Chihaya Ayase is obsessed with developing her school's competitive karuta club, nursing daunting ambitions like winning the national team championship at the Omi Jingu and becoming the Queen, the best female karuta player in Japan—and in extension, the world. As their second year of high school rolls around, Chihaya and her fellow teammates must recruit new members, train their minds and bodies alike, and battle the formidable opponents that stand in their way to the championship title. Meanwhile, Chihaya's childhood friend, Arata Wataya, the prodigy who introduced her to karuta, rediscovers his lost love for the old card game.
Twenty five more episodes worth of charming romance and competitive karuta fun? Yes please. But don't expect a balance between the two; there's more latter quantity than the former, and whether you should be satisfied or not is up to your preference!
Who expected, or even acknowledged beforehand, that the true presence of competitive karuta would be ever so fierce and exciting from its outline? Well, I sure certainly didn't when I started from season one. Karuta is more of a complicated sport than popular ones such as baseball and basketball, and the entirety of season one teaches that it requires much more
than just reaction timing and memorization to win against other players. I enjoyed season one thoroughly, but watching karuta itself doesn't just hold its exciting entertainment factor by itself; there's a much larger insightful fulfillment that keeps its presence in each and every match. It's certainly more complicated than just slapping cards in front of people.
And that's what the second season is all about: Karuta, karuta, karuta! Chihayafuru 2 is a direct sequel to its previous entry, Chihaya and her team now in second year of high school. Chihaya is determined to, not only win the individual matches tournament upcoming to earn the Queen title, but to win the team tournament too, as well as establishing more members for the Mizusawa Karuta Club. It sounds difficult, and possibly silly considering it's still studying period, but this is Chihaya we're talking about; the pretty tomboy with a mind of karuta and karuta only. Who's going to stop her?
Despite being a direct sequel in terms of story, it does have its noticeable differences. Hardly any distinct features are involved mind; it's more of taking a step up on its previous features that made Chihayafuru for what it is. The central feature of the second season is the sight of karuta matches itself. If you wished for much more screen time on people competing in karuta from the first season, then you'll be delighted to know that your wish has be gracefully granted. If you're for the romance and sweet relationships though, as well as full development between the childhood friends Chihaya, Arata and Taichi, then you might be a little more unfortunate than Taichi himself.
The execution of each specific karuta match are all intense as ever. I'd say that probably more than half of the entire season covers the moments of the involvement of karuta matches, and without its sole execution the series wouldn't have been as exciting throughout. Its execution is graceful yet powerful, as well as being a little in-depth in its playful manner, from thought processes of the players themselves to tackling particular cards pronounced from the reader. Some scenes, preferably the opponents winning their cards against one another, can be striking in a single movement, maybe even breath-taking. The careful use of atmosphere and enthusiasm of winning or playing makes use of, and surpasses, the original Chihayafuru style from the first season. With the accompany of animation and the soundtrack, as well as different sorts of techniques and tactics used from each and every player, the passion and spirit created from these matches are very sensational whilst keeping the original, youthful atmosphere of the series.
But karuta isn't all just intensity in its matches. Season two explores the sport in a more exhaustive manner than the former season, and not just directly but indirectly too. Karuta is exciting because of the players themselves, but not solely because of their different levels of skill, style and tactics; it's more so as to why they're playing in the first place. Motivation, determination, pleasure, teamwork, whether its for a special someone or a particular goal, is all present in the characters of Chihayafuru. And karuta itself explores the different reasonings for lots of different players involved in the matches, which branches up the pasts and difficulties those characters have inside themselves. Realization can succeed to develop a character in a flowing manner, and that, despite it being a win or a lost, they learn something precious and important for their lives by their opponents.
It's the reason why this season, or the entirety of the series in this case, are filled with a great amount of extremely heart warming and tear worthy scenes. You'd love to cheer on one of the characters, like Chihaya, in a match to achieve her dreams, but that can't be entirely the case when the determination and reasoning of the opponent is involved too. Even when one seems in a tight or hopeless situation, you know how slump you're going to feel if the lost is given instead of a win. The motivation for each characters, even and especially side characters, are real. They're hardly one dimensional, and the match doesn't only determine if one has won or lost, but if their hard work and conviction has really paid off. The character's important speeches and actions boil down to karuta, even if slightly, and proves that the competitive sport has created a new light for these people; for something to devote and work towards to and be proud of it.
