LOL, I just responded to another blogger who insisted that Chihayafuru wasn't meant to be a romantic manga. Well, it's definitely Josei, and romance takes a second seat to the friendship/sports angle. But the name of the story is 花牌情緣 in Chinese. Literally, "flower card love destiny". Someone should tell the Chinese readers that this isn't a romance...
I'm sorry, but part of the appeal of Josei IS the ephemeral "romance" aspect. Because, duh, the majority of the fan base is working women. (Too much time working, not enough time for romance) I should know. I'm an OL.
Scene: The Omi Jingu shrine. Dedicated to Emperor Tenji, who moved the capital to Otsu 1300 years ago, is now the site of the national championship tournament for karuta.
"Waaaaah!" Chihaya exclaims. She is quite impressed with the grandeur of the temple. Kana-chan observes the Chihaya's eyes are just as red as the shrine (apparently, Chihaya was too excited to sleep...) Chihaya also admits that she has a bit of a headache, but attributes it to the lack of sleep. She insists there's nothing wrong with her. -_-;
Ms. Miyauchi insists that they greet the local deity in deference. Apparently, there is also a man-sized holy wreath at the entrance. People are forbidden to walk through it (TN: OH! I GET IT NOW!! -- didn't get it at first when I watched ep. 13) because it is a path belonging to the gods. Ms. Miyauchi instructs them to toss a coin, clap in greeting and bow their heads for a wish to the god out of respect for his/her power. Chihaya wishes that the team can play without incident. Suddenly, as if on queue, her head starts to throb.
The group remarks that all the participants will come to the shrine to pay their respect to the local deity. Chihaya thinks, "I've finally made it to Omi Jingu. This is my dream. It hasn't changed after all this time..." She recalls a childhood moment with Arata, when he first called her the "Queen."
Just then, a girl walks through the holy wreath... It catches Chihaya's attention. With dark eyes, and short, flowy dark hair she gives off a chilly smile. When they pass one another, Chihaya's startled by the sudden, acute feeling. The girl walks past without a word.
Cut scene: At the tournament building
Kana chan's mom is revved up to dress them all in their hakama. Meat bun-kun complains that the hakama is oppressive in the summer heat. Ms. Miyauchi proceeds to read to the team the special rule book of the tournament. (5 participants per team, 3/5 to win, etc.) She is interrupted by some onlookers making remarks about Chihaya, who is sitting off to the side. Ms. Miyauchi marvels how Chihaya actually looks like a beauty if she isn't moving (clumsy) or talking (wierdo)... +_+; Her teammates are concerned that she's too quiet and mistake it for her being nervous.
Meat bun-kun is actually grateful that Hyoro-kun gave them his play book. They are able to discern the strengths and weaknesses of opponents they have yet to meet. Chihaya notes to herself that the girl at the shrine was not present. He also casually mentions that Fukui's local high school has also entered the competition. Chihaya shoots up to look for Arata but Meat bun confirms that his name isn't on the registry.
Their group is noticed by other teams around them, and the other teams remark that they were strong enough to beat the defending Tokyo regional champions, so they must be strong. But since they are such a newly made team, their entry is certainly an unusual sight. The team becomes uncomfortable under the scrutiny. Deskutomu-kun mumbles that their strength is questionable, since only Chihaya is the only A ranked player, Meat-bun and Taichi are B ranked, and Desktomu-kun and Kana are unranked...
Desktomu-kun announces that he is willing to be the pawn and they can sacrifice him against the strongest player, strategically. Chihaya is surprised at his willingness but Taichi willingly takes up the offer, as president and main strategist.
However, during their first match up, they completely got the ordering wrong because their opponents were not lined as anticipated....
As Chiyaha lines up her cards, her vision starts to blur. Ms. Miyauchi wonders how strong the team is when compared on a national level. Mrs. Oe (Kana's mom) is making note of all the good looking bishoujo/bishonen in the room (future clients...)
The opening poem is read, and the first strike ensues. Taichi realizes how stiff everyone is and gives out a rallying cry to take it "one card at a time." Everyone responds except one. Chihaya is looking quite unwell at this point, and Taichi notices.
Chihaya's thoughts are all over the place. It's too noisy, she can't concentrate. It's too hot in her hakama. But she's also very cold. She laments to the god of Omi Jingu.
This isn't what I wished for!
I wanted us to be able to play without incident!
Cut scene: somewhere outside in town, Arata has arrived.
I don't want anything extraordinary to happen! (TN: I was stumped by an 18 stroke character in Chinese I can't read, so "extraordinary" is a guess)
All of her teammates are starting to notice her behavior now, as she is losing cards to her opponent.
Cut scene: Meanwhile...
Arata gets lost.... -_-;
He wonders how he could have since he's been here so often in the past, but recalls it was his grandfather who usually drove him. He recalls the sad story of how they had to move back to Fukui. His grandfather had collapsed and become paralyzed on the right side. It was quite a shock for him to accept at first. He remembers his grandfather reaching out to him with his left hand.
Even in the hospital his grandfather was still sharp, and he was thinking up new karuta strategies for Arata to play. Back at home when his grandfather was rehabilitating he remembers talking nonstop about his experiences in Tokyo. His school, Taichi, and especially Chihaya. He wanted to teach so much more about karuta to Chihaya since she had a "natural ability" but wasn't able to do so. His grandfather asked if it was painful for him to leave his friends behind since Arata was always talking of them. Arata denied it at first, saying all he needed was his grandfather. His grandfather chided him and asks for help getting out of bed. They sit on the tatami mat with the karuta cards between them. His grandfather says even if he lost the use of his right hand, he could learn to take the cards with his left. This made Arata very happy.
