Total Pageviews

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chihayafuru Manga Synopsis, Vol. 11.4, Chapter 62

Chapter 62

Opening scene:  the dining room of the Ayase household, Chitose scrolling through a movies review blog on her laptop

Chitose gets more and more irritated as she scrolls down the comments of the blog.  Everyone is commenting on her last acting performance in a drama.  The comments are pretty much in line as the critics post harsh reviews saying things like she can't act, she should stay away from acting, she's better off being a model only.  Others are commenting that she not actually that tall so being a model isn't suited for her either.

She looks away from the screen and turns to the corner of the room, where her younger sister Chihaya is lying in defeat on the wooden floor, legs hoisted up onto the settee along the wall.  There is an unusually grim look on her younger sister's face.

"Mom," calls out Chitose to her mother, who is washing the dishes nearby.  "What's up with Chihaya?"
"Ah, ah, at yesterday's regional tournament she couldn't claim victory."
"Karuta again?" remarks Chitose.
"Even though they took second place...and can still enter the national tournament...." says her mother, also befuddled by Chihaya's reaction.

"So it's not a problem, right?" asks Chitose.  "Whatever...just because she couldn't claim the regional victory she becomes that depressed...."  Chitose then clicks on the TV and the face of a very rotund Queen Wakamiya fills up the screen.  Chihaya grabs the remote and turns it off.

"What...what the heck?  Chihaya.  You watch that roly-poly girl's DVD everyday?  If you're not watching it, just take the disc out and turn off the player!"
"....."  Chihaya slumps over on the floor as she thinks back on the tournament.

I watch it almost everyday....  I wish I had movements as exact as Shinobu's....

Exact, exact...


She thinks of Hokuo's Amakusa.  Could I apply that (technique) against powerful players too?

I wanted to know....  She shuts her eyes.

(But) that wasn't a single player competition...that was a team match!  My loss became everyone's loss!

Chihaya slumps over in self-pity and resolves to remain in a very dark place in her mind.  Chitose watches her quietly.

"Everyday you're giving it your best effort without results, isn't it because you have no capability, Chihaya?"
"Chitose, don't say things like that," insists her mother.

"Mom, I'm exactly the same," says Chitose resolutely.  "Mom, this summer I'm going to take less jobs and I'm thinking of taking the college entrance exams.  It's possible that I'm better off going to college after all....  It's likely that I have no talent to become an actress."  She too slumps over onto the dining room table and her mother watches in dismay as both her girls wallow in their misery.

Just then, their father comes into the room.  "Ah, Chihaya!  There's a little bit of news about you in the paper!" he declares happily.  He shows his daughter and as Chihaya reads the recap of the match her misery doubles over.

("Oh, are you still upset about it?" asks her dad on the side.)  Her mom takes a peek at the page and looks intently at the snapshot of Chihaya and her teammates in traditional garb.  As Chihaya turns to go to her room, her mom calls out after her.

"Chihaya!  Are you going to practice karuta today? Or do you have some free time?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Let's go shopping!"

Cut scene: At the Shiranami Society

Sumire has just won over one of Tsubuka's little brothers.

I won!  I've beat Tsubuka's little brother #4 and little brother #3.  (TN:  Ages 9 and 10 -_-;)  And it was a bitter battle between brother #2.  But against Tsubuka...I've still a ways to go!

His little brothers swarm around him, praising him for beating Sumire.
"When fighting against Sumire, my victory came really easy!" comments Tsubuka.
"If it's just Sumire, I'm going to catch up to her fast!" says another brother.
"I'm going to win!"
"You guys, don't just casually use my name like that!" shouts Sumire in irritation.

"Those kids really did enter our society," remarks Hiroshi.
"It's really great!" declares Harada-sensei.  "In one instant our society has been infused with new life!"
Taichi is speechless for a moment.

"I never thought...Hanano-kouhai would actually join a karuta society."
"Eh?"  She blushes from the sudden attention.  "That's because learning karuta is fun, isn't it?" she says with a broad smile.  Taichi has no immediate response.

Tsubuka is rather impressed, however and he strikes up conversation with her as she grabs her water bottle.
"You said it.  Learning karuta is really fun," he adds.  "I'm the same as you, really, when I watched our senpai-tachi playing yesterday, it really stirred up emotions in me, so I've really wanted to become stronger...."

"What?  Learning karuta is fun?  It's hot, and it's grueling and it's tiring...and when you don't win it makes you feel so disappointed....  Those words I uttered just now were pre-scripted for Mashima-senpai's ears only!" she exclaims in agitation.
"Ah..." responds Tsubuka in shock.  "You actually...don't care...."
"That's right!" Sumire snaps.

Sumire thinks back at what Kana said to her once.  "To express...are the rules of the game."

The rules of love probably dictate...that I must take karuta seriously.

And the same rules apply...when Mashima-senpai is watching Ayase-senpai...

Waiting to convey (his feelings)....

Her reverie is broken up by another player announcing the next round's match ups.  Her opponent this time is Harada.

"WHAT?" exclaims Sumire.  She imagines a giant bear waving a clawed hand at her saying "Yoroshiku onegaishimas!" (TN: I used Japanese here since it seemed more fitting.)

"I don't want to!!" cries out Sumire.  "I don't want to be killed!  I don't want to be eaten!"
"Don't worry, relax!" says Harada-sensei.  "I'll start off with my 40 vs. your 10 cards."
"I want to play with weak players!  IIIIEEEEEYYYAAAH, NOOO!!" she screams as Harada drags her away.  "At least let me play against Mashima-senpai!"
"What are you saying?  Eyebrows-kun is really strong--"
("Sumire, ganbatte!" Tsubuka's little brothers cheer on from the sidelines.)

It's so easy to see through you, Hanano-san, thinks Tsubuka.  But... don't you understand?  

"It's so hot, so grueling, so tiresome...  And when you don't win it's so dissatisfying!"

You already... love karuta.

Cut scene:  Hiroshi and Taichi shuffling their cards between them

"Truthfully, the reason for Ayase's defeat yesterday--" says Hiroshi to Taichi.  "I think it was because of her state of mind during the first half segment of the game... What do you think about that, Eyebrows?
"If she placed importance on correctly focusing above all, then just like in the second half of the match, she would have immediately started attacking and set the pace, then she might have won--"

"I know," responds Taichi.  He thinks back to when she cried after receiving Arata's text.
"She please don't chastise her."
"Is Chihaya not coming today?" asks Hiroshi. "Is she still feeling bad?"
("You just won't let it go, will you?" mutters Taichi on the side.)
"This...well, she contacted me and told me she had something to do."

"How difficult!" exclaims Hiroshi as he thinks of Chihaya.  Just when she developed a new weapon...  No matter how much you've accomplished, there are still temporary set-backs.  Even though it's like this, you still want it, right?  Or will you concentrate and hone the skills you've first acquired to your advantage--

Cut scene: Chihaya making an awful face (as if her spirit was leaving her) as she walks down the sidewalk with her mom

"Mom...." says Chihaya as she lags behind.  "I...guess I'm not in the go shopping after all...."
"Nonsense!" says her mother.  "All you have to do is come with me.  (Why are you acting like you're barely alive back there?")   (TN: In the Chinese version, she describes Chihaya as, "有气无力" which means "feeble.")
"But there's nothing I really want to buy..." begins Chihaya when she looks up and notices the store where they've arrived.  It's Oe's Kimono Emporium.

