it, enlisting Kana-chan and Sumire the next day at school. Shortly later, as the third years of Fujisaki (Shizuoka Prefecture), Hokuo (Tokyo) and Houmei (Tokyo) celebrate their final day at school, phones start to chime with messages from Chihaya.

Back at Mizusawa High, Miyauchi-sensei imparts her final piece of advice to her second years as they face down the reality of their final year of school.

Make no mistake about it. Becoming exam-takers means being accustomed to studying. Studying, questioning, understanding and practicing. Have these actions become habits for you? Are you fully aware of the real world? University entrance exams aren’t just about what’s in your textbooks, they are about your entire life.

On the way home, Chihaya gapes at the idea. But the more pressing thing on her mind is to secure Taichi for a ‘flower-viewing party’ at the start of April, before she abandons him, obviously (to the reader) rushing off to do more preparations. Here, Tsuboguchi finds the befuddled Taichi and drags him to an izakaya (basically, it’s like a Japanese pub)…to ask him about his match with Arata. And Taichi observes that:

It was like he was an exam-taker…for the exam to become the Meijin. It’s like he’s spent his whole life preparing for it, and on top of that, he’s loved every minute of it.

Taichi’s gaze is turned downward; his profile gives off the impression that he is depressed about this. But Tsuboguchi is impressed, for even though Taichi clearly senses how different Arata is from himself, he wants to do something about this difference in their ability. As a parting gift, Tsuboguchi informs Taichi that it was Chihaya who’d wanted him to ask about the match. Taichi assumes that it’s because she wanted to hear about Arata….to which his senior simply laughs and chides him for being so silly as to think that. This seems to cheer Taichi up a little, and after giving Sumire a gift in return on White Day (March 14), he tells her that he’s thinking of confessing.

Realising the implications, Sumire panics and begs him to wait for another two weeks. Once again, Taichi is left a little bewildered as she runs off to keep helping with the preparations. And seeing how forcefully and persistently Chihaya is working towards making Taichi happy, tells well up in Sumire’s eyes as she realises what loving someone else really means.

And when the day dawns, Chihaya drags Taichi to the Bubaigawara Culture Center, where he finds a whole host of familiar faces ready to celebrate his birthday…with a karuta tournament!!

COMMENTARY (135-136)

Chihaya taking a step forward…

Chihaya’s view of Taichi has been changing ever so incrementally for a long time. Previously, she’d only ever thought of him as the dear friend who has helped her create the strongest high school karuta team in Japan. But since she first lost to him at the Fujisaki Camp, Chihaya has realised that Taichi, too, has his own goals in karuta, including the strong desire to defeat her. But why? And why did he skip the school field trip on his own in order to play in the Meijin qualifies? And why did he go it alone again for the Takamatsunomiya Cup? Chihaya doesn’t understand why, but the really important thing is that she has actually started noticing how Taichi feels, and thinking about it. Perhaps more significantly, she’s also started trying to do things that will make him happy. The Valentine’s Day party was Kana-chan’s idea, and it reinforces her belief that ‘everyone doing things together is what brings the most happiness’. So after that inadvertent failure, Chihaya pulled out all stops to give Taichi a birthday party that he will probably never forget, gathering karuta players from nearby schools as well as the Shiranami Society.

Sumire, too, taking a step forward…

To me, however, Sumire is the person who steals the spotlight in chapter 135. Not only is she the only one of the girls that has given out hand-made chocolates before, she’s effectively a pro that has done this since she was in grade 2. Knowing that real hand-made chocolates are beyond the skills of most amateurs (here’s one account of how to temper chocolate — I’ve watched several people on the Australian Masterchef struggle with it this year), she decides that they will use cocoa to make chocolate-flavoured goodies that need not be refrigerated. Watching her take charge, Kana-chan is really impressed with how logical and precise she is: a girl who ‘lives by calculations’, and who sparkles when it comes to sweets and Valentine’s Day.

Given the extremely negative connotations of being “a calculative person” in English, there are two things I wanted to note here. First, the way that Kana-chan describes Sumire here is not the Japanese equivalent of ‘a calculative person’, which would be a “keisan-dakai hito” (計算高い人; courtesy of my Japanese teacher). The term she uses, “keisan de ikiteru hito” (計算で生きてる人) is derived from a neutral way of describing someone whose work involves calculations, a “keisan-suru hito” (計算する人). In fact, it can also be used to describe such a trait positively. For example, Aldnoah.Zero’s Inaho is quite warmly regarded by his creators as someone who excels because he calculates what the best course of action is in his head before acting. Similarly, you can see that Kana-chan is actually full of admiration. If I had to say, I think that ‘meticulous’ or ‘precise’ would be the best English word to use in Sumire’s case. Second, most of the sweets that Sumire would have made over the years would have been given to her teachers, friends and classmates: they’re what are known in Japan as ‘obligatory chocolates’. And you can see how happy she is that Chihaya and Kana-chan find her cooking delicious…given the number of times I’ve baked brownies for my friends and colleagues over the last year, I know exactly how she’s feeling!

