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I worry that after so long, I'm beginning to get burnt out on Chihayafuru. At the very least, this episode didn't quite live up to the standards I'd hoped for.
Perhaps it's the predictable situation the match has found itself in. No surprises that Komano and Tsukuba lost - inevitable but sad in the former's case - leaving the three best players to win or lose it for Mizusawa. Nishida is finally being called upon to make up for past mistakes, which we've seen in excess. In retrospect, his failing was all for the sake of his likely redemption in the final whilst Chihaya and Mashima were always set to decide the outcome of the match - they've done it more than once.
All of this is fine. A little disappointing because of its lack of impact, though nothing bad. Unfortunately, "fine" is not a word I'd ever used to describe Chihayafuru and for the first time in quite a while, it didn't have me on the edge of my seat or screaming for the next episode to air earlier. With the heavier focus on the sport itself for this season, Chihayafuru has kept my attention for the most part but I have to wonder if it's too focused on the sport.
Hopefully - and disappointingly to some - we're just going to breeze through the final in the next episode. As much as I would have liked a more intense final however, after weeks of the same tournament, Chihayafuru may have run out of juice. One of the less obvious flaws that has only presented itself this late in the season.
A change of pace would be much appreciated at this point and that's why I'm hoping we'll get to the individual tournament sooner rather than later. Definitely not one of the stronger episodes from the series, but hopefully not it'll be back in top form as soon as possible.