Review: Chihayafuru

Chihayafuru

Chihayafuru was love at first sight. While the premise about a foreign card game called “Karuta” might be off-putting at first, you’d be surprised by how warm, beautiful, and epic a series about it can be.

Now, I’m not really a ‘game’ person. I couldn’t even tell you how to play Poker or Chess. When it comes to these things in anime, I have managed to enjoy Hikaru no Go and Shion no Ou purely because of character drama. So I was initially wary of this anime, wondering things like: What the heck is Karuta? Another game that will be hard to follow? Well much to my pleasant surprise, it’s the easiest thing ever to understand. As I said in my first impression, “the basic concept is to identify a specific card out of a bunch that are spread out and grab it before the other person. Written on each card are the last couple lines of poems, which the players identify by a card reader speaking the first line.”

While the game’s simplicity helps to get into it, it later proves to be fascinating by how emotionally and physically draining it gets on the players. I mean, they have to memorize all these cards and their positions that change in each game, concentrate on hearing the card reader, and be able to keep their energy up after lashing out at so many of them. For a card game, I sure didn’t expect it to be this intense. Not to mention the dramatic, slow-motion effects that come with each swipe… Karuta is also an art, as there is a deep meaning/story behind each poem.

Aside from the game, I’m pleased to say that Chihayafuru shines in every other way. The characters are passionate, endearing, and more “life-like” than your typical anime characters. The art is eye candy. The music is melodic and sweet. And there’s plenty of warm fuzzies to go around. My favorite characters would have to be the main trio, Chihaya, Taichi, Arata, who start out as childhood friends and compete each other in Karuta years later. There’s just something epic-feeling about watching them work hard to reach their dreams. The best part is being able to feel all their joys and frustrations which are so strongly conveyed. With the amount of set-backs they’ve been through, you can expect the character development to be superb.

Karuta manages to stay entertaining throughout the anime because of the different kinds of opponents Chihaya goes up against. No two games feel exactly the same. But during the middle of the series, they begin to lose a little suspense due to Chihaya’s winning formula: Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remember your friends. =P My only major complaint really is that the anime doesn’t exactly…well…end. In truth, Chihaya’s journey is far from being over, and a new awesome character gets introduced. It almost feels like we just finished watching 25 episodes of build-up, and now the real stuff is about to begin. A second season would fix things quite nicely!

Despite being incomplete, this has been an amazing, heartfelt experience from beginning to end, accomplishing more in the way of character development than many other anime of its length. The moralistic, upbeat nature of it often made me feel like the happiest person ever. Chihaya herself falls in my special list of strongest female protagonists in anime. All of the characters will be deeply missed, but I’m still hoping…!

Mimi’s Score: 9 Meeps out of 10 (Great)

    

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Chihayafuru Episode 25

Moonlight Clear and Bright

The tournament ends, with Sou Hisashi and the snowman girl claiming victory once again. Although it leaves everyone feeling a bit dreary, it doesn’t take long for Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata to pick themselves back up and practice…practice…practice. And poor Kana-chan discovers she has to make class A in order to become a card reader. Well, I’m sure she can make it in a few more seasons. *patpat*

So…we knew that the series would leave off incomplete, but at least they didn’t pull a terrible cliffhanger on us. Instead, it just shows that they’ll never give up their dreams and seems to promise more material. Like, will they get five more club members to be able to keep their room? Who’re they going to be?

While it’s awkward to call something so incomplete to be “satisfying,” I am pretty content with the character development for the main ones….and I’m going to miss them terribly until (hopefully) another season comes out, or the manga material gets translated beyond this point. *crosses fingers* I’ll save everything else I have to say for the review~

Chihayafuru Episode 24

Nobody Wishes To See The Beautiful Cherry Blossoms

*sigh* Isn’t it a bit too late to get me this excited?

This one really thrilled me because of the introduction to Sou Hisashi, the Master of Karuta. He’s faster than the Queen, which was already hard for me to imagine, and he appears to be pretty intelligent, shrouded in mystery, and…kinda cute. *sweat drop* More interestingly, Porky notes that Chihaya’s style is closer to his. I really wonder how Chihaya or Taichi’s first meeting with him would go. Would we even get to see that? T_T

And here’s a surprise–the queen gained a buncha weight. At first I thought it was just an exaggeration, but no, she really did eat a bunch of ice cream bars to win a rare snowman purse. What’s more is that she doesn’t notice her weight until she plays against Yumin…because she moves slower. *facepalm*  Ah well, at least she wins again. I’m also quite happy to see some of her past revealed, as she had a very strict mother and was pressured to live up to great expectations. I just want to know more and more about her. And especially Sou.

