Oh, Taichi actually lost so that he won’t be able to play in the A-Class East Qualification tournament. Oh, wait there’s another chance for him to do so. Wait, he didn’t make that one either? oh, he got offered a promotion instead. What the.. he declined? He’s not focused on making the next tier as fast as possible, but rather as someone who doesn’t run away? Very nice here, Chihayafuru.
On top of that, this episode showed the return of Arata. Finally! Again, the encounter was short, but very sweet. The best part of this episode was how much more we got to learn of Arata’s grown up version. Up till now we’ve mainly just seen flashes of him, but here he was present for an entire episode. His worries about Chihaya and Taichi having become a couple really worked well with Taichi getting more and more depressed in this episode. Chihaya herself was the icing on the cake: her emotions went wild in this episode, and the creators portrayed them really well.
Overall, out of all of the Fall series that are still airing, Chihayafuru still stands out as the best. The way it handles its characters is just unrivaled here. As the representative of its season however, when you start to compare it to other years, it unfortunately isn’t the best: Autumn 2010 is the only fall season in more than 8 years where I didn’t consider the best 2-Cour series to be better than Chihayafuru. (As a frame of reference: 2009 had Armed Librarians, 2008 had Michiko e Hatchin, Clannad and Casshern, 2007 had Shion no Ou and Ghost Hound, 2006 had Red Garden and Bakumatsu, 2005 had Noein, Mushishi and Jigoku Shoujo, 2004 had Fantastic Children and Gankutsuou.
Obviously Chihayafuru is very well made, and in that aspect it doesn’t lose to the abovementioned series. But if I had to give a reason for why it doesn’t live up to those others for me, then it’s probably a combination of its lack of ambition and variety. The abovementioned series were series who kept evolving and kept bringing new things to the table. Chihayafuru however, has all been karuta matches, karuta matches and more karuta matches. Sure, the characters are evolving, but the plot isn’t. For me, Chihayafuru is a series that does really well when you look at the short picture, but in terms of the bigger picture it’s just karuta over and over. That’s solid, but not solid enough to measure up to some of my favorites.
Rating: ** (Excellent)