It's a plus too that the characters are in a wide range of variety, in both their motivation and personality. I can say without doubt that every single main and side character are likable and interesting, or at least from my preference. Nevertheless, there's a good deal of depth spiraled in each character, and most aren't so evidential until later on. They appear as mere opponents, not cardboard cut-outs but ones you wouldn't actually feel for if they lose. To be likable or not, they have distinct tropes that creates their characters, which are also for comedic factors which is a plus. But when their matches start, their pasts and goals begins to establish, and despite rooting for the other opponent because you've spent more time with them, your understandings for the character gets established as well. I find that the characters of the series all play out with interesting personalities, mysterious or not, and that their love for karuta is evidentially taken care of, rather than just written on the spot.
The series doesn't actually consists a whole load of content you'd expect from a two cour season. The speed of pacing is evidential throughout the series, as some matches can actually last longer than a episode or three. To consider it a problem in the fact that a little more content could've been included wouldn't be hugely anticipated, but it hardly is a problem if you consider wisely. Matches are, as explained earlier, made extremely well with a great deal of enjoyment factor, and the long scenes allows the different insights of each character to develop and to be explored. The pacing is necessary for this, as well as being able to build tension and anticipation on who would win or what will happen next. Though some of the matches can be predictable, the series focuses more on the depth of the players instead of the actual results itself, and plus it relies heavily on execution rather than shock factor, in which was a sensible decision to choose for a series like Chihayafuru.
As for the romance side of Chihayafuru, season one definitely contains a bigger portion of it. That doesn't mean to say that this season doesn't consist of no romance, but unlike the first season there are no episodes that fully dedicate the love between Chihaya, Taichi and Arata. The story behind all this continues, but doesn't develop so much throughout the series, rather it's used effectively throughout the minds of the stated characters; which leads to the motivational stories behind them that connects them to karuta in the first place. For those who side for more karuta though, it's presented in a manner that doesn't greatly effect the drama and tension in the series, so enjoyment factor would hardly be bumped down because of the romance.
Production values for the second season are not the greatest and grandest, although this is to be at least expected for 50 episodes altogether. However, animation is handled with great care and is used efficiently; both animation and sound are created well for the distinct atmosphere and style for Chihayafuru. Often, still shots are used for the usual swings and hits on the cards, but with great speed and accompany of sound and different textures of colours, as well as various effects in the scenes, it doesn't fail to look awkward or slow in any of them. Budget can look pale from far distances in shots, but when the more graceful or powerful scenes come along, the backgrounds and detail can look anything as beautiful with a fluffy aura or tension effect surrounding it, depending on the scene. It does this when necessary and makes the scenes even more memorable than it already was.
The youthful atmosphere is also accompanied by a very expressive soundtrack, applying brand new songs as well as ones from the first season. They are often orchestrated with light instruments like piano and strings, though does consists of acoustic guitars, bass and drums, and even pipes, flutes and traditional drums comes in the soundtrack. It gives a wonderful personality for the actual series to use, and although most are light-hearted or light-weighted, they're used really effectively in contrast of its atmosphere. The volume is oriented carefully so that the sound effects makes the karuta matches a lot more practical and engrossing for the viewers, building up a better experience to watch.
I'm glad series like Chihayafuru are still being aired. Produced by Madhouse and presented from the director of Cardcaptor Sakura, Chihayafuru manages to be an extremely enjoyable series with what it has to offer, not holding back with its execution on the theme of karuta. Anime doesn't necessarily need shock factor for a viewer to be surprised, and this series proves that execution is anything but less important than surprises. It's quite astonishing for me as to how much love I can express for a series I certainly didn't expect to ramble about, and especially one about a sport I have never heard of in my life until I started season one. It goes to show though that even such premises can contain a lot more potential than anime ideas that are more accessible for viewers, but fail to deliver because of its execution or lack of exploration in its concept.
I don't regret starting Chihayafuru and its sequel; the only regret I'll have is not being able to play proper competitive karuta because I'm in the entirely wrong place. But at least Chihayafuru was a charming experience, and I hope it inspires even more people out in Japan to compete in karuta than season one already has.
So, you ever tried something in your life and wanted to be the best? Well, I mean in terms of not really being the best but to try your best. Then, you realize that you journey to success is a lot harder than you ever imagined it to be. There are obstacles such as competition, stress/anxiety, and other factors that can influence your path to that destination. However, there are some people who just loves to try in order to become the best of the best no matter what the outcomes are. For a certain young girl named Chihaya, the journey continues with this brand
new sequel by the name of Chihayafuru 2.
