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Old 2012-02-13, 04:39   Link #1061
Dawnstorm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hyperborealis View Post
The depths of the hearts
Of humankind cannot be known.
But in my birthplace
The plum blossoms smell the same
As in the years gone by.

The headnote to the poem explains that the poet wrote it upon meeting an old friend after many years' interval. The question in his mind is whether he still knows that person. If he cannot be certain, he still has the token of the plum blossoms, which have not changed.
Rather interesting. And complex.

May I point out, at that point, the name "Sakura"? The cherry blossoms that return each spring?

Karuta turnament <---> Hanami

I hear there's a version of hanami that involves plum blossoms. So why didn't they call her "Ume"? (Also a female name in Japan? I think so.)

Part of it, I think might be that - unlike the plum blossom - the cherry blossom (of the sakura type) doesn't grow into an edible/delicious(?) fruit. (At the very least, the impression I get is that the significance of the "sakura" is only its petals. The plum finds its way into dishes; I'm not aware of too many "cherry dishes", but I'm far from an expert, so I may be on shaky legs here.)

So basically: always those beautiful blossoms, but never fruit... or something. (Sound plausible to people who know more about Japan than me?)

Note the colour of Sakura's outfit, too. Eternal spring. Every year, the blossoms return. Your circumstance changes; the people you play change. But the turnament rhythm reaches all the way back. You may try to understand yourself; you may try to understand your opponent. You'll never be certain. But there's always next year.

And while the blossom's purpose is to turn into fruit, it's really about the beauty of the blossoms. A path of pinkness through your life. (Er... )
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Old 2012-02-13, 08:22   Link #1062
Sol Falling
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Originally Posted by hyperborealis View Post
Yes. Very much so.

The anime adds to her characterization by giving her passion--think of the moment when she becomes thrilled after Chihaya moves back from the edge of the playing area ("Youth is a wonderful thing!"), or later, when she tells Chihaya that she loves karuta, and still dreams of becoming queen. At these moments she is wholly sympathetic. If she is a fox, the anime admires her for it, and makes the point of creating her, if briefly, as a whole person, with a back story, a family, and even possibly a future moment in the series, at the upcoming qualifier tournament.

One of the things I like about the series is the range of female characters portrayed, from Chitose, Taichi's mom, Miyauchi-sensei, and in this episode Kana's mom and Sakura. With the possible exception of Taichi's mother, the show portrays older and professional women with a great deal of sympathy. It doesn't mind showing Kana's mom to be the latest member of Team Taichi, for example .

Sakura brings out how far Chihaya has to go. If Chihaya is to become queen, she has to be better than not only Shinobu, but better than every other single female karuta player in the world. She's not hardly there yet, although, given that she's dedicated to learning, the path forward is certainly there.

The other thing that Sakura brings out is a possible future for Chihaya, one in which she never wins, but always lives within the dream of winning, loving and playing karuta while she has a family, and lives her life otherwise. That after all is the fate of every karuta player, except the very small handful that do win. Sakura is there to show us that this would be an acceptable and fulfilling future, even for Chihaya.
Great explanation. I was very impressed with how in this episode Chihayafuru managed to seemingly effortlessly create yet another well-rounded, sympathetic, and complete female character. I do think that the anime's open portrayal of older women characters is one of the strengths of the series. And you also make an excellent point in explaining how, even without having climbed all the way to the top, Sakura's life as a competitive karuta player has still be fulfilling in itself.

Quote:
The episode title comes from the 35th waka. The U. Viriginia translation:

The depths of the hearts
Of humankind cannot be known.
But in my birthplace
The plum blossoms smell the same
As in the years gone by.

The headnote to the poem explains that the poet wrote it upon meeting an old friend after many years' interval. The question in his mind is whether he still knows that person. If he cannot be certain, he still has the token of the plum blossoms, which have not changed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
Rather interesting. And complex.

May I point out, at that point, the name "Sakura"? The cherry blossoms that return each spring?