"Irasshaimase!" says Mrs. Oe as they walk in.  She is dressed impeccably in a kimono and bowing slightly.
"Oh!  It's Kana-chan's mom!" says Chihaya.  Her mother has brought a gift for Mrs. Oe.
"How is that a proper greeting, Chihaya!" admonishes her mom.  "I'm sorry!  We've come to bother you," Mrs. Ayase says politely.  "Here is a small token of our appreciation."
"Not at all!" answers Mrs. Oe.  "You needn't be so formal!  You even gave us gifts for New Year's and Midsummer's holidays...."

"It's no trouble," says Mrs. Ayase bowing in polite response.  "You're always looking after our daughter, after all...."
"Mom!  You sent gifts for New Year's and Midsummer's holidays?  Wow...  (Just like a grown-up...)--" exclaims Chihaya suddenly.
"CHIHAYA!" says her mother, appalled by her daughter's lack of etiquette.  "Of course I did!  (It's because I am a grown up!)  Mrs. Oe is always lending you kimonos to wear...  Do you even realize how much you've imposed on other people?"

"Oh, no!" protests Mrs. Oe.  "It's nothing of that sort....  Our store has also used Chihaya as a catalogue model... "  Mrs. Oe grins wickedly.  "Suffice to say, because Mizusawa uses traditional kimono when they enter into major competitions, from last year until now, our profits in Japanese style clothing have grown, this summer's sales are likely to expand as well...."

Chihaya and her mom smile a little uncomfortably at this woman's sales prowess.

"All right!  Come and let's have some tea..." says Mrs. Oe.
"No!  Well, today... I think it's about time we bought Chihaya a kimono."
Chihaya looks at her mom in astonishment.

"Oh!  It's Chihaya after all--" exclaims Kana-chan coming out from the back of the shop as she sees who their customers are.
"Oh, Kana-chan!" says Chihaya as Mrs. Oe is bringing out the good fabric stock for Mrs. Ayase to see.
"M-M-Mrs. Oe!" Chihaya's mom stutters.  "There's no need to bring out the expensive textiles, just show us set of ready-made ones and that's fine... (Because our budget...)"
"Ara!  Just a peek won't hurt!" explains Mrs. Oe.  (Really knows how to do business)

"Mom, you don't have to break the bank to buy one for me...." says Chihaya.
"But, Chihaya you're still going to continue with karuta, right?  You're going to wear it more than once, correct?  At times like this you should really let your parents come forward."  Chihaya thinks about what her mom said as her hand falls on one particular sakura pattern.

"Oh, that's a ready-made one.  Chihaya, do you want to try it on?" asks Mrs. Oe.
"What?  You know how to put on on, Chihaya?" asks Mrs. Ayase incredulously.
"Even if it doesn't look flawless, I think I can..." says Chihaya.
"Because you've worn one so many times, right?" smiles Kana.

"Well, first you put on the kimono...." starts Chihaya as Kana assists her.  "Followed by the obi..."  Then Chihaha slips on her hakama.  "The belt strap starts in front, right?" she asks.
"That's right!"
"Then on goes the hakama--" says Chihaya as she loops the belt straps from front to back, securing them around the bow of her obi, and then finally pulls up the back flap of the hakama.
"Ah, Chihaya, it really suits you!" exclaims Kana excitedly.
"And then you tie that!"  The belt straps slip through the back flap and wrap around to the front again in a neat bow.

Chihaya's mom is still in awe.  "Before I even became aware, she can already do these kinds of things...."  Mrs. Ayase explains to Kana's mom, "It's really embarrassing to say, but I know nothing of karuta... I've only ever gone to watch her compete a handful of times...  The first time I ever watched her, I thought in my heart, 'Well, she'll be all long as she practices karuta, Chihaya will be all right.'"  Chihaya listens to her mom's words intently.

"Even though...." Mrs. Ayase continues, "her grades had once fallen to the 5th from the bottom in her high school class, and even though she is in high school, her room is filled with strange things concerning that awful looking bear; and even though she hasn't once thought about her future.... she'll probably be all right."  Chihaya grimaces at her mother's view of her.

("She sees right through me!" laments Chihaya to Kana.  "Not only about my future, but also my grades too!")

"I'm actually more worried about her sister, Chitose, because her first step into the real world has been unsteady... so that's why we've been slow to buy something like this for Chihaya.  We've been neglecting her all this time... I really feel bad for Chihaya...."

"Mom," says Chihaya, truly grateful for her mother's words.  "It's not that you've been 'neglecting me,' rather, that you believe in karuta, right?"
"Chihaya," interrupts Kana-chan.  "You want to see some of our new stock?  It just came in this morning.  There are some really pretty colors."  (TN: I'm too lazy to translate what products she's going to show Chihaya)  While Chihaya is enticed by other products sold by the store, Mrs. Oe and Mrs. Ayase stay behind to chat.

"Isn't it good this way?" asks Mrs. Oe.  "In the process of raising our children, I think...from the perspective of parents... some neglect in moderation...will lead to how many difficult and important things...."  They both watch quietly as the girls head over to the store front.

Cut scene: Chihaya walking home with her mom

"Really, you don't have to.  Mom!  And there are much cheaper kimono!"
"It's all right!" says her mom, walking in front of her.  "Besides, we can pay in installments."
"That one really suit you the best, so it's all right--"
"But since it's competitive karuta, you really can just buy any generic one...." explains Chihaya.

"But Chihaya, perhaps--" begins her mother when she has a sudden revelation that Chihaya might wear her kimono in front of the media's lenses while the entire nation watches.  Her mom marvels at the possibility.
"Mom...perhaps you've forgotten," interrupts Chihaya with a sullen look on her face.  "There's still the national tournament's entry fee and hotel expense....  You really didn't need to buy me a kimono now..."

"AH!" exclaims her mother, who did forget.  (-_-;) "Don't-- Don't worry about that!  That little bit our household can still handle!  Your dad can pay it!"
"Dad can?" asks Chihaya hopefully.
"It's not a problem!"

As long as Chihaya has karuta, she'll be all right.

They both grin at one another ear-to-ear.

Cut scene: Back home at the Ayase household

Chihaya is going through her DVD of the Queen's Tournament with renewed determination.  Her sister Chitose comes into the room with a packet in her hands.  She is surprised as Chihaya practices striking the karuta cards lined up on the floor.

Announcer: "The Queen is really fast!"

Chihaya goes through the motions while mentally battling to acquire Shinobu's ability in her head.



Exactly touching that one point!

Don't let that match with Captain Amakusa... don't let that loss go to waste!

I want... to surpass Shinobu!

Chitose watches her younger sister in shock.  Completely reverted back to the old Chihaya....

".... Really..." says Chitose in exasperation.  "Are you an idiot or what?  Just for something like karuta!"  She looks down at the packet of college entrance exam materials in her hand and tosses it in the waste basket.

I want to be strong!  I want to be stronger!  thinks Chihaya as she practices furiously.

