Oh my goodness, what a close match! Chihaya won just by two cards! TWO CARDS! Taichi gave her a run for her money alright! I am really happy that she had won— well actually, I probably would have been happy either way since it was impossible to really root for either one, but it definitely hurts to see Taichi be in that gloomy mood after the match. You did well Taichi! You have come so far!
Another loss was that Chihaya’s mother wasn’t able to make it on time to see her win. Such a shame since it was a great match! I really hope she will be able to squeeze some time in her schedule in the near-future. That being said, I am glad that she still showed up. I think it was because (even though she missed it) it was a big deal for Chihaya to have her mother just to be there when she’s in this emotional state. I don’t think would have let her feelings out like that had her mother not been there. The scene made me all teary to see her share these feelings with her.
In the end, even though the Empress had suggested Chihaya to request an authorized absence so she could attend the qualifiers, ultimately she decided to go onto the school trip. But it is sad to see that the trip she had been looking forward to sharing and making memories with her friends are getting overshadowed by Taichi choosing to skip out on it so he could attend the qualifiers.
Now I can understand why Chihaya is frustrated and upset that he didn’t say anything, because I would be too. But on the flip-side of things, it wasn’t until recently that Taichi found his confidence to even stand a chance of pursuing the Master’s title. Even though he lost to Chihaya today, so as long as he doesn’t let his losses get to his head, there is definitely momentum on his side. This is why I wished Taichi would just man-up and tell Chihaya about how serious he is about karuta. I don’t think it’s really fair to her to be left in the dark about this, especially having been friends and played karuta together for so long. It bothers me that he goes as far as to not tell her that he intended to compete the qualifiers. So I understand why it made Chihaya so upset. She has been completely transparent about her dreams of becoming Queen, and so it was unfair to her that while she decided to skip out on it, Taichi decided to go on to compete.
However what Chihaya also needs to understand that they are under no obligation to do everything together. Even though she aspires to become Queen, today the class trip to Kyoto was her highest priority, so she decided to skip out on it. As for Taichi, this year’s qualifiers are currently his best chance to take advantage of his momentum and go as far as he can. Next year, as Komano explained, he won’t have the luxury to dedicate his time to improving his karuta due to preparing for medical school. It quite an unfortunate situation considering Taichi has only just discovered his strengths and finds himself in a very tight window of time to polish them up.
That being said, what Komano neglected to mention was the fact this is something Chihaya should be concerned about as well. Since she is a greedy girl, it’s understandable why this kind of concern completely flew over her head. To everyone’s shock, she chose to go on the school trip to Kyoto over the Queen’s qualifiers because she felt this was important for her to do if she wants to become a teacher. But the truth of the matter is, I think Chihaya is gravely underestimating the time and effort she is going to need to dedicate to her academic studies. I am sure she is going to find out the hard way just how difficult it is going to be to balance her practice and tournament times while working to improve her grades. Luckily for Chihaya, she is surrounded by people support her dreams of both attaining the Queen’s title and becoming a teacher, so I trust with their help (especially the Empress’), together they will be able to find the right balance to succeed doing both.
As for Arata, he has found himself in a difficult spot. Since the finals, and the talk he had with Taichi, he has been completely out of the sorts and even lost sight of the vision of his own victory. The discussion they had certainly marked a turning point in their relationship. Up until now, the two of them had considered Chihaya, “theirs alone”. Arata had always thought Chihaya had belonged to Taichi, and Taich thought she belonged to both of them. It really does explain the whole dynamic of how up until now, Arata and Taichi had often been the middleman between each other with things that involve Chihaya (though I think it would be fair to say Taichi has been the middle-man the majority of the time, whelp…) But it isn’t to say they also don’t have their own greed in their hearts of wanting Chihaya to themselves, respectively. Unlike Arata, who is only starting to scratch the surface of his own feelings, Taichi has been in love with Chihaya for a very long time now. So when Arata drops the truth-bomb that Chihaya in-fact doesn’t actually belong to anyone, he ended up rocking the boat. Taichi has been very careful no to “over-step” this boundary he had enforced upon himself when it comes to Chihaya. In way, by acknowledging this, you could say the boundary no longer serves its purpose.
With Chihaya in Kyoto, this year’s Qualifiers is going to be an interesting one. It excites me to see the spotlight shift away from Chihaya for the time being, and focus on the other characters like Taichi, the dark horse of the competition, Shinobu, Arata and most importantly the current Master, Suo!