Opening scene: Shinobu and Arata on the steps of Omi Jingu
Arata stares at her for a moment. "....."
"Who...are you?" he asks.
She grins at him.
"Oh, you're Shinobu! (I just recognized you by your mole.) I saw you on TV and you were so completely different, I didn't even recognize you... Suddenly fat, suddenly thin, what the heck are you doing?"
Tears come to Shinobu's eyes and she throws her torso over the side of the stair railing. "My tears fall like rain..."
"Wh-...huh? What's wrong?" asks Arata cluelessly. "There's nothing to cry about, right? Shinobu... You are still an exceptionally strong Queen! (Regardless of whether you're fat or skinny.)"
"Thanks to you...these four years I've never lost to anyone..." says Shinobu. (TN: there is an image here suggesting that Arata is the only person to ever beat Shinobu) "But, I am still lacking," she says with a grin.
"Even if I face you, who hasn't touched karuta due to a sudden hiatus... perhaps I may even easily lose, you never know."
This is...the Queen's pride! And also... a Kyoto woman's obstinate nature! What she really means is, "I will not lose to someone who took a sudden absence from karuta! Idiot--!"
Arata smiles back in response, which makes Shinobu pause.
"Shinobu, what are you doing here? The individuals tournament is tomorrow, right? Although the distance from here to Kyoto is certainly close."
"What are you talking about? Every year on this day, after I come to the shrine, I go to Lake Biwa to watch the Bird Man Grand Rally as my usual routine." (TN: WTH? here, look.)
"..... " He stares at her for a moment.
"Since you're already here, why don't you go watch the team matches?" he asks.
"The team matches? But that's... something that people who don't really like karuta do," she concludes. "So you won't be going either, right, Arata?"
Without another word, she walks away towards the shrine.
Arata thinks back to when he was younger, going to a tournament with his grandfather
"It's really unbelievable."
"Why is it every year the very first match I have is with her? I don't care if she's in fourth or fifth grade."
"Arata," said his grandfather. "Shinobu will be the next Queen. This year, you must win against her once more!"
He muses over Shinobu's words. "Team matches are for people who don't really love karuta."
Cut scene: back inside, at the national tournament, cameras are rolling
One of the coordinators questions why there is a video cam rolling. Another responds that it belongs particularly to Chiba's high school's private broadcast channel. They remark that the Chiba players are really noticeable, foreigners in Japanese traditional clothing. They conclude that it would be great propaganda if the Chiba team could become the champions.
"But who are their opponents?"
"Aren't they the representatives from Tokyo, the runner-up team?"
"The organizers are a little bit clever... filming the "blond haired karuta warrior with the quick handed draw"... this sort of content---"
Announcer: "There are two minutes remaining in the memorization phase."
Kana is concentrating very hard. I can't see past it. Her kimono collar is tucked in at the wrong side, I can't get over it...
Meanwhile, Chihaya is confused by what she sees in front of her. This guy's formation.... Is exactly the same as my formation when I first started! From the "a" syllables onward, all fifty syllables are placed in order!
Taichi is also having a difficult time. His opponent has placed all the latter verses in syllabic order and he's in a bit of a panic. It's too innovative! It's actually hard to memorize...
Meanwhile, the karuta reader recites the first card. Tsubuka is alarmed at the guy he's facing, who successfully (and loudly) takes the first card. Tsubuka cowers.
He's huge... and scary.... There just aren't any black people in Hokkaido. I don't think I can win against him--
At the same time, Meat bun is puzzling over what kind of person (nationality) his opponent is. He notices that his opponent has put much thought into the arrangement of his cards. He notices that next to his opponent, there is a guide book entitled, "How to be Victorious in Karuta Competition."
"Everyone," Meat bun announces. "Calm yourselves. They're merely Western karuta lovers." Taichi, Kana, Chihaya and Tsubuka are surprised at his words.
But how?! thinks Tsubuka in a panic. It's so difficult and frustrating.... Foreigners just can't love karuta. (TN: yes, this does seem a little racist, but then a lot of Japanese are actually a little bit racist due to their exclusionist policies in the past)
Those same words also apply to shoe who are born Japanese. Growing up in Japan... and then very naturally falling in love with karuta...
Very naturally... Chihaya smiles.
When the next card is read, Chihaya uses her lightning speed. The cameraman, her opponent, the onlookers are all shocked.
