Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 137

And...a new year begins...
And…a new year begins…

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Chapter 137

The fate of the chiha’ card in the match between the two…

Down in Fukui, Arata and Murao are facing off again at the Nagumo society, where Arata has given no quarter since the Takamatsunomiya Cup. But when Arata reflects on his loss in the final of that tournament, we find out that he attributes it to his surprise in learning about Taichi’s intense drive to catch up to him and defeat him. In the end, the ‘chiha’ card wasn’t actually read, and Arata wonders whether he could have protected it, given that it was the card that Taichi had in his sights the entire match. And if Taichi had taken it, would the flow of the match have shifted his way…?

I want to play against him again. And over and over again.

Then a younger member of the club interrupts his musings, revealing that he and another member will be joining Arata’s school in the spring. Finally, Arata will be able to build his long desired karuta club!

The Taichi Cup, continued

The format that Chihaya has decided on is for the group to play ‘genpei’ matches (which can be 3 vs. 3, 4 vs. 2 or even 5 vs. 1) that are decided by lottery for each of four matches. Points are given for the number of cards each individual takes, with 5 extra points for a team win; the winner is the one who has the most points at the end; and the prize up for grabs is a kiss from Taichi… (The girls in the group love it, of course, and Harada’s like “I don’t care what it is, I’m not losing!”) Taichi goes blue, and Chihaya apologises lightly — they simply had no money left to buy anything — but says that everyone has gathered because they like Taichi, so they’d all be happy with it (Taichi: Not all of them!). It’s a pretty big event: 36 people are playing, with Rion, Makoto and Yoroshiko even coming up from Shizuoka, and Sudou-san serving as the reader!

The matches bring back the memories of the match from their childhood: where teammates weren’t really ‘teammates’ either. Rather, they are all ‘rivals’, both then and now…

In the end, Taichi and Chihaya tie for top place with 105 points… Remembering the prize, Taichi is really nervous, even as Chihaya demands that they decide once and for all who wins. But they’re out of time, so Tsuboguchi tells them to leave it for a club gathering. Taichi bows and thanks everyone for coming, and they all reflect on how much fun it was:

Usually, karuta feels really tough because Dr. Harada yells at us to go for and reach our goals, or to follow a particular theme…
But playing by these silly rules today was heaps of fun!
There’s more than one type of karuta, huh?
Let’s do it again sometime!

As they all arrange themselves for a commemorative photo, Taichi wonders to himself “Have I become stronger?”

And as they head towards a new school year…

Chihaya finds Taichi in the club room: he’s come to study, whilst she’s here with curtains to brighten up the room for the new club members she’s expecting. But of course, she forgot to take any measurements, and the curtains end up being too long! When they open the sliding doors, the spring wind blows the scattering cherry blossom petals into the room, and it really feels like a new year is beginning…

Chihaya demands to play the decider, but Taichi declines — after all, those rules put Chihaya at a disadvantage. But Chihaya chose them so that everyone could go all out, since there were no ‘empty cards’ to be concerned about. And she also observes how strong Taichi is, since he was able to memorise the positions of the cards…

That first “genpei” match, their first team, floats to Taichi’s mind again…and he brings up the school karuta tournament that they competed in in grade 6. Chihaya reveals that Arata had told her that he’d found his glasses in the corridor…but Taichi tells her that he was the one who’d taken them, because he hadn’t wanted to lose to Arata. Chihaya is stunned by the revelation, and Taichi acknowledges that he had cheated. Remembering how he’d begged Arata not to tell her, and laying himself down on the floor and covering his eyes in shame, Taichi finally lets her know what’s been eating at him since they were children:

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to stop being such a coward. I like you, Chihaya.

COMMENTARY

In yesterday’s post, I celebrated how Chihaya has finally started thinking about Taichi and why he plays karuta. But of course, nothing about Chihaya is ever straightforwardly positive. Besides showing how air-headed she was in bringing an empty box to school (why in the world didn’t she realise that it was a little too light…?), she also volunteered Taichi’s kiss as the prize for the winner of the ‘Taichi Cup’ that she’d planned for his birthday. That she chose that prize suggests two things that are relevant for this ‘romance arc’. First, that Chihaya still hasn’t noticed Taichi’s feelings; and second, that she’s not interested in Taichi (since she’s willing to let others the opportunity of getting a kiss from him). Of course, fans can argue that perhaps Chihaya did notice, and that this tournament was her way of declaring that Taichi is hers (because she’d go all out to win)…but I seriously doubt it. This is Chihaya we’re talking about, after all. (^^;;) That said, something is changing within her…and what it is will become clear in the next chapter.

