A recap episode, covering episodes 1-15 of Chihayafuru 3.
As recap episodes go, they are hit or miss enterprises. Some series never do recaps; some never go long enough or build up enough depth to merit one. There is also that stigma of a recap being nothing more than time off before the final rush to complete the second half. Some projects need more than one, once you figure in the massive number of characters or other facets of the series. Some terribly botch the recap making one wonder what he's just watched. Chihayafuru made it a point of making the best use of its third season recap ... it needed it, not just for review but for perspective. You see, there were these issues ... everyone had ‘em. But it was a joy to see the opening graphic on romance, a pie chart where Sumire was gaining 70% of interest to Chihaya's 10 (that Nishida’s sister-Hiro fling claiming the other 20). One could see the joke behind the irony of relegating to unimportance Chihaya’s possible love triangle; it was what compelled the plot through all seasons, especially with Arata's confession in episode 14. Love being what it is, the series continued to play out as Chihaya’s quest for karuta greatness; that was her priority. Love is hardly on her mind. Winning the prestigious individuals tourney (over her friend Taichi, of all people) and then begging off the Queen qualifier to attend her high school class trip … that was a segment that needed thorough review. Taichi also rides a crest of success, but now doubts if he can ever grab the highest prize of Meijin. The biggest surprise of the season was Dr. Harada's all-too-late mid-life crisis to challenge the Master. The sudden bursts of fury in the charming sensei seem out of character until you learn of the good doctor's first posts as a physician were to places in Japan where karuta is negligible, losing his game-sense by the time he found a post in Tokyo. He was a certain bet to dethrone Arata’s grandfather until his career derailed this dream. As to the issue of those called Masters, Master Suo's announced retirement after proving his invincibility for a fifth time (this. and his sudden attraction to Chihaya, really shake up the storyline). Queen Shinobu is at the same time wondering about her own karuta prowess after losing to Arata, a player who failed to gain the challenger status to play against Suo, and that her next opponent for Queen is an old queen whose comeback bid for the top spot is fueled by a veteran attitude which gives her an advantage as a player. The veterans seem to be beating the youngsters lately. So you see, there is way too much development in the characters to do without a recap, but it does serve as a subtle jab against using the recap technique. There are those humorous omake which features the rarely seen characters who also have something to offer the storyline. Canade, who is troubled by how Arata's confession of love to Chihaya has been adversely affecting Chihaya, but she also knows her time in high school needs to be used more wisely, as does Komano. Each have their own plans for college. Sumire's interest in Taichi is altered when Tsukuba hints that he is in love with her, thus creating a new love-triangle which complicates the one that has already been established. But the humor of the recap episode always breaks through, such as with the insertion of the romance graphic, along with the audience's deep analysis of the players which boils down to making fun of them. Even Arata has time to give his appreciative gesture for being allowed to be in the recap after having only enough time in the last seconds of the OVA to complain that he wasn't in it. The animation features moments of CGI bursts, often in gameplay flashing intricate scenes of cascading feathers, cards, autumn leaves, snow, and other effects which blend with the spirit of the game. You will often see moments when karuta cards are knocked about, to be caught in mid-air by accomplished karuta players now in the audience. Or the last blast of a card smacking the windowpane in front of Master Suo, foreboding a titanic match yet to be played. Symbolism can be caught as the recap offers moments of reflection over the game that has been becoming more complicated season after season. Or is it the people? Hard to say at times. Did Chihayafuru 3 need this recap episode? One scene towards the end has the secondary characters wonder this themselves. It's just the brilliance of presenting a recap at a crucial time in the recent series which will offer the viewers to ponder and hope that the predicted clash of old player vs. youthful champion will be worth its billing. And when will Chihaya, Arata, and Taichi have their chance at grasping the brass ring of Master and Queen? Oh yeah, there was something else about those three, weren't there? And it wasn’t about three people going after two positions.