Chihaya Ayase, a strong-willed and tomboyish girl, grows up under the shadow of her older sister. With no dreams of her own, she is contented with her share in life till she meets Arata Wataya. The quiet transfer student in her elementary class introduces her to competitive karuta, a physically and mentally demanding card game inspired by the classic Japanese anthology of Hundred Poets. Captivated by Arata's passion for the game and inspired by the possibility of becoming the best in Japan, Chihaya quickly falls in love with the world of karuta. Along with the prodigy Arata and her haughty but hard-working friend Taichi Mashima, she joins the local Shiranami Society. The trio spends their idyllic childhood days playing together, until circumstances split them up.
Now in high school, Chihaya has grown into a karuta freak. She aims to establish the Municipal Mizusawa High Competitive Karuta Club, setting her sights on the national championship at Omi Jingu. Reunited with the now indifferent Taichi, Chihaya's dream of establishing a karuta team is only one step away from becoming true: she must bring together members with a passion for the game that matches her own.
Chihayafuru is the anime adaptation of the manga with the same name written and illustrated by Yuki Suetsugu and serialised in the magazine Be Love. Animax Asia released the anime with English subtitles in 2013. The anime will get two live action film adaptations, both scheduled to be released in 2016. The manga won the second Manga Taishou award, and the 35th Kodansha Manga Award in the shoujo category. Chihayafuru has become so popular that it boosted interest in competitive karuta. The manga has sold over 4.5 million copies and has been praised for combining elements of sports and literature.
This is my first time writing a review, so bear with me as I try to sort out my thoughts on this wonderful anime.
I almost didn't watch Chihayafuru, and I hadn't even heard of it until it was already a few weeks into the show. As time went on, more and more people were raving about how great it was, how it was going to be the sleeper hit this season, so I finally decided to give it a shot and see if a show about a card game really was THAT exciting. And let me tell you, it is. I am writing this review because I really, really, really want you to watch Chihayafuru and love it as much as I do.
This show is so much more than a card game. To Chihaya, the protagonist of the series, karuta is also about creating a dream for herself, and the bonds she formed with her classmates Arata and Taichi back when she was twelve. Before graduating into middle school and going their separate ways, the three agreed to meet again when they all became Class A players. Arata moved back to Fukui, and even though he was fantastic at karuta (and the one who taught Chihaya!), he eventually quit playing after some unfortunate events. Taichi ends up at the same high school as Chihaya and helps her to form a karuta club, through which we are introduced to more wonderful characters.
I remember someone saying that "Chihayafuru loves its characters." This is certainly true. All of the main characters have grown since the start of the series and seem much more three-dimensional than those of many other shows out there today. Even supporting characters are fleshed out enough to be likable. In fact, there isn't a single character that I dislike. And if you know me, that's really saying something. I love hating on characters.
The animation for Chihayafuru is absolutely stunning. From the characters to the backgrounds, everything is breathtaking. The OST for the series is gorgeous as well, one of the best I've heard in a long time. They all complement each other to create a unique and wonderful tone for the series.
Maybe this still isn't enough to convince you to watch Chihayafuru yet. Even though it doesn't sound like a memory card game can be entertaining, it really is. The karuta matches are some of the most intense scenes throughout, and you'll probably find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat when it's finally over. Karuta isn't simply memorization either. It's about reflexes, and mental stamina, and Chihaya even has extraordinary hearing which sometimes helps her to quickly win cards over from her opponent.
Honestly, I don't know how else to put it. The cinematography of this show is amazing. The characters are developed and lovable. The story, while often predictable, is still exciting and endearing. There wasn't a single episode that I didn't enjoy. I breezed through the seventeen currently-aired episodes in just under three days, which I haven't been able to do even for some of the most exciting anime I've seen. I just couldn't wait to see what happened next! (Also, this show will give you a LOT of feelings. Just wait). I can't believe I waited so long to watch this series. And if you decide to watch it too, believe me, you'll be saying the same thing.read more
"What the hell is Katura?"
Of course, that was my first reaction.
At first, this anime really didn't catch my interest. It was plain and dry, like trying to shape out the dry clay; but as it went on, I found myself immersed in it. Like a sea of colors vibrantly expanding across an infinite of sky. Yes, even now, fifteen minutes after I finally saw the last episode, I am still numbed by its excellence.