Chitose dials up her agent to tell him that she intends to continue with her work.

Because my victory... is everyone's victory!  (TN:  I think here, Chihaya and Chitose's thoughts are aligned)

Cut scene: Mr. and Mrs. Ayase in another room

"What?  Money to spare?  Savings?  No, no (we don't have any)," says Chihaya's dad as he clips the article of her from the newspaper.  Her mother looks rather distressed at this point.

---End Chapter---

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chihayafuru Manga Synopsis, Volume 11.3: Chapter 61

TN:  Ah, sorry for the delay!  I was busy reading (or re-reading) some of my favorite josei manga (Gokusen, Oishii Kankei, Kimi Wa Pet) and sort of forgot about blogging...hehehe.  I had lunch with an old friend today who is an avid K-drama fanatic, so before I begin "The Moon Embracing the Sun" I thought I should at least finish this story line....  When I get involved in J-dorama or K-drama I ignore phone calls, eat spicy kimchee ramen with pickled daikon and stay up late.  Ah, the life of a lazy person....  I want that....

Chapter 61

Opening scene:  The High School Karuta Regional Championship, Tokyo Region.

The audience is astounded.

How can this be?
The matches have become....

4 individual matches of "sudden death"!  (TN:  Each player for each of the 4 remaining matches has one card left, and depending on chance, whoever has the next card that is read, wins.)

Nishida is sweating bullets for his teammates.  A duel of fates where whoever has the next card that is read closest to his hand will be victorious.  But...

Damn!  Damn!  Damn!  think Tsutomu and Taichi together.  At this rate...we might actually end up with 0 wins!

(In small captions, the mangaka has indicated that Kana can't even read the card that is closer to her opponent, and Chihaya is only staring at her own card.)

"As expected of Hokuo," comments Hiroshi.  "A solid competitive team.  They've already divided their cards evenly."  But beside him, Hokuo's teacher is having a sudden reaction.

"Dividing cards" (TN: literally "分牌" in Chinese) is only an option of last resort for a dueling team.   Even though out of 5 matches, a team need only take 3 wins to be victorious, then the team that has the first win... in order to secure 2 more wins they evenly divide amongst themselves the 2 remaining cards "A" and "B" in a staggered fashion.... As long as they each guard their own cards they can guarantee their fighting advantage.

"They'll then tell their neighboring team mate which card they have in their the last time they send over "penalty" cards they will distribute them evenly... "  (TN: I'm not sure what Hiroshi means by "很明顯是违規規的戦略" in the next panel.  It has something to do with a "violation of the rules," but he can't mean the Hokuo team.  He's probably referring to Hokuo's teacher when he says it.  Hokuo's teacher says something ridiculous about having a referee adjudicate over the match)

"No matter if 'asano' or 'asaborake' is read next," surmises Harada, "Hokuo will take another 2 wins. In terms of this team competition, Mizusawa should have gambled on 3 of the same cards in order to take 3 victories at once.  At that point, they still would have had a 50% chance of winning."  

Since it's come to this, they must overtake their opponents in order to win....

Taichi is speechless and sweating bullets at this point.  It's my fault I didn't prepare enough...I never thought it would come to this situation...we don't have enough practice as a team.

The accumulated experience of (a team from) an elevator school...
The gap between us and Hokuo Academy eventually shows up here!

Chihaya (finally) comes to the reality of their situation.  Ah...Ah? Could it be we are at a disadvantage in taking 3 wins?

....How could that be?  What do we do?  What to do? she asks herself in consternation.  She looks over in Meat bun's direction and notices he is shaking in fury (beating himself up).

What the hell am I doing?  And I even said "I'm going to make you strong" to the others...  I certainly talked big in front of the freshmen but pathetically I was the first to lose my match.  What a hypocrite!  Everyone's really giving it their all... They're certainly doing their best... but this is all my fault that it's come to this!

Chihaya sees him and immediate practices her swing before the next card is read.  (TN: Wow, sure has been a while since the last card was read....)  Everyone is surprised by her actions, but she's doing it to break up the mood.  Taichi soon follows suit.

Even if Chihaya's opponent's card, 'asaborake' is read she is still going to attack.  If 'asano' is read, then I will go on the offensive.   Taichi then goes over in his head which cards should be left and prepares himself to time his strike correctly.

Mizusawa's 3 wins...our victory....
How can we just give up before the end?  Taichi and Chihaya are of similar minds and won't give up.  Their audacity shocks the audience members.

Ah-- they really look as though they really will go on the offensive--
If Mizusawa goes on the offensive then this is no ordinary "sudden death" match!

Sudo takes up the next card and reads the opening verse while the players anxiously guard the cards on their side.  

We're not in the same predicament as Mizusawa, thinks Amakusa.  We don't have to go on the offensive.  We just have to protect the card we have and it's OK to ignore everything else--

He understands, right? thinks Hiro nervously.

I'm going to attack! thinks Taichi.

He really should understand! sweats Hiro.

I need to attack! stares Taichi, intensely focusing on his opponent's card.

At the next verse, Hiro suddenly makes a mistake and touches his card when the verse belonged to a "blank" card.  Mizusawa's players and Hokuo's players are in shock.

"MIZUSAWA, 1 WIN!" shouts Taichi proudly.

That was not Hyoro-kun's fault, thinks Harada-sensei.  That was Taichi's battle stance (TN: aura?), the intention to never give up...that became Hyoro's undoing.

Duel of fate... thinks Taichi, wiping his face with a handkerchief.  It's not a duel of's not!

Now both sides have 1 victory each, concludes Harada.  What comes next is hard to predict.  Mizusawa has come from under the unbearable pressure of being at a disadvantage... to a formiddable opponent.

What kind of joke is this, Hiro! thinks Amakusa.  Not only is it because of his (divination) cards that we've come to this, but because of that sort of mistake he's given up a hard-to-come-by opportunity for us!  What if we lose?  Will you take responsibility?

I'm gonna pummel you!  Amakusa thinks back at what he said at the end of their prior match, and how he wanted to just take it easy for this game since they were already qualified to go to the nationals.

I'm gonna pummel you!!

Victory!  After our victory... I'm gonna beat the **** out of you!

In the background, Hiro is tearing up and also bitter about his loss.

Amakusa then starts to practice his arm strikes as well.

He's going to attack! thinks an audience member.

His teacher and Sudo silently watch him.  Amakusa-kun....

When the "a" syllable is read, I'm going to guard my card...  and if the next syllable is "bo" then I'm going to attack.  If it's "asashi" then I'm going to refrain, and if it's "asano" then I'm going to hold the card down.

What's the use of not taking the win in a tournament we should be victorious in?  We are Hokuo!  HOKUO!

Sudo picks up the next card.  Amakusa... Amakusa, you have to be carful! 

Even in your situation... there are still people who can come up short.

The next card is read.

Chihaya is the first to attack, while Kana holds her ground and Tsutomu goes on the offensive as well. 

"I was faster!" announces Amakusa furiously.
"Not true," says Chihaya calmly.
"I was faster!!"he insists. (TN: What a baby...)
Amakusa appeals to the referee, but even he is clueless.