But for now, moving on the the other key character in this chapter, let me start by noting a very important difference between myself and most of the Chihayafuru fandom, at least as far as I’ve been able to discern: for a long time, I’ve never felt that Taichi had a serious chance of ending up with Chihaya. Even after I finally read chapter 136, where Sumire suspects that Chihaya might return Taichi’s feelings because all she seems to want is for him to be happy, it’s really difficult for me to see any signs of ‘romantic love’ in the way that Chihaya looks at Taichi. And I believe that this is how Taichi sees it too. I’ve never thought of checking by taking an informal survey of the fandom, but perhaps this explains why my views of Taichi, and of where he stands and what he wants in terms of his relationship with his two friends are so far apart from most other fans. My reasons for thinking this way will come out in the discussion below, but on this particular hypothesis, I’d dearly love to hear from those of you that do think along the same lines as I do about this.

And without further ado…

What does Taichi want (in terms of the romance)?

One of the greatest mysteries — or debates, if you will — in Chihayafuru has centred around why Taichi has continued to suffer beside Chihaya for so long. Many readers, but particularly those who dislike Taichi, have long wondered why he never told her how he felt. Some of the reasons I’ve seen bandied around include him being afraid of rejection (i.e. the coward that he wants to stop being), or wanting to make sure he stood the best chance of capturing her heart, e.g. by beating her (or Arata) at karuta. Personally, however, I felt that Taichi was waiting for — and perhaps trying to get — Chihaya to suspect or even realise that he was in love with her. Not because he wanted her to return his feelings per se, for although this is what he really wants, I think that he has long realised that she is in love with someone else. Rather, what Taichi really wants is for Chihaya to acknowledge and accept his feelings, even if she could never return them. He wants her to appreciate them, so that he doesn’t feel like his feelings are in vain. He wants her to show that she cares for his wellbeing and happiness. Let me explain.

Although there have been occasions where he has misread her, Taichi is very good at reading Chihaya, because he has always been watching her. Hence, he knows that she has always been chasing after Arata, not only physically, but also in her thoughts. Taichi hasn’t done this for a while, but every time he’s tried to hint about his own feelings for her, Chihaya’s thoughts have always drifted back towards Arata or someone who is strong at karuta (vol. 2 ch. 7 and ch. 9). Even when she enquires after Taichi’s results at a tournament, once he mentions Arata she forgets all about him (vol. 7 ch. 36; vol. 21 ch. 112; NB: I think that Taichi really needs to stop sabotaging himself in these situations…). He’s also been unlucky, either having his gestures for Chihaya buried by weirdly timed emails from Arata (vol. 3 ch. 13) or simply because Chihaya doesn’t tell him outright that she appreciates what he has done for her (vol. 16 ch. 84). So even though the readers know that Chihaya has been thinking about him a lot since the nationals in summer, especially after the Fujisaki Camp where he declared his intention to beat her, I’m really not surprised that Taichi hadn’t noticed that she’d been thinking about him.

And ultimately, that is why I think Taichi has not been able to confess until now, because he felt that Chihaya would not be able to respond the way he wanted her to. I don’t mean this in the sense that he wanted to wait until he felt he had a better chance: in fact, I would argue that he has long given up on Chihaya returning his feelings because he knows that she has only ever been chasing after Arata. So, to me, what Taichi really wants in terms in response to his confession is for Chihaya to acknowledge the validity of his feelings for her, and to appreciate them. That is, I think he wants her to actually think about them, to realise that a lot of the things he’s done for her — helping her set up the karuta club, planning her birthday surprise, staying by her side after she lost to Yumin — are due to his feelings for her. Admittedly, I only landed on this perspective quite recently, largely because I’ve actually been reading quite a few shojo manga, which amounted to something like twenty confessions over the space of half a year. And I realised that with every other confession I’ve seen in ACG media, other than hoping that their feelings are returned, what the person who confesses usually wants is for the other person to appreciate their feelings, whether they can return them or not. They want the person they love to think about them, to think about their feelings before giving them an answer. In fact, in one of the manga that I’m currently reading, after giving his answer, the person who received the confession even reflects to himself that he isn’t a kind person because “even now, I’m thinking about someone else.” Returning to Taichi, I believe he felt that Chihaya was not ready to think about his feelings, because she didn’t seem to be thinking about him at all…that is, until now. In fact, in chapter 136, we see that rather than Sumire’s beautiful and encouraging confession, the final key that helped Taichi make up his mind to confess was Tsuboguchi’s comment indicating that Chihaya has in fact been thinking about him.

