Now that we know about Arata moving back to Fukui and Taichi transferring schools, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  Sure, Chihaya would continue playing karuta in order to see Arata in the tournaments, but what about Arata?  Will he continue to play karuta or will something happen that will cause him to quit playing?  The episode starts off with a real minor flashback where Arata’s family is finishing up packing the moving truck and Arata is clutching a small back with the shirt he wore in the karuta tournament.  Someone suddenly shoves him and he stumbles, but is surprised to see Chihaya and Taichi there.  The three kids say their final goodbyes and Chihaya makes Arata promise that he’ll keep playing so that one day they can compete in the national championship.  Arata eagerly agrees and hurries off before his parents leave him while Chihaya and Taichi watch the truck drive away.  With the flashback over, we finally return to the current time-line where Chihaya and Taichi are on the train.  Chihaya seems to be daydreaming about something and almost misses her stop, but thankfully Taichi calls out to her in time.  As the two of them exit the metro station, Chihaya asks Taichi if he’s kept in touch with Arata at all over the years and Taichi tells her no.  Chihaya doesn’t say much after that, possibly because she’s too busy wondering how Arata has been and what he’s up to.  Taichi asks her what class she is and she tells him that she managed to make it to Class B in the last tournament during summer break.  Taichi laughs, saying that she’ll never catch up to Arata and that he’s definitely already a Class A.  Chihaya swings her bag at Taichi before silently seething at the thought of not being able to catch up to Arata.  She’s suddenly pulled from her thoughts as a young girl runs up to them and scolds Taichi for being late.  Putting two and two together, Chihaya realizes that it’s Taichi’s girlfriend and she’s annoyed by the fact that the girl calls Taichi “Ta-kun”.  In a fit of what could be either jealousy or anger, Chihaya shouts at Taichi, saying that if she manages to make Class A in karuta at the next tournament, he has to join the karuta club at school with her.  Before he can say anything, she storms off, leaving Taichi in stunned silence while his girlfriend demands to know who “that girl” is.

Once home, Chihaya is still seething about Taichi and his girlfriend and frantically flips through her contact list on her phone, saying that she needs to tell someone about Taichi’s stupid nickname.  She stops when she reaches Arata’s number and calms down before flipping her phone shut and heading inside.  That weekend, we see Taichi standing outside the recreation center he went to as a child to play karuta, muttering about how he couldn’t stay away no matter how hard he tried.  When he enters, he sees the doctor watching the participants through a small window in the door.  He calls out to the man and is promptly tackled by the older man, who comments on how big Taichi has gotten.  Two ladies shush him, saying that they’re busy trying to memorize their cards.  The doctor apologizes and gestures for Taichi to take a seat at a table and returns a few minutes later with two coffees.  He asks Taichi how he’s been and Taichi says that he’s been fine, though he admits that he quit playing karuta after middle school because even though he improved little by little, there was no way for him to become as good as Arata.  The doctor sympathizes and tells Taichi a secret; Chihaya continued to practice with all her heart all through middle school and joined track as a way to get in shape and increase her stamina for karuta.  Taichi is moved by Chihaya’s dedication, though he also looks a bit bitter than she’s doing all of that because of a promise she had made with Arata.  Suddenly, the doctor beckons Taichi to come with him to the door to watch the first match as the opening poem is being read.


Taichi watches in fascination as Chihaya dominates her first opponent, though he’s a bit baffled as to why she’s yelling every time she goes for a card.  The doctor chuckles, saying that he teaches aggressive karuta and he gave Chihaya a few tips on how to get the edge during her matches.  One of those tips was to raise her voice whenever she goes for a card because it throws off her opponent’s concentration.  Taichi smiles wryly at this and returns his attention to the match.  After awhile, Chihaya wins her match and thanks her opponent for the match, apologizing for raising her voice during the match in the process.  She suddenly sits up and gives the doctor what appears to be an OK sign, but the doctor panics and tells Taichi to run to the nearest convenience store.  Taichi is confused, so the doctor tells him that she gave them the chocolate sign, stating that she needs chocolate before he pushes the poor boy out of the building.  Taichi runs as fast as he can, but finds that the nearest store is closed.  As he looks around and tries to remember where the next nearest store is, he spots a Godiva chocolate store.  He knows that there isn’t any option, but he dreads spending all of his money on chocolate.  Despite his reluctance, he does anyway and returns, handing the box of chocolates to Chihaya.  She starts popping them in her mouth and Taichi tells her to at least savor them since they cost a lot of money.  The doctor laughs and tells Taichi that chocolate is one of the best ways for a karuta player to recharge in between rounds.  He goes on to explain that in tournaments, it’s extremely grueling on the players since they have to memorize the placement of the cards, then forget them, then memorize the placements again.  As he finishes his explanation, Chihaya suddenly falls asleep, though her eyes are still open (which is a bit creepy, but okay).  Taichi takes off his jacket to let her use it as a make-shift blanket and Chihaya wakes up, thanking Taichi.  She then rolls over, promising to give the final round her best and become a Class A player.

