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It's safe to assume some of us have been waiting quite some time for this episode of Chihayafuru.
After 43 episodes of Chihayafuru, Mizusawa was due a win. The first time in season one ended with disappointment, so one could say a win the second time around was to be expected. Nothing was ever set in stone and for the most part, it was difficult to predict the outcome - favourable for a sports series. The moment is indeed what we've been waiting for, but I can't get fully behind it.
Mizusawa winning isn't a bad thing by any measure, but the way that win was obtained is questionable to me. It was made obvious before the match started that Nishida and Mashima would come away victorious. As for Chihaya, that part became evident the more we learned about Rion who wasn't ready to beat someone of Chihaya's stature. That meant Chihaya's win was accepted as fait accompli in the previous episode and left the deciding wins come from the unlucky one and the one who's been underachieving for the entirety of the tournament.
This match could have been Nishida's redemption, but ended up nowhere near that. Nishida didn't get the screen time for that, leaving Taichi to get a bigger portion of the attention. I for one don't mind the attention being mostly on Taichi since it holds bigger implications for the big picture - Taichi's rise in the world of karuta has to start if he's to take on Arata and Suou later on in the series - however Nishida's part in all of this comes off a little diminished. A full on Nishida redemption, making his win the deciding factor would have been too generic and clichéd a choice to end the final but a little more attention on Nishida wouldn't have gone unappreciated.
Little nuggets of objectivity aside, I can't dispute the pleasure of seeing Mizusawa win. Luckily this win comes with six episodes to spare and (possibly) a newly announced OVA for the fall to cover the individual tournament. Chihaya's condition suggests we won't be seeing her come away with a win, as did Mizusawa's win. Now Chihayafuru will have the pleasure of getting us through some anticipated showdowns before leaving things as are.
Not the grand conclusion I was expecting from Chihayafuru. Not weak, but not the strongest we've seen the series be. Arata's appearance at the end added a little more meat in terms of drama, rounding out the episode. Without it, Chihayafuru would have no worse off but it certainly didn't hurt.
Final Note: Did the Hokuou-Akashi match have the results called? I forget.