What a wonderful way to wrap up Season 3. The beginning of the episode picked up from where we left off as last week with a broken and shattered Chihaya. Just like Taichi, she found herself unable to play Karuta because she became afraid of it. Her distress of breaking Taichi’s heart made her feel intimately connected to the poem of “When winds send” by Minamoto no Shigeyuki, and through that her literature teacher Fukasaku was able to offer her some guidance by encouraging her to learn something. Ever since, Chihaya has had her nose buried in the books about doing just that. While it didn’t resolve the the fear she was facing, it empowered her by providing a productive outlet to cope with her feelings.
Meanwhile, as everything is falling apart around Chihaya and Taichi, Arata sensed the urgency to pull together a Karuta Club. It didn’t matter that he was a a third year, he knew he had to do it, and was determined to make it happen. His bold and courageous approach of setting into every classroom to advertise he looking for members. His passion for the game and sincere desire to build a team reached the hearts and was able to three additional members to fulfill the requirement to be recognized as a club (on top of himself, and the twins from his society who joined from the get go). But Arata didn’t stop there, he was going all in. He was able to secure a practice match with Fujisaki’s team, where there he learned a lot of what he needed to do to lead the team. It was fun to see him adapt as they played, such as being given a boost of courage from Hiro who tried to pull the team together through a shy rally cry and asking them to try doing it altogether. It is worth noting, Sakurazawa made a very important point of how vital it is for a karuta team to have two leaders like Chihaya and Taichi. It looks like Arata may need to fullfill both roles of being the ‘egoist and leader’ for the time being, until perhaps one of the twins or another member of the club proves they are willing to take up that role in part of preparation since Arata will be graduating this year. (Another observation to note was how Fujisaki takes it upon themselves to keep track of their own progress by taking down notes, something which Komano has been responsible of doing for the team until now.)
But Arata didn’t know what was happening with Chihaya and Taichi until Coach Sakurazawa told him Chihaya and Taichi had supposedly quit their karuta club. In that moment, it not only worried him, but it pained him being out of the loop of what brought about this event, and how frustrating it was to be so far away from them. But to Arata’s credit, he didn’t ask Chihaya and Taichi about what had happened. With the promise of hoping to see the two of them at Omi Jingu with their team, it made Chihaya remember what Taichi had once told her (in Season 1) “Let’s get stronger and wait for his return”. Now Arata is returning the favour at a time when they need him most.
As for Taichi, oh boy this is looking juicy. It seems the Karuta Gods intend to keep him in the game one way or another, and what better way to do that than to have Suo be a teacher who works at Taichi’s cram school? It certainly looks like Taichi will be secretly training with Suo, an exciting development that will without a doubt turn the competition on its head when they have their inevitable reunion in the individual tournament. I am not sure if Taichi will return to the club at this point, but I would like to hope that he does so we can see their original lineup against Arata’s team. It is the match-up we have been long waiting to see, and it would suck if he isn’t a part of that. (Another I would love to see in the future would be Arata, Chihaya and Taichi all on the same team together. Oh but if we really want it to be crazy, throw Shinobu and Suo in it too, hahahahahaha. Could you imagine? I’d love to see everyone’s reaction to that kind of line-up!)
In the mean time, since Taichi and Chihaya are no longer able to lead the club, the one who has stepped up to the plate to fulfill that position is Sumire. It is truly incredibly how far she has come, from not caring for the club to being the one to doing her part to keep it going even after everyone else graduates. The club now has four new members, a good start with Hara Miku: Class D, Hashidate Sota: Class D, Namida Togo: Beginner and Tamaru Midori: Class A (the girl we saw in the tournament who denied Retro his ticket to Class A).
Final Verdict: 9/10
It is incredible to me how quickly this season flew by. It makes me a bit sad considering we had to wait six years for this one, but I say it was absoluetly worth it. So much happened, from Taichi emerging as the dark horse, Dr. Harada VS Suo, the confessions everywhere and emotions spilling over, and it was an absolute delight to watch! I liked that Chihaya had more of a backseat this time round, enabling Arata, Taichi and Dr. Harada even to shine in a way they hadn’t before. Taichi definitely benefited from this season the most, having finally been given the time to really dig deeper into his insecurities and his growth. He finally got into the A-Class, and while he has been falling just a bit short, he is still the dark horse everyone is overlooking at this time because the amount of attention Arata is drawing to himself. But his abilities aren’t going unnoticed by some like Suo and Sakurazawa, and now that he has finally tapped into what playstyle suits him best, now it’s all about forging it to perfection. And if Suo is going to be his secret practice partner (which will be hilarious, if that what they end up doing together instead of cram school – the ultimate way to fool his mother), Taichi’s going to make one heck of a dramatic comeback to the scene.
Although there was a minor (barely noticeable) adjustment to the character designs (in the eyes and the faces a bit), the animation quality remained as magnificent as we remembered it to be. It was wonderful to hear new tracks in the soundtracks, and both the OP and ED Themes were wonderful too, in fact I would say this season’s ED Theme (“Hitomebore (一目惚れ)” by Band Harassment) is my favourite so far.
There is no word about Season 4, but it certainly ended at the perfect point to kick off the next arc. Hopefully we won’t have to wait an eternity for it. It has been an absolute pleasure to cover and watch the third season of Chihayafuru, and I’m going to miss it a lot.
Cheers to an awesome season finale!