Jan 13, 2015
Dawn (All reviews)
*This review is spoiler free!*

Chihayafuru is an anime centered around the sport karuta and follows the story of a young girl named Chihaya as well as the friends and rivals she meets along the way. Before jumping into Chihayafuru you may have never heard of karuta and that really isn't an issue. The anime does a great job of creating a story around this sport that is accessible to everyone and after only the first few episodes you will understand the sport well.

For a brief overview of what the sport karuta is about, it’s essentially a sport based around the idea of determining which card out of a set has been randomly selected and then to quickly grab it before your opponent. Each of the cards are poems and at higher levels of play the players should be able to memorize the initial position of each card to be able to take them as soon as they can be identified. Even though Chihayafuru is based on karuta, the sport mainly acts as a platform for the ideas of growing and following your dreams, which are the underlying themes for the majority of the anime.

The characters learn to realize their dreams through karuta and watching them work hard to reach them is very satisfying. Most of the characters who are introduced are dug deeper into, including the opponents making it so you usually had a bit of sympathy for each character as they faced off. Each character has their own strengths, weaknesses and goals that make the character line up quite diverse and somewhat relatable. Each of the characters end up learning a lot from each other as they travel the same road, in karuta.

The sport karuta is the driving motor of the anime and watching the passion and determination the characters present in it really helps Chihayafuru capture the charisma a sport anime needs, but the great thing about this is, while it does capture the charisma of a sport anime, it also introduces the beauty and meaning of poetry making the karuta scenes very exciting to watch. These scenes are complimented by smooth and thrilling visuals, as well as sound effects and music, that really engage the viewer. For example, the intriguing sounds of the players skimming their hands over the cards to knock them to the sides or the interesting camera angles used to build suspense as the cards glide through the air. You'll be at the edge of your seat for a lot of the anime, especially during the intense karuta matches.

Chihayafuru has a great selection of music that really help to set the mood and engage the viewer throughout the anime. The background music is of high quality as well as the opening and credits. The music during the opening I've noticed really excites and energizes the viewer before it even begins, it does a great job at setting the atmosphere at the beginning. At the end of the anime, the credits have the opposite effect relaxing the viewer after all the intensity Chihayafuru has to offer. The art style is very appealing featuring a mostly bright and warm colour pallet with a large emphasis on floral patterns. The anime also does well in giving each character very individualistic and easy to identify character designs without making it off-putting. The animation is very smooth and enjoyable for the most part, but in a few episode I did notice a slight drop in the quality. In terms of visuals, this may have been the weakest feature, but I would still consider the animation quality very good so I wouldn't worry about it having a negative or noticeable effect on how you enjoy the anime.

In my opinion, the thing Chihayafuru does best is keeping the viewer interested throughout the 25 episodes. The anime rarely had a boring moment from start to finish and really keeps the viewer wanting more the whole way through. The concept and story of the anime is quite simple but at the same time can be a bit moving and really unexpected. Chihayafuru isn't a one dimensional anime and is actually full of twists and turns while still remaining in essence, simple.

The anime does have a second season and an ongoing manga series so you shouldn't expect everything to be finalized in the last few episodes, but I can still safely say the ending of the first season was satisfying and you won’t hesitate to watch the next. Overall Chihayafuru was a very well done and exciting anime built around an unexpected sport that surprisingly works wonderfully. There really isn't much to dislike about Chihayafuru and watching it is quite refreshing while still remaining simple and very engaging. To anyone who found anything I mentioned about this anime even the least bit interesting I recommend you don't get put off by the idea of an anime based on a sport you may have ever heard of and give Chihayafuru a try.