Karuta turnament <---> Hanami

I hear there's a version of hanami that involves plum blossoms. So why didn't they call her "Ume"? (Also a female name in Japan? I think so.)

Part of it, I think might be that - unlike the plum blossom - the cherry blossom (of the sakura type) doesn't grow into an edible/delicious(?) fruit. (At the very least, the impression I get is that the significance of the "sakura" is only its petals. The plum finds its way into dishes; I'm not aware of too many "cherry dishes", but I'm far from an expert, so I may be on shaky legs here.)

So basically: always those beautiful blossoms, but never fruit... or something. (Sound plausible to people who know more about Japan than me?)

Note the colour of Sakura's outfit, too. Eternal spring. Every year, the blossoms return. Your circumstance changes; the people you play change. But the turnament rhythm reaches all the way back. You may try to understand yourself; you may try to understand your opponent. You'll never be certain. But there's always next year.

And while the blossom's purpose is to turn into fruit, it's really about the beauty of the blossoms. A path of pinkness through your life. (Er... )
I hadn't noticed the contrast between "sakura", generally used as a symbol of transience, and the usage of "ume", as a token of constancy/stability, for this waka here. Great catch here of something which is certainly fascinating enough to be worthy of some further digging around.

One thing which does support your point is that I believe the English translation for sakura in "cherry blossoms" is not completely accurate in that many or most of the sakura varieties raised in Japan are indeed ornamental and do not bear fruit. While related to the "sakura" which do produce cherries, I think you are correct in hypothesizing that part of the significance of the sakura as a symbol of transience lies in how it is flower of purely ornamental beauty.

In particular, relating to the "smell" of the plum blossoms which the poet of the 35th notes remains the same, is that while it appears that plum blossoms are noted for their fragrance, cherry blossoms are generally somewhat odourless themselves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hyperborealis View Post
The poem contrasts the certainty of the plum blossoms against the indefiniteness of the friend's heart. The anime, however, takes the plum blossoms to be an indicator for the otherwise unknowable human depths. That is, a karuta player cannot know what is going on in the heart of his or her opponent. Instead, he looks for the signs of that heart--Kana's literary way of associating cards, Sakura's tactics as explained by Tsutomu's statistical analysis--to know just who he is confronting. As Tsutomu tells himself, the Kana he knows is still there: he has only to understand her through the way she plays. And that is Sakura's challenge to Chihaya--not to play against the cards, but to understand the cards as an avenue into the person she is playing. As the title of Mostow's book on the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu suggests, the poems are "Pictures of the Heart:" likewise, karuta is itself a language of the heart, a means to understanding the character of one's opponent. The key to Chihaya becoming queen is for her to learn this language, to become fluent in it, in her play.

I like it that the anime is giving us its own unconventional interpretations of the poetry.
I struggled somewhat to understand how the poem related to the animated episode this time, but you're right, the title and the story does make the original "plum blossoms" token a metaphor in itself. While people's (i.e. karuta player's) hearts may be unknowable, some aspect of them (alternatively, perhaps, some aspect of the game of karuta itself; although I do like the former interpretation, given this episode's human emphasis), in the plum blossoms, does remain certain/the same.

The signs or smell of the plum blossoms are what Chihaya must watch out for, the various tricks and strategies which karuta players use to battle in their game. However, what that smell or all of those tricks and strategies lead to, is something which is common to all karuta players, which is a love and passion for karuta itself. This is the one constant thing which Chihaya can look for in her matches against the wily pros of the A-kyu karuta level, through the otherwise unknowable depths of the human heart.

Thanks once again for your research into the waka of the Hyakunin Isshu and your insight. It's helped my appreciation for this episode, already one of my favourites next to Chihaya's initiation match against Shinobu, grow even more.
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Old 2012-02-13, 17:44   Link #1063
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
Rather interesting. And complex.

May I point out, at that point, the name "Sakura"? The cherry blossoms that return each spring?

Karuta turnament <---> Hanami

I hear there's a version of hanami that involves plum blossoms. So why didn't they call her "Ume"? (Also a female name in Japan? I think so.)

