They made more Chihayafuru! (After a six year gap.) Good grief, but hurrah! What's more, the manga's still running, with enough material for a fifth season, not just a fourth. (So far, they've adapted about nine manga volumes per season, this time doing vols.18-27.) I hope that'll happen, since not getting a fourth season would feel outrageous. You can't end where this season does and not resolve it, although admittedly the characters' roads back have been laid out clearly. (For what it's worth, this is a super-faithful adaptation of the original manga, but here they've jumped around a bit at the end. New members' introductions have been delayed, while hints have been dropped re. the cliffhanger's resolution. The audience needs light at the end of the tunnel, after all.)
Unfortunately, I've read that Season 3's blu-ray sales weren't that good. Also, the live-action movie trilogy is over. Well, we can still hope.
Season 3 feels like more of the same, but in a good way. More karuta. More matches. More weirdos whose heads are so full of karuta that there's not much room left for common sense, which is brilliant and often funny. (These people can also say casually hurtful things, because they're either airheads or sadists.) What had changed, though, was my commitment to the material. I'd got hooked on the karuta. The matches were gripping. I loved the analysis of everyone's styles, tactics and mean tricks. I'd got invested in these characters and there are some critical matches from which it's almost impossible to look away.
Taichi scared me. I was constantly half-waiting for him to break. He doesn't even seem to be enjoying his game. Mind you, I'm in awe of his efforts, through sheer insane work raising his skills up towards the level of freaks like Chihaya and Arata.
Chihaya's as wonderful and crazy as ever, although she's grown. She's less fragile... sometimes. She's also as oblivious to love as ever, with one plausible guess being that her sexuality might be: karuta, karuta, karuta, karuta, the strongest female karuta players, a mystery (in that order). At long last, the show's preparing to come off the fence a little with the central Chihaya-Taichi-Arata triangle... and of course Chihaya won't have the mental processing power for it. She also does some very weird crying in ep.7.
Dr Harada is a menacing heavyweight who seems to relish annoying his opponents. (Everyone his own age hates him.) No one has a fiercer will to win. He's a fifty-something with bad knees who's trading blows with the brilliant young masters in their teens and twenties. He's awesome. I love Dr Harada.
The Mizusawa school club has less emphasis, although of course the gang are still present. (Sumire's still targeting Taichi, while Kana's supporting everyone's love stories and not infrequently in despair at her terminally dense teammates.) After the intense school tournaments of Season 2, there's a non-school club tournament, some individual tournaments and the King/Queen challengers. Arata's going to try to start a club at his own school, though.
I don't see why the King/Queen challenge matches didn't have twin streams, though. Since it's being broadcast on the internet, you could have two camera crews and anyone who wanted could open them in separate windows. Mind you, that might be how it's done and so the anime's simply portraying reality.
It's funny, it's dramatic and it'll make you need to see Season 4. Next: the 2016-18 live-action Chihayafuru movies.