Episodes ten and eleven follow team Mizusawa as they try to qualify for Nationals, which shall be taking place at Ōmi Jingū. During the tournament, the varying ability levels separating the team members becomes rather apparent and causes a bit of tension.
In my last episodic musings, I had mentioned that watching people train and get stronger via hard effort was something that I particularly enjoyed about anime involving tournaments and battles, which is more akin to shōnen than shōjo, or even josei. Something else that I appreciate from a narrative standpoint, as a writer, a former athlete, and a consumer of media, is the discouragement that can go hand-in-hand with being on team or in a group with superior colleagues. While discouragement can be a humongous detractor towards success, it is also a big contributor towards self-growth, which is what this tournament depicts all-around.
As segment ten kicks off, we see Tsukue-kun excited to partake in his first Karuta tournament, but as each round goes on and he watches other team members win, he becomes extremely disheartened about his position among them. The problem with comparing yourself to another individual, particularly when they are of a varying skill level, is that it undermines most of the efforts that people have put into helping you, training and teaching you, as well as your own efforts at working hard to obtain some level of capability-growth for whatever sport you’re training for. Tsukue-kun sees people like Chihaya and Taichi, kids that have been playing Karuta for years versus a handful of months, and is overwhelmed with a familiar sense of rejection and not being good enough. Rather than take a step back and understand why there’s a difference, he makes assumptions about the others’ feelings and takes control of imparting rejection on himself before others have the chance to slap him with it.
What amazes me about attitudes like this in a team setting is how inherently individualistic it is and quite anti-team-oriented in nature. At this point, it’s not about helping and supporting your colleagues, but about validating your own sense of inadequacy and insecurities, and it isn’t limited to just teenagers struggling through the social traps of high school. We as adults also tend to do this while we’re in the workplace, at university, or even within our own home-lives. We inflict the pain and worthlessness that we feel to some degree upon ourselves because it hurts far less than being a recipient of it from those we trust and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with.
There is also the flip-side to not being good enough and that’s being too damn good. I felt this a lot when I was racing cars. While it felt fantastic to know that I was a damn brilliant racer, it also caused me to panic when I least expected it, especially if there were team-centred tournaments involved. There is this exceptionally intense weight of pressure that hangs on your shoulders, your mind, your feelings—and this daunting heft can make the star feel that they don’t deserve to be as such, or that everyone is depending on them and if they mess up, then they fuck it up for everyone. Being the sole reason your team lost a chance at moving forward in competitive conditions is a really shitty feeling, and it can also be a big passion killer (ironic that this was symbolised with Chihaya herself, linguistically speaking).
Seeing how these powerful feelings of impending failure shape both Chihaya and Tsukue-kun as individuals, as well as how it impacts Mizusawa as a team was phenomenal. More so because even though the themes here are evocative and can feel overtly strong, the presentation is done with simplicity, light-hearted candour where appropriate, and respect of the fact that no one is truly in the wrong at all. They’re all just humans navigating the choppy waters of growing the fuck up.
Segment eleven shows us the resolution to these complex inner struggles that the characters are having, as well as how they apply what these experiences have taught them (or is teaching them) towards helping the team succeed together. When the group has a full spine of support from one end to the next, the greatest impossibilities turn into the best fucking victories, sometimes literally but mostly metaphorically. There’s an entirely next-level feeling of excitement and exhilaration to see people succeed via the power of their own fortitude and determination, more so when it’s backed by compassion and mutual respect. A few random sayings that actually came to mind as episode eleven wrapped up were:
- You miss 100% of the opportunities you are too fucking frightened to take
- Arrogance is an asshole to oneself (my bro’s saying)
- That which gives our passions life is never far from the mind or the heart
Other minor titbits that occurred in these two episodes that I’m looking forward to being more fleshed out in upcoming things include Arata’s reaction to his old chums kicking serious ass, as well as Taichi’s pursuit of Chihaya because it is so bleeding obvious that he’s weak for her, and I’m going to be honest, I’m weak as fuck for those two ending up together. If I get to the finale of season three and it doesn’t happen (NO SPOILERS, PLEASE!!!!), I’m gonna scream. Legit, fucking scream. Twitter shall see it happen live! (Well, live via text, no videos of me screaming because that’s a hot ass mess no one needs to witness haha.)
Chihayafuru S1 First Impressions
Chihayafuru S1, Episodes 2 & 3
Chihayafuru S1, Episodes 4 & 5
Chihayafuru S1, Episodes 6, 7, & 8
Chihayafuru S1, Episode 9
Genre: Slice-of-Life, Sports (Karuta)
Season: Fall 2011
Director: Morio Asaka
Content Warnings: Mild cursing. Depiction of high school bullying. Depiction of terminal illness and death of loved one(s). Prep & consumption of food. Some mild sexuality. Some mild violence.
Stream Source: CrunchyRoll, VRV, HiDive