[TN: I almost forgot about this blog and my usual update! LOL... I've been so busy playing the "new game+" for Supergiant Games' "Bastion"-- downloadable on XBox Live. Where was I in 2011 when this first came out?? This game is the best!! Sure, it might promote underage drinking but the art is really bright J-RPG style and the game was so addicting I went right into the new game without coming up for air.... It's playful and serious (think chibi J-RPG character meets nuclear holocaust). There's something about it that's reminiscent of Joss Whedon's "Firefly"... Must be that darn catchy music (that I downloaded -- well worth it). Now, where was I?
Opening scene: the stormy day continues at the National Championship at Omi Jingu
Sumire pauses under the covered front steps of the competition hall while others are complaining about the rain.
"What is up with this bout of super heavy rain?" someone nearby asks. "It was clear skies this morning---"
"Ahh..." laments Sumire, looking up towards the rain. "What to do? Now I can't investigate the matches in the other competition halls."
"Did anyone bring an umbrella?" somebody else asks.
"Everyone is obviously prepared for the fact that they will get wet if they run out into the rain..."
"But that little four-eyed frog..."
Just then, amid the scattered people running out in the rain with anything they could find to cover their heads, Desktomu is walking slowly with a small group of people huddling under his umbrella.
"Ah, Hanano-san," greets Desktomu-kun. The others thank him for his trouble of lending them some shelter from the rain.
"Never thought you'd bring an umbrella..." comments Sumire. "But sure the chances of it raining were really low!"
"Huh? Well that's--" begins Desktomu. "Even though the barometric pressure reading and humidity reading were 0, the national weather bureau reported there might be the chance of rain."
His explanation escapes Sumire's understanding. He skips over her reaction.
"How was the competition with Akashi Girl's Academy?"
"They're really strong!" she exclaims. "Even though it was the second round of competition, they ended it early as well. These are my notes." She hands over her notepad.
Desktomu reads her finely printed notes on how ugly they were, what brand names their bags and purses were, the length of their hair, they type of decorations they put on their hand phones etc.
"But, I did sit a little far from them so I didn't have a way to really observe their playing very clearly...(not like I'd understand what I saw anyway)."
"Haaah..." says Desktomu, completely speechless as he stares at the pages.
"How was our competition?" she asks, changing the subject. He's still puzzling at how she even got down the color of their _________. (TN: I can't read the word, it's too small in my comic...)
"There are too many people," she comments about the crowd in front of her. "I can't squeeze into the competition hall..."
"Thank you, Hanano-san," says Desktomu, with a big sweat drop. "You've written down even the most minute of details...."
Sumire looks at him bashfully. "Whah, this is great! I don't have to compete this time around. I was so nervous during the Tokyo Regionals! I have no interest in competing at the national level! A person like me, just leave me to help with the investigation, that's enough!" She exclaims in a rambling fashion, holding up her hand. "I'm not like everyone else, I don't have the determination to be a champion contender."
She catches her words and Desktomu looks back at her blankly for a moment.
"I'm going to go over there and sort the notes," he says. "You'd better utlizie this time to go have lunch, Hanano-san."
She watches him silently. I thought, aside from me, all my team members wanted really badly to go out and compete...
Perhaps.... Tsutomu-senpai is not the same....
That's right! Isn't this sort of thing annoying to me? That world of perfection and absolutes! (TN: the literal translation is the "world of victory and defeat, excellence and weakness/pros and cons")
Cut scene: Mioka's teacher grins as his team is pulling through
"It's such a brilliant match, don't you think?" he turns to Miauchi sensei to ask. "Our club has at least half its membership participating in the decathlon... Our real goal is the decathlon in August."
Nakayama, I applaud your fighting spirit... he thinks approvingly.
Flashback: Chihaya's opponent, Nakayama Manabu's difficult training past
In order to train for the decathlon, he trained his reflexes to be the fastest person to push the answer buzzer (TN: my sincere apologies to all nerds everywhere, but my God, this is a lame....I'll stop here.) by training in karuta.
He actually used karuta as a jumping point to train for the decathlon, and he's excelled to this juncture! his teacher thinks with tears in his eyes.
But at the same tim, his student is thinking: Teacher, is probably thinking that, but actually, that's not quite right. No matter how you look at it.... Manamu's thoughts differ from that of his teacher.
It's for karuta that I've progressed in the decathlon to become a diamond--- (Manabu sparkles and in the background his teacher says, "Huh?! It's like that??")
I love...this ambiance! Manabu beams. After setting down the cards and memorizing them, that tight, anxious feeling... That feeling when you can even hear the sound of your own breath----
Just then, Chihaya takes a DEEP breath. "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh......"
"?!" Manabu is bewildered for the moment. Just as strangely, she exhales until the very last bit of air is pushed out of her, Chihaya's entire body trembling.
