A year and a half ago, when Chihayafuru Season One had just rolled out, I wrote a post about the sort of Love Triangle playing out between Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata. Now, ten episodes into the second season, I’m taking another look to see how things have – or haven’t – developed.
First thing’s first: it should be said that no one’s actually gotten together in either the anime – or the manga – thus far. And despite the three main attractions developing in character, their relationships have not progressed in a romantic sense.
Taichi’s growth has been the most evident in my opinion. He’s much less of a coward, and while this was developing slowly throughout the First Season, it’s very clear to me in the Second Season. Now he is presented as a much stronger male lead, pushing aside his pride and image to improve his game. His feelings for Chihaya have also been subdued, in the sense that he no longer makes open, random attempts to gain her affection. I think this is because Taichi, truly understanding Chihaya at her core, knows it’s not time, and that neither he nor Chihaya is in the right place or mindset to be in a relationship together. But he isn’t being passive either; he’s working hard, pouring every effort in paving the path to a real relationship with Chihaya.
A lot of Taichi’s strength comes from him being the president of Mizusawa’s Karuta Club. He learns the important lesson of seeing the bigger picture, and caring for others. He learns leadership and how to set a good example without putting up a false image of strength and security. He empowers his team by trusting them, and being honest in turn. Episode Four also reminded us of just how talented Taichi is, and how he effectively applies his strengths in Karuta to be successful.
Surprisingly, Sumire provided great insight in understanding Taichi’s stance. In Episode Seven, Sumire monologues that the rule in her love game (that is, her pursuit of Taichi) is to be serious about Karuta. At that moment, I realized that Sumire and Taichi are the same: they both aspire excellence in Karuta for the sake of love. Remember, Taichi dropped Karuta after elementary school, and only picked it up again because Chihaya was still intensely serious about it. While I’m sure he’s developed a love and enjoyment for the game due to his involvement with the school club, Shiranami Karuta Society, and game itself, his end goal is still Chihaya.
More of Arata’s character has been revealed as well through the First Season into the Second Season, including a childhood relationship with Shinobu, but as for any romantic feelings for Chihaya, nothing has been explicit. The two communicate regularly through email and/or text messages, much to Taichi’s chagrin, but their conversations seem to revolve solely around Karuta. Unsurprising as Chihaya still seems to idolize Arata. But just as Karuta brought them together as friends, it’s a strong enough commonality that could bring about a romantic relationship. Chihaya has proved that she deeply cherishes her connection with Arata; although that connection started with Karuta, it exists not only based on Karuta. I think it’s plain to see that Chihaya has a deep fondness for Arata as a friend that is further strengthened by their mutual love for Karuta.
Now I don’t know this as a fact, but I would speculate Arata developing feelings for Chihaya before Chihaya develops any romantic feelings for either Arata or Taichi. But I don’t foresee things getting tense between Arata and Taichi even if they both end up knowingly competing for Chihaya’s affections. For Taichi, that’s been the situation since they were kids. For Arata, though the feelings may be new in a sense, I think he’s clever enough to not only recognize that Taichi’s feelings for Chihaya began well before he entered the picture, but that his own feelings may have been more than just platonic without his knowing. And isn’t this what the series has been setting up since the very beginning? Eventually Arata and Taichi will face each other in the Meijin battle, because Chihaya will become Queen.
And well set up this is, because Chihaya has a comical adoration for any strong Karuta player (Harada-sensei, Tsugobuchi after he’s revealed as Homei’s Karuta Club Advisor, Shinobu) – except for the reigning Meijin. Despite being nationally recognized as one of the strongest Karuta players, Chihaya hasn’t been shown to express any interest or adoration for Hisashi Suo. Which might suggest her focus is not on who is Meijin, but who will be.
Chihaya is now the only female member of the Mizusawa Karuta Club who doesn’t realize Taichi’s feelings toward her. Kana figured it out back in Season One, but only with Sumire realizing it as well do we gain an interesting perspective of Chihaya and Taichi’s unusual relationship. In the First Season, Taichi made the odd attempt here and there to show Chihaya how he felt about her, and I had used the phrase, “reaching the hand that’s reaching for someone else” to illustrate how Taichi was pursuing Chihaya while Chihaya was pursuing Arata. But now that the distance between Arata and Chihaya (and Taichi) has been settled, and Chihaya is no longer pursuing Arata in that sense, we see that it’s not about “reaching” anymore; it’s about “looking”. As Sumire fixes her sights on Taichi, she clearly sees that Taichi looks only at Chihaya. But she also notes (Episode Four, which I know as “May I please have a towel?”) that Chihaya is also watching Taichi. Chihaya is still possessive of Taichi even if it’s not romantically; she’s vigilant of him and shows that she’s there to support him. By offering her towel, she shows Taichi that she is paying attention to him. Unfortunately, despite experiencing a closeness with Chihaya, when Taichi looks at Chihaya, he sees her looking to Arata.
Ah the pain of unrequited love!
Considering how well these characters are developed, and how encompassing this love triad is, Chihayafuru does an amazing job at not overshadowing the progression of the main storyline and development of other characters with it. And it’s not painful to watch when it does come up, even though not much has really happened. It’s the perfect balance, where you know it will happen eventually, and you’re okay with it happening eventually because you’re so enthralled with everything else that’s going on. And that’s probably how it’s supposed to be: a bit of romance never hurt anyone. But too much can be torture.