In the beginning, the story seemed boring. Predictable. Like a boat streaming across still water. It was lifeless, and simple. I expected it to be like any other Anime with a swindle of a romance eclipsed by the ever flamboyant facade of a sport or activity.
But somewhere, as the series progressed, it seemed to evolve. It seamlessly grew to something more, something beyond the natural limits of a story. It wasn't plagued with typical conflicts or unrequited desires, it was like a light that slowly lit itself brighter and brighter, unblocked by the trends of literature and expectation. Barriers that innately shackled a series' potential seemed to fade away, and every climactic moment that the characters felt was somehow shared with the viewer. As if a crescendo of realization would slay you alongside them.
All in all, it was about the sport, Katura. And, you'd think: "Well, if its just about a sport its not like anything interesting can happen." But somehow, it was different. The sport was a sort of catalyst that helped the characters not only develop towards one another, but it opened the door for an entire world that we all seem to forget, as if blinded by the mundane trudge of life.
The competitive aspect of the game, which yearned for such a demand of stamina seemed to be later eclipsed by the "true" virtue hidden within the sport. Yes, what the beginner sees, and the masters forget: The poetry. Such an attribute slowly became the mortar that gave new meaning to each simple issue that arose during the characters' failures.
It was seamless as we learned with them, through their desperation and hardship; their envy and willpower. The goals kept increasing, and aspirations began to soar, capping only at what the characters truly wanted.
Romance. Friendship. Deeper revelations. Aspiration oriented. Perseverance through strength. No text box storytelling. Failure.
The art in this show was interesting. It had primarily bold lines, and definitely took some getting used to. But now that I finished it, I really couldn't imagine this anime any other way.
The thing is, since this show is so off on a tangent in the first place, it seemed necessary to break the norm.
However, I will say that there were moments when I wished that they wouldn't have. The fact of the matter is, the art does well for its purpose, but it seems like it was aimed at a particular niche. I guess it just comes down to personal preference, really.
Nonetheless, the art was still phenomenal. Everything down to lighting was near perfect, and facial expressions were particularly pronounced so as to invoke the true feelings of the characters. Bloom, Sparkles, Glitter, Comical Backdrops, and Chibi Moments; everything seemed in good shape.
Overall, it had a realistic feel. Which held tremors to the viewer considering the entire theme could be realistically translated into anything the viewer truly desired.
The art was different, but really you shouldn't have any complaints.
This soundtrack is simply awe inspiring. Even now, as I write this review, I have OST 7 "Main Theme" on loop.
The music in this show was EXTREMELY good. It did very well to convey the emotions that were felt by the characters, and worked seamlessly with the art and choreography to invoke what the moments wished you to feel. To be honest, the music had a voice of its own. As if it was an entire character separate of the cast, watching the show with you, helping you along through the tears.
It sympathized with you when necessary, and laughed alongside you, guided you along the adventurous moments... It really couldn't have been any better.
Even if this show had 5 frames a second and 1980's art, I would still choke for air at how many times this musical score seems to steal your breath away.
If anything, I'll still be listening to this music many decades later. Thank you, Kousuke Yamashita.
If only I could rate this 20.
Symphony. Commonly repeating motif. Varied orchestration. Light sounds mixed with heavy ensembles. Stellar composition.
While romance is an aspect of the story, it is merely a development feature. Note that the story is more so directed toward the love of friendship and the game itself than it is towards any romantic moments.
To start with, each character occupies a niche.
Ayase is a beauty, yet it is in vain. The moment she speaks, it is broken by her tomboyish image and personal drive. But its those very traits that reel you in. She is the joyous energy that keeps the group together, and despite her clear superiority in the game, genuinely cares for her friends, and helps aid them in their journey to pursue Karuta.
Taichi, Ayase's childhood friend, remains her loyal companion throughout the years. His mental forte is unmatched to most every player the game has ever known; even once reciting every card at random in the entire deck of 100, just because he could. His family is privileged, and he is pressured by his parents to keep at the highest tier in terms of sports and exams. His brains keep him on par with the purists that achieve their status merely due to athletic prowess. He acts as the groups motivator and leader, often amping everyone out of their slumps with "Just the right words" to turn them around.
Arata represents the reverse side to Taichi, being the poorer, lesser appreciated, segment to the story. As the story progresses, his darker past becomes realized, and he continues to become a shining beacon for Ayase.