She's expelling all the air in one breath..... It's long.... It's an alarmingly long pulmonary capacity.
Caption: Chihaya, you...
Just breathe and you will win!
Flashback on a discussion between Chihaya and Taichi
"Speaking of breathing, most people use a lot of energy breathing in, but the most important is to first breath out! Calmly exhaling ... spit it all out!"
Scene: Back in the competition
If that's the case...
"Sorry!" Chihaya says as she gets up, raises her head and breathes in again. Her team members are silent as she does so.
Just like this we can regain our composure....
She looks down at the cards.
And I can see it all!
Manabu notices his opponent for the first time.
What a beautiful girl! If I were to compare her to a constellation, it would be Vega... the star maiden weaver.... To have her look down on me isn't bad at all (TN: uh...what are you thinking...?)
No, I can't. I can't fill my head wish such useless thoughts! he thinks. Looking over to his team members he is shocked at what he sees. Aside from the last match on the end, three of his team members seem to be faltering against Mizusawa.
Meat bun's opponent announces, "I'm going to rearrange the cards."
"Is it that time again?" Meat bun asks casually. I don't really care, he thinks. Why can't he figure that out? He thinks back at what he learned from his karuta society, from Yumi and his sensei.
Certainly it's about attacking...but no matter how you see it, it's defensive karuta. It doesn't matter how his arrangements change. All I have to do is protect my 25 cards from being taken, that's all!
I just have to embrace that thought and play... What's more inconceivable to them is that I can also attack their cards (at the same time)!
Meat bun strikes at just the right moment.
Beside him, Kana wipes her brow as another "empty" card is read. She even remembers that it is authored by a monk named _______.
I've got to investigate! she thinks with conviction, recognizing that there are 6 cards authored by monks in play. As the next card is read, she takes it quickly, again, recognizing it by its female author. Again, she looks and finds 4 cards in play that are written by women, 2 on her side and 2 on his.
Meanwhile, her opponent is sweating as he thinks, No matter how I change them, she's able to follow me. This girl is really incredible!
Since his way of karuta is rote memorization, this is her weapon and her way of memorization.
Next to Kana, Taichi is able to take the next card even before his opponent moves. Even Mioka's teacher is impressed by his speedy, athletic version of karuta, constantly moving, forcefully striking. Taichi thinks that even though his opponent's memorization skills are strong, for someone who only moves his arms and isn't as fit as he is, even Taichi can keep up with him. Taichi recognizes how he was just like his opponent at one time. He remembers Meatbun's lecture about how karuta is a union of both mind and body and how Meatbun only memorizes about half the cards before he plays.
What Nishida was trying to teach me... was that my body must also compete. Manabu is shocked as he watches Taichi play. (TN: Shouldn't you be focusing on your own game, dude?)
Both mind... and body....
Manabu focuses on his game again, think he cannot let the opposing team enjoy their karuta like this, and he employs his weapon.
"I'm going to change my cards," he announces. But as he looks up, Chihaya's expression throws him off. Apparently she is having a crisis. Beside her are the God of War and a Bhudda (TN: Could also be the Goddess of Mercy who is androgynous)
Again? How many times has he done it, HOW MANY TIMES?? KILL! KILL! How incredible, incredible! He can memorize it just like that? How amazing---
No, really... there is no other way, the Bodhisattva next to her says. I cannot keep up appearances any longer.
That's right, thinks Chihaya. There's just no way I can memorize cards like the other team members.
Once I've made this realization... I feel completely relaxed. (TN: the epiphany.)
Don't worry! Don't worry! she forces herself. This is the first time I've played against someone who relies so heavily on moving his cards. Don't worry! Just keep up!
An evil look overcomes her. Just watch....all of the remaining cards have become single syllable cards!
He moves his cards again and she notices that his remaining six cards are pulled back and in an odd formation.
Beside her, the God of War and the Bodhisattva cry, GO!!
When the next card is read, Chihaya strikes with her speed even before her opponent can move. As she runs to retrieve it, Manabu is still in shock.
At the same time as the sound.... No, even faster than the sound!!
She takes the next card.
I can't even move... he sits back in shock.
[Believe in your innate ability and attack...] and my ability...
Blows the mind, Manabu concludes
But she... surpasses even the ear... Her fingers connect----
Chihaya sends a card flying against a wall, much to the shock of an innocent bystander.
She isn't the star weaver maiden. This sharpness... the death hunter Bellatrix... (TN: no relation to Harry Potter)
Cut scene: Arata and his "team" are undergoing their "punishment" for their folly during the last round
Arata fills out the first few words of the essay he has to write to the overseers. ["Karuta and Me" by Wataya Arata.] His "team" members are profusely apologizing to him with tears for involving him and causing him to do this sort of punishment.
