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)