Finally, Chihayafuru is back with the sequel known as Chihayafuru 2. I was quite excited when I heard the making of a sequel. When Winter 2013 came, I was even more thrilled. Indeed, the series comes back full force with its card game of karuta. Make no mistake, Chihayafuru 2 is the direct sequel of the original series (season 1) written by Yuki Suetsugu. The series continues from season 1 with Chihaya and what she does at best: playing karuta. Now, not everything is the same of course because there are various changes to this season. However, this sequel still achieved satisfaction for me and I am grateful to say that I enjoyed this series quite a bit.
The series still adapts the same theme of karuta. It's a game played in Japan based on traditional anthology style of compiling Japanese waka poetry. Of course, the idea of card games incorporated into animation form isn't anything new to the entertainment realm. In fact, series such as the popular Yugioh franchise and Cardfight Vanguard have already adapted these themes. What makes Chihayafuru 2 stand out though is the way the games are played. Rather than just mind games being played between players as a way to gain dominance against one another, karuta also tests the wits of competitors in ways they've never done before. It requires quick thinking, skill, memorization, and a little luck to pull out victories. For Chihaya, victory is something she always aim for between herself and her teammates. It's may just be a game but for her, it's also a dream and she hopes to reach make it into a reality; a dream of becoming the best karuta player in Japan.
As expected, the competition and intensity is high this season especially with both new teammates and adversaries introduced. Among some of the returning characters includes both Chihaya's childhood friends Arata and Taichi. Both of them are skilled karuta players although they have conflicting views on one another. Fresher new faces includes Sumire Hanano, a fresh new face who makes her debut. Unlike Arata or Taichi, she lacks the skills or experience of a pro. In fact, she is one of those girls who is much more interested in boys and her appearances rather than the game of karuta itself. Her eyes is set on a particular character in the series and often tries to win his affections. At the same time, she views Chihaya as a sort of 'love rival' despite the fact that there is nothing going on between her and Sumire's crush. Needless to say, the romance of this sequel is somewhat higher than its original series. Oh and who can forget about the love triangle between Arata, Chihaya, and Taichi? The one in the middle is Chihaya and she's the center of it all.
Among one of the key components to succeed not only in karuta but also in life is teamwork. Sometimes, you can't rely on everything yourself. For a certain individual, this is especially true. Yes, I'm talking about Sumire. Teamwork is important no matter what a task is. Without teamwork, a team will fall apart and conflicts will arise. As thus, this season has a lot of that expressed through directly in the form of karuta matches. There is also this feeling of suspense I get throughout each and every karuta match. It's hard to tell sometimes who will win when both teams are so dynamic and focused in their ambition to win. Each team in fact is also unique and has their own trademarks. Among some of these trademarks can be humorous but dangerously effective at the same time. Then, there's the concept of strategies involved in karuta. It takes practice to perfect these strategies in order to succeed. After all, Arata wasn't born as a prodigy and Shinobu wasn't born as the Queen. You get the idea.
The karuta games itself stays consistent and once again brings back the nostologia of this sequel. Honestly, I miss it. I also liked the concept of the game as more strategy, intensity, and anticipating your opponent's every move in order to respond accordingly. The game itself also seems to be difficult to master as it requires memorization and various strategies. Just like in the real life game, karuta also requires quick movements and intuition. This is especially true for taking your opponents' cards in order to gain the advantage. To add to the serious atmosphere of the show, most players has his or her definite style of play. It even comes with a unique outfit too sometimes with pretty kimonos, team headbands, or in the case of Shinobu...that adorable T-shirt that you can't help but keep your eyes off of.
The bond between the various members of the team is also an important aspect of the sequel. In fact, throughout later episodes, members of Chihaya's team demonstrates skills like they've never done before. This is seen in both their team and individual matches. It's the results of their practice and competing against other members throughout the series. At the same time, we can also trace their emotions through the bonding they have and the passion they share with karuta. Whether these emotions are joy, tearful, romantic, or intense, all the members of Chihaya's team shines through some way. As that being said, it's a good idea to keep watching this show and appreciate what they've gone through.
