TN: Chapter 67 was really LOOONG! WTH? Some more developments this volume, albeit slow developments.... I just want to see Mizusawa kick butt and I have a feeling the mangaka will never satisfy me in this respect. There seems to be a recognizable pattern to this mangaka's formula that is a little...well, worn out.
For example, 1) enter a bunch of weirdoes, 2) there is something about these weirdoes that throws the Mizusawa team off center and they lose before they start winning, 3) Chihaya and friends make one or two epiphanies that they have never EVER thought of before, 4) just before the game ends, we flashback into the opponent's pasts, 5) Mizusawa wins, 6) the opposing team challenges itself to meet Mizusawa again (if they can) or else, this match has opened their eyes to a life truth and there are tears, rainbows, flowers or a combination of these.
Predictable? Yeah, probably. But I'm emotionally invested in the characters now, so I'll continue.
Ah, well... Please enjoy it!
Opening scene: a stormy day at the Birdman Rally
Announcement: "Today's originally scheduled Birdman Rally programming, the competition between the Skeleton Crew and the ________ will be postponed until tomorrow due to inclement weather. I will repeat. Today's orginally scheduled Birdman Rally programming..." (TN: I am totally making up those team names...)
In the audience bleachers Shinobu stands alone, without any cover from the rain.
Cut scene: The Mizukawa team about to start their next competition
Just watch, Arata! thinks Chihaya with determination.
Caption: the scheduled second round competition against Yamaguchi Mioka High School's karuta team
In the audience, Miyauchi-sensei is surprised that they are facing Mioka High. Meanwhile, Chihaya and the others marvel that all of the Mioka players shuffle their cards first and then randomly lay them out from left to right in the order of the stack.
There's no pre-determined strategy? they all think in bewilderment. (TN: That is a loose translation, I have yet to find an accurate description for the phrase "自阵" which literally means "own speed/momentum")
Miyauchi continues to be shocked as she realizes her students are facing the the number 1 ranked school among the top tiered schools. A shining star among public high schools! (And she, a public school teacher)
The scatter the cards in the order of their random shuffling, thinks Kana-chan in disbelief. Do they trust their own memorization abilities that much?
Also, every team member wears glasses, thinks Meat bun and Tsubuka together.
But...not only that, thinks Taichi.
I've seen three of these guys before! It was in this Summer's High School Academic Decathlon broadcast. These guys were last year's champions! (He watched it because he likes that sort of stuff) (TN: the translation actually suggests they were involved in a quiz show, but decathlon seems more impressive)
Why are the Academic Decathlon winners here to compete in karuta??
Why are we always up against the weirdest teams??
He thinks back on Tsutomu-kun and the sacrifice he made. "You guys have to win!"
We have to win!
We must win!
It doesn't matter if it was an even more magnificent high school... It doesn't matter how strong the decathlon players were... We've also built up our competitive karuta abilities! Everyone...should be fine.
He looks over to Chihaya, who looks as though she's become a nervous wreck. He waves a hand frantically in front of her.
Announcer: "Begin the competition."
The reader begins the opening poem.
Hey, hey, hey--!! Captain--
Cut scene: Arata waits quietly in a lounge for his sentencing as he thinks back at what his sensei told him might happen to him
The sign on the door reads, "Authorized personnel only, no admittance." Inside the nearby office, the referees and judges are having a heated debate on what to do with him.
"What do we do?"
"Bringing in an unauthorized player into a team, simply doesn't have any precedent, so what sort of outcome should we set.....?"
"I asked a friend of mine who's a baseball coach..."
"No, no.... Even for something like this, Takano-san would be very strict," says another overseer. "Why don't we reference the rules and interpret them loosely to fit this situation?" (TN: a little loose interpretation on my part. I can't think of an exact translation for: "參考規則鬆一點項目")
Caption: The overseers are basically good people
"This type of conniving for a student is definitely not a good thing..." says an older gentlemen. "A violation is a violation! If that student's purpose is really to enter the individuals competition, then only stopping him from entering that competition would be considered a fair punishment!" This overseer is the head of the overseers, a 6th level A rank. (TN: Whose name I am too lazy to translate, gomene! -__-) The others voice some small resistance, but they are all minor ranked overseers of the same level (including Murao-san)
"How do I say this?" asks another overseer. "Wataya Arata-kun is a special case!"
"Are you saying it's because he's the honorary life-time Meijin Wataya-sensei's grandson? You can't forgive him just based on that. (That should be even more reason to punish him...)"
"No, that's not what I meant..." the sole rebutter states. "That boy in the future may not only be the national champion... You could say that in order to topple Suoh Meijin... we can only rely on Wataya Arata-kun, and wait for him to mature--"
The head overseer envisions the slightly smiling face of Suoh in front of him ("Hey there, everyone!") and nearly goes into shock.
