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A certain blogger tweeted that it's almost unfair how good Chihayafuru can be. I have to agree with him.
In a way this episode has been anticipated for a while now. I say a while only because of the gap in time between this season and the last. Either way, an episode of Mashima overcoming his own ineptitude brings such joy and satisfaction. Incredible considering how easy it is to screw this up.
It only makes sense that Mashima long-term rival Arata makes an appearance before the episode shifts all focus onto him. Rivals in both sport and love, they co-exist as the male protagonists. With that, Arata's 1-minute screen time this week only seems fitting. Slowly bringing him back into the story as we continue on with karuta club's road to nationals.
Enough about the karuta club. As I said, this episode was all about Mashima. That complex riddled guy sure can make you feel sorry for him. Even his society members recognise his "bad luck" - later explained by the more knowledgeable Harada-sensei to be a simple case of self-doubt. As far as I can remember Mashima has been the embodiment of a love and sports rival in Chihayafuru. One that's lacking something. He's been trailing behind Arata in both departments (presumably) not because of lack of skill or trying; lack of confidence.
Seeing him finally overcome his shortcomings, was pure joy. In most situations I would have written off this moment as any other from any sports series. Still. There was nothing I could find fault with from the point when Mashima asked for the towel, to the end of the episode. Pure fun, and a moment where you think to yourself: "Finally!" The episode was just what we needed for the story to move onto the next part.
Chihayafuru continues on the path to greatness. It does so with same, if not better, gusto that the first season did. Now it'll be time for Chihayafuru to focus a little more on the sport and possibly love.