And so, sitting in the salon, while I wait for my stylist to take this dye out of my hair (gotta look our best for the New Year, no?) I read on! Akemashite omodeto gozaimas!
Scene: Mizusawa High's Sports Day Festival. Various contenders are raring and ready to go. Chihaya has her karuta in her mouth as a racing marker. Each member is carrying an article that represents their club, i.e. a bat, a racket, a baton, a ball.
Announcer indicates they are now going into the latter half of the Mizsawa High Sports Day meet, starting with a race. He introduces the crowd to the next group of competitors, each club volunteering a member to the race, the latter of which Chihaya of the karuta club. The prettiest contender (Chihaya) is unexpectedly fast and she passes the karuta card to Taichi.
All the girls swoon over Taichi...
Taichi is also a very good sportsman and runner, and the leading track team participant is unable to pull away from him. Meanwhile, the basketball and soccer clubs are having a tough time passing their markers to the next runner. (balls keep running away... -_-;)
Next is Kana-chan grasping the karuta card for dear life and giving her all to the race. The fourth runner is Desktomu-kun, but the track team pulls away and the soccer and baseball team catches up with him.
Finally, Meat bun-kun is last and he is exceptionally fast!
"Who said the karuta club were just a bunch of classical literature nerds?" remarks the announcer.
Meat bun-kun goes neck and neck with the baseball player until finally, Nishida-kun wins the race. On the back of his shirt reads: New Members Welcome to Join!!
Cut scene: back at the clubhouse...
Chihaya laments that not a single person joined as she lies face down on the tatami in defeat. Kana-chan corrects her and says a few people did come to inquire but after learning what was expected of them, they gave up and left.
Desktomu-kun remarks that their win was a fluke. He is an especially slow runner. Kana-chan contradicts him and insists that he is very fast. Just then, Taichi comes into the club room with business-like prowess and reveals his new plans for the club as a whole. Nationwide, there are karuta competitions year round but in Tokyo, there are two upcoming competitions in September and October. Only A ranked members can participate however in the division finals. But a person of interest, namely the Queen, will be participating in the second October match, and the winner represents the best player in the Western Conference Division.
Chihaya burns with passion as she mulls over the October competition as the most important competition of the year. So essentially Chihaya will be going to increase her experience and build her strength as an A ranked player.
Taichi and Meat bun- kun will go to win in the B ranked competition, and eventually make their way to becoming A ranked players. Desktomu-kun and Kana-chan will participate in the D rank competitions and make winning their target but eventually they are to rise in their rankings to be B rank players.
He tells them to "work hard" when he gets a call on his cell. In an equally business-like manner he breaks up with his girlfriend. -_-; *click*
The peanut gallery goes into an uproar.
"We will do our best in the next competitions!!" (Chihaya)
"President! That person on the phone was--?" (Desktomu)
"What a frightfully casual response!" (Kana)
"How can you so dryly just break up like that? I didn't even know you had a girlfriend!" (Meat bun)
Chihaya comments that Taichi was really harsh, but Taichi only has one thing on his mind: meeting Arata in the upcoming Western Division Conference tournament. He's determined to become an A ranked player before that.
Cut scene: the club practices hard for their next tournament
Desktomu-kun thinks that the practice is grueling, but extremely satisfying. He realizes that he is much happier now than a year ago when he was a loner, pretending he loved books more than people. But, even though he's gone through the exercise routines as everyone else, he still feels himself scrawny.
Chihaya tells Kana that aside from practicing the names of the cards, to practice lifting her hips while she plays when she has free time. She noticed during the national competition that there was a difference in strength between women and men. She supposes that it is due to the fact that men have stronger centers than women. But someone who plays with her hips sitting parallel to the tatami mat only works with half her body while competing. Chihaya says she does "sit-ups" at home to work her core muscles, but it doesn't necessarily show (TN: Asian women are obsessed with keeping thin and avoiding bulky muscles).
