AHHHHHHHH!!!!!! HOW COULD THEY END IT THERE!!!!!
MUST. RESIST. RE-READING. MANGA.
This match up between Chihaya and Taichi is the one where we are seeing them perform at their absolute best, and it is all because they are up against each other. For so long Taichi had been on the losing end, struggling and doubting his ability to catch up to the likes of Chihaya and Arata, but ever since he has found his confidence and figured out the play-styles and strategies that actually works for him, he has been snowballing ever since. However, what makes this development so crazy is the fact (as Komano pointed out), Taichi is actually improving at a faster rate that Chihaya. Bearing that in mind, let’s all just take a moment to imagine Taichi’s performance when he masters his newfound play-style.
That is quite a scary thought isn’t it?
And boy, do I want to see it! Especially against Arata! It makes me excited just thinking about it!
But what I think it the most amazing part about this match-up, is the fact that regardless of the outcome, Taichi without a doubt will at least have one major win under this belt. That win is the recognition of his ability from his peers. Looking back to the Nationals, it appeared as though nobody but Coach Sakurazawa seemed to have noticed Taichi emerging as the dark horse of the race to the Masters’ title, for having been the only one besides Arata who had not lost any of his matches. And now, at long last, Taichi has finally been able to be cast into the spotlight to show just what he is made out of. All of those who had the opportunity to witness this final will not forget his performance. Better yet, this match-up has been able to draw was intense enough to draw comparisons and similarities to the match-up against Arata and Shinobu.
So what it is that is making this match-up so intense? Well for starters, it’s Taichi’s daring strategy, specifically crafted to be used against Chihaya. It isn’t exactly one he has been plotting for months on ends, but one he has whipped together as he had figured out what works for him. But what makes this set-up for formidable are two key components: Unique Formation and Unfamiliarity.
Taichi’s formation is arranged with fourteen cards in the first row, one-syllable cards at the top left, all the “May” cards are on the lower right, and deliberately placed Chihaya’s key cards some distant apart by predicting which cards she would go for. This is designed to make it difficult for Chihaya to not commit any faults, and pressures Chihaya to play his game rather than her own. And what makes this set-up even stronger is the fact he has never used this strategy against her before. The reason why it is so effective is because it adds onto an pre-existing struggle Chihaya is currently facing, and that is how Taichi has changed as of the late. His newfound confidence, maintaining his focus and composure regardless of the circumstances or his opponents makes him feel like a stranger to her. Heck, there was even a moment in the game when Chihaya had actually forgotten who she was up against (eg: “Oh, it’s you Taichi!”).
But as ingenious as this strategy is, Chihaya has shown us she is good at adapting to sudden changes. She is taking this all in, looking him in the eye and realizing he is still the same guy who has worked worked hard with her all this time. However this also marks a turning point in their relationship, as I think is the first time Chihaya as truly recognized Taichi as a rival she doesn’t want to lose against. This again, just goes to show just how long of way Taichi has come, considering Chihaya had once been confident and even a bit too comfortable when she would play against Taichi.
Speaking of which, this can also be applied to Arata. Today we witnessed how difficult and frustrating it was for him to watch Taichi be the one to play against Chihaya. And it wasn’t because Arata disrespected or underestimated Taichi’s abilities, rather he simply never thought about anyone intruding that cherished space shared with Chihaya. In a way, it was something he had unconsciously taken for granted. That being said, the fact it is Taichi of all people is the reason why he is feeling so upset about it. Had it been anyone else other than Taichi, I don’t think it would have had the same kind of impact. And so this event offers an opportunity for Arata start thinking more deeply about why that is, and how it attributes to his feelings towards Chihaya.
Gosh darn it, the combination of the new tracks from the soundtrack (I am pretty sure they are new…), and the spectacular delivery of the match made this episode absolutely breathtaking. It was also another one of those episodes that makes you so entranced, that when it ends you go insane because of the bloody cliffhangers! This episode really makes it tempting for me to just jump back into the manga all over again, but this is one of the rare times where it has been long enough since I have last read it that I actually forgot about much of its contents, so GAH. I must restrain myself. It’ll be worth it in the long run.
The episode also had been internally screaming from start to finish, mostly in the beginning and end which involved Arata because I’m aboard the Chihaya x Arata ship. Really, it’s an understatement why I lost it when Arata changed his mind about going home early
(which wouldn’t have happened anyways because Maruo and his president wanted to see the match anyways) to stick around and watch the match. I was pretty much flailing and squealing and lots of keyboard smashing (LOVE THESE TWO SO MUCH!).
I also really loved the moment when the Empress squeaked about the tasuki, which I thought was SO ADORABLE because both Chihaya and Taichi completely snapped out of their zones to put it on. It makes me feel all giddy inside.
And gosh it is so hard to decide who to root for. I love them both individually, but arg, my heart is definitely leaning towards Chihaya. Aside from the fact she is one of favourite characters of all time
(also my spirit animal), I am really hoping that her mother is able to get there on time to see her both perform and win!
Oh actually speaking of wins: LMFAOOOOOOO! I JUMPED THE GUN LAST WEEK THINKING RETRO HAD ALREADY WON!!!!!!! WHELP! Well truth to be told, I did wonder about how the result was possible. Looks like my initial doubts were not unfounded, but whatever lmfao. I hope I didn’t jinx him! AHAHAHAHAHAHA! RETRO, FIGHTING!!!!!!!
Last but not least, I couldn’t help but laugh when the observer started thinking about the qualifiers with Chihaya and Taichi. I think it would be an absolutely hilarious (but also sad for both Chihaya and Taichi) there is really no way for them to go because of their field-trip to Kyoto! EMPRESS, WE ARE COUNTING ON YOU TO WHIP SOME MAGIC AND MAKE IT POSSIBLE!!!!!