The Eastern qualifiers for the Master and Queen finals start, and while Nishida and Harada-sensei get a bye to the next round, Chihaya has to play against Tachikawa Ririka, who is a child prodigy at karuta and is seemingly slated to become the next Wakamiya Shinobu, already being able to rival Chihaya’s speed.
It’s weird how Chihaya always gets to play unique people – first Sakura from that last tournament who was able to beat her using timing, and now this little girl called Ririka, that seems almost like a test to Chihaya to showcase her new skills in timing and having a game sense, but in the end still relying on her speed to pwn Ririka, who as it turns out, wasn’t faster than Chihaya after all.
Ririka is basically a younger version of the pre-Chihaya, a girl that only has speed and does incredibly well with it. The thing is though, people like Shinobu and presumably the Master (Suo Hisashi) are perfect karuta players, with a combo of all the skills that some people specialize in, which is why they are able to gain the titles that they have. So I felt a sense of deja vu during that match, and it was as if Chihaya’s role was now as the person in control, taking cards with timing instead of just speed. It was obvious that both Ririka and all the observers underestimated her when she started off slow, so it was epic to see her dominate and win since she hasn’t had a good one for some time now.
It was really heartwarming how Ririka found her own place and felt happy with her passion for karuta, whereas she couldn’t fit in at school and with other people her age. I actually thought she would be some ojou-sama that was all haughty and arrogant, but it’s good to see that she looked like she’s living a normal childhood. Also, she reminds me of someone from some other series, but I can’t exactly place what exactly about her looks so familiar.
Anyway, with four episodes left, I’m not too sure how much we can achieve with so little remaining. I mean, right now we’re at the start of the Eastern qualifier, and if Chihaya somehow gets to the final, would the series end with her face-off with someone random? Then we have Arata over at the Western qualifier, but all we got of him was a snippet at the end that basically warned us about the current Master, who seems irrelevant given how little we have of the show left. I just don’t know how they’d end it well at this point – or is it just me that thinks that a match with Arata would make for a perfect finale? I guess I’ll have to leave it up to them and trust that they’ll make a good ending – they’ve managed to keep the series epic with just a few minor blips after all.