I recently watched a very nice anime called Chiayafuru, in which I got interested in after I’ve seen a screencap of it. Without further ado I took a first look at it. Chiayafuru was produced by Madhouse Studios and VAP and the anime aired from 5th October 2011 till 28th March 2012.
As you might hear it has an awesome opening “Youthful” performed by 99RadioService, not only has it a nice fresh sound, even the lyrics are lovely and captures the theme from the anime.
The story centers about Chihaya and the adventures of her high school life when she finds herself drawn to the traditional japanese game Karuta. It’s an action orientated kind of memory game for two players. A third person reads the poem out loud and then the players have to identify the poem on the cards which are placed in front of them by it’s first few words and grabs it before the opponent does. There are certain rules to it, but I won’t emberrass myself and go into detail about it, because I actually haven’t really understand it myself that well.
Karuta is a fascinating yet weird game, especially if you never seen it before, I found it rather rude how these poem cards were thrown around, but you should see it for yourself.
The Chihayafuru anime pays attention to present the karuta game as accurate as possible.
Chihaya is the charming heroine of this show, she is a cheerful, straight forward girl. She is not exceptional good at anything. In the anime it is often said that she is an airhead, but that actually isn’t the case, she’s just a bit different overall. As kid Chihaya dreamed that her sister who works as a model becomes a well known international top model. But soon she realizes that pursuing another ones dreams is wrong and she starts to find her own. Her whole family seems to be focused on her big sisters carreer and forgetting about the second daughter, throughout the show I felt sorry for Chihaya that no one in her family seems to care about her.
After a a few impressions from her present life, the story takes the viewer back to Chihaya’s elementary school past where she met her first friends Taichi and Arata and how she found interest in playing Karuta with them. The backflash episodes were directed very well with a deep atmosphere I actually got addicted to the anime quite quick because of the great introduction.
After that first arc we are back to Chihaya’s Highschool life, where she wants to form a Karuta club. Her first member is the childhood friend Taichi who she haven’t seen for a long time. Their other friend Arata moved away and plays no bigger role for once. After acquiring a room the Karuta club is starting to recruit new members and the build up part of Chihayafuru continues.
Getting new members for a niche thing like karuta turns out extremely difficult and so Chihaya’s way of recruiting members is not very sensitive. Ones she grabs one with a slightly interest in karuta she drags them all the way to the clubroom. She exceptional rough with the male candidates and gives them strange names. After the very well directed intro episodes intro episodes these new character introducing episodes were another great part of this anime. As new memers, Kanade, Tsotuma and Nishida join the ambitious karuta club. I might be a bit biased because of her enchanting femininity, but I liked Kanade the most out of these three
Kanade is a fan of traditional Japanese literature and clothes, she loves karuta poems for the thing they are and not to play a game. Actually most of the players don’t give a damn of this old poems. Kanade joins the karuta club after she made Chihaya accept certain conditions.
After hard weeks of practice, the karuta club takes part in their first national matches and don’t perform that badly for their first time, they even gained a trophy for their achievements.
It’s nice to see how passionate Chihaya is pursuing her dream to become a good and popular karuta player, but after a lot of progress in her game and several wins of matches, Chihaya and her friends from the karuta club, they also get in contact with the taste of defeat, as they face superior players, it comes to light that talent and passion aren’t enough anymore.
Since karuta is a niche sport in Japan and is also portrayed like that in this show, Chihayafuru can be partially considered as emotional sports anime, like Ookiku Furikabutte or Bamboo Blade, but on the bottom line it has more to offer like, a good balance of story, drama, comedy and character development. I enjoyed to follow Chihaya and the other characters in this show.
The animation style of Chihayafuru is very fluid and appealing, it has the look of these heavily saturated, sparkly and fluffy shoujo mangas where the characters have glossy eyes and strong blush marks on the cheeks. It strongly reminded me of the the previously mentioned Ookiku Furikabutte, Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama! and also Kimi ni Todoke.
Chihayafuru is a very enjoyable and interesting 25 episode long anime, when watching it I couldn’t get enough of it. It is a kind of Josei anime, which means that it is ought for older girls, but I would think it is watchable for both genders since it is not actually girly. And even when you are not the friend of sport related anime in general, Chihayafuru could be something for you, since the anime does a very good job in portaying it’s characters and in presenting nice and detailed character interactions aside from the thrilling matches.
The second season of Chihayafuru started recently, so maybe this would be the right time to give the first season of this very nice anime a try. In case you haven’t already done that.