The long-awaited confession

It’s clear that the last five or so chapters have been building up to this point. At the Takanomatsu Cup, Taichi finally let Arata know that he was also in love with Chihaya, and though he lost, though he realised that Arata had dedicated his life to karuta whilst he himself hadn’t been able to, the gap was still something that he wanted to do something about. Combined with the beautiful confession and encouragement that he received from Sumire, and the crazy but uplifting party that Chihaya had arranged to celebrate his birthday (backing up Tsuboguchi’s comment indicating that Chihaya had been thinking a lot about him), it was not a surprise that Taichi finally gathered the courage to confess what he needed to reveal. Not only his feelings for Chihaya, but also the sin that has clouded his relationship with her: the fact that he was the one who’d stolen Arata’s glasses during that school tournament. I once wrote here that the only thing I personally thought Taichi had to tell Chihaya was that he was in love in her, but after seeing that confession, I admit that I was wrong about that. It’s interesting to think about what may have happened if Taichi’s mother hadn’t prevented him from revealing it right after the tournament (vol. 1, ch. 2, p. 4) — perhaps we’d have gotten a very different manga — but there’s no point in dwelling on it now. I still do not think that Taichi told Chihaya because he’s expects to end up in an actual relationship with her. However, rather than the act of taking the glasses, hiding this misdeed was the biggest symbol of his cowardice, so it is fitting that this was what he had been afraid of revealing all along. Besides thinking about his confession of love, I think that Taichi wants her to acknowledge his admission of wrongdoing, and hopefully, forgive him for it.

And then…?

So now the question turns to how Chihaya will react. The thing about confessions in ACG media is that they can lead to one of two results. The first is the way that most other confessions of this sort go: a rejection, but one that has the two parties remaining friends, because the recipient understood, acknowledged and appreciated the feelings of his or her admirer. The other, of course, is the opposite: the two part ways…usually because the recipient does not react to the confession well. To be honest, ever since I realised what Taichi probably wanted, I’ve feared that Chihaya simply wasn’t ready to do that, that is, to understand, acknowledge and appreciate his feelings. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always argued that part of her character arc has to encompass becoming more sensitive to the people around her. Although she’s taken incremental steps, for a long time, they’ve always been triggered by a wake-up call of some sort delivered by her friends (Taichi, Tsutomu, Chi-chan). But with Chihaya’s great efforts to think about Taichi in these recent chapters, to try and make him happy again, my hopes were very high that I would be wrong…

Chapter 138 coming tomorrow…

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

13 Responses to Chihayafuru Manga: Poem 137

  1. pira97 says:

    You tried to fool me again, lucky I check it and bingo. So tomorrow, I am not going to check because I know how “S”, you are, LOL. Thank you for doing this with your busy schedule. Can I broadcast these chapters around?

    “First, that Chihaya still hasn’t noticed Taichi’s feelings; and second, that she’s not interested in Taichi”, My thoughts exactly.

    “What does Taichi want (in terms of the romance)?”, I agree everything you said but I think he still had a tiny hope that Chihaya would look at him, that is why he was working so hard in karuta to reach at least Chihaya level. The fact that he said to Arata, Chihaya belonged to both of them that time, he must thought that maybe, just maybe he still had a chance. When he lost to Arata, his subconscious realized that he didn’t have a change (he was sleeping). His failed was because he didn’t like karuta or had a passion for it, because that is the theme of the manga. So I still think that if his attitude changes or if he somehow has a passion for the game, he will have a change with Chihaya so people forget about Taichi wanting to be a doctor if you want him to end up with Chihaya.

    “Besides thinking about his confession of love, I think that Taichi wants her to acknowledge his admission of wrongdoing, and hopefully, forgive him for it.”, I 100% agree.

    ** WARNING ** SPOILERS **
    “But with Chihaya’s great efforts to think about Taichi in these recent chapters, to try and make him happy again, my hopes were very high that I would be wrong…”, Fufufufufu, I was saying in the MF before all these chapters that I hoped he would confess because I got a feeling that he would be rejected. To be honest the next chapter still did shock me… 😦

    Like

    • karice says:

      The thing is, I really might not have been able to cover more than one/two chapters this weekend. It all depended on which events I chose to go to… If I’d chosen to go to something else this morning, I would have lost two more hours and probably wouldn’t have finished this post. 🙂

      Can I broadcast these chapters around?

