Chihayafuru 2 Episode 2: A Beautiful Soul
“…What’s so fun about karuta?”
After a few club sessions, only two members are left – Sumire and a guy named Tsukuba, who both start out inexperienced but harbour very different goals – while Sumire clearly expresses to Chihaya and Kana-chan her target of dating Taichi, Tsukuba aims to move from the Second Verse Karuta he’s proficient with to mainland Japan’s First Verse Karuta, which features different rules and etiquettes.
Sumire’s visit to the Shiranami Society while
stalking innocently following Taichi did have some positive effects – she saw real, pro karuta games at work (rather than Chihaya’s rather aggressive teaching) and is thus starting to take into account what Chihaya said in the first place. Despite her not really having any interest in karuta itself, the fact that she’s formed a connection with the Hyakunin Isshu due to her own various love issues is enough to keep her around, unlike the other shallow first-years who decided to leave immediately after realizing that going out with Taichi wasn’t realistic. Other than recalling Chihaya’s advice over memorizing the position of the cards, Sumire’s meeting with Harada-sensei might also have been significant – and her blatant question over why karuta was fun was honest at the very least. I’m entertaining the thought that Harada-sensei can’t give a clear answer because karuta means something different to everyone – the passion Kana-chan feels for the voices behind the poems isn’t the same passion Chihaya or Taichi feels, though they’re all strong feelings in their own right. Sumire has to find her own answer to that though her own experiences, e.g. taking her first card, or winning her first match.
Shallow girls will be shallow – with no actual motivation towards karuta itself, I wasn’t surprised that the club lost so many first-years, though Chihaya’s ambitions (love how “world championships” was casually crossed out on her T-shirt designs) probably took a fall with each consecutive theory lesson xD Only that silent kid remained as the last survivor – a guy named Tsukuba, who has this rather creepy other personality which involves him licking his lips in a scary manner o.O His Hokkaido verison of Second Verse Karuta seems really intriguing – where readers skip ahead and begin with the second verse, meaning that Hokkaido karuta players memorise only the second verses of the Hyakunin Isshu. Of course, that’s nearly useless here, as by the time you get to the second verse, the card will have been long gone. There’s also completely different rules for competitive karuta, but he knows his own intimidation and guarding tactics – he’s a pro, but just a pro in a different way. That means if he’s successful at adapting to mainland First Verse karuta, then his talent will make itself clear.
Sumire did piss me off slightly this episode, and that mainly came about due to how superficial her attitude was. She just couldn’t be asked, and made it clear that she wasn’t willing to cut her nails and try properly in karuta – then promptly ran out crying after realizing that she’s revealed her true intentions to Taichi. The scene where Kana-chan ran after her and managed to convince her to come back was just beautiful, inspiring Sumire’s determination to try properly in karuta and work hard, first by memorizing all 100 of the poems. Her decision to go from keeping her nails and face pretty to cutting her nails was a real symbol towards what I hope will be the start of Sumire’s love for karuta as well – unlike her signature poem where her “flower has wilted”, maybe now it’ll start to bloom instead.