TN: So here I am again! I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation. That's what you get for trying to squeeze too many things into a tight schedule. But anyhow, here's a quiet day (since it's a holiday) to recover. Like I said earlier, I'm not thrilled about volume 9. I'm not thrilled about the plot (or lack thereof) and I'm not thrilled about new characters this late in the game. I'm not thrilled with the lack of interaction between Chihaya/Arata and others will not be thrilled with the lack of interaction between Chihaya/Taichi. This chapter is pretty much the highlight of the volume.
Still, I have to applaud the mangaka for taking a brilliant concept this far and not jeopardizing the quality of the art. (Which is why I've also voiced my support through my pocketbook and purchased vol. 10 - 13) I haven't read ahead so up to volume 10 is about as far as I've had time for.
Scene: The Meijin competition is still ongoing under the bright lights at the Omi Jingu Center, and in front of the eyes of the watchful media
Chihaya is amazed by Suoh's statement. There...are 28 single syllable cards?
Broadcast: "That is to say, Suoh Meijin can distinguish an additional 21 cards as single syllable cards, besides the traditionally known single syllabic cards 'mu,' 'su,' 'me,' 'fu,' 'sa,' 'ho,' 'se,'" comments Kyoto's (Myojo/明星) karuta society's chairman, (Issei Daijiro-san), A-rank (level 8). "You could take the 'ka' in the 'kakutodani' card and the 'ka' in the 'kasagino' card for example; because the subsequent adjoining sound is not alike, when you listen to them it's as though they were two different sounding syllables. In the world of karuta, this ability to distinguish the slightest difference in pronunciation can be considered intuition, or a natural awareness. Suoh Meijin at this time can be considered the strongest intuitive player in the world of competitive karuta."
The camera at this time happens to show Suoh picking his ear wax with his pinky finger, and then blowing the pieces of wax away. Shinobu, Harada-sensei and everyone watching, including members of the National Karuta Association are all thinking to themselves, "'Awareness' my a**." (TN: the Chinese translation uses the phrase 感覺很差, which means "his feeling is lacking." In English terms, I had to use an alternative meaning to express the viewers' displeasure with Suoh, connected to what the commentator just said about him, almost like a pun on words.)
In the background, Arata's mentor tells his students not to turn into someone like that (lacking in both awareness and manners).
"But how can you distinguish 28 cards like that...based on such indistinct differences?" wonders Kana-chan to Meat bun. "The human ear is surely incapable of that feat? Isn't that right, Chih--" Kana notices that Chihaya is in deep concentration, straining her ears to listen.
Twenty eight cards!
Another card is read, and Suoh thinks, I love you, Kyouko-san! Again, Ms. Yamashiro gets an eerie chill down her spine. I know...that within the small circle of karuta poetry readers (TN: only 7 who are nationally recognized/qualified to read in the Meijin and Meijin qualifying competitions), they are trained to withhold the sound of the decisive syllables until the last moment. But Kyouko-san...she, among all the other readers, is the one who loves waka poetry the most. The 'yuusaewaba' and 'yuranotowo' may both be 'yu' cards, but in her heart, they are completely different scenes.
Split panel: Suoh and Chihaya
Of those who can understand that difference...I am the only one...
Meat bun thinks, Would this be considered a super-human ability? Then the rest of us don't have a chance. (TN: the translation says, "we can only sit back and sigh.") Those among Sudo's karuta club watching the competition are thinking the same thing, like "impossible" and "it pisses me off!"
Harada-sensei and Hiroshi are rooting for the competition, noticing that the challenger has already endured two matches and still needs to maintain the perseverance to attack.
There's just too big of a difference (in ability). How does one even go about facing such an opponent? Taichi thinks to himself. Harada-sensei, Arata... He thinks back to what Harada said once about Chihaya and Shinobu.
"If you don't have any weapons, the 'tensai' (TN: those with natural talent) will crush you."
Also watching the competition is Nagumo Society's Murao-san and his little brothers. One of them comments that the program is so boring if the Meijin is so strong. He asks his older brother why the competition couldn't be more exciting, especially since it's such a rare event. His twin brother comments that it's the competitor's fault for not being strong enough. It was the same with their older brother... -_-; A heavy mood hangs above Murao-san. The other younger brother notices the mood and comments that it was much more exciting when their older brother was competing, and he stuffs his twin under the kotatsu blanket. This causes a ruckus between the two.
"Why are you playing the good kid??"
"Why do you have such a big mouth??"
"Shut up! Even if twins fight, no one can distinguish the winner from the loser!" At this point, Murao has to break it up as his little brothers come to blows.
He (Suoh) can't even fight with others if he wanted to. It's our fault he stands alone. Alone... he thinks of Arata when he watched him ride his bike back alone after visiting (and having dinner) with his family.
Cut scene: Arata watches the match alone in a room
He has the exact cards spread out on the mattress as he watches the TV set up at the foot of the bed. Another card is read.
Broadcast: "Oh! (Takesaku)-san, a level 6 player, has taken the wrong card from his lower left quadrant."
You can't do that, Takesaku-san. You can't just start thinking you'll rely on Fate. Calm down! Arata thinks as he watches. He tries to strategize the cards in front of him, thinking of ways to win.
Arata tries to strategize around the cards in front of him. The Meijin's configuration shows that he doesn't consider the "oyama" card as important to take. "Kokoroni" and "kokorowa" are similar "koko" cards that either party can take. If the Meijin just hears "ko" and can take that card, then the challenger can't compete with that. But if it's a two syllable card, then that could work in the challenger's favor.
