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With this episode, Chihayafuru has stepped onto the next level.  Time to feel bad for Chihaya, and more so for Taichi.

Though it wasn't as clear in the beginning of the season, Arata and Shinobu's showdown in the individual finals was a highlight for sure.  Two of the best players, facing off at the end of a hotly contested national tournament to remind us that whilst it was a year of achievement in Chihayafuru, there's still a low to be done.  Mizusawa have come one step closer but they're still found wanting as individuals when compared to the over-powered Shinobu and Arata.

In many ways an episode dedicated to the Shinobu-Arata match was the best penultimate episode to have.  As I've already mentioned, it serves as a reminder that there is still much to be accomplished on the individual level, but on top of that it was a parting gift for those ready to jump into the manga.  It's a sign that the story has reached a new point, with the win of the now restored Arata.  A comeback that only deepens the pain of Taichi fans everywhere and brings much-anticipated drama along with it.

Drawing out yet another episode for the sake of a match, it's obvious Chihayafuru wants to end in a clean manner.  Having checked out the relevant chapters of the manga - I just couldn't help myself - I see the ending coming as bitter-sweet.  My guess is the news doesn't come as a big shock, given how the last few episodes have played out and after this one, there are no signs of surprise.  All that is left is the tying together of loose ends.

Chihayafuru's impending finale just feels right.  Whilst it hasn't felt like it, this has been quite the journey and the ending comes at an adequate time.

Chihayafuru 2 - 24 Extra Screencaps

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