      If you like. All I ask is that you don’t copy and paste what I’ve written anywhere else. ^^

      I agree everything you said but I think he still had a tiny hope that Chihaya would look at him, that is why he was working so hard in karuta to reach at least Chihaya level.

      Hm…yeah, he probably did keep a bit of hope in his heart. But I’m not sure if his working hard to reach her level is specifically about that, to be honest. I think that we keep having to go back to his overall character arc of “becoming someone who doesn’t run away.”

      When he lost to Arata, his subconscious realized that he didn’t have a change (he was sleeping). His failed was because he didn’t like karuta or had a passion for it, because that is the theme of the manga.

      I’d have to disagree here. I think Taichi does have passion for karuta. As he told Tsutomu really early on in the story, he works hard at it because he feels really happy when he does win. It’s something that makes him stronger as a person, because it’s something that really shows his strength of character. I’m still not sure we know everything about how he felt after his match against Arata – I’d say that he was probably tired, what from the tenseness of having to face Arata.

      And remember how, after Harada lost to Suou, Taichi thought to himself that the Meijin should just retire so that no one has to face him anymore? And he was upset about how Arata begged Suou to stay because he really wanted ot defeat him? I think that Taichi wants to become like Arata (and Chihaya) in this sense, never giving up no matter how wide the gap is, no matter how impossible the goal seems. But what does he need to do in order to reach that point? Something is missing, and I’m not sure I understand what exactly it is. Is it something that must come from within himself? Or is it something that other people can help him obtain? Is it, as Sakurazawa-sensei suggests, something that only Chihaya can give him? But what exactly is that ‘something’?

      To be honest, I really don’t think that ‘something’ is Chihaya actually returning his feelings…

      Like

      • pira97 says:

        Thank for your considerate replies.

        (if Taichi’s mother hadn’t prevented him from revealing it right after the tournament (vol. 1, ch. 2, p. 4) — perhaps we’d have gotten a very different manga ), great catch, I used to think that Taichi was very mean by stealing Arata’s glasses, re-reading it shows that Taichi wasn’t that mean but I still not going to forgive him for waiting one day/two to return the glasses. If wasn’t for this incident and his pink hair, I probably could ship for him. The bullying thing, since it is a culture thing in Japan, I guess I can give him a free pass. And if wasn’t because of his mother, he could enjoy more karuta and today it will be a very different person and someone that Chihaya will look at. I understand now why people were blaming on his mom. 🙂

        (I’d have to disagree here. I think Taichi does have passion for karuta.), looking these other angles, I have to agree with you. The interesting about reading this manga is it has several angles that you can look and interpret. I think there are 2 ways to read the manga, chiharata and chihachi, you will see the angles that best fit your fandom. I am sure now that you read the 2 ways and that is the way we all fandom should do. 🙂

        PS1: Did anyone get any brownies? I certainly did not. 😦

        PS2: I am going to wait to gather more pp2, pp1 was very “tense”, I can’t watch one and have to wait a whole week. 😦

        Like

      • karice says:

        but I still not going to forgive him for waiting one day/two to return the glasses.

        The thing is, the longer one goes without acknowledging something they did wrong, the harder it gets. Given how guilty he has felt about it, I personally think he’s suffered enought over this issue, to be honest.

        I am sure now that you read the 2 ways and that is the way we all fandom should do.

        Thank you. To be honest, I don’t think anyone can be completely objective. But I do try my best to be fair.

        PS1: Did anyone get any brownies? I certainly did not. 😦

        LOL! Sorry, I’m afraid the ones that I make probably won’t keep very well in the post!

        Like

  2. i very much enjoyed reading your reviews on these latest chapters!!!! I can say i agree mostly on analyses, i thought it was a great read!!!!…..even if it breaks my shippers heart………..i still have a little hope for my romantic preference but not much…………

    Like

    • karice says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. 🙂

      Well…I’d honestly be incredibly surprised if Suetsugu changes the direction of the romance. Though if she manages to make it believable to me, I’d probably be impressed. I guess we’ll have to see what happens.

      Like

  3. pira97 says:

    @karice,
    Based on you summary and looking the 137 pictures, I had the impression that Taichi wasn’t playing to confess about stealing Arata’s glasses but it was Suetsugu who “made” him feels guilty through Chihaya words. Just a speculation, okay I will stop bashing on poor Taichi now. 🙂

    @Romy Schlienger,
    I love your french accent, someone in MF speaks exactly like you. Are you chiakimagoto? 🙂

    Like

    • karice says:

      I had the impression that Taichi wasn’t playing to confess about stealing Arata’s glasses but it was Suetsugu who “made” him feels guilty through Chihaya words.

