Now, what the two newbies can contribute to Chihaya or the team is...well...open to interpretation for now....
BTW, do you think it's considered OCD behavior if, well, someone *ahem* loved Chihayafuru so much they decided to....(whispers) try on a hakama for size? This someone just wanted to see what it felt like to wear one! Honest! LOL! Some food for thought for the upcoming cosplay season. I'd love to see a bunch of us going as karuta players. And even if people don't recognize which anime we're from, I think it'd be fun to wear hakama!
Okay, now where was I? The chapter where Arata comes back (sigh)... and makes a cameo appearance.... *grumbles* Arata really doesn't get enough face time....
Opening scene: the mascara queen (Sumire) humming to herself in the girl's bathroom as she applies her make-up
Kana-chan and Chihaya come across her as they enter the bathroom.
"Hanano-kohai!" Kana-chan exclaims. "You're not even changed yet? Club activities have already started!"
"I'm sorry!" Sumire apologizes.
"Why do you even need to wear that much make up? You're still a high school student," grumbles Kana.
"Ara! I'm only applying mascara--" she says in her own defense. "You can say it's my battle armor." (TN: she says it's her 信念, which simply means "belief" in the Chinese version; you can also interpret it as her 'way' or 'style')
Caption: Even if I am thrown into a trial by fire, I will have my mascara!
Kana and Chihaya are speechless.
Caption: This year's freshmen...are really such a headache~~~~~~~~
Cut scene: Taichi starting at a small, wooden placard with archaic writing on it
"What...What is this?" he asks questioningly.
"It's a karuta card," says Tsukuba. "Hokkaido style."
"Waaaaaah---" everyone exclaims together as they gather for a closer look.
"I went to Hokkaido when I was in junior high," says Kana.
"This is also known as 'latter verse' karuta style," adds Tsukuba.
"I've heard of this before...." starts Meat bun. "You don't read the first verse and you only read the latter verse of the poem."
"What?" asks Kana.
Caption: the rules of 'latter verse' karuta only reads the latter half of the poem, which leads to the competitors having to use extremely large, (bright) cards (TN: not sure what that's about). The rules are: if you touch any other card aside from the correct one, even in the course of taking the correct card, it is considered a wrong move; the matches are 3 vs. 3 at a time; because the players must take the card before the 'decisive syllable' is read, each card that is read is different (than Kanto style) (TN: he doesn't even know the correct names or 'decisive syllables' for Kanto style, so it's like he's memorized NOTHING and has to learn karuta all over again, which might be even more of a handicap. Not sure if my translation is accurate or if I'm oversimplifying, but that's the gist of it)
"So, even though I only remember the second half of the verses, I always play karuta with my brothers. We've never lost in the regional competitions," adds Tsukuba. "I heard in the Kanto region the more popular version of karuta is to read the upper verses, but since it's like this I also want to become stronger." He gives them all that creepy look again.
"It's called a 'Meijin' right? I'm gonna make him my goal." Everyone looks at him, stunned.
This year's freshmen...are really troublesome-- they all think collectively.
"Under-Understood," says Tsutomu flipping through his voluminous notes. "But no matter how strong 'latter verse' karuta players are, it's completely different from competitive karuta, isn't it? I will properly teach you the correct method of playing. These are my notes...."
"Tsutomu-senpai," asks Tsukuba. "What level are you and how strong are you as a player?"
"I'm a C rank..."
"Then, it's OK, (I pretty much know the general rules, anyway)" waves Tsukuba. "C ranked players generally don't have much to teach me." He turns around to Taichi. "Mashima-senpai, what level are you?"
"B rank," says Taichi.
"Well then," says Tsukuba with a changed, sweet expression, "Mashima-senpai you can teach me!" Meat bun twitches with annoyance.
"That's enough! Let's just practice! Practice! The freshmen will practice amongst themselves."
"Meat bun-kun," interrupts Chihaya. "Since he has some level of experience, maybe we should from the onset..."
"Ayase..." begins Meat bun. "Just how long are you going to spout optimistic and naive nonsense? What will we do if our competitive level decreases at the next competition?" Chihaya has no response to that.
Why don't we just call it a day already? thinks Sumire (when she's supposed to be memorizing the cards). On the way home is the only time I can spend precious moments with Mashima-senpai...
Okay! Let's get this done! (TN: he actually says something like "ganbatte!") I definitely want to become strong quickly! thinks Tsukuba.
We've been quarreling a lot lately about such tedious topics... thinks Taichi.
This atmosphere is really bad... thinks Kana.
Why is it that Ayase... thinks Tsutomu.