When Chihaya leaves, Kana practices her arm movements to build up her arm strength. Desktomu-kun admires her determination. Kana-chan tells him that even though she can't even begin to compare to Chihaya and the others, if she builds her back hand muscles then even she can take cards. She teaches Desktomu-kun some tricks about how to take cards, especially for people who aren't the fit type. Even though after the sports meet, everyone was saying how athletic the karuta club was, Kana-chan still thinks of them as a cultural club. Relying on your own strength, regardless of sex, the competitors duel.
As she and Desktomu-kun practice, she says "I will not lose to you."
Two onlookers sneak away after listening to Kana and Desktomu-kun talking and decide that karuta is definitely not for them.
Kana-chan and Desktomu-kun bow to one another and he thinks, I can change. Not only my body...not only my heart!
Cut scene: Chihaya and Taichi in the subway
Chihaya practices her karuta moves as she walks and Taichi claps at regular intervals. Taichi asks if there is really a point to him clapping and her waving her arm back and forth like that. She says she doesn't know but wants to do it... -_-; She practicing her honed reaction to sound, making sure her body reflexes keep sharp.
He suddenly asks her if she wants to go to one particular competition (in Kanazawa, I think) the following week that's very far away. A lot of A rank and B rank players will be there to compete. Chihaya exclaims excitedly that she wants to go. She realizes how far away it is an asks him where she will get the travel fees...
He says if they take a night bus, it will cost 8,000 yen. Altogether 20,000 yen (roughly $200US). Chihaya nearly faints. Taichi explains that's why he'll be the only one in the karuta club to go. Chihaya thinks he's lucky because the Kanazawa tournament will be near Fukui.... Taichi looks a little crushed....
While riding the subway, Chihaya falls asleep on Taichi's shoulder, her hand very close to his own. But instead of reaching for her hand he claps his own very loudly. Chihaya, still half asleep, swings her playing arm out in an automatic reaction. -_-; He praises her and she thinks he's annoying.
In his mind, Taichi thinks, I don't care if it's one step, two steps, or if I have to move first to gain the upper hand. I'm going to be the first to become stronger so that I can reach that place with her.
Cut scene: Kitakuni Karuta Championship, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture
(TN: Don't kill me if I get these location names wrong... I'm making educated guesses)
Taichi arrives at the competition grounds. He thinks that even though he is a stranger in a strange place, the tournament atmosphere is the same anywhere you go. He suddenly bumps into Meat bun-kun (wearing a "100% beef" T-shirt...). There are apparently two sneaky people here today...
Taichi asks Nishida what he's doing there, but it's obvious that they are both there to be the first to become A rank players. In their commotion, they bump into Hyoro-kun.
Cut scene: back at Shiranami Karuta Society HQ
Chihaya is practicing karuta with other skilled players. Harada-sensei and his assistant are watching and the assistant comments that Chihaya has improved. Harada-sensei comments that since she's faced the Queen, she has a newfound sense of determination. One would only need to play against her to know, but her speed has increased substantially. When she puts her spirit into it, even the long cards are not a problem for her anymore. In this respect she is on par with the Queen, but....
Harada-sensei falls silent. Chihaya's thoughts resound in her head.
I had a dream...
That razor sharpness....
I want to catch up with her!
When it comes down to senses, I won't lose to her!
Harada sensei notices a particular card Chihaya took by mistake. In the end, she lost to her sparring partner who comments that when it comes to speed, he won't lose to her. Harada-sensei touches her shoulder and suggests that she stop trying to be faster than the Queen. She stares at him in shock.
TN: So in the end, she didn't go visit Arata...yeah, too expensive for a high schooler. But that was a cool romantic moment with Taichi...who wants to be stronger just so he can stay by her side. I didn't realize he was so "emo" though, I always just thought of him as cool. But Taichi has always been the one to follow Chihaya around. His "side-kick" role is a little uncool.
Arata's still a little more mysterious though, 'cause you can't tell what he's thinking (the mangaka doesn't fill us in like she does with Taichi). I'm beginning to wonder if Chihaya will ever get a clue... ::sigh:: I can't tell if she's in love with Arata (and doesn't realize it), or if she feels closer to Taichi (and thus will eventually fall in love with him. Again, mangaka dangling two carrots...aargh.