Part of it, I think might be that - unlike the plum blossom - the cherry blossom (of the sakura type) doesn't grow into an edible/delicious(?) fruit. (At the very least, the impression I get is that the significance of the "sakura" is only its petals. The plum finds its way into dishes; I'm not aware of too many "cherry dishes", but I'm far from an expert, so I may be on shaky legs here.)

So basically: always those beautiful blossoms, but never fruit... or something. (Sound plausible to people who know more about Japan than me?)

Note the colour of Sakura's outfit, too. Eternal spring. Every year, the blossoms return. Your circumstance changes; the people you play change. But the turnament rhythm reaches all the way back. You may try to understand yourself; you may try to understand your opponent. You'll never be certain. But there's always next year.

And while the blossom's purpose is to turn into fruit, it's really about the beauty of the blossoms. A path of pinkness through your life. (Er... )
This is really interesting. It's a good question why Sakura is Sakura and not Ume. Just since she has maintained her love of karuta, she seems to fit the idea of constancy the poem attributes to the plum blossoms. And, to follow your contrast between the aesthetic transience of the cherry blossom against the fruitful utility of the plum tree, she also has been--well, fruitful. Perhaps you could argue she is Sakura since she is living as an older version of her youthful self, thus indicating in a "Death in Venice" sort of way the transience associated with cherry blossoms, but I don't agree--I think the anime is sympathetic to older woman acting young, and not ironical.

In the end, I think there is a dissonance between the name and the person. If it's intended, I think it is to make Sakura's real identity complex, problematic--precisely the conundrum the waka sets out at the nature of human beings generally. Who is Sakura really? She is a lot of things--some of them not coherent with each other. For instance, she is Chihaya's rival, but she is also a kind of sensei--Chihaya receives her comments as instruction, and thanks her for it afterwards.

One of the ways the anime gets at this complexity of character is via the device of framing flowers. There are a number of times in which Sakura gets a border of flowers set around her during the episode. The first moment comes at 3:20, when Chihaya notices how cute Sakara is: at this moment, Sakura is framed with a white flower, with long white petals, and a yellow center. At 5:30, Sakura is framed with cherry blossoms; at 7:12, with what appear to be sunflowers; then, after the match, at 12:32 Chihaya sees Sakura framed with yellow versions of the initial white flower; and then finally, at 12:52, Sakura is framed with yellow, pink, and white shades of the initial flower.

I throw the times out there to invite others to identify the flowers. I haven't been able to identify the main one, the one repeated in different shades at the end.

My own guess is that it is not a cherry blossom, but a generic flower that the anime uniquely associates with Sakura. In other words, it is--in its different versions and colors--a symbol for Sakura as an individual. If it has different colors, that alludes to her complexity of character: she is not just one thing. She can even at times be other flowers (the cherry blossom, the sunflower), which is to say, like other people. If human hearts can't be known, it is since they are over-determined, defined by a multitude of factors--just like Sakura, who is an Ume; a cute lady, who is also a mother, not to mention a fox...

-----

After Chihaya resolves to pay attention to Sakura, and to learn from her, they both touch the card at the same time, which gives the card to Sakura. At this point, Sakura is up by seven cards--we know that, since you can count the total cards in play from two turns ago. Since the final margin is 6 cards, Chihaya will from this point on play Sakura slightly better than even. Chihaya beats Sakura at her own game--but only after it's too late to make up the margin of the initial errors.
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Old 2012-02-14, 14:36   Link #1064
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Oh god the Taichi-Nishida match was really tense, I was on the edge of my seat.

Spoiler:
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Old 2012-02-14, 18:18   Link #1065
ars89
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Congrats to Kana and Nishida. Komano put up a good last effort, but was to far behind. Taichi and Nishida's match was so intense. Lol Chihaya's reaction were great when she forgot about the other match and then when she heard Nishida. Looks like Arata got more of a motivational push from Taichi.
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Old 2012-02-14, 18:37   Link #1066
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Okay I know I said I didn't care last week but I was a little upset that Taichi lost. I love Nishida too of course and they both obviously played a great game (otherwise they wouldn't have been so equal at the end.) But I guess I just knew how much getting to A meant to Taichi & it is a little a shame the last card was so much down to luck.