...Wants to support the freshmen so badly? thinks Meatbun.
While Chihaya reads the opening card, the two freshmen are a little puzzled. She notices that Tsukuba is left handed. But then she realizes that he's playing in a completely wrong way. Not only is he using both hands, he's using his left hand as a block (unacceptable and subject to penalties in competitive karuta).
"AW YEAH!" he cries victoriously as he raises a ruckus and smacks the tatami mat repeatedly (also subject to penalties). "I will claim the next card as well!" Sumire just looks at him with fright.
What to do? thinks Chihaya. Hokkaido style is completely different-- Chihaya then notices Tsukuba's next movement, pen-straight, and touching only the tip of the card, strongly resembling Shinobu's style.
Next, Chihaya reads the "hanano" card, and Sumire exclaims, "Oh! Oh, I know this one!" and claims it for herself. Chihaya notices her nails.
"Kana, nail clipper," she demands. Kana hands it over and Chihaya places the clippers in Sumire's hands.
"It's time you clipped your nails."
"?!" Sumire is shocked. "B-but, why...?"
"You've seen how passionately Tsukuba-kun plays, right? If you really collided with him, you'd break a nail for sure," Chihaya explains.
Break a nail...? thinks Sumire with dread in her eyes. But then she breaks out laughing.
"Seriously! I'm not even going to play with that sort of gusto!" she explains.
"You will!" insists Chihaya. "Just now, you took a card that had personal meaning to you, and that made you happy, right? You're going to become faster and faster, and you'll want to take more and more, Sumire-chan!" Sumire looks at her in wide-eyed surprise.
"Fine," says Chihaya. "Right hand!" she offers as a compromise. "Just clip the right hand."
"Wait..." protests Sumire. "Don't be like this! Didn't I say this already? I'm only playing karuta...so I can be with Mashima-senpai, that's why I joined the club--"
Everyone looks at her with blank stares.
Shoot! she thinks, covering her mouth. (TN: yeah, like that was BIG secret...) How...How annoying! I've had enough! Sumire makes a mad dash for the door.
"Su-Sumire-chan!" calls out Chihaya after her.
"Ayase!" says Meat bun. "Isn't that enough? She's already made it perfectly clear that she has no interest in karuta. Just ignore her--"
The others are silent.
"I..." begins Chihaya. "During last year's national competition, after I got so sick I had to forfeit...every single day after that, I thought...'if only we had one more player.' I've thought that every day since then." The others are shocked at her words.
"And now we finally have two more recruits. I will NEVER just ignore them," she says with conviction. She suddenly makes a mad sprint for the door.
"Chihaya!" cries out Kana after her. Unfortunately, Chihaya has a clutzy moment and runs her shin into a chair and collapses into a ball of agony.
"L-Let me go, instead!" Kana offers.
"(Are you OK?) Ayase-san, calm down!" says Desktomu-kun. (She can't say anything right now b/c she's in so much pain)
"Have you witnessed Tsukuba-kun's dependability now?" Tsukuba thinks. Ayase-senpai is praising me... (TN: not really sure where this thought has sprung from....)
At this point, Meat bun-kun pulls out the beginner's deck from the shelf. He sits in front of Tsukuba and declares, "Tsukuba-kun, I'm an A rank. Among the others in the club I've had the most experience in competitive karuta...will you let me be the one to teach you?"
"Mm," answers Tsukuba. Meat bun gets annoyed.
"It's not 'mm,' it's 'please, I am in your care'" (TN: it's probably something like 'yoroshiku onegaishimas' and in Chinese, it's 请多多指教 (please tell me where I am deficient), which is the standard opening phrase to your karuta opponent before you play)
"Please, I am in your care!" Meat bun insists.
"I am in your care," Tsukuba repeats.
During last year's competition, Meat bun thinks, none of us blamed Ayase...because we all knew the one who felt the most dissatisfied was her.
(TN:...*thinking back on the 'lap pillow' incident*.... Oops! Let me wipe that drool off the keyboard first....)
"This is a beginners card," introduces Meat bun to Tsukuba. "The decisive syllables are written in a different color in bold on the face. Let's start with the basics. In competitive karuta, you can only use one hand. Using both is subject to penalty. Tsukuba-kun, you're right-handed, correct? I'm going to go into the right handed player's starting position. Just do as I do."
"Answer me!" demands Meat bun.
"Y-yes, sir!" responds Tsukuba.
"Lean back on your right leg, with your hip hovering over the floor. Yes, just like that. Your head," he says, pressing Tsukuba's head back, "(you're too far out!) can't go past the center dividing line. Sit back a little."
