Please note, there shall be spoilers for these episodes.
These episodes follow Chihaya and Taichi as they try to round up some members to add to their Karuta club so that it can be recognised as an official school club! Each episode focuses on a specific individual that they try to tempt to their side.
Out of the trio, episode six is my favourite because it introduces one of my favourite ladies in anime, Kanade Ōe. Her family runs a hakama store and she is wonderfully passionate about Japanese history and classical Japanese literature, specifically the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, or The One Hundred Poems, that Karuta is based off of. She’s such an adorable and petite little lady. I want to give her a hug and then go out and have tea with her while we fanhuman about literature. It would, honestly speaking, be such a marvellously good time.
I also love this episode because it provides Chihaya with a whole new dimension of appreciation and respect for Karuta, thus enabling her with ways of improving her gaming strategies. Once Chihaya learns the history and the inner meanings behind each poem, she is able to create a whole new association with the syllables, which helps her in improving her biggest weakness. Plus, the cinematography for the episode with its vibrant colours and wonderful display of traditional kimono and hakama are positively breath-taking.
In the other two episodes, we meet two boys who are rivals for Taichi and Chihaya, respectively. I loved the balance that these characters bring to the show because it highlights the superficiality that sometimes goes into having a rival or with hating people who we deem are superior to us in some form or another. It’s always difficult to place preconceived biases and microaggressions aside to look at the bigger picture, and possibly even to learn something we never thought possible.
For Tsutomu Komano (a.k.a. as Desk-tomu, or Tsukue-kun, thanks to Chihaya), he has always been in Taichi’s second place shadow. From the outside, all he sees is Taichi’s good looks, uncompromising perfect academic record, and essentially how life just seems to come so easily for the young man. He doesn’t see the air of emotional abuse that Taichi has endured for years, or the chaotic pressures that is always weighing him down from outrageous familial expectations, or how many insufferable hours that go into trying to maintain a perfect grade point average. All that Desk-tomu has is his own insecurities and no outlet of which to release them.
So, in episode seven when all of these things are displayed and then developed into a mutual understanding of misunderstanding, it lays down some heavy room for character development and depth, particularly where hard work and dedicated effort are concerned; a motif that I respect very much and am a huge sucker for.
For Chihaya’s rival, Nishida, while there is far more comical essence to the rivalry, however, the relatability of inferiority is just as strong. He quit Karuta and replaced it with tennis years ago because he couldn’t stand the thought of being second to Arata. When Chihaya randomly bumps into him and then terrorises him into playing a match with her for the sake of joining the club, his hidden love for the game pushes him into acquiescing. Nevertheless, he’s still very adamant on not joining up because he feels that the members are all inferior to him.
I found this episode to be so sincere because it shows us that no matter how much we try to run away from the things that we’re too afraid to fail at, in the end if the zeal for it remains, we’ll find our way back to it. If not for Chihaya’s pestering and nagging, as well as her animated enthusiasm, Nishida probably would never have realised how much he adores, and, as such, has missed playing Karuta, even if he’s not the number one player in the country, yet.
Once these three folx formally join Taichi and Chihaya, the Karuta club is officially formed! This means that the team can participate in tournaments and get their names out there. But given that two members have never played Karuta before, there’s the interesting training period to look forward to in the upcoming segments.