"Just then..." begins Chihaya.  "We touched the card at the same time."  Chihaya quietly bows and gives thanks, admitting her defeat.

Amakusa is silent.

(TN: Chihaya managed to slip one finger under her opponent's hand, but since they both touched the card at the same time, the win belongs to the holder of the card, Amakusa.)

Announcer:  "Hokuo 3 wins, Mizusawa 2 wins.  Hokuo is victorious."

The players all bow and exchange thanks.

Cut scene:  the aftermath

As Miyauchi is clapping with the audience, Oe-san cries into a handkerchief.  The audience is commenting on what a brutal match that was.  Others are commenting that they are relieved of the tension now while others still, are commenting that such a sight can only be seen every 10 years or so.

When Sudo asks Amakusa if Hokuo is the strongest team in Tokyo, Amakusa still looks visibly shaken.  

He finally answers, "No.  At the very last moment, I was only reacting to Ayase and guarded my card.  If it was 'asashi' I would have made a mistake.  I can't hear the difference.  In this sort of match, I can't say that Hokuo is truly the stronger team...."

Sudo just smirks at him and says if they can't be Tokyo's strongest, then they should aim to be the nation's strongest team.  Everyone looks at him in shock.  When he tells them he's going to use the club budget to go watch them at the nationals they all stand frozen solid.

Cut scene: in the Mizusawa corner

Chihaya has passed out on the tatami and Tsutomu suggests it's about time to pick her up and leave.  Meat bun is profusely apologizing for being the first to lose but then Chihaya suddenly sits up and startles him.

"I'm... I'm really happy!" she announces. "This is the happiest I've ever been!"  Her team members start tearing up.

Cut scene:  Back at Mizusawa High

As the club members start to shuffle out of the school entrance, Taichi turns to Sumire.
"Hanano-kouhai, aren't you going my way?"
"Ah, I'm sorry!" she responds.  "There's something...."  She turns and heads in the opposite direction as everyone else.

Harada is excited as he's been propositioned by Tsubuka and his little brothers to let them join the Shiranami Society.  He'll have 4 new recruits at once.  He turns as he notices someone behind him.
"Ah, here comes another.  Will you be the fifth?"
Sumire stares at him, a little embarrassed.

Cut scene: on the commuter train

"We're leaving first!" shouts Chihaya to the others from behind the subway doors.  "I'll see you the day after tomorrow!  We still have to face the nationals head on and practice, so see you later!"

Kana stands with Tsutomu and Meat bun and gently waves goodbye as the train pulls away.  Chihaya watches them from the window when her phone suddenly indicates she's received a text.
"Ah!  It's Arata!" she exclaims excitedly, clutching her phone.  "Arata sent a text!  (How rare!)"
"Eh?" inquires Taichi.

The text reads: How was the Tokyo Regional championship?  Was it fun?

Chihaya stares at the text screen with a smile that slowly melts into tears as she holds the phone against her forehead and starts to cry.  She thinks back on when she bowed in defeat against Amakusa.  Her mind wanders back to a time when all three of them were small, and they asked her why she's crying.  Back then, she said it was because she was so happy.

Taichi watches her silently.

Cut scene:  Arata stands alone as a breeze picks up around him

Back in Fukui, Arata is reading her response text on his phone.


This time was the happiest I'd ever felt...

...and the most dissatisfied.

---End Chapter---

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chahayafuru Manga Synopsis Volume 11.2, Chapter 60

TN:  So I read ahead to volume 12 and I'm glad Arata returns.  but Arata is more of an airhead than I thought... ::sigh::

I'm weirded out by Shinobu a little bit. But other than that I think the Mizusawa team is totally awesome.  The main storyline continues and it's pretty exciting.  The competitions are really challenging to translate because of their complexity in terminology and names, but it's very exciting! 

Here I translated Chapter 60 too, just to keep the flow of the match going.  If I didn't have to wake up early tomorrow for work, I'd translate the finale in Chapter 61 too. :*(

Chapter 60

Opening scene:  we just left off where Chihaya had taken the next card at the first syllable (even though it wasn't necessarily a single syllable card)

Even before Sudo is done reciting the verse, and even before anyone else moves, Chihaya is already claiming the card and placing it by her side.

There should be more syllables read for the "hitomowoshi" card.  Similarly the "hisakatano" card shouldn't be taken just after hearing the "hi" syllable--

Was it because she had already been eying that card so she had prepared earlier to make the first move?

But it can't just be that....

It seems like even the syllable "hi" hadn't even been read, and she already reached out to take the card--

Amakasu notices the look in Chihaya's eyes and it's almost awe inspiring.  But he slaps his cheeks to snap himself out of it.

That's impossible!  No one can do that sort of thing!  That was just a chance guess that won't happen again, insists Amakusa.

While he is thinking this, Sudo is worried for him.  Collect your concentration, Amakasu.  That's not just wildly taking a card by chance.  Ayase Chihaya, she....  Sudo recalls how he lost to her in the regional championship when he was still captain of the team.  The card Amakasu just lost was the same card that cost Sudo and Hokuo the regional championship title.

...can hear it.

She can "hear" it!

I don't know how it is in the way I read it that she can make that distinction, but the "hi" syllable in "hisa" and "hito" are definitely different sounding.

I want to know...just what exactly is it that you hear?

I want to know!

Sudo then comes to a sudden realization.  It's not something my voice has "communicated" to you...but it's something you've mastered!

Again, she takes the next card at the first syllable.  As Harada watches, he too comes to a silent realization that it isn't just a fluke.

She's done it again.... thinks Amakusa.  Clearly, "takinotone" hadn't even been read yet, but as soon as she heard "ta" she reached out and took the card.


There are certainly other players whose actions and reactions are much faster...but, she and they seem to be different--  Suddenly the image of Suoh comes to mind.  He sees Chihaya exactly like Suoh Meijin.

Harada at this point is brimming with pride.  He remembers telling her not to try to be faster than the Queen.  It's already been 9 months since then.  Even though the path was very difficult, but Chihaya...has improved!

In the first half of the match, you were taking the cards as straight and directly as you could.  Then you bore the risk and more significantly took a card from your opponent with infinite speed.

I see that you want to add to your arsenal.

Meanwhile, Chihaya is still in a trance-like state.  She recalls Suoh Mejin's words.
"To me, there are 28 single syllable cards."
Followed by the words Tsutomu told her after the Meijin match.  "Ayase, you also have 20 single syllable cards!"

Ah, it's not a problem!

It's something she's been aware of since she was in 6th grade.  The indistinguishable characteristic, even before the sound of the word is formed...  I can "hear" it!

I am the same!  Chihaya's face hardens with determination.  Amakusa is a bit taken aback.  She's clearly affecting him as his next move results in a penalty for him.

Ah! Damn!  So dumb! to make a mistake at this kind of tournament. So uncool!

Amakusa, Sudo thinks.  Open your mouth and say something.  Don't let your opponent have the advantage of gathering their spirit!  Regardless of whether it's to say, "Your hand has crossed the border boundary" or "Your nose hair is sticking out" just say anything!  Open your mouth!

But...this is only if I wasn't the karuta reader...that I'd have no way of understanding this sentiment.  I don't want to hinder you guys...