Several hours later, the final match is finally under way.  The doctor asks Taichi if he wants to be in the room to watch since it’s allowed this time, but Taichi says he’d rather watch from outside.  The older man nods and joins Taichi, just outside the window with an excellent view of Chihaya’s match.  Chihaya’s opponent this time is a man who has incredible talent as a karuta player, but has been stuck in the B class for the last three years.  The doctor is worried about whether Chihaya can beat him, since he seems to really have a fire lit under him this time.  Chihaya is busy memorizing her cards and her opponent spots the chihaya furu card and remembers that it’s her best card.  He then plans to take it from her, because after that, she’ll be a lost cause.  As the match starts, Chihaya doesn’t start out too well.  The doctor tells Taichi that her opponent is trying to put pressure on her since she usually starts out fairly slow in her matches.  When Chihaya finally manages to take a card from him, she actually passes her best card to his side, which shocks Taichi.  The doctor chuckles and says that the aim of karuta is to take a card from the opponent’s side, so it’s only natural that she’d give him her best card.  As the match progresses, the two players continue to pass the chihaya furu card back and forth, much to the audience’s amusement.  Finally, they’re down to just two cards and as the final card is being read, Chihaya prays that it’s her strong card, since that’s on the other side of the playing field.  As luck would have it, her strong card is read and she manages to snag it half a second before her opponent, which allows her to be victorious and move up another class.  She thanks her opponent for the match before running over to the window and hugging Taichi, much to his surprise.  She then smiles at him, saying that he has to join the karuta club at school now since he promised he would if she won the tournament.  Before Taichi can say anything, she hops out of the window, bare feet and all, and pulls out her cell phone.  She says that it’s okay for her to call Arata now that she’s made Class A and she excitedly dials his number.  When he picks up the phone, she excitedly tells him the big news but is put down by his silence.  Finally, Arata tells her to stop being stupid, which shocks her.  He goes on to say that he quit playing karuta and that she shouldn’t contact him anymore before hanging up.  Chihaya is so shocked that she can’t speak, which causes Taichi to start worrying about her.


Opinions:  I’m glad that we finally got into the current time-line, since I’m eager to see how things will pan out.  Seeing Chihaya get annoyed by Taichi’s girlfriend having a nickname for him (and the fact that he has a girlfriend period) was amusing, but it does make me wonder if she’s jealous of him simply for having a girlfriend or because she likes him.  I’m guessing it’s probably the former, since Chihaya seems like the type of person who would be willing to sacrifice romance to achieve her goals.  Seeing her achieve her goal of reaching Class A was really fun to see, though I can understand the shock she got from what Arata said.  Not gonna lie; I saw that coming a mile away.  I wasn’t expecting him to be so cold, but I had a feeling that once he moved away, something would happen to make him stop playing the game he loved so much.  I really can’t wait to see next week’s episode to see how Chihaya handles this news and in the hopes that we’ll get another peek at Arata.  (I’ll admit, the mere sound of his voice made me swoon, so I’m dying to see what he looks like all grown up.)

Score: A/A+

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As a 22-year old gamer chick, anime/manga addict and all around geek, Nagi is one of the prized members of the Anime Evo family! She likes any sort of genre so long as the artwork is shiny and the plot good (it also doesn’t hurt to have some fan-service and gore either!) and will give any anime or manga at shot.

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