After the obligatory chocolates are made and packed, Sumire turns her thoughts to the other important thing she wants to do this Valentine’s Day: convey her feelings to the person she likes. After Chihaya observes that Taichi probably prefers salted fish (because he gets so many chocolates every year), she wonders if she’s made the right decision to try to rely on the allegedly ‘100% certain success’ of Couverture, the titular shop of Suetsugu’s other manga… However, on the day itself, Sumire simply couldn’t find a chance to give Taichi her present, because he’s always surrounded by girls. So when she spots him downstairs during his PE class, she leans out from the corridor window and calls out to him. Throwing her gift—she ended up going for salted squid—down to him, she finally tells him:

I like you, Pres! I love you! Please tell the person you like, too, of your feelings. Please say these three little words to her!

Leaving him with a beautiful smile, she ducks her head back into the corridor before crouching down, her eyes swelling with tears. A teacher tells her to get back into the classroom, and she picks herself up again.

I don’t know about you, but I loved Sumire’s confession. Unable to find a quiet moment to give Taichi her gift, she instead creates a moment that ends up being pretty unforgettable. And even though her heart is breaking, she smiles so brightly and encouragingly, asking him to convey his own feelings to the person he likes. And one month later (White Day, March 14), when Taichi gives her a ‘return’ gift as thanks and tells her of his intention to confess, her first thought is for him as she begs him to wait two more weeks — obviously because of whatever it is that Chihaya is planning. It seems like Sumire has finally realised: loving someone else isn’t about superficial things such as trying to beautify oneself to attract their attention… Though we don’t hear the end of that train of thought, I wonder if it’s something along these lines:

Loving someone else is about wishing for their happiness above everything else.

Hm…does this mean that Chihaya does indeed love Taichi in a romantic way? Well…let’s put that aside for the moment: I’ll come back to it when I discuss chapter 138.

And Taichi as well…

Here, finally, we find out what seems to be the main reason behind Taichi’s tears after his match with Arata: a sense of regret and frustration about how different their dedication to karuta is. However, the contrast with Nishida in the previous chapter is stark; whilst Nishida would willingly settle for losing to someone as strong as Arata, Taichi really doesn’t want to give up. I know that some fans will see this in terms of him just wanting to challenge Arata because he wants Chihaya to look at him, but even if that’s a factor, I don’t think it’s the main reason. Taichi’s character arc has always been about ‘not running away’ from something that he is unlikely to win, and the important thing to note is that the origins of this issue lie in his mother’s insistence that he only ever do things that he can definitely win. Hence, for Taichi, a defining characteristic of his childhood would have been him doing things only to win, and giving up on everything else.

But such behaviour really impacts one’s sense of accomplishment — if you only did things you know you can achieve, then what value is there in those achievements? Very little. It’s a bit like the question that Kagenui, Oshino and Kaiki discussed during their university days over which has more value: a genuine article, or a fake trying to be real. As Taichi himself pointed out to Tsutomu in chapter 12: it’s hard, it’s tough for him to keep playing, but the feeling of winning then gives a much greater sense of achievement. So I really like how this scene shows that Taichi really doesn’t want to give up on reaching the top echelons of karuta. The problem though is that he might have to make a choice: does he dedicate himself to karuta just as Arata has, or can he have both a career as a doctor and be a really successful karuta player? Karuta simply isn’t one of those sports where players can subsist on prize money and sponsorship — most karuta players are either home-makers or hold other jobs. Chihaya has chosen a career path that she believes will enable her to dedicate a lot of time to her passion, and Arata is just letting karuta determine his path in life, but is Taichi able to do that? Is he willing to do that? Is it possibility or strength of will that he is lacking? Or perhaps, both?

However, it is also clear that the ‘not running away’ arc also applies in Taichi’s relationship with Chihaya. It’s obvious to us readers (and to Kana-chan) that he’s in love with her, so why has he always been silent about this? Here as well, perhaps he has always been ‘running away’ from his feelings because he knows that he won’t be able to ‘win’ the place that he desires in Chihaya’s heart. After all, if you know that the person you like only has eyes for someone else, isn’t it better to just give up and try to move on?

Interestingly enough, Taichi has tried to move on, and failed. He tried going out with someone else in junior high, only to find himself drawn to Chihaya again when he moved back. I do have a few problems with Taichi’s behaviour vis-a-vis his girlfriend here, particularly with how he indicated that he wasn’t serious about his GF, and in trying to hold Chihaya’s hand in Fukui. He should have recognised that he was being very disrespectful towards both girls, and ended the relationship before trying to approach Chihaya. But because he stops trying to approach her after this, I do not assign as much blame to him as others do for not initiating the break-up subsequently. His behaviour during that one week or so was reprehensible, but as far as I can see, Suetsugu does not provide enough information for us to know whether Taichi actually chastised himself for such unchivalrous behaviour or whether he let it slide. If the latter, I’d want to slap him, but I really can’t tell because it was not a focal point of the story at all.