There is a triangle romance between the three of them, but remember, the show does not articulate this enough for this show to be branded as a romance.
Of course, there are a great many other supporting characters that help aid Ayase on her journey to realize herself through Katura, each having a realistic and effective back story that warps the plot in one way or another.
The characters were diverse, which allowed for the story to be seen through a wide spectrum. Realistic. Believable. Nothing was over exaggerated.
I was stunned by the hype of this show that I nearly skipped over it. And let me tell you, I ALMOST did.
And simply for the thought once existing, I regret it.
If I had passed up this show, I really would have missed out on such a masterpiece. I am shamed of myself.
I honestly cant wait to jump into Chihayafuru Season 2.
It was beautiful to the core. Every aspect was heartwrenchingly flawless. If you have any last minute questions before watching this series, feel free to PM me.
I really don't think the world can afford to have people so many that haven't seen Chihayafuru. read more
Man, Chihayafuru is freaking good. I wasn’t going to watch this show. You look at the promo. It’s a shoujo/josei type joint about some chick who plays Japanese cards or some nonsense. How can that be good?
I know a lot of people mess with those mah jong anime that keep coming out. I can’t hate but I never know or care about what’s going on in any of that stuff.
Lucky things happened though. Winter 2012 anime were failing hard so I had to start review crawling. MAL gave this thing an 8+ so figured I’d give it a shot. Normally that’s a bad idea because girl anime tends to have inflated ratings on this site.
Expectations exceeded. This show right here filled me with some serious glee. I still have no idea what the rules of Karuta are and I still loved the show. All I managed to discern is that somebody reads a poem in a creepy voice and then you have to snatch up a card real quick. Apparently that was all that I needed to know.
Characters? Mostly win. I like that every character is unique. There hardly any typical characters, except some minor side dudes from that red shirt karuta club. Actually I’ll contradict myself and say that Chihaya herself is a pretty typical ditzy but hard working female lead character but everyone else is fresh. My favourite guy of all is Desktomu-kun. I’m comfortable enough to say that he is actually cute as a grown male character. Welcome to 2012. Speaking of Desktomu-kun, how come all the side characters in the club were small and funny looking where as the main three characters are all tall and handsome? It’s like there’s a class system through character design. I save further analysis of this for the Marxist anime review page.
While I said the characters are good that’s not saying the chracters are deep or anything. It seems like they all have one personality type, typically only express a couple moods and are all motivated by a single factor. For example, the adorable Kana-chan, can be summed up completely as the girl who likes poetry or a history buff. Not every anime has to be an exercise in psychoanalysis though.
The worst parts of the show are some of the flashbacks and plot devices used to motivate characters are pretty bad though. Arata’s motivation for quitting karuta is so contrived. Pisses me off right now just thinking about how little imagination went into that.
Taichi seemed like he was the most multifaceted guy. He’s sort of an insecure ass but more at least it’s only as far as a real person acts like an ass. You watch these josei/shoujo anime and the main guy is usually some epic dirtbag dude that could only another dirtbag could relate to. A good example is the guy in Nodame Cantabile. I want to punch the trash out of that guy. You always have these girl anime pitting Dirtbag Dans against Nice Guy Norms but here I don’t really get that. Taichi actually seems like a nice guy but he can’t help but do some dumb stuff. Arata is kind of shy but he doesn’t really seem that nice either. He is actually pretty edgy since he’s supposed to be the Lebron James of speed cards or whatever.
Then you have the action, which kicks a bunch of ass solely because of the direction and writing. Like I said before, I still have no idea how karuta works but I definitely felt the suspense in every match. I’m dying to hear them read the cards out and I don’t know what they mean. That’s good TV. The matches are made interesting by focusing on internal mental stuff going on with the players and small details that the reader can understand. For example, there is a part where a distinction is made between a player with speed and a player who uses rhythm and pacing. I don’t really need to understand karuta to be able to relate to that.
Thematically, you get a lot of the typical stuff here around being in a team and striving for a goal and all that sports anime crap. I love that sports anime crap. Makes me feel good as heck. You also get a little education about Japanese poetry. That also makes me feel good. Like I’m not just watching cartoons, I’m getting educated out here. I would have liked to have seen a little more focus on the outsider nature of the game though. The whole ordeal with the Empress teacher was supposed to present that aspect of things but that unravelled pretty predictably. I think more focus on Taichi and Chihaya’s interactions with their parents and the parents’ acceptance or ignorance of karuta would have been nice.
