Recap: With the new semester in full bloom, Chihaya and the gang are on a membership drive. Unfortunately, all the new recruits seem to have eyes for is Taichi, most especially the recently heartbroken Sumire. Will they be able to find the kind of people that love karuta the way they do?
Season 1 Recap
While I had the fortune of finishing last season just a few days ago, it has been quite some time since the original run stopped back in late March. The end of our year is a down one for our main pair. Taichi once again has victory nearly in his grasp, only to be defeated once again in the last B class championship round before the A class qualifiers. As for Chihaya, she sees her hopes for facing the Queen end quickly to the former Queen Yumi in the second round of the qualifier. The year was far more kind to our supporting cast. With Nishida’s win over Taichi and Kana and Komano’s championship game, each of them advanced to the next grade, and the team overall was at least able to win the Tokyo regional. With their success the fledgling club is given a bit more wiggle room, (Kana’s excitement over their new budget was adorable) they’re given a five-person minimum recruitment standard in order to retain their old club room.
Despite all the talk of getting those five recruits, it almost seems like it’s been so long since those episodes aired that even the group has forgotten about it. Sure, most of this episode is focused on the new recruits they are trying to wrangle into the club, but it seems that only Chihaya really has the gumption to try and get as many recruits as possible. It was pretty adorable seeing Kana get riled up over the freshmen’s disrespect of karuta’s tradition, but she needs to learn that this simply isn’t the kind of world where people care about those things immediately anymore. Understandably, everyone else is worried about the upcoming team tournament and raising their rank in individual tournaments, but Chihaya really had the most salient point. Without a baseline to keep up the karuta tradition, what’s going to keep this club from collapsing as soon as they graduate? Thankfully, Chihaya’s cheerfullness is matched only by her stubbornness, and she gets her way in teaching the newbies on the finer arts of smacking cards around.
I do find myself worried by the fragmentation that happens as the episode goes on. While Chihaya’s intentions are good, and Taichi’s desire to play stronger opponents is not misguided, it still means the group as a whole isn’t planning any of the motivational or strategic tactics that can help them once their time to defend their title finally comes by. Nishida said it himself, there’s only two months until they need to get back together and win as a team.
In the tradition of introducing new side characters, instead of focusing completely on the club, most of the episode is told from the perspective of Sumire Hanano. Hot off the receiving end of a break-up text Sumire is out for some rebound action, and the sight of Taichi immediately draws her attention. It’s kinda funny introducing her this way, as the audience really has no reason to like her from the way she’s presented. Anyone engaged in the story is going to hate her debasement of Chihaya and the relationship she has with Taichi. She also is just plain selfish in her pursuit, often leading the charge in the Taichi crush brigade. While the episode seems to want to make it seem like she had some small personal growth through her relating to the poem, she’s still only known Taichi for a few days. Hardly enough time for her feelings for him to still be anything but lust. Still, even watching her expression as the episode reaches the end, I can still find myself coming to accept her with time.
As far as predictions, I’m sure this random guy’s turn will come up soon. He just sticks out too much among the gaggle of pretty-boy admirers to not become one of the main cast. One thing that’s stayed pretty constant in Chihayafuru is that appearances match personalities, but with his brock-like closed eyes he makes a bit of a tougher read. When I heard this was the must-watch shoujo show of the season, I went to it catching up to find out what I missed. I wasn’t disappointed then, and this first episode of the new season has me pining for more already.