Well, enough on that tangent. It seems like Taichi is ready to stop running away from his feelings for Chihaya. Why has he come to this decision now? Well, I’ll address that in my next post.

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

7 Responses to Chihayafuru Manga: Poems 135 & 136

  1. pira97 says:

    Didn’t you say that you were not going to post because you have things to do? You are really “S”, lol. BTW, some links don’t work here in other side of globe.

    Why did Chihaya invite other school karuta players and didn’t invite Arata? Could it be because she didn’t want to upset Taichi because he lost to Arata? If that is the case she grow up a one bit. Or Arata couldn’t make, the manga does say.

    Is salted fish? TDX translated as salted squid.

    “Taichi’s character arc has always been about ‘not running away’ from something that he is unlikely to win”, all his trophies in his house support a different view, maybe only for karuta?! But let’s agree to disagree.

    “but is Taichi able to do that? Is he willing to do that?” In your views, does Taichi knows that for Chihaya love and karuta are the same thing? I think he do, maybe not in grade school but after he saw Chihaya crying at Arata’s house, I think he knew it, that is why his approach to get Chihaya attention is a failed from the start.

    “Taichi has tried to move on, and failed. He tried going out with someone else in junior high, only to find himself drawn to Chihaya again when he moved back.” We both agree on this one, LOL. So he already knew in grade school that Chihaya was drawn to Arata and he was jealous about it.

    PS: I agree what you said about Inaho but I still think he is cold in a different way. In a war battle, people faced life and death, while other people around him were scared to death specially facing a superior opponent, he is too calm. He has to be a “cold-heart” in order to be calm.

    ** WARNING ** SPOILERS **
    Now, I know why you were disappointed with Chihaya’s response.

    “Loving someone else is about wishing for their happiness above everything else.” I think Taichi failed in this department, LOL.

    Like

    • karice says:

      LOL. I am busy! But I’ve been working on these posts for the last week or so, so most of my commentary is actually done. All I need to do is summarise the chapters, so it’s about finding the time to do that.

      I’ll respond to the rest of your comment another time. But yeah, Sumire bought salted squid — what Chihaya said was “something like salted fish,” so I’d skimmed over what she actually bought and assumed that it was fish. Thanks for that catch.

      edit: and I’ve fixed the links. Sorry about that – I’m not sure why the formatting failed when I copy-pasted from the file I’d typed the post up in. I’ll be more careful to check next time!

      Like

      • pira97 says:

        Corrections from prior post:
        Why did Chihaya invite other school karuta players and didn’t invite Arata? Could it be because she didn’t want to upset Taichi because he lost to Arata? If that is the case she grow up a one bit. Or Arata couldn’t make it?! The manga doesn’t say.

        Thanks for doing this, we really appreciate it. I probably should let you go back to pp2 first.

        Like

    • karice says:

      Why did Chihaya invite other school karuta players and didn’t invite Arata? Could it be because she didn’t want to upset Taichi because he lost to Arata? If that is the case she grow up a one bit. Or Arata couldn’t make it?! The manga doesn’t say.”

      I expect that it’s mostly because he’s too far away. Fukui is about 3.5 hours away from Tokyo by train, and a round trip would cost ~$280. Fujisaki is in Shizuoka Prefecture, which is about an hour away from Tokyo by train ($120). Only three of the Fujisaki students came up for the party (Rion, Makoto and Yoroshiko) – everyone else is from Tokyo.

      all his trophies in his house support a different view, maybe only for karuta?! But let’s agree to disagree.

      But those are things he DID win, so logically, they weren’t contests he was ‘unlikely to win’, right? Taichi still hasn’t gotten a major award for karuta, and he still doubts his ability to get one.

      My thoughts on Taichi and what he wants are in my post on chapter 137 – and some of what I’ve written should answer the questions you’ve asked me here – so let’s talk about it there.

      Re: Inaho
      As he told Inko in episode 3, it’s not like he’s not scared. He’s just very good at suppressing that fear by focusing on what he can do in any situation.

      I probably should let you go back to pp2 first.

      Actually, already caught that episode. That said, I do have to find time to rewatch the first series somehow…perhaps tomorrow’s horrible weather will make it the perfect day for that marathon… LOL

      Like

  2. Pingback: Looking back on 2014, part 4: | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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  4. kaye says:

    i love your insights. i love reading your posts related to Taichi’s situation, whether it’s about Chihaya or achievements. thanks you.

    Like

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