Chihayafuru 2 Episode 4: Nature vs Nurture
“An individual match is a team match. A team match is an individual match.”
Sometimes I start off watching this show feeling pretty nonchalant, and by the end of it I’m drowning in a sea of feels. This is one of those times.
It was a good idea to have the episode focus on Taichi and his various tendencies to draw the short stick every time – even in tournaments like the Kyoto or Hiroshima ones where he’s shown to clearly have the skill, yet still fall short because of various other factors. And here, Taichi is feeling the pressure once more, during a match which matters a whole lot, as one match can decide whether the whole Mizusawa team advances or drops out, not even getting to the finals for a chance to contest their cup once more. Last season’s tension in the regional matches were mainly in the finals against Hokuo, but I didn’t expect for a moment that Mizusawa would cruise through so easily, especially when up against a team coached by Tsuboguchi, who was the East Rep for the Master match last season – an amazingly strong A Class player in his own right. I’m sure he’s been giving some excellent coaching for a team to have only messed around before he came to advance all the way to the semi-finals and put up a good fight against Mizusawa. They want to win, and they’re willing to use dodgy methods to do it, stepping closer to the legality line than Taichi would like. In that sense, it’s even worse that Tsuboguchi is part of the Shiranami Society just like Chihaya and Taichi are, as it means he can coach his team into playing to Mizusawa’s weaknesses, using the info he has.
Weaknesses or no weaknesses, an apparently nervous Class B reader is not the kind of start anyone would have hoped for Taichi. As a player whose racked up a huge amount of experience, the lack of a flowing rhythm would have thrown him off to start with, and in addition there was his opponent Sasa, who decided to pretend to “guess” the next card in order to make it seem like she was in control of the flow. The thing is, Taichi pays too much attention to his surroundings – by keeping one eye on the matches of the rest of the team as well as concerning himself over their welfare, he loses sight of the match he’s supposed to be winning, as along with Chihaya and Porky, Taichi has a better chance of winning compared to Kana-chan or Komano. How selfless he is is admirable, as he’s shown over the past season, however once he starts believing that he doesn’t have the skill himself, he gets thrown off course quickly. As he’s surrounded by so many talented karuta players, its understandable that Taichi’s been believing in innate talent over skill, but that’s not the case at all – sometimes believing in yourself will give one the self confidence that they need – to look on the bright side instead of pondering over comparisons, which can destroy your motivation and spirit if it goes too far. At other times, relying on others for help can drive you forward too, which I hope Taichi learnt with the mass towel throwing by all the ladies in the audience xD Most significantly, Chihaya’s offer with a sincere expression spoke volumes despite no words being conveyed – that the rest of Mizusawa will be just fine, and Taichi can trust them to pull off a victory. I’m glad Taichi won despite a lagging start in the first half, and this is one of the matches he can be truly proud of – whatever his luck, he tried his absolute best and was rewarded for it.
So next week is the predicted match between Mizusawa and Hokuo, who have probably swept into the finals with their new “secret weapon”, as dubbed by Retro-kun. While Mizusawa have still got an old rivalry to compete against, it’s clear that they’ll definitely be passing through to the nationals at Omi Jingu now, making them one step closer to Arata, who seems to have a few goals of his own.