Between the jokes and the matchup between team members, Volume 6 of Chihayafuru is still a neat read.

Chihayafuru Volume 6Title: Chihayafuru
Genre: Sports, Drama, Romance
Publisher: Kodansha (JP), Kodansha Comics (US)
Creator: Yuki Suetsugu
Serialized in: Be Love
Translation: Ko Ransom
Release Date: November 14, 2017

This wasn’t the best volume of Chihayafuru. Chihayafuru volume 6 spent time trying to develop a few characters and spent a bit too long going over Chihaya’s weaknesses as a karuta player. It also found a way to end with a fairly tame cliffhanger. Now that we’re six volumes into a currently 35 volume manga, Suetsugu can for sure end with a more captivating cliffhanger.

…Now that the minor criticisms are out of the way…

Chihayafuru volume 6 has Chihaya take Harada’s words about not getting the cards quickly to heart. However, she struggles to actually understand what he means when he says that. While doing what she can to improve her game, the other Mizusawa club members also aim to improve their skills by advancing a rank. The problem? They meet each other in their respective finals! Taichi vs Nishida! Kana vs Tsutomu! If Chihaya thought she was stressing out over getting good enough to beat Shinobu, she learns a new form of stress very quickly.

In addition, we learn that Arata’s aiming to get back into shape, so he’s looking to be the West Japan representative for the Master Match Qualifiers. As he plays the game again, he starts thinking back to his friends and how they’re getting better playing karuta. Little does he know that in his quest to get better, he runs into a familiar person…

In long series, at some point there will be cracks. Whether it’s how the story plays out, or a character change, whatever. In Chihayafuru volume 6, little cracks show themselves. It’s more or less a case of panel time, and how the characters are developing. For Chihaya, she has a new goal — to master how to actually play karuta. I’m wondering if devoting time during her match to her opponent was a good idea. It was intended to contrast the play styles of each, but Chihaya spending time reading up on poems and getting insights from Tsutomu seemed enough. But for most of the volume little things, such as elaborating over the opponent’s resourcefulness, takes up Chihaya’s time.

Well, that and studying, since her grades are absolute trash.

All of that said, it’s a case where it provided a bit of annoyance. This volume is still a terrific read, with the main course being the matchup between the karuta club members. The anime episodes for this was 17-19, to a bit of 20, and it’s just as intense a match as it was in animated form. It’s a tale of two sides and it spends a great deal of time developing the characters through karuta. From Tsutomu’s, and to an extent Taichi’s, highly analytical approach, to Kana’s graceful style of playing, the growth of each character thanks to countless experiences before it was nice to read. And the best way to show it is not always with words, it’s with actions. That’s what Suetsugu does here.

This might have also been the funniest volume of Chihayafuru so far. One of the standouts definitely was Kana and her mother finding any way to make a buck, which turned them into sales pitch mode. There was also a touching moment with Taichi and Nishida, but Chihaya heard the worst part of it and the way she was drawn in absolute despair… not even Kana could lift her spirits. It was absolutely devastating, and her trying to work through it like someone tweeting out their emotions was hilarious.

So what’s next now? Well, Arata meets a familiar face, and he might also meet someone who should be studying. There’s still very much to look forward to with this manga involving the 100 poems.