Hey hey hey! Guess who’s back to doing anime reviews. After my two season long hiatus on watching anime, I’ve resurfaced to take on the challenge of watching and reviewing anime series. Now, before I move along with first impressions of the spring line-up, which sadly don’t fit much of my taste, I’ll be reviewing series I’ve finished just recently of the Fall 2011 & Winter 2012.
In comparison to other anime series that ran during my hiatus period, Chihayafuru wasn’t one I raved about at the start of its airing. However, the character design and karuta gameplay have a certain charm that even when I tried to place Chihayafuru on hold, it wouldn’t let me. The plot and laid-back style is great for those stressful moments in life because it gives the viewers time to relax while enjoying the plot. That’s the reason I didn’t completely “drop” Chihayafuru.
Chihaya is a lighthearted tomboy, who’s not especially good at anything in particular. Her dream has always been for her sister (an aspiring model) to become the number one beauty of Japan, or perhaps of the world. But then one day she meets someone who tells her that a dream is something that should concern only herself – and something she has to work hard for as well.
At the same time, Chihaya discovers a passion for the old Japanese game hyakunin isshu, also called “karuta”.
You can say I was one of those daring enough to watch Chihayafuru at the moment it aired. On first glance, it’s simply about high school students playing cards, which brings up the mindset, “is anything new?” When any anime series decides to pair-up cards with high school students (or students in general), it’s either a hit or miss. With the grand high of Yu-Gi-Oh!, chances of card-related series being a hit are very low— as showcased by Cardfight Vanguard (on a side note, it must be doing pretty well considering it’s still airing).So what’s new with Cihayafuru then?
One, the protagonist isn’t a weak-willed guy, but an absent-minded girl. Most game-related series feature boys as the protagonist, so it’s refreshing to see a girl even if she is absent-minded. Chihaya, the protagonist, has an entertaining personality. She makes the viewers feel a variety of emotions ranging from laughter to frustration. Her entertainment value comes from her distracted presence.
Two, karuta has a rather interesting gameplay— or that’s how the director wants us to feel. Karuta is a traditional card game in Japan that involves memorization, speed, and incredible game sense. I never realized a traditional game would be exciting, so karuta was refreshingly new. That’s what makes Chihayafuru different from its card game contemporaries— it actually makes use of its Japanese roots. In a way, Chihayafuru is promoting the strengthening of country identity by showcasing a tradition that isn’t slow-paced or boring.
And third, the plot isn’t the usual shounen-type wherein players have an abnormal tendency to become better faster. In Chihayafuru, honing skills is actually showcased. Training at a karuta society is highlighted as a means to get better partnered with various competitions that teach its players their strengths and weaknesses. Chihayafuru succeeds in keeping a realistic air while skillfully portraying hope that any shounen or shoujo series would showcase. I guess that’s why some people classify Chihayafuru as josei.