I give this series a 9. It delivered happiness, that sports anime suspense and some interesting knowledge about a weird sport. I’m dying for a second season. You know, I have now seen anime about karuta and kendo. When am I going to get a sumo anime? read more
Chihayafuru is a sports anime about Karuta. What is Karuta you ask? I had no idea either until I watched this anime. Karuta is a card game based upon Japanese poetry, with a hundred poems as cards so memorization is key. As a reader reads out the first line of the poem, the player's goal is to touch the corresponding card that has the second line of the poem before the opponent. Sounds boring? Well you could not be more wrong. The way Chihayafuru depicts the relationships between the characters and the feelings of those who dedicate their lives to something only to be trumped by those more talented. If you have ever competed in anything seriously, you will be able to relate.
The story is similar to many other sports anime. The main character Chihaya Ayase childhood dream is to watch her sister become the number one model. This all changes when she meets a transfer student, Arata Wataya, that open her eyes to the world of competitive Karuta. Ever since this fated meeting that made her entranced in the world of karuta her dream has been to become the queen (best female karuta player). From here on out the plot is quite simple, with Chihaya going to karuta societies to improve or tournaments to compete. Finding rivals,mentors and teamates along the way, each with their own influence on Chihaya. Honestly though if you watch Chihayafuru for a riveting plot with many twists and turns, you will be disheartened. Notably due to the slow start of the anime, with a long five episode flashback. Chihayafuru is mainly a character-driven show, which in its own way can produce its own heart-wrenching entertainment equivalent to an amazing plot.
And the characters really do not disappoint, from the design to their personalities each character has a trait to love. Though Chihaya is a stereotypical tomboy airhead type character with her stereotypical childhood friend,Taichi Mashima, and stereotypical outsider transfer stuident Arata, the way they develop is what differentiates Chihayafuru from the status quo. Each and every character has their own dilemma, which they have to face. Inspiring us not only through their success but also in their own failure. Even the side characters have progress, and are explored throughout the show.
In terms of art style, some might not be too accustomed to the differences in Chihayafuru. I know at first I had a hard time looking at Taichi and Chihaya because of their oddly super long eyelashes, but I grew to appreciate the design. There are some characters that look similar to others but this is primarily with background characters. Overall most of the characters don't look very similar, something I really appreciate in anime nowadays. As for the animation, everything is pretty crisp. Their is not much action to animate but they do a good job with the Karuta scenes, I have only seen problems in one or two episodes, where the frames drop a bit. Hardly noticeable, may even be my computer playing tricks with me. Now onto backgrounds, and other non-character related animation, was pretty good. Not amazing to me (like bakemonogatari background amazing) but still good. I am all for dark colors > light but the bright colors really stand out yet is cohesive with the piece as a whole.
With the great animations it leads to the Karuta matches actually being quite interesting. One would think that just watching a couple players try to get to a card first would be boring, but they build up suspense and emotion for every match. They do not get too technical about the technique and skill, and instead focus on the character's mindset. Despite the fact that at times this show is very serious, it does have its comedic aspects. Its funny to see how Chihaya go from ditzy in other situations, to being graceful at Karuta.
Lastly the Sound. The tracks do not vary too much considering the insert songs during the animation. Despite this lack of deviation, these songs were well timed and really highlighted the moments of emotion. In comparison the intro and outro differ greatly yet are just as memorable. The opening has a more upbeat tempo that makes you want to tap your feet to the rhythm. I imagine the characters drive and love for karuta during the opening. Slowing down the pace with the Outro, it drives the great emotional impact of Chihayafuru. The ending really expresses the character's relationships well. As for the voice acting, nothing really stood out, but nothing was annoying. I do not really have an ear for voice acting so do not quote me on that.
All together Chihayafuru provides a great experience for the audience, with emotional attachment to the characters and the suspense to see the results. Don't let the fact that the show is about Karuta, and you have no idea what that is (yet) stop you from enjoying it. I believe that Chihayafuru's virtues strongly outweigh any faults that it may have, and highly reccomend it to anyone. read more
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