Taichi’s mom is freaky…

One more episode… *sad snowman*

Chihayafuru Episode 23

The Night Is Nearly Past

Chihayafuru does it again… *melts* I’m pretty much squealing like Kana-chan over here. Seriously, Chihaya and Taichi are so cute together. Now when is that loveable little airhead going to figure out his feelings, let alone her own feelings? You just gotta love shoujo…or josei…wherever this anime fits. ^^!

Overall, this episode is really amazing. It’s all about the characters overcoming the pain of losing, relating to each other, and feeling like a close family. Sure, we’ve seen those themes pop up over and over, but everything comes together even better here, especially since you see reoccurring characters outside of Chihaya’s circle struggling with the same feelings–in other words, a broader scope. Heck, even Arata lost again. It’s like I can feel all their frustrations and joys, which is an amazing feat for an anime to do. Despite that the anime will be incomplete, maybe not even getting to the best material, it has still been a very fulfilling and worthwhile experience due to the character development and emotions that come with. Can’t deny that!

I also liked that we got to see the characters in new settings, like hanging out at parties and bowling. I’d love to see them do those kinds of things more often.

Hmm, Arata is running out of challenging opponents to practice with. Come on…there’s a Karuta club with your sweet heart in it and another guy trying to take her! *nudge nudge* xD

Chihayafuru Episode 22

Just As My Beauty Has Faded

It’s been a while since Chihaya’s matches felt this exciting to me. The outcome is usually that she wins after making a sudden revelation. But here, it’s the complete reversal of the formula, where her opponent gets stronger instead. Not only that, she’s the former queen who has been dubbed “Yumin” by Porky.

Interestingly, Yumin is all depressed in the beginning of the match, unable to get over the fear of the new queen while downplaying her own skills. Chihaya’s passion and determination give her the upper hand until Yumin snaps back to her competitive, “stubborn” mode. It ended with Yumin winning and…Chihaya just sitting there in shock. It’s about time something like that happened, isn’t it? I really enjoyed Yumin’s character study and look forward to the next episode.

Oooo, Kana-chan, a “special reader?” That would suit her very well, actually… And I’d like to see the exam for that. o_O

Chihayafuru Episode 21

While Snow Falls Upon My Sleeves

Awww! What an adorable episode. Chihaya’s first match in the Eastern qualifier is against a child prodigy…and the cutest little girl ever. (Hauuu~! I wanna take her home! x3) Her Karuta is similar to Chihaya’s where she relies on speed, but Chihaya ultimately has the upper hand there; plus, she’s doing a lot better with timing and accuracy. I really like how varied her opponents are getting lately, so that no two matches feel exactly the same. I wonder what kind of person she’ll go up against next…

Taichi is being a pretty good sport, isn’t he? It’s obvious that he’s jealous, yet he encourages Arata to win the Western qualifier anyway. Man, I really wanna see who this “Sou Hisashi” is… Can’t imagine anyone being better than the queen right now.

Chihayafuru Episode 20

The Cresting Waves Almost Look Like Clouds in the Skies

It truly feels like the old Chihayafuru is back with the return of Arata in the tournaments. The driving force of this episode is Taichi’s conflicting emotions about him. On one hand, he’s jealous and beats himself up for losing, and on the other, he’s happy to have his old friend back. Add some pretty visual metaphors in there, and you have a very powerful episode. Although Alex doesn’t seem to care much for Arata, the theme of ‘friendship’ just doesn’t feel complete without him for me. Arata is just as special as Taichi and Chihaya. I hope there’ll be an episode where they hang out like old times.

Here are a couple quotes I loved:

Tsutomu: “You have to do the things you don’t want to do, before you can do the things you truly want to do.”

Oh how true that is. Why can’t I do that more often?

Taichi: “I’m not so much focused on making Class A as I’m focused on becoming someone who doesn’t run away.”

Great response to his mentor who was going to promote him to Class A just for winning second place twice in Class B.

So both Taichi and Arata lose their matches. Let more practice begin? =D