Such focused spirit!

Chihaya is able to take the next card as well, making it three in a row.  Now, they are evenly matched at 5 cards each.

My 5 card lead has vanished in one breath, thinks Amakasu.

Damn it!  Why did it turn out to be this kind of exhausting competition?  Amakasu throws a frustrated look in Hiro's direction.  I blame Hiroshi who acted on his own accord....

But Hiroshi also hasn't won yet?

"Pit the strong against the strong, and the weak against the weak.  If we don't compete like that then what's the meaning of that victory?"  Hiro had said before the match.  Amakasu recalls what he said to him in anger.

Captain Sudo is no longer around.  In Hokuo's team, I'm the top player.  I didn't care that other clubs told me I could never be their strongest player (he's too short)...  But every player within those the end of the summer, chose me to be their leader.

Sudo then reads the 5 syllable "yononakayo" card and Amakasu is able to take it.

After guarding the "yononakawa" card, Chihaya then reached into the enemy's border.... notes Harada-sensei. (TN: meaning she was one step behind.  Luck of the draw that he had the card, I guess.) 

But, she still couldn't get to it, thinks Tsuboguchi.

It doesn't matter how small my body is, my guarding hand will never lose to a girl!  (TN: A little sexist, are we, little Amakusa?  Didn't you lose to Shinobu by a miserable 25 cards?)

Even if it's by a small margin...even if it's only by a single card.  At the very last I will use Hokuo's (style) karuta to realize victory!

His teacher is sympathizing with him.  Amakusa...Amakusa has shored up his strength.  Even though I wanted him to relax a little earlier....  But the others still haven't obtained their victories yet?

At that time, Desktomu is thinking, I know that everyone beside me is giving it their all...and I know that my opponent in front of me is starting to be alarmed.

Why?  Why can't I pull ahead any further? his opponent is thinking.  Tsutomu is supposed to be a very weak player!  Last year he lost to me by 15 cards....  I have to end this quickly!

Does he think my defeat last year would affect me?  Because he thought so little of me, all of his "attack" cards are placed together in his lower right quadrant, thinks Tsutomu.

"Chi--" reads Sudo.  All of the remaining Mizusawa players move together.
"--haya--"  All of them reach the card at the same time.
"--furu Kamiyo mo kikazu Tatsuta-gawa--"

The audience, the teachers, and Hokuo's players are all stunned with mouths agape.


Tsutomu's opponent challenges his take because he was still guarding that card, but Desktomu explains that he reached the card first, palm up, and slipped his hand underneath his opponent's.

A left handed block... was attacked with a right handed entry....  This guy already strategized it from the beginning? his opponent thinks incredulously.

Certainly, you've been studying karuta longer... thinks Tsutomu of his opponent.  But ever since I lost to you by 15 cards last year, within this year I've practiced karuta to the point where I'm certain the one who feels happiest is me!

It's definitely... me!!

This is amazing, thinks Meat bun-kun watching his team play.  Everyone's battles are so intense.  I've never seen it before.  There's a possibility that everyone's match will end in "sudden death."

Just as Meat bun realizes this, all of the Hokuo players also realize it.

Damn!  Damn! DAMN!! thinks Meat bun frantically.  He tries to will his team mates to realize this too.

If you guys don't realize it soon, all of you will lose!

The way the cards are positioned, each player has the two same cards but in different positions.  Each side has an even chance of taking the correct card.  However, if the players don't realize it, they may end up giving up the wrong card to the opponent.  Taichi and Tsutomu are the first to notice.

Just as the next card is taken by Taichi, Tsutomu, Oe, and Amkasu, each match now becomes a game of "sudden death."

Hokuo's players strategically place the card they have remaining in a staggered fashion.  Whether it is the "akino" or the "asabo" card, at least 2 of them will win (making it 3 victories to win the trophy).

At this point, Meat bun is waving his arms wildly at Chihaya to make her notice what her teammates have done with their cards.  Unfortunately, she is clueless...and positions the card to her opponent's advantage.  (O_o)  Meat bun then looks like he's about to fall over.

We're at a disadvantage!

Hokuo's complete.

---End Chapter---

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chihayafuru Manga Synopsis: Vol. 11.1 (Chapter 59)

TN: I wanted to post this earlier but then my Macbook died...  and it died a horrible death.  Macbooks and juice just don't mix...  Who knew?  I've dropped that thing from various heights and some of the plastic border was coming off but still, it lived.  One little drop of juice (ok, it was more than a drop) and it dies a horrible death....::sigh::  I hate using this tiny notebook backup.  My hands always feel so giant and clumsy.

Love the back cover illustration to vol. 11.  Oh, beautiful picture of Chihaya and Arata on the back flap illustration....
Through Chapter 62 will be the epic match between Hokuo and Mizusawa for this year's regional high school title.  And so it begins...

Chapter 59

Opening scene:  The two teams face off on the tatami mat while Sudo is the next reader (TN:  I think there should be a "conflict of interest" rule here if one team is used to the reader's voice, or if the reader is not neutral and knows one of the teams -- he shouldn't be able to read for his former team during a match... it's an unfair advantage, you know?  Just my thoughts)

Caption:  The National High School Regional Hyakunin Isshu Karuta Championship, Tokyo Regional...Final match!  Hokuo Academy against Mizusawa High School!

There is a lot of tension as the members of the Mizusawa Karuta club face off their respective opponents.

Caption:  Just as the air conditioning in the room failed.  ("I'm sorry! I've done my best!" says the repairman in the background)  But, it's not as hot as it was before.  Sensei, thank you!  It doesn't matter if it's stopped.  What we need to listen to is...

"Su--"  Immediately Chihaya and Aamakasu's hands move simultaneously over the cards with incredible speed.
"--mi no e no--"  With lightning speed, the two two players sweep out their arms in the same direction, sending cards flying.  Everyone, except for Harada-sensei and Tsuboguchi-san, watch in utter shock.

Too...To quick!  Both of them are just too fast! thinks Sumire in wide-eyed astonishment.  That card just now, which side was able to take it?  Was it Hokuo's little round-eyed guy (Amakasu)?

Chihaya hesitated over her opponent's "se" card, thinks Harada.  It was still an "s" card... Is it because she isn't familiar with the reader's habits so she's investigating and taking stock (first)?

But, thinks Chihaya to herself, I could have taken that last card.  If just a little more...just 3 more lines (on the tatami)...  My fingers only had to stretch (unbiasedly) towards that angle.... (TN:  In the Chinese version, the phrase 不偏不倚 is used, which means "impartial" or "unbiased" -- but I'm not sure what the translator means here)

Here! thinks Chihaya, adjusting her finger position.  And here! she thinks as she adjusts her upper arm position.

Get this down!  Get this down! she insists, willing herself to remember how to do it.

All of this is taking place while Amakasu still has his arm raised, all the while, clearing his voice, pausing the reader until he is done rearranging his cards.  (In the background Sudo is muttering he should hurry up)  Amakasu finally sends Chihaya's penalty card and Sudo recites the remainder of the poem as he reaches for the next card.

Amakasu is able to take the next card as well, as the onlookers marvel at his speed.

