I wasn’t terribly surprised to find that this episode would be one major flashback to when Chihaya and her friends were still in elementary school, but I wish we could have seen more of them in the present time period. On the other hand, I really enjoyed this episode because it provided a ton of back story on how Taichi even became friends with Arata and how Chihaya deals with being shunned because of her friendship with Arata. The episode starts off with Chihaya attempting to memorize more of the karuta poems for the tournament when she runs across the very same poem that Arata said made him think of her. This causes her to blush a bit, but also motivates her and she skips off to class as happy as can be. However, once she arrives in class, she finds that her desk is still in the corner along with Arata’s (it’s almost as if her friends didn’t want her near them) so she grabs her desk and puts it back in it’s normal spot. As she does so, Taichi taunts her with the fact that so long as she’s friends with Arata no one will talk to her. Chihaya says that she doesn’t care if anyone talks to her because Arata is a lot cooler than anyone is giving him credit for. This irritates Taichi and he insults Arata but Chihaya won’t stand for that and says that Arata is a much better karuta player than Taichi is and that he’ll beat Taichi at the school-wide karuta tournament the next day. Taichi turns his attention to Arata and asks if it’s true (in a very condescending/mocking tone, I might add) and Arata says that he won’t allow Taichi to take a single card from him. Taichi laughs and makes a bet with Arata; if he loses, everyone will be friends with Arata, but if he is able to take even one card from Arata, no one will talk to him for the rest of their time at the school. Arata agress and doesn’t seem nervous at all, which irritates Taichi.
The next day, the karuta tournament for the school is in full swing and everyone’s parents (except Chihaya’s) are visiting the school to watch. Taichi’s mom is even video taping all of his matches to show his father once he returns from his business trip, though her presence seems to be putting more pressure on him. The first round of matches seem to go by at a fairly normal speed and Taichi comes out on top and proceeds to the next round of games. In the meantime, the second half of introductory matches occur and Arata takes everyone by surprise with his skills and speed. After the first round of games are completed, everyone is whispering about how good Arata is at the game and whether or not Taichi will even be able to compete with him. Taichi overhears everyone and grows sullen before wandering away. Meanwhile, Chihaya and Arata are taking a walk outside and discussing the round of matches that he just completed. The conversation turns to Chihaya and Arata tells her that she has the instinct of a true karuta player, which flatters Chihaya though she doesn’t believe him. As they rounded a corner, Taichi appears and tosses a soda at Arata. He catches it, though he’s confused by Taichi’s actions. Taichi tells him that it’s just a thank-you for giving him a proper opponent for a change and that he hopes they’ll play each other in the finals. Arata thanks him for the soda and goes to open it, only have it spray all over his face (I was sitting there, shaking my head at that point). Chihaya shouts at Taichi as the other boy runs off before helping Arata to the sink to wash off. Unfortunately, as Arata is washing his face, Taichi watches as Chihaya continues to offer up her clothing as a towel and becomes jealous. He eventually snatches Arata’s glasses – which were resting on the windowsill – and runs off.
Once Arata has finished washing his face, he notices that his glasses are missing and starts to panic. The final round is about to start and he needs his glasses to see properly. Chihaya helps him to the classroom, where she asks around to see if anyone has seen his glasses or not. Of course, no one says anything (though I doubt anyone knows Taichi has them in his pocket) and Taichi blatantly lies to Chihaya and says that he hasn’t seen them. As the final round is about to begin, Chihaya informs Arata that she’s going to look around the school’s property since there’s a lot of crows and they may have taken them since they’re shiny. Before Arata can protest, she’s already gone and they’re left to prepare for the match. Arata hunches over the cards and squints at them, causing Taichi to ask if Arata is really that blind. Arata glares at him, which startles Taichi, and the two sit in silence as they wait for the match to begin. Once the match does start, Taichi is stunned to find that Arata still knows exactly where the cards are, even though he can’t see them. He eventually figures out that Arata manages to memorize where every single card is and tricks the poor boy by switching the placements of two cards. This throws off Arata’s game completely and he’s helpless as Taichi continues to grab cards. Suddenly, Chihaya bursts into the room and shoves Arata out of the way, declaring that she’ll take his place since he lost his glasses and can’t see properly. The teacher allows it and Chihaya effectively takes Arata’s place in the game.
Taichi is annoyed by this and the two wage all-out war on each other, though Taichi is surprised that Chihaya is able to get so many cards. It’s revealed that Chihaya is actually just watching Taichi’s movements and lunging at the cards he’s looking at in order to knock them away. Towards the end of the game, they’re down to just three cards and she doesn’t know any of them! She hopes for the best and luck seems to be on her side because it’s the one poem that starts with her name. She lunges at it and manages to get it before Taichi, which allowed her to win the tournament. Taichi is stunned and his mother is furious about the loss, which she scolds him for later. She then tells her that there’s no point in showing his father the video and that he should concentrate on things that he’ll win at (that’s some parenting there, lady!). Meanwhile, Chihaya calls her mom to tell her the big news, but her mom completely ignores her and gushes about the fact that a scout is there for her sister and that she should hurry home. When she hangs up on Chihaya, you can tell that she’s a bit upset that her mother couldn’t even spare two minutes to hear about her accomplishment, but she doesn’t try to show it when Taichi approaches her. The two of them go to look for Arata and Chihaya follows a thumping sound that apparently only she can hear and the two find Arata practicing karuta despite the fact that he still doesn’t have his glasses nor the actual cards. Arata finally notices them and Chihaya flushes before running away, saying she’s going to go look for his glasses again. Once she’s gone, Taichi hands Arata his glasses, saying he found them in the hallway. He pauses before telling Arata the truth and begs him not to tell Chihaya since he doesn’t want her to be mad at him. Arata calls him a coward, but agrees and the two boys go to look for Chihaya. They find her in the woods behind the school and she jumps down from a tree to greet them. The trio falls in a pile of leaves and laughs, and it seems as if Taichi has finally put away his jealousies of Arata to be friends with him.
Opinions: This was another great episode and provided a ton of information in regards to how Arata and Taichi became friends and Chihaya in general. I’ll admit, I was getting sick of Taichi’s mightier-than-thou attitude towards Arata and wanted to strangle him when he stole Arata’s glasses. But in the end, he has a good heart and gave the glasses back. I can’t tell if he stole them to make himself look good in front of his mother – who is a total bitch, by the way – or Chihaya. I have a feeling that it’s a little bit of both, but judging by the fact that he started to cry when he thought about Chihaya hating him it was probably for her. Chihaya’s determination was admirable and I love how she finally realized how karuta players saw the world. It was a life-changing moment for her, but I was disgusted by her mother. The fact that she couldn’t even spare two minutes to congratulate Chihaya and instead hung up on her, telling her to hurry home for her sister was just plain rude and bad parenting all around. I really hope that Chihaya can get out from underneath her older sister’s shadow someday and prove to her parents that she’s just as talented as her sister, if not more so. My qualms with Taichi’s attitude and Chihaya’s mother aside, it was an interesting episode and I hope that Arata and Taichi will be friends from now on although there’s bound to be some competitiveness between the two boys.
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