Chihaya Furu Ep 05 - the metamorphosis into shojo

The prerequisite for true love!

This episode is beginning of turning Chihaya Furu into a shojo anime. It was well executed, not just for the shojo genre, but in general. While the episode was largely predictable, I still found myself wrapped up in it, rooting for various characters, hoping for certain outcomes… I am not willing to raise my expectations of this series yet. Many a time has shojo burned me by appealing to the squeal-happy fangirls at the cost of realism. One could argue that shojo is a genre that caters to the fantasies of young maidens and is justified in its proliferous happy endings. That may be true; but I don't like so much sugar in my fairytales. (This probably explains my adoration of slice of life.) However, Chihaya Furu is definitely populating the top half of my Autumn anime list.

No, they love each other through their eyes and subtle commentary.
This episode has a few important plot points separated by minor story building. I still find that Chihaya Furu actually wastes very little screen time and most scenes are important in the building of either the characters or the plot. Chihaya and Taichi decide to visit Arata in Fukui. I really, really want to journey on a bullet train someday. The thought of being able to go across the country to visit a long lost friend and return home within the same day seems like a happy convenience. It would take me two days on a train one way to vista Aaro and there is only a fifth of the country separating us. Slow trains and big countries are so inconvenient.

The (so, so worried) bishonen
The shojo is rolled out in two parts. Part one happens on the train where Taichi has a conversation with Chihaya about love. Well, he tries… Chihaya is dense and jokes around a lot, whereas Taichi bears his heart to her, albeit she's none the wiser for it. Taichi's outlook on love is justified but so very morbid. If I remember correctly, he defines love as, "Hanging out with this person is no fun, but even though it can be so painful you want nothing more than to be with them." This not only tells us that Taichi has never looked at anyone but Chihaya, but that Chihaya hasn't grown out of her denseness over the years.

The (so, so clueless) bishojo
Part two happens when Chihaya and Taichi are looking for Arata, who isn't at home. They are walking back to the train station to find Arata at his part time job. Chihaya has a battle with herself on whether she actually wants to see an Arata who does not play Karuta, to which Taichi responds that he's okay with returning to Tokyo without seeing Arata. I guess Taichi's underlying fear is that Chihaya subconsciously loves Arata as much as she loves Karuta. To me it appears as though Chihaya likes both boys equally and wants to continue playing because it's what brought the three of them together to begin with. However, from Taichi's perspective I can see how easy it is to mistake Chihaya's admiration for Arata's skill for romantic adoration. There is a really, really cute scene (quite well directed!) where Taichi slowly works up the courage to try and hold Chihaya's hand as they walk down this rural path lined with cherry blossom trees. As, he subtly reaches for her hand, Arata whizzes by on a bicycle, stopping Chihaya in her tracks and interrupting Taichi's smooth moves. It is mildly amusing to watch a ladies man like Taichi struggle with his true love; but despite the sadistic amusement, Taichi's behaviour in this episode made me recognize him for his important role in the series. Chihaya and Arata may be the female and male protagonists, but Taichi is pivotal in propelling the plot. Without him, Chihaya Furu would be a river running so slow that it can be mistaken for still waters.

How does such a tiny person pull someone off a moving bicycle so easily!?
What makes the second scene so shojo is Arata's surprise at being pulled off his bike by a swift Chihaya. The two of them tumble down a small hill and land in a perfect position with Arata poised above Chihaya. Taichi looks like he's boiling over in his corner at the sight. Chihaya completes the scene with happy-sad sobs about how she missed Arata. It's formulaic shojo but still so cute because of how Chihaya is so earnest. 

This was the turning point of the arc.
Ah~ Arata is still the same but grown up. Initially I did not like his big boy personality, but after simmering and procrastinating for three days, I find myself liking him all the more. I shamelessly play favourites, so what? He's the same quiet, blunt introvert who is still not afraid to go toe to toe with Taichi. Also, he's a centimetre taller than Taichi, which sparks another irrelevant subtextual rivalry. Surprisingly, I don't find it all that unrealistic that Arata's and Taichi's competition for Chihaya has not wilted over the past four (? maybe three~) years. It just confirms how withdrawn Arata became after the death of his grandfather. (I called it! I called it! But it still made me sad and angry that Arata would betray Chihaya by betraying Karuta, even though it is the human reaction to his situation.) It seemed even the neighbour, a girl named Yuu, was concerned with his behaviour. Though her time on screen was short, I liked her very much. She was genuine and I was able to relate to her dilemma, wherein she was concerned and wanted to help Arata but did not know how to from an inability to truly understand his tragedy.

These two have great chemistry in this show.
The purpose of this episode was to introduce and largely conquer Chihaya's sadness at the loss of Arata. While she isn't the type of person to give up on Karuta because of this major setback, Taichi helps her a lot by finally agreeing to help her start a Karuta club at their high school. With the same words, he reaffirms his liking for Arata which he spends most of his time suppressing or hiding. Lastly, we catch a glimpse of the first potential member.