Chihaya...good cards have been continuously taken, observes Harada-sensei.  That kid's "sense" (intuition) is also very good.  (In the background, Amakasu skips happily to retrieve his card, while Sudo is annoyed at him, mumbling that he should get back to his place)  It's not so much "sense" as it's better described as good motor reflexes.

Supple shoulders and an agile elasticity....

Chihaya continues her inner battle.  I have to be sharper!  Here, and here!  At this point!  I have to connect it here...  It has to be more exact!

"Are you looking down at me?" asks Amakasu with an innocent expression.   "During an actual match you're reflecting on which cards you weren't able to take?  Are you treating this like a practice match?"

Chihaya looks at him in sudden realization.

Harada, Tsuboguchi and Hoku's teacher are surprised by the statement.
Aah! - Harada.
Well said. - Tsuboguchi
That's my student! - Hokuo's teacher.

"If I only did that correctly..."
"All I have to do is this to take the card..."

I should stop regretting the cards I lost, turn around and change my thinking and focus on the cards in front of me.... concludes Chihaya.

But this, thinks Harada, is something I've already taught Chihaya long before.  (Because she is my student.)

Chihaya does a few more practice strikes.  Here!  Here!  And here!

It's all right, Chihaya...just go ahead and do it!  You won't turn your back on this competition.

Link it, make the connection! Chihaya thinks fervently as she closes her eyes.

Make the connection!

Sudo picks up the next card to read.

At the same time, Nishida is having a rough time against his opponent.  (TN:  I'm going to call him "hair clip guy")  Meat bun loses another card to him.

What is up with this guy?  I get a weird vibe from him.  He clearly moves very slowly, but I still can't beat him to the cards.  (Even though he's young, he retrieves his cards like an old man.)

Also...those two hair clips he uses are really gross!

Kana is also in the midst of her own battle.

Her opponent tries to harass her by saying, "You seem to have a kind of...heavy chest!"  Kana-chan completely ignores him and counts down in her mind rhythmically, synchronizing herself with Sudo's timing.

That previous reader really came up short....but Captain Sudo is really Captain Sudo... is able to integrate the poems flawlessly....

I can trust him....

As Sudo reads the next card, Kana is able to take it.
"Aah! Consecutive takes!" exclaims her opponent in dismay.  Sudo also notices and he starts clearing his throat.  This is apparently a hint to the Hokuo Academy that he expects more of them and all of the Hokuo team suddenly come to attention.
"Excuse me," says Sudo politely as he finishes clearing his throat.

I take it all back.... Kana concludes.

Harada, Hokuo's teacher and Tsuboguchi-san are commenting on how well Sudo reads the cards, from timing to pronunciation, he is spot-on.

"Has he been reading ever since he was a part of Hokuo's club activities?" asks Tsuboguchi.  "He doesn't seem like the type that would have an interest in reading cards.  (I'm 100% sure that he's the type to have someone else do it.)"
"Ha ha," laughs Hokuo's teacher.  "He's been like that ever since middle school.  But recently..."  He recalls Sudo telling him he's taken an interest in learning how to read cards after watching the New Year's Meijin match (6 months ago).

Suoh Meijin didn't do the same to study the cards or the opponents...but to study karuta card readers.

Sudo's good trait is...he sets high ambitions.  (In the background is an image of Sudo pointing to some unknown destination in the future with the words "I will be the topple the Meijin!" next to him.)

Even if it is inconceivable.... his teacher concludes.

My real pride is that he's doing it to let ordinary players do their best.  But his vision is still far reaching.

Meanwhile, back at the match between Chihaya and Amakusa, he had expected her to be far faster and it's hard to believe that she's actually far from being fast.

I'm already 7 cards ahead...maybe I can easily take this victory after all....

But what's with her?  This is some kind of neurotic if she's in pursuit of some kind of perfection--
(TN: He describes it in the Chinese version as "這種可稱為神經質的確認。 。 。對方正確性的追求" which has something to do with "neurotic" and an "opponent," "chasing" and "correctness" so I'm loosely interpreting that! lol)

He suddenly comes to a realization.  The person she's looking Shinobu Wakamiya, then....  He is speechless.  That's impossible!  Even if it were me, last year I lost by 24 cards!  And didn't you lose by 20 cards yourself? Isn't that the type of experience that leaves strong scars on people?  (TN: for you maybe, shorty...)  There's just such a great disparity (in ability)...

 But Chihaya is still immersed in her mental training.  Connect!  Connect!  Connect!  This 1 centimeter!
(TN:  I think she's trying to learn how to connect to the cards like they were attached by strings -- just like Shinobu)

....  Suit yourself, thinks Amakasu.  While craning your neck to see something far away, you will lose the match in front of your eyes!

When Sudo reads the next card, Amakasu is able to quickly take the next card, impressing the onlookers.
That movement was really quick! thinks Tsuboguchi-san.  He moved at the sound of "waga" and took the card away with "wagaso."

Hokuo's player is pulling further away, thinks Harada.

Regardless of whether it's the pressure from Sudo's vision (for the team)...or the way he reads the all began from six months ago, everyday it's been by their side.

"I didn't come to cheer any of you on!" said Sudo before the match began. 

If it's a match with Captain Sudo reading the cards...for us it's just like going back to our origins.  (TN:  he says the phrase "原點" which means "origin" in a mathematical sense; for example where (x,y) = 0 on a cartegian graph.)

Everyone is still in the midst of their own heated matches.  But Taichi notices that Hiro takes his cards with his middle and ring finger bound together.  (O_o)  Hiro...why do you take your cards in such a strange way? he thinks.   Not only is it painful, your fingers are always wrapped with a bandage.  Even when you're on the sidelines you still pretend to tough it out.  (The background pic is Hiro flinging his hand while his girlfriend fawns over him and says, "So handsome!")

I can win, I can win, thinks Hiro as he plays.  I'm going to win!

At the same time, Kana's opponent is having a hard time.

Haah, Busty Girl is really strong!  Even though this is already her 5th match, her movements are still so quick!

Just like Mom said, I had to tie my obi higher...and it's so much easier with Sensei's "tasuki" tying back my sleeves... thinks Kana.

For me, wearing a kimono will not make me tired.

Her opponent is thinking, If I lose to Busty Girl I'm gonna get chewed out!

Didn't you know? thinks Kana angrily, looking like she's out for revenge.  For Busty Girl, wearing a kimono is the most convenient of all attire!

Ms. Miyauchi is watching in awe.  The more I know of karuta, the more amazing it seems to me.  This thing called karuta....has no distinction between men or women, makes no distinction between body types or builds, has no age limit, and makes no distinction between intellect.

Starting from reading a single card, which is connected by a thousand years...  This sort of competition is hard to come by.

Suddenly, everyone's concentration is interrupted by a pair of players exchanging thanks.  

"One win for Hokuo!" says Hair Clip Guy.  
"That's too awesome, Naruyama!"

Ah!  Meat bun lost by a bunch? thinks Chihaya incredulously.  (TN:  The word "bunch" or "束" is used to described a loss of 10 cards or more.  Here, Nishida lost by 13 cards... O_o)

This is bad! thinks Harada-sensei.  In team competitions the first win often decides the direction of the match--  

The pressure on the team that's fallen behind is increased and they feel like they need to make up for the player that's lost.

