Have you ever watched a show and although you love it, you do not quite understand the premise of it? There’s one HUGE part of the show that is beyond your understanding. Like when you watch a mecha anime and as a character rattles on about how the machine works you just sit there nodding your head wondering why they’re wasting five minutes of a twenty-four minute long show on this. No I do not care how the Gundam blows stuff up, I just want to see it blow something up.
This is how it feels for me sometimes when I watch an anime. There are parts of Japanese culture that takes me a lot of extra information gathering for me to understand what is going on. Which is exactly what I did while watching the anime I am about to review.
So here it is my eighth anime review on a show that I think helped me to understand Japanese culture a little bit better: Chihayafuru.
Chihayafuru originally premiered back in October of 2011 with its second season, Chihayafuru 2, premiering in January of 2013. Both seasons had 25 episodes which brings this series with a total of 50 episodes. Which I find wonderful seeing as how this show probably would have been impossible under the usual 12-13 episode season.
I do not remember what exactly attracted me to watching this show back in 2011, but it was probably because I assumed that “karuta” was a physical sport that would keep me entertained. It was also a change of pace for me because at that time in my life I was watching a lot of mech shows….which is not much different than it is now, there’s just more of a variety.
Back to Chihayafuru.
The story focuses around a teenage girl named Chihaya Ayase, a beautiful girl who is obsessed with the Japanese card game karuta. Chihaya wants to start a karuta club, but is finding it difficult because not many people find the game interesting. Together with her childhood friend, Taichi Mashima, she is finally able to gather enough people to start a club and aims for them to be the number one club in the country. That’s right, they can do that. It is also about Chihaya and Taichi trying to reconnect with Arata Wataya, the grandson of a man once known as the Meijin (King) of karuta, and a boy that the two of them become very close to. It is very much a slice of life show, but does have a sporty/comedy aspect to it.
Before I go on to the characters, I think we need to dwell into what exactly karuta is. You know seeing as how it takes up such a huge part of the show. Alrighty, so karuta is based on 100 Japanese poems that according to the show everyone had to memorize at some point in grade school. People play in one on one matches, with teams in groups of three or five. Which every team has the most players win wins the match. Fifty poems are picked from the 100 and are given to the players. Those 50 are then divided up into 25 for each player. The reader will read a poem, with the other 50 thrown in. These are known as dead cards. Most poems are easily identified by the first, second, or third syllable. If the card being read is on your side and you take it, then it just goes away. If it is on your opponents side and you take it then not only to you get that card, you get to give your opponent one of your cards. Whoever gets ride of all of their cards first wins. Also you can only play with one of your hands. If you touch the wrong card, use both hands, move outside space without notifying someone, or touch a card if it is a dead card then that is a fault. A fault will allow your opponent to send over one of their cards, thus giving you more. There different classes of players, and many different tournaments. The strongest male player in Karuta is called the Meiji and the strongest female player is the Queen. Although it sounds like simple card game it is both mentally and physically challenging. If you google it there are all kinds of videos and stuff explaining the game.
Okay so now that that is cleared up (as best as I could) moving on to the characters.
Our main character is of course Chihaya Ayase. There also happens to be a poem in Karuta which begins with the word Chihayafuru (hense the name of the show) which also happens to be a card that Chihaya has hardly ever lost. She is a beautiful young girl who is often called “beauty in vain” because although she is beautiful, she is obsessed with karuta and is considered weird or crazy. She starts off with her goal in life being to see her sister Chitose become a famous model but later decides that she wants to be the Queen of Karuta. She is very kind and serves her high school karuta club well as the Captain, having lost the President title to Taichi because their advisor did not think she would do a very good job.
Next is the club president himself, Taichi Mashima. He went to elementary school with Chihaya (and Arata for a year) and has been in love with her ever since. He is very handsome and very popular among the girls. He is also very smart and has a very good memorization ability, which comes in handy for karuta. Taichi’s mother is very strict with him and only wants him to do things he will win at. His family is also very rich and he grew up very spoiled. He likes karuta though because it is always challenging him. Unfortunately, Taichi has very bad luck which is brought to attention a lot throughout the show. In all honesty, Taichi is my favorite character from this show because although Chihaya is a lot different than most female characters, Taichi is probably the most logical in the show. He sees Arata as his rival in everything and dream of beating him one day.
The last character I’ll go into detail about is Arata of course, rounding out the three childhood friends that the show focuses on. He came to Chihaya and Taichi’s elementary school for a year. He is the grandson of a former Meijin of karuta, who at the present time of the show has recently passed away. He is from Fukui and moves back there after elementary school. He has lost the will to play karuta after his grandfather’s passing because he was at a tournament the day his grandfather passed away. Chihaya and Taichi also make it their goal to get him back into the game. Although he is usually quiet, he can be funny at times as usually shown when he is at work.
Other characters involve members of the different karuta societies, members of Chihaya and Taichi’s club, and multiple others. Going through them all would take a very long time.
In all honesty the soundtrack for Chihayafuru is kind of generic. The opening songs are okay but nothing really stands out a great deal. I have the first opening on my ipod but other than that the songs were just kind of okay. The animation on the other hand was very beautiful. Madhouse did the animation and it was very bright and wonderful to look at. There are some CGI moments that kind of appear out of nowhere but it adds a certain beauty to the show that I found enjoyable.
Overall I really did like this show. I was very into it while it was airing and did not miss a single episode. I would like to point out though that the plot was focused mainly on karuta and karuta matches, so unless you had somewhat of an understand on the game then you were confused and had to resist the urge to play Candy Crush until the matches ended. I found it fun to watch and learn about an aspect of Japanese culture that I had not understood before.
I actually think the show explained karuta very well because the characters kind of talked you through it. There were also two filler episodes in each series that gave you a break from the seriousness of the game and looked more into the comedy side of it.
So overall I think that Chihayafuru is a wonderful show that has a certain uniqueness to it. I mean you can find all kind of shows about sports, but how many can you find about karuta. Which makes it the best show about karuta that I have every seen (see what I did there).
I award Chihayafuru with a B it is an overall good show that just has a few minor flaws. If you had some free time….GO WATCH IT!!!
So that’s all I have for this time. What do you think? Are there any shows out there about unique parts of Japanese history that you found interesting? Or maybe you have a show that you would like me to review? Or maybe you just want to say hi. Whatever it maybe leave it down in the comments below!!!
See you next time!!