But Taichi is right it was only down to luck in the first place because they both played so well previously. Nishida deserved his won.

I just hope Taichi will make A-class before the end of the anime. Hang in there Taichi. Nishida coming out at the end was really sweet.


Kana & Desktomu match was also great and no complaints there. It's nice they both got to advance too so it's not as heartbreaking to me that one of them had to lose.
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Old 2012-02-14, 19:11   Link #1067
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Originally Posted by ars89 View Post
Looks like Arata got more of a motivational push from Taichi.
No, it wasn't Taichi's name that motivated Arata. It was seeing Nishida's name joining the ranks of Class A that motivated him. Remember two things. (1) Arata beat Nishida in their Class A finals competition years ago. (2) Taichi won't be able to compete one-on-one with Arata because Taichi is still a Class B.
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Old 2012-02-14, 19:19   Link #1068
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No, it wasn't Taichi's name that motivated Arata. It was seeing Nishida's name joining the ranks of Class A that motivated him. Remember two things. (1) Arata beat Nishida in their Class A finals competition years ago. (2) Taichi won't be able to compete one-on-one with Arata because Taichi is still a Class B.
I actually assume it was both names. Obviously only one player can advance to A-Rank but Arata saw that both Nishida and Taichi, two players he knows well (who placed 1st and 2nd in the match respectively) are both fighting towards the top. They are being active and he needs to be as well.
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Old 2012-02-14, 20:16   Link #1069
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Originally Posted by LKK View Post
No, it wasn't Taichi's name that motivated Arata. It was seeing Nishida's name joining the ranks of Class A that motivated him. Remember two things. (1) Arata beat Nishida in their Class A finals competition years ago. (2) Taichi won't be able to compete one-on-one with Arata because Taichi is still a Class B.
There are more opportunities (more tournaments) for Taichi to become Class A before the Meijin qualifiers, so he might be able to play there.

At any rate, Arata got motivated by seeing both their names there.
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Old 2012-02-14, 21:14   Link #1070
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That was a great match I made sure I didn't know who won. Poor Taichi, I know what it is like when you try your very best and still end up not first, even when you know more than the other person.

Nahhhh so cute with him on her shoulder ><
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Old 2012-02-14, 21:22   Link #1071
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Originally Posted by Kirarakim View Post
I actually assume it was both names. Obviously only one player can advance to A-Rank but Arata saw that both Nishida and Taichi, two players he knows well (who placed 1st and 2nd in the match respectively) are both fighting towards the top. They are being active and he needs to be as well.
That's what I assumed, seeing two people who weren't really his rivals before suddenly be in that position. Also nice to see Chihaya make an effort to get everyone's names right now, especially since people have been complaining about that since Komano and Nishida were introduced.
Now, I just wonder where they'll go next in the show, there's not quite enough time for more training and another tournament I'd think but who knows!
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Old 2012-02-14, 22:10   Link #1072
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Originally Posted by Kazu-kun View Post
There are more opportunities (more tournaments) for Taichi to become Class A before the Meijin qualifiers, so he might be able to play there.
I wondered if there were more Class A qualifying tournaments that Taichi could participate in.

Quote:
At any rate, Arata got motivated by seeing both their names there.
I stand (well... sit, to be honest LOL) corrected then. I didn't see Taichi's name on the list. The only name I saw was Nashida's so that's why I thought Arata reacted to his name.
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Old 2012-02-15, 00:27   Link #1073
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Well, that episode was both fantastic and totally heartbreaking.

I fear that heartache is always going to be Taichi's lot - that he'll never be rewarded for all the hard work and all his support and all his internal agony. He seems destined to always be the good guy you can always turn to - not the guy who wins.

