After six long years, the third season of Chihayafuru has finally arrived! During that time I had been reading the manga, but stopped somewhere along the way after being all caught up with it for a while. I can’t remember exactly which chapter I stopped around, but I do vividly remember at least two major events, otherwise everything else has been more or less wiped clean from my memory. That’s why I did whatever I could to squeeze some time to rewatch the first two seasons all over again, and luckily I had just been able to narrowly finish it by making sure I woke up much earlier than usual this morning.

And I must say, it was a really good decision not only for the refresh, but because Season 3 picks up right where we were left off at the end of Season 2: Fujisaka’s Summer Training Camp—- after a quick seven minutes recap of both seasons and refresh of the game rules. During that time they not only skipped the OP but also the ED, and even included the ending credits which only made the episode’s end feel incredibly abrupt and quite jarring. Honestly for the sake of the flow, I wished both Episode 1 and 2 had aired together this week, because it really left you thinking there was more to follow right after that. (It makes me incredibly envious of those who were lucky enough to have seen the screening of the second episode during Crunchyroll’s Convention!)

I think it’s absolutely wonderful how Coach Sakurazawa had not only invited Chihaya’s team, but also Retro’s (Team Hokuo). This offered them an incredible opportunity to be given instruction and guidance from a famous coach like herself who has a record of being the runner-up to the Queen’s match five times.

However of the group, only Chihaya and Taichi attended with Yuusei and Tsutomu and Kanade going on a separate summer camp with Suihoku Karuta Society, and the two first years were unable to attend. Well— perhaps it was for the better considering how hardcore the camp was (seven matches a day, with stretches and mountain running in between!) While Kanade did what she could to ensure Taichi could finally have some alone time with Chihaya to gain some ground to hopefully have her reciprocate his love for her, there was certainly no time given for such development to take place. (Recap S2 Ep 25: Kanade has noticed Chihaya is slowly becoming more self-conscious of love.)

But when it comes to Chihaya and love, gosh it’s really hard to gauge exactly what type of love she is referring to, and it’s something she is still trying to sort out herself. Since Arata and Karuta are so interconnected with each other, it can be difficult to pin-point whether her love for him is a romantic one, or platonic passionate admiration since he was the one who helped her find her own dream, of becoming the best Karuta player in the world (aka earning the Queen title). For the time being, based on the context given to us at the end of S2, I still think Chihaya’s conscious love for Arata is (at this time) a platonic one, while subconsciously, her feelings for him are starting to bubble up, as conveyed through her poems.

Aside from that, this week was also quite fun with how Chihaya forming a new friendship with Rion. I always enjoy seeing protagonists interacting and forming new friendships with their rivals. It was hilariously adorable when Rion discovered she was to be matched up against Chihaya that she was dreading it, while Chihaya was absolutely ecstatic about it. It was also very heartening to see the two get along since Rion has a hard time fitting in and making friends with her teammates. We were also given the chance to learn about how she gotten into Karuta. To Chihaya’s surprise, Rion doesn’t care to become Queen, (at least not yet anyways, who knows if that will change in the future). Her initial drive was for her grandmother’s rice (way to bribe your grandchild to play the game!), but since the nationals, she is now determined to become stronger to lead her team to victory in next year’s tournament.

Rion also shared some personal perspective of what her game sense. She revealed quite a big detail to Chihaya, who shares the similar or not same kind of sense in regards to how sharp their hearing are. Rion told her she pays attention to the speaker’s pitch, by identifying the differences in the pitch of the sound right before the unique syllables are spoken. It’s yet another big breakthrough and tool for Chihaya to add to her weapon stash.

But I think my favourite part of the episode had to be when Coach Sakurazawa stepped in mid-game to give advice to Chihaya (something she never does during a match), telling her to maintain her posture, and rather than taking the cards by speed, do it with grace in her natural form no matter how tired she is. I think it is absolutely wonderful how willing she is to help those she recognize have great potential to become either Master or Queen, even if they are not her own students. But it’s not just Chihaya, it’s Taichi as well. Although she didn’t make it as obvious, she did help Taichi by pairing him up with Chihaya. She knows that Taichi is the dark-horse who holds the potential to fight for the Master’s title. While everyone else was paying attention to Arata’s victory, nobody paid much attention to the fact both he and Taichi were the only ones who won every match in the Nationals Tournament.

Sakurazawa recognizes that what he needs is to be more confident with himself. The reason why Taichi has always struggled to perform when Chihaya and Arata are around is because he is intimidated by the their skill level and compares himself to them way too much. They also have inherently served as a huge distraction and mental block, something which Retro had picked up and we witnessed a number of times throughout the past two seasons. As soon as he loses focus on himself, his confidence and his way of the game, more often than not he ends up losing.

However, now that Taichi has finally attained their group goal of all making it to the A-Class, it has since lifted a lot of weight off his shoulders and given him the much needed confidence boost, allowing him to start focusing on his next objective, which is beating Arata in more than one way. He had a winning streak at the camp where he had won all his matches, including against Chihaya, marking this his first victory against her. Although he won with a handicap, (since Chihaya was forced to play with her left hand due to her right being in a cast from the surgery she had because of Enchondromatosis) it still counts as a big step forward to overcoming the mental block that has been plaguing him all these years. It has even him enough of a confidence boost to make the bold declaration that once she is back in form, he will defeat her in an official match. Hilariously, (and to nobody’s surprise) Chihaya was quiet salty about her loss. Well, it’s not like she hasn’t been given a heads up by Retro of how different Taichi is when he is playing in an official match and in the zone.

Ahhh~ next Tuesday can’t come soon enough! I’m so excited for this season and I am really happy have I am able to continue covering this series!

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