      I disagree. Taichi brought up the topic himself, when he didn’t have to. So I think he meant to confess it. Whether the tournament at his birthday party played a part in giving him the resolve to do so is a separate question, but I think that Taichi always meant to reveal this ‘sin’ of his to Chihaya. The guilt has been eating at him since he was a child: even though Arata had forgiven him, he couldn’t forgive himself, especially because Chihaya had believed that he wasn’t the kind of person who would do something like that.

      Like

  4. mel says:

    you know, despite his shyness and generally lower amount of screentime, the one that gets to make the biggest romantic gestures really is arata — eg, how his confession played out (spontaneously, in a crowded room, in full view of the world), his challenging of the meijin during a live broadcast, etc. and it occurred to me that, putting aside chihaya and even karuta, it’s THAT ability taichi really envies. he keeps looping back to that “you’re a coward” because it represents the things that arata can do that he hasn’t been able to, things that have nothing to do with natural talent or ability. arguably, it’s that moment between the two off them that pushed taichi onto the path he’s following, that helped crystallize his desire to be ‘someone who doesn’t run away’.

    and i think that’s why i don’t find the triangle here cloying, despite not generally having much patience for the trope. i certainly have my own preferences as to how i would like things to turn out, and have found things frustrating at times, but ignoring the romantic rival angle entirely, arata and taichi have a relationship that is complicated by more than just chihaya. it’s precisely because each ‘leg’ of the triangle has its own life and dynamic independent of the third person that it’s compelling.

    it’s that fact that also makes a lot of the shipping convos around the internet frustrating to read, i think, because they’re so reductive. either you’ve got people clamoring about how taichi ‘deserves’ chihaya because he’s ‘put in the work’ (as if romantic relationships do or should work that way) and either forgetting or denying that arata’s ever suffered or struggled because he did most of it offscreen, or you have people putting him up on a pedestal higher than chihaya ever has and writing taichi off as an entitled jerk with no depth. i don’t know what series either of these camps has been reading, tbh.

    sorry, i’m just rambling because i don’t know anyone who reads/watched this hahah. i have so many feelings.

    Like

    • karice says:

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting ^^

      you know, despite his shyness and generally lower amount of screentime, the one that gets to make the biggest romantic gestures really is arata — eg, how his confession played out (spontaneously, in a crowded room, in full view of the world), his challenging of the meijin during a live broadcast, etc. and it occurred to me that, putting aside chihaya and even karuta, it’s THAT ability taichi really envies. he keeps looping back to that “you’re a coward” because it represents the things that arata can do that he hasn’t been able to, things that have nothing to do with natural talent or ability. arguably, it’s that moment between the two off them that pushed taichi onto the path he’s following, that helped crystallize his desire to be ‘someone who doesn’t run away’.

      This is a very good point you’ve raised. Arata’s sponteneity and passion actually allows him to do these daring things, because it means that he basically just follows his heart. And to be honest, Chihaya does as well, and I think that Taichi does kind of envy that aspect of the two of them.

      But at the same time, I wonder if there is another important thing to consider, which is the ‘finality’ of the goals/dreams in question. From what I can see, Taichi KNOWS that Chihaya loves Arata and thus will probably never look his way. To me, confessing to someone even though you know that they like someone else is really, really courageous; certainly more so than anyone who retains optimism that, if they keep working at it, if they keep giving themselves the opportunity, they will reach their goal. Karuta players have one chance a year to become Meijin or Queen. However, a confession is something that typically happens only once, and the outcome is usually irreversible.

      i certainly have my own preferences as to how i would like things to turn out, and have found things frustrating at times, but ignoring the romantic rival angle entirely, arata and taichi have a relationship that is complicated by more than just chihaya. it’s precisely because each ‘leg’ of the triangle has its own life and dynamic independent of the third person that it’s compelling.

      … i don’t know what series either of these camps has been reading, tbh.

      Oh, I definitely agree with everything you’ve written about this. That’s why I find it soooo frustrating when people keep arguing that Taichi’s relationship with Arata is defined by his love for Chihaya. The ‘love triangle’ lens that such fans use to view the series really hinders them from appreciating the complexity of the character relationships that Suetsugu has depicted here.

      Like

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  7. kaye says:

    thanks for the insights.. big time. whatever you have here makes me understand the story even more. it deepens my connection to the story and the characters, especially towards Taichi. thanks 🙂

    Like

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