Cut scene: flashback of young Arata and Grandpa watching the televised report of who won the latest national championship (a Queen).
Arata asks his grandfather what was it like to face off for the national title. Was he nervous? His grandfather denied ever being nervous. In fact, he felt like the emperor. You completely lose yourself in the moment, with everyone watching you under the hot bright lights, and the only sound is that of the cards being knocked away. And there you are, to grab and conquer it all. (TN: it says, "hai you huo sheng de zi ji" which literally translates to "there is also the you who grabs and conquers." I'm not sure if something was lost in translation here, but it's related to his feeling like a king/emperor)
Arata stands outside the competition hall frozen. He remembers when his grandfather had a relapse. He was older (high school uniform) (TN: kyaaa~! Bishie alert! Megane AND a school uniform....) telling himself to rush home because his grandfather was waiting for him. An ambulance was in front of his house and they discovered his grandfather's new heart condition. He suffered from permanent memory loss as a result of not enough blood to the brain, and didn't recognize his closest kin. Arata had lost the bond between himself and his grandfather and it was devastating for him. Sitting alone and crying, his mind kept repeating, "It's a lie..."
Cut scene: back at school in Fukui prefecture
A classmate/friend comes to brag about how he made it into the next ranking. His neighbor (TN: that plain looking girl whose name I purposefully forget) always thought it would be Arata to reach that level first. His friend carelessly remarks that it was only because Arata had to take care of his grandfather that held him back and Arata punches him with lightning speed. A subsequent fight ensued.... -_-;
He comes home (with bandages on his face) and finds a letter from Chihaya waiting for him. She writes that she has made it into the C ranking. He marvels at her hard work since she also recently joined the track team. The last part of the letter reads:
I have to work hard.
I want to compete against you!
His mother comes into the room to ask for a favor and have Arata watch his grandfather. She has a reunion she wants to attend. He sees how excited she is and agrees to take over watching grandfather since watching over an ailing elder all the time is really hard work. Apparently the day of her reunion is also the day for the next ranking competition. Arata gives up the desire to go.
Cut scene: on that tragic day...
Arata is watching over his grandfather, telling him to put down his bowl of soup so he doesn't spill it. His grandfather notices the date circled on the calendar. Suddenly, he asks Arata why he isn't competing . In his sudden (and final) lucid moment, his grandfather insists that Arata hurry if he is to make the competition on time. Arata says he can always go to the next one but his in his heart, he really wants to go. He doesn't want to be left behind by the others. At noon, his father would return, and so, he goes according to his grandfather's wishes. The last thing his grandfather said to him was: "Picture it." (TN: this was an ongoing theme in his training; he had to visualize his victory in order to win)
Cut scene: still standing in front of the tournament hall
Arata is frozen. A feeling of dread/resentment comes over him. His feet turn around and as he begins to walk back he suddenly hears the sound of the cards being played. In his mind, he recalls the three of them playing karuta: him playing against Chihaya as Taiki reads.
It's so painful...
I'm gonna faint...
It's so painful...
Arata steps into the room. The first one he notices is Chiyaha in her hakama playing with all her might.
He can't take his eyes off both of them.
Chihaya becomes unsteady. Even her opponent notices that she's shaking.
I can't lose...
I need to continue...!
I need to continue...!
I can't let it end like this!!
She finally faints, and Taichi catches her just before she hits the ground. He calls out and says "Ayase forfeits" and takes her off the tatami. Everyone is shocked. He takes her through the crowd and asks for the onlookers to make way. Suddenly Arata yells his name and demands to know what happened to Chihaya. Taichi is shocked to see him, but decides to hand Chihaya over to his care. Even though there are only 4 left on his team, he is determined to win.
Ms. Miyauchi asks Arata if he's a friend of Chihaya's. He doesn't know how to respond. She has Arata take Chihaya to their team's prep room. Ms. Oe is also there to help and is grateful that Chihaya is wearing a T-shirt under the kimono/hakama. Arata is taken aback. They remove the clothing and tell him to find something to cover her with. Ms. Miyauchi asks Arata to watch over Chihaya while they bring the car around. Arata is a little embarrassed, but agrees.
Chihaya woke up to find Arata by her side. She sat up immediately and grabbed him. Confused, she wanted to return to the competition but Arata explains she is already excluded since she forfeited. She refuses to understand the meaning and Arata has to restrain her from getting back up. He tells her to lie down, and even if she goes back, she cannot compete. She screams that she doesn't want to. Everyone tried so hard...they even made it to Omi Jingu.... Chiyaha breaks down loudly, crying bitter tears.
Arata is astounded by her grief and is at a loss at to how to comfort her.
Cut scene: the competition progresses, but back in the prep room...
She finally cries herself dry until she passes out and Arata becomes her lap pillow. (TN: really wanted to see how that happened...)
Arata talks to her quietly as she sleeps (TN: NO FAIR! Wait until she's awake!!). He tells her she hasn't changed a bit. He's been thinking a lot about karuta and his grandfather, as well as himself. (He carries extreme guilt for leaving his grandfather behind that day to do something he really wanted and blames himself for his grandfather's death)
Cut scene: outside in the parking lot
Ms. Miyauchi thanks Arata for carrying Chihaya to the taxi. They leave and Arata runs into the competition director, who recognizes him. He mistakenly thinks that Arata will be playing in the tournament and remarks that he is looking forward to it. Watching Arata play is just like watching his grandfather, a former Master/Meijin, play.
When he is alone again, his eyes well up in tears.
I really like karuta!
I love it!! (TN: and not Chihaya.... -_-; tsk...)