"Suoh Meijin is certainly strong..." says the overseer. "But we cannot possibly let other students say towards this weirdo Meijin [I want to make him my goal] any longer... We must properly punish Wataya-kun... but let us National Championship Karuta League overseers not be called excessive, correct?"
Arata-kun, you're just really lucky! thinks his sensei holding hand over his mouth.
Suoh Meijin, thinks Murao, you're just really hated.
The head overseer breaks out into a sweat as he thinks, Certainly, Suoh Meijin is the karuta world's problem child--- Truthfully speaking, I want him to hurry up and lose soon. (In the background he thinks of Suo's nonchalant attitude when he says, "This year I also don't know if I'm going to graduate...") TN: (-_-;)
But, if only for just this reason... he hesitates. Suddenly, Arata's friend and "team" members burst through the door of the office where the meeting is being held.
"Sorry! But Arata is not at fault! I was the one who begged him to just sit there and do nothing--- He gave us a memory of actually playing in the National Championships... We never even planned on using him to claim a victory... Sensei!" Arata steps up and tries to restrain his friend.
"Please let Arata participate in the individual tournament---" he tearfully begs.
"Oh really?" asks one of the overseers, clearly relieved.
"If that's the case," begins the head overseer, but Arata cuts him off.
"Don't use that as an excuse. Using someone to take the place of a registered player is indeed a big violation... For them to not disqualify me from competing simply cannot be done..." (TN: *another face palm moment*)
Everyone breaks out into a sweat. <-- b/c they were just about to let him off gently....
"But, Arata--" pleads his friend.
He thinks back to the words he said to Chihaya last night.
"I only want to enter the individual competition."
"I have no interest towards team competitions."
Arata recalls the emotions running through him when he finished his match with Fukui's team and how grateful they were towards him.
"Arata, if you had a team, that would be great."
I probably... felt a little envious? he realizes. Towards the ones who have a team, Taichi and Chihaya. He remembers the note he left them on the box of pastries the first time they came to the Nationals.
"I'll see you again next time when we compete. Arata."
Cut scene: Back at the competition hall where Mizusawa and Yamaguchi Mioka are competing
Miyauchi-sensei approaches the opposing team's mentor (Oikawa Tomonari, age 36).
"You are Yamaguchi Mioka's teacher, correct?" she asks. "I am, at present, the teacher who is overseeing the team competing against your honorable school, Mizusawa High's Miyauchi Taeko."
"Oh, how do you do?" says Oikawa-sensei.
"It's really amazing," says Miyauchi. "All of Mioka's players are 3rd years, thus they are testing students... But they have purposefully made the time to participate in the national competition."
"Well, yes," replies Oikawa. "That's because karuta will also help my students test well."
"Oh? Is that so?"
"Using a game to hone and strengthen their memorization skills.... I couldn't ask for anything better," says Oikawa.
Miyauchi is shocked.
"Even though they have no interest in being the champions.... it would be a bonus if they could come away with the title and make the school well-known for karuta as well, hehe."
Miyauchi becomes annoyed at his response. She laughs politely and says, "Oh, how frightening."
Just give them what-for and teach them a lesson, everyone! thinks Miyauchi spitefully. Especially you, Ayase! <-- (the anointed karuta representative)
But Miyauchi recognizes that Chihaya is having a tough time from the get-go.
What do I do? I know I have to attack... she thinks frantically. I know I have to attack behind enemy lines ... But the way this guy's organized his cards... I've never seen this pattern before! Making a mistake is really easy in this situation.... I have to properly memorize it... I have to properly memorize it!
"I'm going to rearrange the cards," her opponent says suddenly.
"Aaaargh!" Chihaya verbalizes.
It's... it's all changed!!
I need to calm down, she instructs herself. All I have to do is focus my concentration and I can memorize them---
The next card is read, but unfortunately it's a "empty" card. Chihaya moves when she sees her opponent move and makes an error. Taichi is worried about her.
Originally I thought they were just a bunch of book worms who momentarily took up an interest in karuta... but, their understanding of karuta... is really strong!
Caption: Chihaya's opponent (Manabu Nakayama) is the team captain and the captain of the school's decathlon team. His is a third year and his chosen major is astronomy.
Chihaya's opponent recognizes her card formation and concludes that she is having a rough time of it because she is used to seeing standard card formations. A year ago, a member of the school's karuta club came to his class for a visit. He told him he wanted to participate in the decathlon's practice runs because he thought it would be useful towards karuta. When he saw the DVD of the Meijin/Queen's match he realized the benefit of practicing karuta. He could utilize the syllabic timing of karuta towards speedily answering quiz questions. It came to a point where they wouldn't even need to listen to the entire question before answering correctly. (TN: on this panel, the answer during the decathlon in this panel is the star in the Orion constellation, "Betelgeuse.")
