Chihayafuru (Fall 2011) – Sports and Literature

“Chihayafuru” is an anime about Karuta. And what is Karuta? It sounds like the name of a snack or food. I have no idea what Karuta really is. So, Karuta is a traditional card yet simple card games based on Japanese poetry. The total of poetry is 100. There are two players in this game and they should memorize the cards as best they can. The main key to the game is memorizing. When a poetry reader starts reading the poem, both players must be able to touch the card depending on the second line of the poem.

It sounds simple, monotonous, but certainly boring. However, Karuta makes me think about other Japanese sports. Yes, this is a sports game. Unlike soccer, basketball or baseball, Karuta emphasizes the player’s soul through concentration, calm, and memory. Physical exercise is also needed when swinging their hands, practicing thinking fast, and increase their movement.

It’s no wrong that I don’t know what this anime really was. “Chihayafuru” illustrates this Karuta as a bond between feelings and their relationships. It’s not really about such sport at all. However, this is about how Karuta’s players can connect with each other. This anime is about Chihaya Ayase. She is blank, doesn’t have any dreams at all and only always fixated on her sister as a model. When a transfer student named Arata Wataya arrived, Chihaya was so amazed by the talent of this kid. Arata also admits that she has hidden talent and has great potential to become the Queen. The plots are from zero-to-hero, rivalry, mentors, relationship, and romance. The show always unrequited, you never know what turns their hands.

The first five episodes of the show contain a flashback of why they are in the first place, starting to separate and to reunite. The show, mainly, encourages each other. The characters in this anime inspire from one character to another, leaving an impression and driven from the other characters. The show has a notable pattern where this minor character is introduced with a little background. All of these characters as if there were no bad guy or protagonists themselves, regardless of Chihaya is the lead character. The show always sticks with that and in some scenes, there is a small plot device when one character is at the cornered.

Chihaya is your stereotypical tomboy type character. All the characters in this anime roughly borrow various stereotypical. You’ve stereotypical childhood friend, a transfer student, and a love triangle, for most of it. The way these characters work are disparate with their own story. The three main characters, Chihaya, Arata, and Taichi, have the same ambitions. However, they undergo the challenges in different ways. Chihaya, besides her head, is just filled with Karuta, must improve her skills and not just thinking about speed. Arata, after the flashback, experienced bleak times why he never played Karuta again. And Taichi must find his own passion in the face of row defeats. The minor characters also have progress and development as the driven character.

“Chihayafuru” is about Karuta and Karuta is a poetry card game. This anime is so poetic not because of the game but the poems contained have a similar situation with these characters. In terms of animation, this show is the best-looking design. There are moments when the feelings of these characters are portrayed poetically. The design characters is a stereotypical josei or shoujo anime but not to excess. The animation when it comes to Karuta is just amazing. I never saw or felt tense when Karuta scene appeared. The speed of their hands when playing the game even if you blink once, you have to see it once more. The animation when it comes to other elements is pretty good. Not really special but it’s kind of memorable like a romance anime with so many bright colors.

The opening and ending theme songs are great and slowly fit with its rhythm. The opening theme song is more fast tempo with rock-like. The ending describes the feelings of our three main characters from their story. As in the visual and the ending really fits each other. The voice acting stands at their best especially when it comes to poetry readers. Most of the sounds have really a great impact from all of these sounds. It has a fast pace and I don’t even realize that this episode was too soon to finish.

“Chihayafuru” is a stunning show you really don’t want to skip because the world in it is very poetic but quickly attach with your emotion. The first impression of the show might be like a boring anime with a boring theme. But, it’s not like that and you’re really wrong. It’s not, almost, really about Karuta at all but it’s about how the characters here are connected to each other with the game. This virtue show is strong but powerful.

4.5 out of 5 stars.