At long last, we finally get the match between Arata and Taichi. I had hoped we’d see more of it in depth, but it was still so much fun to watch. It was great to see the two of them finally have a proper match up after all these years, and it meant a lot to both of them. It was nostalgic to watch the two of them butt heads (better yet, with Arata being more proactive by challenging the cards rather than letting them be) like they had when they were little. Actually, when you really think about it: IT’S BEEN TOO LONG DARN IT! Arata was especially happy about it because he previously felt guilty for looking down on Taichi. And seeing his smile helped Taichi ease his own nerves a bit, since he was having trouble just looking at him in the eye.
Of course the final result hurt like a bitch, (especially since Taichi had practiced with Arata’s card layout thanks to being Dr. Harada’s practice partner), but at least until Taichi had brought up Chihaya, overall it was a fun experience for both of them. Both of them started off with some nerves, Arata who is flustered from the amount of attention his challenge Suo has attracted to him. GOSH DANG IT! ARATA IS SO CUTE WHEN HE’S BLUSHING!!! SO PRECIOUS!
Amidst the nostalgia, it was also a solemn battle for Taichi. We got to see how upset he was Arata challenging Suo before he had the chance to. And it’s not just because Taichi prides himself as Dr. Harada’s pupil and felt it was his responsibility to throw the gauntlet, but it’s because Arata seems to always beat him to the bunch, and it’s something that gets under his skin.
But there was something also on the line in the match, and that was Chihaya’s heart. Taichi confronted Arata about whether he had said anything to Chihaya, and seeing him blush and say he did was all he needed to hear to confirm his suspicions. He knows Chihaya, so it doesn’t take much to connect the dots of why she was in such a daze. Although he didn’t verbally anything, by sending Impassionate, it was his official declaration of war. Unfortunately they did not show us who claimed the card, but my guess based on Taichi’s tears on the train wasn’t just because of his loss to Arata, but most likely because of the loss of that card. And while I love Arata and he and Chihaya are my OTP, I also love Taichi a lot and just want him to be happy too. It sucks to see him struggle and experience setbacks when he has been so earnestly practicing hard to not only catch up to Arata and Chihaya, but in hopes she would one day reciprocate his feelings for her.
I am curious to see how Taichi’s and Suo’s relationship is going to develop from here on out. I would say Suo is a lot more interested in him than Arata, who he had claimed to be ‘boring’. (I am curious to see whether or not his opinion of him has changed from this match, but considering his eyes were fixed on Taichi, I doubt it). Taichi also knows what makes Suo clicks, so there’s definitely potential for them to become closer in the future. There is also the fact that Suo is one of the few people who recognizes Taichi as the dark-horse of the competition. This is definitely something I am going to be keeping a close eye on since Taichi has been earnestly dedicating a lot of time and effort into improving as a player. Although he hasn’t vocalized about wanting to get the Master’s title, and a lot of his drive has to do with Chihaya, this is also an effort to beat his own self-doubts and embrace his passion for Karuta.
But as everyone looks to the beginning of a new year, Sumire draws attention to the elephant in the room, the inevitable end. In the coming months, with Chihaya and the rest will be graduating soon, the club will be undergoing some major changes. New leaders will need to be groomed and chosen, and right now it’s only between her and Tsukuba. There is also an ominous foreboding of her point about Taichi being the only isn’t at the tournament the rest of the club are participating in. A sign that he will be breaking away from the club, something that has been brought up much earlier on about how Taichi is preparing for his entrance exams for various prestigious medical schools and will be forced to choose between the two. As for Chihaya, whether she too will soon have to acknowledge she is in a similar boat. If she wishes to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher, she needs to put more time into her studies to raise her grades.
With only three or four episodes left, (gosh I can’t believe it’s almost the end of the season), it will be interesting to see how everything plays out. We saw Kanade trying push Chihaya to understand Taichi’s intentions/motivation for why he goes off to do things on his own, but unfortunately Chihaya ultimately came to the conclusion that she’ll focus on her own goals for the time being. That isn’t to say she stopped thinking about it, but it’s not at the top of the list, especially when it’s game time. Nevertheless, I expect Taichi to come forward with his feelings before the end of this season, which would probably be an agonizing but fitting cliffhanger to lead us into Season 4 (I fully expect one at some point or another.)