I wasn’t able to write a Twelve Days post yesterday, so I’m skipping to the Fifth Day of Anime. Sorry.
With sports anime, the plot is often structured in a win or lose all sort of situation. More specifically, sports shows tend to revolve around the nationals for whatever sport the characters are participating in, in which case the cast has to win each and every match that’s thrown at them or else the story won’t be able to progress. This leads to a layer of predictability in a lot of sports shows. What sets Chihayafuru 2 apart from most sports anime (well, aside from being a josei sports anime,) is that the plot is set up in such a way that it’s almost never too obvious who’s going to win any given match in the story.
By the time the second season starts it’s clear that Chihayafuru is going to follow Chihaya’s entire highschool career. We can guess that at some point Misuzawa is going to win the Omi Jingu team tournament, but since it’s only the second year for most of the Misuzawa members there’s not actually any win or lose all scenario going on. If Misuzawa were to lose a match in the middle of the tournament during Chihayafuru 2, then it wouldn’t be as much of a big deal since they’d still have a third chance to do so.
When they’re facing off weaker teams (like the one comprised of dweeby quizzers or racial minorities,) it’s obvious that Misuzawa is going to win, but then once they get matched together with a stronger team like Akashi and Fujisaki there’s really no telling where the story is going to go—especially since they spent three episodes of these more important matches.
Throughout its run I was rather annoyed at how slow the pacing was, but I must say I was on the edge of my seat each whenever Misuzawa was in a pinch. Of course, it’s excellent writing first and foremost which kept me so engaged with each match, but it’s nice that I can’t just say to myself that Misuzawa is probably going to win.
And so even when they were up against Team Fujisaki in the finals I still wasn’t quite sure if they would win or not, and as Tsutomu and Akihiro lost their games the intensity of the match only grew with my uncertainty. Then Chihaya and Yuusei won their matches which turned the tides towards the favor, until eventually the whole team match came down to the last few cards of Taichi and the Fujisaki team captain’s match.
And Taichi here is the guy who’s been stuck as a B-class karuta player for god knows how long, and who has little self-confidence in himself in spite of his objective talent and popularity; and it’s because of this low self-esteem and bad luck that he ends up over-thinking his moves at crucial points in important matches. But now Taichi sets all that aside and just focuses on hoping the one card he needs gets called before it’s too late, and puts forth all of his focus on just getting that single card so he can win.
And then the card he needed did get called on, and get he got it! Misuzawa played a close match and won by hair, and they actually won! The cast all cried and cheered for their victory, and as I watched this I too was overcome with excitement and relief. I may have disliked the slow pacing of the series, but it sure paid off in the end.
I’ve never really been interested in watching real life sports, but I think I might be starting to understand why people can get so excited by their favorite team winning a big match.