When we left off, Mizusawa was beginning to face off against Akashi Girls School. And while this entire season has been about emphasizing team over individual, episode 13’s focus is clearly on each team’s ace . . . or is it? Megumu vs. Chihaya is an intriguing match: an inherently talented individual limelighted by her team into performing at her best in order to become a reluctant queen, versus a queen-intent contestant who constantly tries to better herself for the sake of advancing her team. Both instances exemplify this season’s theme, but placing the focus on the individual aces, when analyzed thus, pretty much foreshadows the winner. This respective all-for-one vs. one-for-all approach, embodied in the aces’ motivations, is compounded by the fact that an Akashi’s Yu hints at (and later reveals) her own royal aspirations, while team Mizusawa is backstoried (via Porky) as supporting Chihaya’s growth. Team cohesiveness is further demonstrated by Mizusawa collectively lamenting Chihaya’s quiet loss of momentum and Akashi being thrown off by their ace’s vocal celebration of an in-match achievement.
Shifting dynamics is the name of the game in the following episode. When Megumu internalizes the wishes of the team to become a more assertive player, her emboldened determination presents a larger challenge to Chihaya. Another change can be seen in the disruption caused by the difference in implementation of vocal reinforcement betwixt Yu and Akashi and Mashima and Mizusawa; Yu speaks out of place, while Mashima fulfills his role. Furthermore, whereas Megumu reclaiming her role from Yu as the voice of inspiration should bring a solidifying effect to the team, the correction of the initial disturbance actually causes a second distraction. On the opposite side, team Mizusawa following Mashima’s encouragement, being par for the course, rights the team’s collective empathetic focus and refocuses each member’s attention on the task at hand. Since Mizusawa's members share a unified disposition, this ebb and flow of the situation is more like an an emotional wave which serves to empower rather than distract like Akashi's internal state of chaotic flux. It doesn’t take a team, however, to show how this series focuses on the importance of collective support.
As the epitome of the individual — the monarch who considers team-based matches merely recreational, reigning queen Shinobu’s disposition and desire to play Arata on the day of team matches is an important one. Arata represents the team player even though he’s come alone to the team match event and is intent on playing in the individual matches. After all, he's already risked his chances at doing so for the sake of helping out a team with which he is less intimate (ok, to which he’s barely related), and then he balks at the reigning queen’s goad by invoking the team-based nature of the day when invited by Shinobu to a friendly on-on-one match to “kill some time.” All this from a scene that lasts but a few minutes, but such is the power of established characters and the theme of team in Chihayafuru 2.
As Mizusawa advances, the power that comes from the scenes based on the performance from established Mizusawa members is about equal to the effects reaped from the development of the newer members’ deepening love for/commitment to karuta. Dropped jaws of Mizusawa newcomers regarding the established team’s efforts, coupled with double-takes to certain situations and stepped-up legitimate concern for the team, reveal those holding onto the lower rungs of a nigh foreign sport are doing so with only their increasing passion for strength. I’d like to believe this is foreshadowing for the upcoming Mizusawa vs. Fujisaki match, where team dynamics change once again.
Fujisaki High School’s karuta coach is infamous for subbing in a lower level player for one who is of a higher Class at the last moment. This is done on the assumption that the experienced players are getting tired from subsequent matches and the hope that the fresh blood will inspire the senior members to victory. (I don’t quite get it either, unless it’s a “Work harder; you’ve got a handicap” routine.) As luck would have it, there’s a unfortunate event that leads to a change in Mizusawa’s lineup which enables the same sort of switcheroo. Whereas Fujisaki’s play is cold and calculated, Mizusawa’s is a heartfelt misfortune. Will that be the difference that wins the match? I haven’t the foggiest, because the episode which followed was a freakin’ recap episode. And instead of summarizing/reviewing that, here’s a (m)Oe pic:
The second season of Chihayafuru is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.