HELL YEAH! More Chihayafuru!
It’s happening. Oh man, I’m too excited. And since for some reason I couldn’t get on the winter wrap-up podcast to discuss just what makes Chihayafuru a fucking amazing anime (near masterpiece honestly), I’ll do so in this post. So that’s right, back-to-back posts by Megiddo. Amazing what some passion can do.
Alright, this is going to be in list form. Because it’s still really damn early and bulleted lists are really damn easy to make. But before all that, because I’m not going to have any pictures, have a look at the following AMV which displays the absolutely gorgeous artwork and the massive amount of love and care that Madhouse put into this series.
When describing Chihayafuru to others, I sometimes call it a “gender-switched Hikaru no Go without the ghost”, but to be honest that is not a fair description at all. Hikaru no Go was all about Hikaru. All about Hikaru. Sure, there are other characters, but in the end, there are only three that matter: Hikaru, Akira, and Sai. Meanwhile Chihayafuru has five (six with Arata) in its core cast and much more supporting it. Every character of the core cast at least got a little spotlight and growth in the first season. And when they’re competing in a tournament, you just can’t help but root for them all and feel devastated if they lose.
As I said in my first episode blog, this is a sport anime. Not only is it a sport anime, it’s a josei sport anime (meaning it was written to appeal to women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s). I’ve seen a lot of sport anime and I can’t think of another josei sport anime besides the ones that were simply after the fujoshi/BL fans. That said, the story of Chihayafuru is pretty simple, and it’s laid out fully in a three episode flashback at the very start of the series. Chihaya was always in her sister’s shadow, who is on the fast track to being a very popular model/idol. She was completely devoted to helping her sister achieve her dreams, not having one herself. This changes when a new kid with a strange accent, Arata, transfers to her school and eventually teaches her how to play karuta and how he’s aiming to be the top karuta player in Japan. Upon hearing that being the top female player in Japan (Queen) would also mean being the top female player in the world, as well as seeing how quickly and easily Arata could swipe away cards, a motivation burned anew inside Chihaya. She had found her dream. Fast forward to high school and Chihaya is trying to set up a karuta club with the help of her childhood-friend Taichi, which will eventually need more members, which will eventually compete in team tounaments, and so on. As I said, the story is simple, and in the hands of a lesser manga author it probably wouldn’t have amounted to much, but thankfully that’s not the case here.
As far as sport anime go, actually, fuck that, as far as anime in general, Chihayafuru’s writing is simply superb. It is the strongest point of the show, though Madhouse’s gorgeous visuals do give it a row for its money. Some may be wondering “What makes this a josei anime”?” It could be hard to see at a glance, I mean the promo art most likely shows Chihaya, a high-schooler,along with two guys. And while that may look exactly like the cliché shoujo love-triangle setup, let me make it clear that Chihayafuru is not about that at all. What makes Chihayafuru a josei manga/anime is how little Chihaya cares about romance. Sure, she cares for her childhood-friend Taichi and for Arata, the guy who taught her karuta, but not in any romantic way. At least not yet. The focus of the series is on the karuta club’s determination to get better at karuta, and this is written in a very realistic manner. While Chihaya has some natural talent at the sport, as soon as she rises to the top level of competition she experiences challenge after challenge and learning experience after learning experience. The writing for this show is tight-nit, and except for one occasion almost midway into the series, everything that happens in the series happens for a reason. There is very little time wasted.
Okay, karuta may not exactly be football, hockey, or be the most interesting sport in the world (though personally the subtle nuances of the game fascinate me) and Madhouse knows this. Where other shows take many episodes to cover a match, Madhouse could zip by 3 or 4 karuta matches in a single episode. The pacing is perfect for the series, enough to allow some intensity and drama, but not too long so people get bored. And as I said in the writing section, the entire growth of the karuta club seems very believable.
The OST for this anime is phenomenal. Oh man, some of the orchestral numbers just make you emotional on their own.
Just listen to this:Dat feel
There are so many other orchestral numbers like this one, each used masterfully for the most impact be it a moment of jubilation or sorrow.
Watch Chihayafuru. I don’t give a fuck what you think of sport anime or josei anime. The only way you will not enjoy Chihayafuru is if you cannot appreciate a solid story surrounded by enjoyable characters with stellar writing and beautiful music. The whole show is streaming on Crunchyroll, so it’s not like it’s hard to find. Watch it, be amazed by it, and join all of us who are waiting for the second season.