I found that scene where Chihaya put his head on her shoulder both deeply moving and fascinating, because it was such a sharp (and I suspect intentional) contrast with the scene on the train last week, when Taichi couldn't quite bring himself to take the sleeping Chihaya's hand. He always thinks too much, and Chihaya is as Nishida calls her, an airhead. But that just who they are, and in each case it's their greatest strength as well as a weakness. I think they fit each other perfectly - and so do Kanade and Tsutomu, for that matter.
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Old 2012-02-15, 00:48   Link #1074
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Best episode of the series.

* Desktop-kun's last-ditch strategy was hilarious -- the rules of karuta practically encourage cheating and it was great to see someone take advantage of it.
* The moment Desktop-kun and Kana-chan shared afterwards was so sweet with all the blushing. Since Chihaya's romantic plot is dead in the water, hopefully we'll at least see the B-couple together by the end of the series.
* Epic match was epic.
* They broke out some cool new themes for this ep. I wonder if we'll get a second soundtrack with them.
* The conversation between Taichi and Nishida after the match was great, as was Chihaya's reaction to it.
* The scene in the van was so great. If not for the fact that the Arata story hasn't been resolved, it would've been a great place to end the series. I really hope the actual last scene is something like that, showing us the team having a good time together after a triumph.
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Old 2012-02-15, 03:05   Link #1075
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With just 6 episodes left I wonder if they will do a short timeskip.


This was a lovely scene
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Old 2012-02-15, 03:39   Link #1076
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MM, show is still running strong, but sometimes it lays the drama on too thick, turning into "Emofuru". I'm also kinda disappointed Chihaya's been mostly nothing other than hot blooded lead and making silly face. With 7 episodes left, I can only imagine there's gonna be one final big game but in terms of character development it leaves me desiring much more.

Also, they've been using Kana-chan for a fanservice character. But desk-kun doesn't mind; maybe do something else on those desks?

However, good games, or as we gamers call it "GG". One thing they realized is that nobody is entitled to win, and Taichi just had a win taken him like that. Anything can happen if someone is playing harder. And of course, that cute scene between Taichi and Chihaya. I wasn't appreciative of how he did that cell phone break up (lol dropped plot threads) but whatever.
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Old 2012-02-15, 05:01   Link #1077
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There are many ways to winning a match, by focusing on the utilization of tactics, however cheap it may seem, as long as they do not contradict the rules set, are still valid strategies in winning a match, as Desk...Komano-kun did.

The match between Taichi and Nishida was ruled by luck at the end, as it is undoubtedly hard to attack a card that the opponent is particularly defending for. But Taichi chose the right path, by deciding to improve himself rather than blaming other factors in his 'unfortunate' loss.

Looking forward to see how Arata has improved/deproved over the past few years where he was on hiatus!
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Old 2012-02-15, 05:50   Link #1078
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Originally Posted by Guardian Enzo View Post
Well, that episode was both fantastic and totally heartbreaking.

I fear that heartache is always going to be Taichi's lot - that he'll never be rewarded for all the hard work and all his support and all his internal agony. He seems destined to always be the good guy you can always turn to - not the guy who wins.
It's like the game is repelling him for only playing out of jealously, something tells me he's never going to advance unless he lets go of this emotional clutch.
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Old 2012-02-15, 05:53   Link #1079
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It's like the game is repelling him for only playing out of jealously, something tells me he's never going to advance unless he lets go of this emotional clutch.
I hardly see how Taichi is only playing out of jealousy. That's not true at all, he obviously loves Karuta and wants to improve himself for him. He sees Arata as a rival yes & I am not saying he never gets jealous (because that woukd be false) but his motivations to win are pure.
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Old 2012-02-15, 06:11   Link #1080
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I hardly see how Taichi is only playing out of jealousy. That's not true at all, he obviously loves Karuta and wants to improve himself for him. He sees Arata as a rival yes but his motivations to win are pure.
It's obvious that there are many factors in why he's playing karuta, while Taichi may have come to love karuta, Arata and Chihaya have a straightforward concept of playing it to rip their opponents apart and attain glory even if it meant breaking some bones in the process Taichi is playing it to surpass Arata so that Chihaya will notice him.
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