"Carefully observe," Meat bun continues. "You want to be as strong as when you were playing 'latter verse' style, right?"
"I want to become strong," says Tsukuba with that scary face again. Meat bun grimaces.
"We finally get new recruits...two of them stayed."
"Good," says Meat bun. "I will definitely make you stronger."
"I won't just ignore them!"
Cut scene: Kana-chan trying to keep up with Sumire
"Hanano-kouhai!" calls out Kana. Sumire flinches and tries to run, but Kana catches up to her. "Hanano-kouhai! It's all right to come back to the club room now."
"No," insists Sumire in tears. "It's so shameful...to absolutely have Mashima-senpai catch on...and know my feelings." She suddenly turns on Kana.
"You think I deserve it, don't you? You think love is vulgar and boring...you think so little of me, so you might as well just leave me be!"
"...." Kana-chan just stares at Sumire as she catches her breath.
"Hanano-kouhai, yesterday...you said the Hyakunin Isshu were all love poems...in my heart I know this is true. The Hyakunin Isshu are 'ballads.' Comprised all together of 31 sounds...they are feelings translated into waka poetry on paper...and that's how they've survived for over 1,000 years. To 'convey' and 'transmit' were their purpose. Do you think that your words just then...could really express what you truly feel towards the President?" Sumire is touched by Kana's words.
"But! But!" she protests.
"It's OK! OK!" insists Kana-chan. "So come back!" Sumire follows her back towards the clubhouse and Kana chan makes a small request that Sumire teach her how to apply mascara, since her eye-lashes are sparse. (TN: Kana literally says she only has '3 roots' for eyelashes, meaning 3 strands of eyelash) She also says, "I think a heart that can cry out of embarrassment is beautiful." (TN: Kana in the Chinese version says, "难为情" which means 'embarrassment'. I'm at a loss for the meaning here... But maybe Kana is envying that Sumire can be so passionate over her actions as to shed tears over them, whereas Kana has no experience in doing things like that?)
Cut scene: back at the club room
"Are they OK?" asks Taichi, concerned.
"Oh, they're coming back,"says Desktomu.
"She's OK," announces Kana.
"There's still time," adds Chihaya. "Wanna play?"
"Ah, um..." says Sumire. "Is it all right if I don't play and just memorize poems right now?" Everyone stares at her. She pulls out a chair at the desk and takes out her karuta poetry charts. She notices her fingernails over the charts.
"To 'convey' and 'transmit' were...their purpose." With determination, she clips her nails. Chihaya beams and Sumire's actions even make an impression on Taichi.
Cut scene: June....
Arata and Murao-san are competing in Fukui's A rank regional tournament. Murao-san wins over Arata, and Arata places 2nd overall. The overseers and onlookers are praising the strength of the Nagumo Society karuta players. One of them comments that even if they are from the same karuta group, what should have been a friendly match ended up being quite competitive as each side was not willing to yield. It was only because Murao-san carved out his place and didn't give up (his lead) that he won. Arata looks at his 2nd place certificate and gives off a scary vibe. (TN: looks just like Chihaya does when she's mad) He's a little frustrated having lost, especially when his club members are all praising Murao behind him.
But, he smiles (TN: Darn, I've gotta stop drooling...) when he sees his grandfather's name multiple times in succession on the previously recorded winner's wall display. His reverie is interrupted by an overseer of the competition (the same one he met at Omi Jingu when Chihaya got sick?) who congratulates him on winning 2nd place, even though it was a little regretful. But, there are many who are keeping a close eye on him to see how he will progress. Everyone is wondering if Arata will be like Murao-kun and make the Fall season's Meijin competition's qualifying tournament his objective. The overseer starts to tell Arata to be sure to practice before then, but Arata interrupts him and tells him he doesn't have the intent of entering that competition.
His goal is the High School National Championship, because there are opponents there he wants to face.
TN: So I guess the point of this volume, now that I'm reading it again, is to develop a base line for the will-be-someday-in-the-future-a-super-awesome-karuta-team, Mizusawa High's karuta club? It's also a rallying point and call to arms by their Captain (Chihaya) and how her followers fell in line with her and started to share her dream, or at least understood what it was and started to help her accomplish it.
I know I waited SO LONG to see Arata again, but I just lost steam at that point since this chapter (and volume, really) was a bit dreadful to translate. I feel like the last part was really the crux of the volume too, as it continued the main story line (finally), but alas, I've had a LOOONG day at work and so this was the best I could do. Now, I sleep. Zzzzzzzz....