He came to the realization that his method is also what they call "natural ability" in competitive karuta. (TN: This took several panels for the mangaka to illustrate, but in short, this is what the flashback was about....in a single sentence)
This guy's "natural ability" is really good? Just after the first word he was able to take the next card. That can't be right, can it? thinks Chihaya.
"Sorry, I'm going to rearrange the cards again," he announces.
"Aaaah!" verbalizes Chihaya, once again.
I have to memorize them all over again! she laments.
Actually, my 'natural ability' isn't all that good. I just made a decision, nothing more, he concludes.
The next card is read and Manabu takes it as well.
My "intuition" has been canceled?
"I'm going to rearrange the cards," he announces, yet again.
"Aaargh!" exclaims Chihaya.
Meanwhile, the Mioka team's sensei is looking favorably at his team.
You've even made me, your teacher, want to shout, "Metamorphosis!" (at your) intelligence and rote-learning ability. (TN: a very literal translation, and I'm not sure what he means here. The phrase the Chinese translator uses is 都想罵"变态"的智力及背诵能力. I know that "变态" can mean "metamorphosis" or "anomaly" but either way, I have no idea what he means)
And--- your intuition!
If you don't press the button, you won't get the right answer, Manabu thinks. Believe in you innate talent. Attack!
And also, his teacher thinks, more importantly, your courage!
Chihaya is as a loss for words. As the next card is read (the "Oyama" card which shares the first five syllables with another card, and so it depends on which player is faster once the 6th syllable is read) she successfully takes it.
It was actually because I defended the card I had and took a breath to loosen up...
This is... my karuta----
When the next card is read, Chihaya strikes it, and sends several others flying in the same direction.
I struck a bunch of them... she thinks in frustration. To enter the enemy's defense and attack his cards shouldn't be this unrefined----
As she goes off and picks up her card, by chance, she looks up to see a dark, shadowy figure dressed in school uniform against the glass window, watching her intently. (Shinobu) Her wet, bedraggled figure against the stormy back drop, as a flash of lightning illuminates her, is shocking to everyone who beholds her (TN: In genuine "Sadako" style).
Everyone is scared speechless and frozen until the girl's hands drop from the glass and she slowly meanders away, wet and hunched over.
"What...the heck was that?" asks one of the players nearby.
"I was scared to death!" answers another.
"Was that... the Queen?" an overseer asks.
"So the news that she actually lost weight is true...." says another girl.
Shinobu.... thinks Chihaya, has already more or less changed back into the one I faced last year.
Have I progressed any?
Cut scene: A bedraggled Shinobu slinks her way into the competition center slowly, hair wet and head down (TN: Ah...so creepy... I hated the movie "Ringu"! I couldn't look at my shower drain the same way after that..!)
"What are you doing?" asks Arata as he notices her come in. "Shinobu! Why is your entire body soaked through? What happened to the Birdman Rally?"
She looks up at him and smiles. Suddenly remembering what he said to her earlier, she breaks down in tears and covers her face. "My tears fall like rain...."
"Ah???? What's wrong? (Here it comes again.)" he asks. "Shinobu. I don't think I'll be able to compete in tomorrow's individuals competition.... I might have committed a little violation."
"Do your best tomorrow, Shinobu." She looks up at him blankly.
Cut scene: Shinobu dragging Arata by the hand back to the overseers
"Sensei," Shinobu declares. "If Wataya Arata isn't competing in the tournament... then I will also back out."
"HUH?" everyone stands with mouths agape, in shock.
"What are you saying, Wakamiya-kun?" asks the head overseer. "As the Queen, you cannot just not play, right?"
"That's right!" insists Arata. "Don't joke around with stuff like that!"
"I don't really know what happened..." she continues as she bows, and uses one hand to force Arata's head down in apology as well. "But... stop pretending to be cool and lower your head now! I want you to say, 'Please let me play in the tournament tomorrow.'" She turns to the overseer. "I will also entreat you, Sensei!"
"Shi-" starts Arata. "Shinobu... Why...?"
"The Birdman Rally has already gone up in smoke---" she insists. "So don't ... disappoint me any further!"
After a pause, she asks, "Don't you want to... compete with me again?"
Arata looks over to her in surprise and she takes her hand away from his head. Thereafter, Arata bows on his own towards the overseers.
Cut scene: back to Chihaya, claiming the card she had sent flying earlier
What will I be able to show Shinobu....
I'm no longer the me that I was my freshman year... I'm no longer the me that I was in the 6th grade....