This is...competitive karuta! thinks her opponent.
In his shock, he reflects back on his past. It didn't matter if it was tea ceremony, calligraphy or flower arrangement. Because my outer appearance was 100% foreign, I thought learning more about Japanese culture would help me make more friends---
And then I stumbled onto karuta, the game where one had to memorize one hundred poems, an intellectual and seemingly fun game! But...
The more I fell in love with karuta...the further my Japanese friends kept their distance from me--- He starts to tear up at his misfortune. (-_-;)
He shakes off his princely blonde hair. It doesn't matter! I know that nobody here takes us seriously... But that's all right!
When the next card is read, Kana loses it to her opponent.
"All right!" her opponent cries out triumphantly. "I took it! It took it---"
She beams at the card in her hand. "It's my absolute favorite poem."
Kana is touched by her words. "It's...also one that I like..." she says in response.
"How annoying!" her opponent says cheerfully. "I also like this one, this one and this one. I won't let you take any of them!"
Next to Kana, Tsubuka's opponent is decimating him because Tsubuka is too timid to react.
Next to Tsubuka, Meat bun is having a fair match with his opponent. His intuition is pretty good. Aside from Japanese (players), foreign players can have the same "innate talent"! But compared with the feeling of not being able to move during a karuta match, this is by far not at all like that.
Just "take it once you can hear it," is a very simple talent. Since his hearing is so good, if he's able to master the tactic of sending cards and combined with upper and lower attack tactics, he'd have even more---
Taichi comes to the conclusion that it doesn't matter what their opponents are or what they do, they all share the same passion for the Hyakunin Isshu.
"One card," Chihaya says to her teammates. "Attack, one card at a time!" she shouts. "Mizusawa!"
"Yes ma'am!" her teammates shout out in unison. Their opponents are taken aback by their fighting spirit.
The cameraman thinks it's unnecessary for them to rally since his interest is in filming the team from Chiba. But as the next cards are read, Mizusawa finally snaps out of it and shows their true colors. Card after card, Mizusawa's team sends them flying before their opponents can even move. Everyone breaks out into a sweat at how good they are.
"Incredible. How wonderful... Even though they are playing at such high speed, all their members shoulders are all in sync---" says the man standing next to the camera.
This is... what's 'natural' for us! thinks Chihaya
One day at a time, the 'natural' that everyone's accumulated (through hard work)!
"Ah... it's so beautiful," says one of the onlookers, "when karuta becomes this awesome--"
Cut scene: Arata walks into the competition center when the Chiba team is being interviewed on camera
The team looks disconsolate and teary eyed as the broadcaster tries to ask them how they feel (about their loss). Their team captain begins to respond that it is difficult to describe, but it was a real eye-opener for them. Then, he realizes some commotion at the opposite end of the room.
Apparently, the Mizusawa team has commandeered a dry-erase board with random information concerning the tournament (as they get yelled at by one of the overseers). Under Taichi's direction, Chihaya and the others write a message to Chiba's team in English.
"We want to play with you again."
On the side, Kana scribbles that next time, she'll come in a hakama.
Chiba High's team captain smiles warmly. "Playing karuta is really fun... But competitive karuta is really cool... A strong team has shown us what real competitive karuta is like! We're going to grow our ranks back at school, become strong, and work hard at becoming a team that can come back and play again next year!"
Chihaya and the others are grinning in the background, moved by his words. Arata looks on silently.
Afterwards, the Mizusawa team learns something surprising about their Chiba opponents.
"WHAT?! They're all freshmen??"
Caption: Mizusawa High... breaking through their first competitive match!
Hahaha, I'm sorry this is so late! I've had a rough week (something a client did led me to drink at lunchtime, even!) and so I've been busy and watching the K-drama "Yi San" to escape into the Joseon Period. I love the Joseon Period! I'm on Episode 58 of 77 episodes!!! Wow, this thing is long! But I'm loving every minute of it as I shout, laugh, cry and make faces at my screen like a deranged person. This...this is the joy of K-drama!! LOL. I'll come back to my senses soon.
I think the interaction in volume 12 between Arata and Shinobu is very interesting, and I think it might be a little one-sided on Shinobu's part since Arata recognizes her mole but not her face.... but I'm quite frustrated throughout this volume for a myriad of other reasons (including the lack of "Chiharata.") Bear with me. I'm going at a slug's pace.