With this, Chihaya finally learned the lesson that she needed to learn: there’s more to Karuta than just timing. The thing is to also feel the flow of the cards. Humans are only human, and therefore they only have a fixed amount of time it takes them to react. The challenge for Chihaya was to 1) time her movements better and 2) use her trademark speed with that. After all the previous episodes, it was very interesting for her to run into a player who played the same way she did, with a focus on speed.
Also, these people here are harsh: talking down to this nine-year-old girl for not being as good as the second-best karuta-player in the country when she loses one match. It’s interesting how you usually see these child stars being pushed too much by their parents, but this is a nice subversion of that, in the way that her mother is putting so much effort into letting her daughter play Karuta to get her to cope with bullies.
Overall, I must praise this series for piquing my interest in Karuta. It’s not like when I watched Hikaru no Go and Shion no Ou, which made me immediately want to play the game, but that’s probably also because of how incredibly steep the learning curve is at the start: you can play Shougi and Go as a complete beginner and still do something with it; it’s as you start to think about it more you realize how incredibly complex these games are. It’s impossible for a beginner at Karuta to even play: for that you first need to spend a lot of time memorizing cards. After that, it’s not going to be a matter of depth, but rather combining strategy, speed, memorization and timing together. It’s much more a physical sport.
Rating: ** (Excellent)