Author's Note: For example, the "kimigatame" and "asaborake" cards share the first five syllables with one other card. One has to listen to the 6th syllable to take the correct card, therefore they become technique enabling cards. (TN: This part is loosely translated b/c this was getting too technical for my meager language abilities. But for the fact I bought the manga, I would never have noticed the author's note in tiny tiny script along the side of the page. I think the gist is that if the opponent is able to take more multiple syllable cards, where other techniques aside from "natural ability" come into play, he may still have a chance against Suoh)
The Meijin considers the "yura," "yuu," "mura" and "momo" distinguishable as single syllable cards? How do you challenge that? The real single syllable cards are what's important. Can't let him take them all. The "su" and "se" cards will have to be won with just the "s" sound. Arata thinks back on the pointers his grandfather gave him.
"During the Meijin match, the Meijin's position is overwhelmingly favorable, Arata!"
I know, Grandfather.
"That distinct pressure at the Meijin competition ground...as a first time challenger, the first enemy you must defeat is that oppressive atmosphere."
I know! So, maybe I should just picture it...like this? Arata pictures himself dressed formally in the competition with Suoh as his opponent.
I can do it!
I can do it!
But just as he thinks this, Suoh takes another card seamlessly, effortlessly, before his opponent even has the time to think, let alone move. He wins the match. The announcers go wild and declare Suoh the Meijin for the fourth consecutive year. They praise his talent and wonder just how long this Meijin will rule, and even speculate that he's a shoe-in for a fifth consecutive title if the challenger's talent pool doesn't diversify.
Arata slumps over sullenly on the bed. Grandfather...illusions are just that, illusions. If I don't challenge myself with a stronger player I won't become stronger. Grandfather....
Cut scene: Shinobu and Suoh, once again, in the winner's circle
One of the tournament's organizers shake Suoh's hand, congratulating him but also telling him to graduate next year to which Suoh only gives him tiny mono-syllabic responses. The organizer tells him to answer more audibly, for heaven's sake...
Shinobu runs into her old teacher, the commentator for the match, Issei-san. He tells her that she can come back to the (Myojo) karuta center to practice if she has any interest. It would definitely make the others at the Myojo karuta center very happy to make her acquaintance. Shinobu elegantly declines, saying that when she is stronger, she will definitely go. Other people listening are startled by her words.
"Just how much stronger does she intend to be?"
"She's obviously just blatantly declining the invitation."
"Kyoto women are like that, I guess..."
Kitano observes, Maybe it's because I've been sitting in a teacher's position for some time... He thinks about Yumi's words to him when she lost the tournament.
"Please continue to guide me."
In the background, a photographer asks, to Shinobu's annoyance, for a picture of the Meijin and Queen together.
I think, in this world, there aren't more beautiful words than that. Is it by chance? Or is it simply Fate that the current Meijin and Queen have no teachers to say those words to? It's such a pity, Kitano thinks. Those without teachers cannot, in turn, become teachers themselves.
Panel: Shinobu holding up her Snow-snow clutch purse and Suoh doing a victory sign as the cameras take their picture... -__-; (TN: a perfect pair)
Cut scene: back in Taichi's room
The club members are in a state of utter defeat/shock/disgust at what they just saw on TV. Tsutomu is still taking notes, however. Taichi's mom kicks them out of the house at this point (TN: heartless woman...), saying "Oh my, why is everyone making faces like that? It's already six o'clock. Your families will start to worry," with a grimacing face. (TN: meaning they've overstayed their welcome--if they were ever welcome to begin with...)
Cut scene: The club members (sans Taichi) walk to the station together, sullenly
It can't be!
It can't be!
It can't be!
It can't be!
Chihaya thinks this over and over as she recalls the events of the Meijin/Queen tournament. Desk-tomu is still looking over his notes, Meat bun is deep in thought, and Kana is wondering about the expression on Chihaya's face.
Kana-chan, Tsutomu and Meat bun then depart. "See you, Chihaya. Meet you back at the club. Desktomu-kun, don't read and walk at the same time, it's dangerous!"
Desktomu closes his note book, looks back and announces, "Ayase! There are 20! You also have 20 cards!"
"W-what?" asks Chihaya, startled by the sudden declaration.
"What do you mean, 'what?'" he says impatiently. "You also have 20 single syllable cards."
Chihaya stands frozen at this words. All around, she can hear the conversations, cell phone calls, and random street noises around her.
Cut scene: Taichi in his room
What do I need to do in order to face that...
What do I do...?
He suddenly gets a phone call from Arata.
"Tai-Taichi! Happy New Year!" Arata declares awkwardly.
"To say those words at a time like this is a little late, right?" Taichi responds.
"Ah! I just said whatever came to mind, first," Arata explains.
"You watched today's Meijin tournament, right?"
"Um, yeah. I saw it." Outside, Arata's mother tells him he has a guest and she's already invited him in. Arata continues, "I've done a lot of thinking about it."
"A lot of thinking?" asks Taichi.
"Yeah, the Meijin's card formation. The TV broadcast didn't show most of it, but I had others from the Nagumo Society go watch the tournament, and they're preparing to distribute it (TN: a recording?), but they took a lot of angles of the Meijin's match."
Just then, Murao-san comes in saying, "You're holed up in your grandfather's room alone with a spread of karuta cards in front of you...you really are just a grandfather-worshipping kid, aren't you?"
"OK," he declares, taking off his coat. "Spar with me."
"Taichi--" Arata says while still holding the phone.
The only thing to do is compete!