The Struggle of Mashima Taichi

Chihayafuru 2 - 19 - Large 21

“He always let his actions speak for him. He’s careful and has a lot of pride. He’s always thinking about what happens when he loses.” – Komano, Chihayafuru 2 episode 19

Nowhere does Chihayafuru hit home for me as well as it does with Taichi’s development over the course of the series.

I used to be a coward. When I was younger I would avoid doing things that would put me outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to succeed at things so I didn’t bother putting in effort or challenging myself when it came to the things that I wasn’t good at. This particular mindset allowed me to excel in certain areas, but it also held me back in other areas. A fair number of opportunities were missed simply because I was too much of a coward to try something I wasn’t familiar with or that I didn’t think I could do well enough.

A good example of this would be how I used to dismiss art as something I didn’t have the talent for. I was content simply focusing on improving myself in the areas of science and mathematics because they were some of the things that I was good at. In time, I developed an interest and a desire to do art, but I continued to hold myself back for a long time saying “I don’t have the talent. I don’t have the talent.” The problem here was not that I chose to focus only on the things that I was good at; there is nothing wrong with that. It was that I prevented myself from doing something I really wanted to do because of my cowardice. The fear of failure and the fear that I could never be as good as my younger brother or my cousin (both very talented artists) paralyzed me and for the longest time I did not give art a serious chance. What prevented me from picking up art as a hobby until about a year ago was pride. I couldn’t bring myself to do something I knew I couldn’t do very well.

“I could spend my entire childhood on karuta without ever becoming better than Arata.” – Taichi, Chihayafuru episode 4

In Chihayafuru, pride is the biggest obstacle for Taichi to overcome in the series. Much like I was in the past, Taichi started out as a coward who has difficulty stepping outside of his own comfort zone and challenging himself for the things that he wants. Even though deep down he does want to play karuta again, the belief that he cannot be successful at it (or as successful as Arata) makes him unwilling to pick it back up again. This mindset comes, of course, from his mother who tells her son “It doesn’t matter if you can play karuta or not, but if you’re going to lose, you’re no longer allowed to play in tournaments. Focus on contests that you can win.” This kind of parenting shaped Taichi into a person who is very conscious of his failures and has a deep desire to avoid them. Success, and only success, is the expectation placed upon him by his family. This has led Taichi to many achievements over the years (as show by the room of awards he has earned), but it has also been to his detriment.

I have gotten better about my hesitance to do something I know I’m not very good at. I cannot connect it to any one event in particular, but rather the result of a collection of experiences that caused me to re-examine myself. As a result, I’ve taken up art as a hobby this past year, and while I’m not particularly good at it, I’m trying to not let my pride hold me back from doing something that I really want to do. It will be a long time before I’m get to the level that I want to with art, but I’m not afraid to take the time work my way up there and accept the failures along the way. In a similar way, Taichi has been pushing himself to become better and better at karuta. He puts in a lot of effort and doesn’t like to lose, but he is also not afraid to lose.

Taichi isn’t just fighting for victory against Fujisaki’s captain or to get into Class A, he is also fighting a personal battle against his own tendencies to walk away and not challenge himself. It is for this reason that I was so invested in Taichi’s success in the most recent episode of Chihayafuru and why I have been and will continue cheering for him for the rest of the series. If that means shipping Taichi and Chihaya (something that will no doubt earn me the ire of my fellow fans), I will do so. Taichi is an ugly character. He is proud to a fault at times and his complaints can be annoying. However, these are the things that make him a relatable character. It is because of his ugliness and faults that I want to cheer for him. Seeing Taichi face his shortcomings, whether it is with karuta or Chihaya, is fantastic and I hope he will continue to conquer his cowardice just like how I overcame and will continue facing my own.

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