Even if they don't win in the end, the most important thing is to not let the competition end early--  (TN: put up a good fight and don't lose so miserably?)  But he up and went losing so quickly!

Meat bun is beating himself internally for having lost to Hair Clip Guy/Naruyama. 

It's because I haven't played 5 matches in a row in while, my brain is all messed up; but that curly-queue hair clip totally threw me off, and I couldn't help but pay attention to my crazy sister in the side-lines...

Ah! thinks Meat bun in sudden realization as he covers his mouth.  I just said "because" and "but.(TN: Now forbidden by the team president -- see prior chapter)

And here I thought it wouldn't be a problem for Nishida-- thinks Taichi.  How is everyone else doing?  Oe and Tsutomu's battles are--

Eh?  Chihaya's losing by 5 cards?

Are you going to make it?  Chihaya!

Just as Taichi is about to call her name, he notices the expression in her eyes and turns away.  I'm also competing here.  Right now, the words I should be saying aren't "Are you all right?"

It should be, "One win for Mizusawa!"

Chihaya thinks back to Nishida's advice, that she shouldn't be learning how to be more like Shinobu, but instead, she should focus her talent more like Suoh Meijin.

Meat bun-kun, the more I make the closer target my goal...the more I want to reach the furthest target.

But right now my "true nature" isn't enough to even beat Amakasu.  

I need to be like Shinobu...becoming strong is really difficult...

Ayase, you have at least 20 cards...that are "single syllable," Desktomu once said to her.

She closes her eyes and listens.  Just as Sudo begins with the first syllable of the next card, she claims it even before Amakasu moves.  Everyone, including Sudo, notices.

Chihaya, you...want both kinds of strengths?  thinks Harada in complete shock.  (TN:  first she was trying to be like Shinobu and now she's trying to be like Suoh.)

---End Chapter---

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chihayafuru Manga Synopsis: Vol. 10.5 (Chapter 58)

TN:  ...mmmm, mm mm.......melon pan, melon pan, pocky and Earl Grey.... yummy.  ^_^

Chapter 58

Opening scene:  before the final match of the Tokyo High School Regional Championship

"All we have to do is see through the Mizusawa High playing roster and our victory will be smooth sailing!"

Hiro is shuffling his deck of cards (special "Hiro" cards he uses to predict the playing roster of the opposing teams) and contemplates his team captain's (Nayuta Amakasu) words.  He tosses them up in the air and does his lovely pirouettes before they land back gently in his palm.  (TN: One card short of a full deck, if you ask me...)  He then places the cards in that order down on a sheet of paper where he's written the names of Chihaya and her teammates.

Next to him a girl says, "I can't believe they would leave this kind of important task to the sole responsibility of a single person.  Are they stupid or what?  Hey, have you properly rested?"
"Mm," says Hiro, still concentrating.  He lays the cards down and turns them over.  The number shown are 5 (Mashima), 1 (Meat-bun), 3 (Chihaya) and 4.  Hiro stares at the numbers silently.

Cut scene: the Mizusawa High team members in a briefing before the game.

"What are we going to do about the playing order?"
"It's difficult to say!" says Meat bun.  "If only there was a way to get a hint to Hokuo's intentions, that would be great...." says Desktomu.
"But..." interjects Meat bun cheerfully, "even if we lose we can still go to the nationals, so it's OK right?"
"What are you saying?" says Chihaya with dead seriousness.  "Our goal is to be Japan's best!  To become Japan's best means that we cannot lose to a single team!"

Everyone looks at her in horror.

Hokuo will also attack in full force, she thinks.  Hiro once swore to them last year that he'd take the trophy back.  This will be the match that puts forth 100%, pulling out all stops in one complete effort!

Kana and Meat bun are still staring at one another in shock.  "I...guess it's good to have high standards..." says Kana trying to be supportive.
"Ahahaha..." Meat bun laughs weakly in response.
"But what Hiro said about having the strongest weapon up their sleeve makes me stop and wonder...." adds Meat bun.  He looks over in Hiro's direction and receives the biggest shock of his life.

His sister (TN:  the one who makes their team T-shirts and the one who looks like a cross-dressing Nishida -- because they are so similar looking) is giving a boxed juice to Hiro.
"Here, drink this," she says, fussing over him.  "Really, what would you do without me--"

S-sis?  Sis??

Meat bun thinks back and recalls his older sister did tell him that she has recently been dating someone but never in his wildest dreams would he have thought it was Hiro-kun. this the 'strongest weapon' Hiro was talking about? thinks Meat bun, still unable to mentally recover.

"Excuse me--" says Sumire, raising her hand to interrupt.  "During the last match, I snuck over to Hokuo's section to do some investigating.  "Their captain wasn't competing in a match at the time and I overheard him say it was really too easy to topple Mizusawa.  All they had to do was defeat Mashima and win 3 games.  He said that any one of their players could easily defeat the 'four eyes' and the 'busty' girl."

The team members are in shock at the statement.   Chihaya and Nishida are indignant that they weren't even considered in Hokuo's strategy.

"How could they be so stupid--" fumes Chihaya.  "In such a rare and important match, how can they simply use such an underhanded--"
"No, Chihaya," interrupts Taichi.  "This is a strong team's way of thinking.  Whether it's a sneaky way of obtaining a victory is another matter.  If they can see through our playing roster then they would absolutely do this."

With all their might-- thinks Chihaya incredulously.  That's how it is with a strong team... that's Hokuo at it's strongest--

"But if those are the plans of our opponent," says Taichi, "then so be it!"  Taichi, Desktomu and Kana are all worked up now and shout out their declaration of war.
"All we have to do is defeat one or two players stronger than we are..."
"That's right!" shouts Kana and Desktomu in unison.

The vibe the three are giving off makes Chihaya and Nishida step back a bit.

Pisses me off! thinks Taichi as he remembers Amakusa's words.
"All we have to do is take down Mashima!"

To have people think of us that way... think Desktomu and Kana simultaneously.
"Any one of our team mates can defeat the other's sides' Four Eyes and Busty Girl."
(Busty girl? fumes Kana to herself.)

The Captain said we had to be Japan's Number One! (even though at the time, she was the only one who said it) the three think in unison, burning with dark vengeance now.

Finally, the roster is decided (Nishida, Oe, Ayase, Tsutomu, Mashima) and Taichi gives it to Tsubuka to hand in to the overseers.  At the last minute, Meat bun catches Tsubuka by the collar.
"Wait! Hey!"  Meat bun looks at the roster and sees that Tsubuka has (again) scratched out Kana's name and put his own name down.
"You bastard--" starts Meat bun angrily.
"Because Oe-senpai looks kinda tired...." Tsubuka explains lamely.
"Even if that's the case, you are not permitted to randomly change it!" orders Nishida.
"But I feel like I'm gradually getting better at discerning the flow of the game...  Next time I'm gonna win for sure!"
"Geez man, I'm just saying your methods are really wrong..."
"But!  But!" whines Tsubuka.

(Only guys?!)

"This match is for sophomores only, Tsubuka-kohai observe!"

