I have waited 6 years for this. Twenty-five more episodes of a sports anime done right! (See Chihayafuru season 1 and 2.)
Chihaya Ayase is one of the most beautiful bishoujo ever to grace my monitor. The writing in her anime was superb with every Karuta match gripping my attention. Her passion for the game is a role model for every girl who wants to makes it to the top of any competitive activity.
In the background is the unspoken triangle between her, Taichi and Arata. It is there, subtle and simmering but not yet risen to consciousness. Chihaya isn’t aromantic but she is also not a highly social person. The niceties of romance do not come easily to her and at this point in time she does not have room for it. To be the best in the world takes many years of intense work. Her dream is to become good enough to face Arata across the cards and play as his equal. Yet they have little contact with each other.
While Arata is a dream, Taichi is a handsome flesh and blood boy with a long-time connection and skills of his own who is right there. They are more than friends. She trusts him and is drawn to him. We do not know if Chihaya haunts his dreams but there is the occasional look…
Chihayafuru, season 3 episode 1, “May it be that I find…” continues the saga where we left off. If you remember at the end of season 2 episode 25, Chihaya has broken her right index finger in a game against the reigning Queen of Karuta (who Arata later defeated.) She is suffering from Enchondromatosis in the middle bone in her right index finger. It is also known as Ollier disease where benign cartilage tumors form inside the marrow, weakening the bone.
This is a very rare disease. She will have to have surgery to reinforce that particular bone if she is to continue playing. I don’t know how closely the anime will follow the prognosis but the literature indicates a greatly enhanced risk for other malignancies.
Chihaya is sidelined from top level play for the duration. However she keeps in practice by playing left handed.
At the beginning of the new season we have some back story, mostly the three young children bonding over karuta and then having to split up. Then we return to the “present” where we have Chihaya and Taichi attending Fujisaki high school’s Karuta camp. (That’s the team that they defeated last season.) It is brutal, with emphasis on physical conditioning on top of 4 Karuta games a day.
Chihaya has to play 3 games against Rion, a girl who is good but who the coach feels lacks stamina and commitment to Karuta. OTOH coach feels Chihaya has a permanent hot spring in her heart and will eventually wash Rion away. She steps in to assist Chihaya with her game, mentioning Kings and Queens of Karuta, something she never did with anyone else. And for the final game, she has Chihaya play Taichi.
Of course Chihaya doesn’t do so well. Left handed for a rightie is a real tough play. Still, I love the ending.
It has been a long time in coming but I am half-way to dying a happy man. If only they’d come out with another season of 3gatsu no Lion, I could rest easy.