The plot direction of sequel seems to be a bit sluggish. It seems that some of the karuta matches are extended and the pacing becomes almost unbearing to endure. It certainly does not help with an recap episode at one of its more crucial points of the series. Additionally, despite the initial romance being set up somewhat in the beginning of this series, it seems to fall apart and remains more as a background theme. There are moments when the 'love triangle' is bought up again but most of it remains more as as minor setback. It's no surprise though as the majority of the show is focused on karuta as that's what the series is about. It puts karuta to test for the characters and develops them both physically and mentally. Finally, the show seems to also play on an idea of anticipation. It's clear that some fans from season 1 would like to see some potential matches or rematches. However, some of these left me mixed impressions by the way they were executed in particular of a rematch later on. The shows' pacing pushes that anticipation so it takes some patience to get through.
As for the artwork, the series remains artistic and natural. It doesn't' try to force any fan service at all nor does it make the characters look outstanding. Even with the looks, Chihaya looks like a normal girl but with a powerful dream. The rest of the casts also remains consistent. In particular, some of the younger players of the show gives off that look of innocence and youth. It symbolizes youth in the case of growing up and playing karuta as a way to achieve success. The josei like backgrounds and atmosphere gives off that ideal atmosphere of karuta game. Additionally, the fast pace and camera angles reflects on the intensity of the competition.
The soundtrack gives off that feeling of nostologia as well. The OP song "STAR" by 99RadioService gives an impression of some of the potential competitors in the series. The background music leaves behind that feeling of intensity and also rejoice throughout each karuta game. Finally, I thought that the VA did their jobs right in particular some of the more experienced players such as Shinobu and Arata.
For fans, this show is definitely something worth time to enjoy and appreciate. It is also essential to watch season 1 before picking up this sequel as this series continues directly from its previous season. If you're looking for a colorful cast of characters, then you're definitely at the right place. Even if you don't like the idea of card game themed series or in general, karuta itself, it should could be a refreshing watch. It's about learning how to appreciate dreams and to walk a path to success with yourself and your teammates. I appreciated this sequel and definitely did not regret watching this. Chihayafuru 2 is worth the watch even if you're not into the sports genre. It's refreshing and takes on the idea like karuta like never ever before.
As the two seasons present themselves much as a continuous series, with little to set them apart, this review is made and posted for both seasons of the series.
If there is one word that describes Chihayafuru, it is "passion" - indeed, "Chihaya furu" means passionate. On the surface there is little that separates it from typical sports anime, from the focus on the team and team spirit to rivalries to tournament story arcs where you're typically served the main characters' opponents' motivations and reasons for participating in this sport. Through tears and joy we follow the main characters' journey through the world of this sport,
and Chihayafuru very much follows this trend. As for the sport in question, the series focuses on a rather obscure (at least to a Western audience) card game known as karuta, where one has 25 cards with the first verse of poems on either side of the field, and as a reader reads the second verse of one of those poems, you have to remove the corresponding first-verse card from the playing field. The first to empty their side (25 cards) wins the game. A very coarse explanation but that's the gist of it.
While it follows many of the traditional recipes for the sports genre, they are pulled off quite well in Chihayafuru, alleviating many of the issues doing so can present. It does in no way lift it off the ground and up to stardom, and if you are not a fan of sports anime to begin with, chances are you won't find Chihayafuru that very interesting. For the sports anime fan however, Chihayafuru offers a loveable and passionate experience, with some twists and differences. I already mentioned "passion" as a way to describe the series, and this is one of the aspects that sets it apart. From the at times striking visual and auditory imagery used - it is poetry after all - to the many ways of love for the sport that are presented, Chihayafuru delves deep into a world of passion, and while at times it seems a little too alien or cheesy how much of it the characters have for a single thing, it can also draw the viewer in and afflict them with a desire to do something they love, which is, at heart, what the sports anime genre is all about: Communicating passion and love for something.
Another thing that sets Chihayafuru apart is that unlike most sports anime, which are made to appeal more to a shonen audience, it leans more towards the shojo genre, evident in its at times flowery animation and colour palette, and more significantly, in its larger focus on emotion and romance. It forgoes some of the most intense focus other sports series has on the game itself and rather focuses on the inner world of the characters and their emotions - the full spectrum of it, not just the "I want to win"/"This is my motivation!" portions that you are often limited to. Often you see characters cry significantly, in joy or sadness, in defeat and victory. The series also builds up a solid love triangle between the main characters, without really forcing its and in its treatment, as well as adding these feelings and moments of love to the secondary characters. Of course, with a large cast it's a near-inescapable fact that some side characters are more bland than others, relying mostly on a singular trait or two to provide comic relief or interaction, but for the characters that matter there are for the most part many layers and aspects presented - and developed - in an intriguing manner.
