With Episode 4, Chihayafuru now moves back to present time. Taichi virtually dares Chihaya to reach Class A to make her years of hard work worthwhile. Chihaya is spurred on by the sight of Taichi’s simple, typical girlfriend and vows she will reach Class A by winning the upcoming karuta tournament, making Taichi promise he has to help Chihaya form a high school karuta club if she wins. Taichi comes to the tournament in disguise but his old teacher recognises him instantly. They watch Chihaya steamroll her way to the final match with newly forged resilience and her trademark tomboy flair. In the final, Chihaya gradually overcomes the mind games her older opponent employs and uses her determination and passion to will herself to win the tournament. Taichi is impressed with how much Chihaya has grown and improved in the three years they were apart. Chihaya finally makes the call to Arata she’s been wanting to make for three years now that she’s finally reached Class A. However, Arata cuts her off, declaring he is done with karuta and never wants to hear from Chihaya again.
It’s rather intriguing to see when Episode 3 ended, Chihaya being far behind Arata and Taichi in skill and also in general life experience, yet one episode later she’s now ahead of them both. All three of them had a spark of some sort but only Chihaya has managed to kindle hers. Taichi seems somewhat content to settle for good enough and is with a girlfriend he even admits not caring much about. Arata has succumbed to darkness and lost his drive. While Chihaya has improved dramatically and still retained her spunky, pristine nature. At some points watching that episode, Chihaya lit up that screen more than her self-obssessed modelling sister ever could.
The changes in Chihaya are evident. When Chihaya would fall behind in the past in a match, her self-doubt would overwhelm her. Now, she simply wills herself to get over the line. She doesn’t hate her opponents, has a genuine love of the game and keeps her manners more in line. But thankfully some things don’t change – Taichi can still irk her and she easily drives him up the wall. Chihaya is still an adorable ball of positive energy and has a mix of a glamour look and tomboy behaviour. It’s always a delight to see her in action. Time away from the trio has served her well.
The atmosphere of Chihaya calling Arata was very poignant. You’ve got Chihaya revelling in victory, standing in the light and finally getting where she wants to be while clutching her girlie pink phone. Whereas you have Arata in a house full of darkness and answering an older style phone. The distance between them is just amplified by these subtle qualities and makes for one very moving scene. Other great moments were when the teacher called Taichi ‘Eyelashes’ – priceless. Chihaya’s button-eyed expression while wolfing down chocolate then snoozing with her eyes open – adorable. Chihaya in a white T-shirt and tying her now long hair back while playing – there was just something undeniably cool about that.
It was once that Chihaya needed Arata and Taichi to help her get her spark and feel alive. Now it is the reverse and time for Chihaya to repay the favour. She seems up to the task but certainly the reality of the dream team not being infallible to the darker side of life has left Chihaya somewhat stunned. But you need adversity to make this story work. She’s a strong girl and will get over it. What follows will prove to be evermore intriguing and heartwarming.