("The President is angry," says Kana on the side.)
("Thank goodness I'm a girl," whispers Sumire.)

"Taichi," asks Chihaya, "Why are they prohibited from saying 'but' or 'because'..."
"From the 3rd grade forward, these were my mother's rules."
(In the background, Taichi's scary mom is scolding him that these words are not words that men should say.)

"Even though a lot of the time I think my mother's way of thinking is suspect, but I feel these words are associated with giving excuses, so she's not wrong in this regard!"  Taichi says while giving an annoyed look.

Chihaya pats him on the shoulder.  "I'm...I'm really scared of Taichi's mom, sometimes I wonder what I can do to get along with her, but I can't believe it!  Taichi's strength is a result of your mother's discipline."  Taichi takes a moment to contemplate her words.

"This year Hokuo Academy..." contemplates Tsutomu, "have two 3rd year A ranked players and one freshman A ranked player."
"A freshman?"
"Since it's a national escalator school, so the students can keep practicing from junior high and up."  (TN: an "escalator" school is an elite school that has grades from elementary to high school, or from middle to high school, and you need only take one entrance exam and/or interview to get in, and you're set until college.)

"The rest are B ranked players."

Cut scene: before the match

In the corner of the room, Oe-san and Miyauchi-sensei are working on a project together (TN: won't bother translating since you will soon figure out what it is).  Chihaya is practicing her moves over the tatami.

Announcer:  "Well then, we'll start off by pairing the Hokuo Academy playing roster with that of Mizusawa High's list.  Hokuo's Naruyama vs. Mizusawa's Nishida...."

The Hokuo Academy players pause as they are startled at the pairings (TN: A rank vs. A rank, B rank vs. B rank, etc.).  Destomu and Kana are paired against the weaker players, while Taichi and Chihaya are evenly matched and Hiro and Amakasu.

Both team captains are thinking in shock, It's a real match, fair and square!

What the hell is this? thinks Amakasu.  He goes over and pushes Hiro angrily.
"Hey!" he demands.  "Hiro--"
"What are you thinking?  The actual playing order and your roster are completely different!  What the hell is going on?"  His teacher tries to calm him, saying that predictions are not always accurate.
"This goes beyond the ordinary mistake, right?  Explain yourself!" he yells.

Hiro trembles like a leaf and is speechless at first, before finally asking, "What is 'the easy way out'?  Pit the strong against the strong, the weaker against the weaker; if you don't play like that then what's the use (of competing)?"  Hiro looks like he's about to cry.
"Hokuo Academy is Tokyo's strongest team!" he declares.  "More importantly...I want to see this kind of competition!"

Everyone is shocked by his words.  Except his girlfriend who does a damsel pose as she blushes and thinks, How cool!

"You want to use your sense of absolute honor to lose a match that we could have won?" demands the captain angrily as he grips Hiro's shirt in a fist and pushes him.  "Being strong doesn't always mean to play with your utmost!"

Hiro stumbles back but the person behind him steadies him with a firm hand on his shoulder.
"Hokuo Academy is the strongest?" asks Sudo-kun with his evil grin.  "Why bother saying such words that are already taken for granted?"

Everyone is chilled by Sudo's sudden appearance.

"Ca-Captain Sudo, you're so slow!" insists Hiro.
"I'm never slow," explains Sudo.  "In fact I got here early!  But...if you guys aren't prepared to compete, then I guess I'll just go home."

Everyone on Hokuo's team, including Amakasu, is trembling as they speak.
"Ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-captain Sudo, why...if you were going to didn't say a word?" stutters Amakasu.
"I'm not here to participate," smiles Sudo.  "Today I've been summoned by sensei to be a karuta reader!"

Chihaya and the others are shocked.

A karuta reader??

"Hurry up and line up!" Sudo orders.  "Hokuo Academy can't be so timid."  Amakasu and the others wilt under his direction.

Damn!  Why did Hiro know about this and I didn't?  I didn't know that Captain Sudo would come, Sensei... Amakasu thinks angrily.

His teacher observes him quietly.  Amakasu-kun, you really do have competitive strength.  But you've already given up playing in that monster's (Meijin's) A ranked world to become number one...

It's hard to compare... thinks Amakasu, trying to compare himself with the former captain, Sudo.   It's hard to compare....

If I don't compete, he's gonna kill me! the Hokuo Academy members think simultaneously.

Their expressions have changed, thinks Chihaya.  They're not just competing against seems the pressure has increased...

Chihaya suddenly realizes that Captain Sudo is their team's "strongest weapon."  Just then, someone taps her lightly on the shoulder.  She looks behind her to see Miyauchi-sensei leave someone behind.
"Sensei, what's up?" she asks.
"Sorry, I guess I'm getting too senile since I didn't realize it sooner.  This is something I thought of yesterday and just finished making.  This way, isn't it more convenient for you all to play?"  The gang puts on their white "tasuki" straps to hold their kimono sleeves back.

It's not only much cooler, but it's become easier to move, thinks Nishida.
"They wore them!" smiles Oe-san.

Sensei...I don't care if it's last minute...and I don't care if it's against playing protocol...and I don't care that it has nothing to do with karuta, even....

Chihaya turns to Miyauchi-sensei, puts her hands together and bows deeply, forehead to the tatami mat.  The others follow suit.

Miyaushi-sensei and others watching (Harada and the audience) are touched by the gesture.

Now they are ready to play.

Taichi and Hiro bow to one another and exchange greetings.  Taichi notices the smirk on Hiro's face.
"Certainly you do look cool.  But today, the one who will win is me!  It will absolutely be me!"

Taichi thinks back at Hiro's taunting speech before the tournament when he called him "forever B rank."  At every competition in the Kanto region he saw Hiro compete alongside him, and also come out empty handed.

Even though it was conscience just told me it was a waste of breath.  That idiot also refuses to give up on himself!

He remembers the brief comment Chihaya said about his mother and his upbringing. character has been shaped by many things...

And you're the same, right?

Meanwhile, as Amakasu sits in front of Chihaya he is thinking to himself that he really doesn't want to compete.  Doing the hot-blooded, all-out, no holds barred type of competition is really tiresome and it would have been better his way.

Though Captain Sudo is here, and it's easy for him to say things like that, he isn't with us... anymore.  But even though he's not here, the pressure is still so alarmingly intense.  Amakasu takes a deep breath and takes his match seriously.

The audience is wondering about the aura the two teams are giving off.  Even though they both now qualify to enter the national tournament, they are both seriously competing even now.

Sudo recites the opening Naniwa Bay poem.

Caption:  Even more so than I anticipated, a deep resounding voice began the opening verse!  This match would be an event that would play a large part in shaping who I am.

---End Chapter, End Volume 10---

TN: My goodness, that last caption was killer to translate, full of phrases I don't recognize. Talk about brain strain.... I think it's Chihaya that is narrating the manga at the end of the chapters, like she's telling the story as if the manga were a giant flashback from her memory.  In the Chinese version, she says "這場比賽也裝會成為構成我的一部分" at the end, which essentially means the competition would become a part of who she is.

Oh, and for those who are interested, this is how you tie a "tasuki."  Enjoy! ^_^v