"No, I'm the one who needs to apologize to you. I'm constantly borrowing T-shirts from you guys." Nearby, Shinobu is changed into someone's pants and a T-shirt, still damp, and surfing the web on Arata's phone looking for information about the failed Birdman Rally. "And pants too for that soaking wet Queen in the corner."
"Don't worry about stuff like that. We could even donate those clothes to you," says his friend. "Unless that would give you guys more troubles?"
Arata thinks back to when he was bowing before the overseers.
"Wataya-kun," asked the head overseer. "What is your purpose in coming here today?"
"Ah, well I came to support my friends who are the Tokyo Regional representatives."
"Well then, as part of your punishment I won't let you go watch them. Go into the other room and write your essay. Then, tomorrow, go compete in the individuals tournament!"
Taichi, Chihaya... are working hard in their team competition, aren't they?
Meanwhile, in the corner, Shinobu is lamenting that she wants to watch the Rally tomorrow, but it interferes with the timing of the individuals tournament. She laments that the tournament can't be the day after the Rally.
Why is it...
In the background the others are asking how many times they have to write the essay.
...I decided that I'm only going to concentrate on the individuals tournament... is the only way in order to see them again?
Cut scene: The aftermath of the Mioka - Mizusawa match is posted on the wall, 3 wins (Taichi, Chihaya, Meatbun) and two losses (Kana-chan and Tsubuka)
"Kana-chan, that's regrettable. Only lost by two cards!" consoles Meatbun. ("I'm so unsatisfied!" she cries)
"I'm the same way," says Tsubuka. "I'm so dissatisfied!"
"But you lost by 12 cards!" Meatbun retorts.
"Chihaya, don't stand and sleep at the same time!" Taichi calls out, shaking her as she drools.
"Ah? Mioka? that school that excels in the decathlon?" one bystander comments. "No wonder they arrange the cards so randomly like quiz questions---"
At the same time, Mioka's teacher is praising his students. "Well done, everyone!" he says. "Certainly it's dissatisfying to lose but use this experience as a turning point for next time's preparation." His teacher concludes they can use it towards the decathlon that's coming up. But Manabu cries as he concludes that it doesn't matter. This loss is a loss for karuta and they have to win back their cards. It doesn't matter if it has nothing to do with the decathlon. Chihaya and the others are shocked to hear his response.
His teacher is speechless for a moment and then smiles. "Mm," he agrees. "You guys exceed execellence, and exceed stupidity." Everyone bursts into tears at this point and their teacher gives them a group hug. Chihaya watches on with tears in her eyes.
Then, Sumire and Destomu appear. She presents them with a box of cookies, which Taichi turns down immediately (but Desktomu looks like he wants to eat...)
Taichi is all business. "Tsutomu, how's it going with the other teams' investigations? Was it difficult with all this rain?"
"It wasn't a problem," Desktomu responds.
"Ah, speaking of the rain..." Sumire perks up. "The Queen was really frightening! Her entire body was soaked.
"I saw that as well," says Chihaya remembering the figure in the window.
"Soaking wet she came in..." Sumire continues. "And spoke for a guy who was wearing a "Fukui" T-shirt... begging for them to let him play in the individual's tournament because she wanted to go up against him. I guess the Queen also has need of a rival!"
Chihaya goes quiet.
Arata and .... Shinobu---
["Because she wanted to go up against him"]
"Sumire," Chihaya says gravely. "What is that all about---"
"IS RIGHT NOW THE TIME TO BE GOSSIPING NONSENSE?" Taichi shouts, bringing everyone, especially Chihaya, back to attention. He shouts that certainly the've passed another round but there are a lot more foes to consider from this point forward.
"Tai-Taichi!" Chihaya cries out.
The words "Queen" and "Arata" are enough to break Chihaya's concentration... I hope she's able to come around and focus back on the team competition.
So you've actually come... Arata---
"If we're talking about the playing roster...." chimes in Tsubuka. "I think it's best to let Tsutomu-senpai come back as an actual competing member...."
"What's wrong with you?" snaps Sumire. "Just because it's desperate you want to back out?
"That's not it! (That's it...)," he snaps back. "I just think Tsutomu-sempai's strategies would be of use during the competition..."
"That's true!" says Kana-chan. "I also think that replacing me or Tsubuka would be best... What do you think Desktomu-kun?"
Meatbun watches silently.
"That can be true," says Tsutomu. "I'll--"
"Wait!" says Meatbun. "In the next round, I think we should keep the roster as is... It's best if Desktomu stays out of the game."
(TN: Da- da- DUUUMMM!! <-- dramatic sound effect for a dramatic turn of events!)
---End Chapter, End Volume---