Chihayafuru Episode #20 Anime Review

Chihayafuru Episode #20 Anime Review Chihaya’s intensity towards karuta doesn’t pay dividends elsewhere to be sure.

What They Say:
The Mizusawa High School karuta club is gaining experience by participating in tournaments. However, Chihaya’s grades are so bad that she is no longer allowed to participate, leaving Taichi to attend the next tournament by himself. There, he runs into Arata, who’s returned to karuta. When Taichi and Chihaya see Arata playing karuta…

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the show has focused heavily on how well Chihaya is growing as a karuta player and the way she managed to draw in several others, tapping their undiscovered abilities, she’s not exactly the kind of person that can truly multitask. She becomes so focused on an objective to the near exclusion of all else that it’s made it hard for her to connect with her teammates at times, which we saw in the previous episode as she was essentially forced to sit and watch a couple of matches between her teammates that really surprised her in a lot of ways. So, finding out that her grades are bad enough that she could potentially be held back a year, the focus for her shifts to heavy studies and no karuta. And thta means no tournaments at the moment, letting others instead deal with it while Desk-san becomes the one to tutor her.

With Desk taking her and Porky into his command, there’s plenty of expected fun to be had there that’s sprinkled throughout the episode. Where the show wants to focus instead is on the new tournament that was coming up and that means Taichi is the one to take the lead in it since the others are focused on school work. Taichi’s definitely feeling good about things even with the way the last match went, but he’s completely thrown when he’s there and sees Arata. With Arata having gotten back into the swing of things as we saw the tip of a few episodes ago, there’s some natural tension between the two even though they were once friends. Now that they’re competing, and in some way potentially for more than just a karuta victory if they’re able to accept it, it advances things on the interpersonal level in a brief but well done way. And puts extra pressure on Taichi that he didn’t even realize.

What complicates things, and actually annoyed the hell out of me, is that Chihaya ditches her studies to go and watch the tournament. While she’s ther eto rally support for Taichi, discovering that Arata is there turns things upside down a bit and Arata gets off balance because of it, though he’s still able to do what he does best. There’s a fair bit of character material here as the group deals with the issues at hand, but it’s the kind of episode where things just feel a bit forced, the atmosphere made too much of and it doesn’t connect well. In essence, the minute Chihaya left her studies and went, it threw things off for me as it felt like she was damaging herself too much in doing so, knowingly, for a reason that didn’t quite work. Bringing Arata into things, throwing Taichi’s feelings into the mix and then doubling down on Chihaya just left me indifferent at best here.

In Summary:
Chihayafuru has consistently been one of my favorite shows for awhile now but this episode took me out of the magic a bit. Not that Chihaya hasn’t done stupid things before as it’s prat and parcel of her character, but what she does here just feels off in a way that doesn’t work right. There are some good elements and it really should have been an episode focusing more on Taichi, who is working through his growth issues, and the encounter with Arata. But when Chihaya is thrown into it, it feels needlessly convoluted and was too many fingers in the pie. It needed to be just the guys dealing with the situation at hand and the underlying issues without her around. I do like that they made us realize that Chihaya’s falling behind on her school stuff and that it wasn’t the overall focus of the episode , but I disliked that she got out of it so easily and without any significant problem, at least so far.

Grade: B-

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.