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Chihayafuru has definitely picked up the pace, and that has me a little worried.
Ironic to say the least, that after many of weeks of wanting the series to speed things up a but, we get an episode that does just that and leaves me questioning its decision. Speeding up the plot progression is ultimately a difficult task that may work or at times fail miserably. If I had to pick between the two extremes, Chihayafuru pulled it off but with some visible flaws.
Chihaya's first match just flew by. An aggressive back and forth with little refinement that we usually see in matches. Whilst the match just passed us by, it did well in injecting some comedy, when it came to Chihaya's facial expressions and reactions to certain things done by her opponent. As quickly as the match was resolved, it was still entertaining in a different way. Seeing as how it's considerably different from the other matches we've seen, it worked as something new.
The price for this season's slow pace is being paid back in this episode, whether we like it or not. Luckily, this doesn't extend to the Arata-Nishida match that took place in the second half of the episode. Not an eventful match by any measure - Arata won with little difficulty, even after Nishida put up a fight - and besides providing us with a look at the overpowered Arata's skill, it finally addressed Nishida's contributions to this season of Chihayafuru. I was beginning to think his poor performances were already forgiven and forgotten, so seeing him disappointed with himself gives me that little bit of closure on the matter. Nishida shouldn't have got off the hook so easily, and playing Arata was the perfect punishment for him. Arata's parents on the other hand, felt disappointed at their son's win against Nishida....What an odd couple.
Afterwards we got to the end of the episode, where another reason for speeding through 2 matches became obvious. We're back to the Queen vs Chihaya showdown which is a rare treat for us Chihayafuru fans because it happens only once a season and hopefully the next episode(s) will take a little more time to ensure it's an exciting match. Its probable the aim of the season will be to finish off the individual tournament, but that shouldn't be at the expense of an important rivalry.
I feel as though Chihayafuru has strayed a little from its usual high-level. As an episode this one was fine but I'd be lying if I said the increased pace didn't feel unsettling.