Aesthetically Chihayafuru is stunning. The soundtrack builds up around the atmosphere very well, from the heart-warming to the bittersweet, from the passionate to the suspenseful. It applies a rich orchestral instrumentation that fits very well with the oft-poetic art and animation. Meticulous attention has been paid to the quality of the card reading, and listening to the voice actors' performance in this regard is absolutely fantastic, especially for the most skilled readers in the series. Visually it frequently applies imagery as befitting of a series focusing on a game of poetry: The voice of a reader like sakura petals, the flow of a match like that of water, the flowery feeling of romance; such feelings are expressed visually and beautifully, though, as can be expected, some come across as more cheesy than others, but for the most part it is a boon rather than a detraction.
When all comes to all, Chihayafuru definitely isn't a series for everyone. Karuta can come across as boring, the emotional layer as sappy or over the top to many sports anime fans, and for those who do not have a taste for sports anime in the first place, the story and the series' focus can seem unappealing. To me, personally, the series is a heart-warming and moving story that spreads a lovely feeling of passion, filled with lovely aesthetic value and likeable characters. It very often brings a smile to my face, not necessarily because it is outright funny and makes me laugh, but because it warms me up on the inside. At times cheesy, yes, but far from such a degree it spoils the series. It presents a lovely and different sports anime that quickly has earned a spot as one of my favourite series.
I'm going to be writing this review in assumption that you, the readers, have already watched the first season of Chihayafuru. I dove into this second season with high expectations from the first, and *most* of those expectations were satisfied. We follow Chihaya and everyone else into another year of karuta, drama, and romance. This season explored new themes and served as a lovely follow up to the first.
Chihayafuru's story is mostly known for two things: romance and karuta. If you were looking forward to more romance between our three main characters this season, then I suggest you look somewhere else. This portion
of the story has a huge chunk of karuta and focuses mainly on Chihaya and her friends' abilities, motives, rivals, and passion. While the romance may be minimal, the amount of drama and emotion has not changed a bit. The matches have gotten more intense, to the point where you feel the character's pain, pressure, and happiness. Each new enemy gives our team more experiences and lessons, making them stronger and stronger. The story for the second season lived up to the first and did well.
The characters of Chihayafuru make the show pleasant and fun to watch. They're portrayed in a way that makes you feel like they're your friend and all you want is the best for them. Chihaya, the main heroine, is the same as always: hyper, passionate, ambitious. This season we really see her grow as a karuta player and as a friend as she faces trials and challenges. Taichi, the first main hero, goes through development as well. A seemingly perfect boy with his own problems, we come to see him for what he truly is and wish for nothing but his happiness. And finally, Arata. Portrayed as a karuta prodigy but also a dear friend to Chihaya and Taichi. His relationship with these two is heavily explored upon and is very pleasant to watch. Overall, the characters in Chihayafuru are full of life, growth, and development.
The sound effects and soundtrack for Chihayafuru 2 are incredibly breathtaking. The opening and closing songs are sweet and calming, matching the tone of the show. The music played throughout scenes and matches bring out the emotion even more, serving its purpose well while being a delightful treat for the ears. Every sound effect throughout the anime is spot on, from the heavy breathing to the whack of hands to the tatami mat. The sounds of Chihayafuru are beautiful and help tell the story even better than expected.
Chihayafuru has a reputation for being an aesthetically beautiful anime, and its animation quality and colors help uphold this reputation. I can't describe it as anything else other than clean and beautiful. The small details, colors, shadings made me feel like I was watching a painting in motion rather than an anime. The quality was beautiful and the designs were fantastic. However, there were some scenes where the character designs looked sloppy and quickly done. Rather than that, most of the art in Chihayafuru 2 left a great impression on me.
The animated sequel to Chihayafuru did justice to its predecessor. Although the main reason for the animation was to bring in more sales for the manga, it still gained high respect and a lot of good feedback. Mostly everything about the show was done in a way that compliments the themes of the story. It's unknown whether or not a third season will be made, but many (including me) hope so.
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