Alright, I’ve had enough with dark and controversial stuff for a bit! Let’s talk about something fun! That’s right, we’re talking about the most thrilling sport in all of glorious Japan…
Chihayafuru is an odd show. Not surealist odd, just odd. It’s a show that, upon reading a plot synopsis, really doesn’t sound super thrilling. I mean, come on: it’s a game about listening to poetry and slapping cards. How thrilling can that be?
But remember: this is anime. The medium capable of making climbing a ladder thrilling. Anything is possible.
Now, in case you haven’t seen the show and don’t know anything about Japanese games, allow me to explain Karuta. Karuta is a competitive pseudo card game. Each player has a set amount of cards on their side. These cards contain segments from a list of one hundred classic Japanese poems, and the Speaker reads off a different segment of the corresponding poem. The players must smack the card in order to clear their side of the mat. If you smack a card from the opponent’s side, you send over one of the cards from your side. This goes on until one player has cleared their side of the board and claims victory.
Sounds difficult right? Well I assure you, it may sound difficult, but it’s really not. It’s actually impossible.
Karuta requires an insane amount of memorization, so much that it would make even the world’s best speedrunner blush. Not only do you need to completely memorize all one hundred poems, but you need to memorize your side of the board (and your opponent’s if you’re feeling like a god that day) within twenty-five minutes before the game actually begins. Forgetting even one detail, from a single word in the poem to the placement of a card, could cost you the game.
And this stress is perfectly encapsulated by Chihayafuru through it’s wide cast of characters. From the main character Chihaya all the way to the smallest side character, every person in this show is memorable, unique and interesting.
This is especially true of the three main characters: high school students Chihaya, Tai and Arata. And I get the strange feeling that you just figured out the group dynamic without me even saying it. But just in case, let me make it clear: these three are caught up in a classic teenage love triangle of dramatic proportions. One that I’m actually quite fond of. The feelings all three have for each other are really charming, quite and fun.
But if you tell me that Chihaya and Tai is the best pairing, then me and my boy Arata are going to need a few words with you.
Even without the love triangle, these characters are all super interesting. Arata was considered a Karuta genius, but he stopped playing after the tragic passing of his grandfather, which he held himself responsible for. Chihaya wants to become the best Karuta player in Japan in hopes of facing Arata again after he moved away. And Tai is struggling to pursue what makes him happy due to the intense pressure brought on by his strict mother, who expects him to be the best in order to preserve their pristigeous family name. The drama brought on by the intersections of these three stories and the characters within them make up the bulk of Chihayafuru’s story, and it’s simply incredible.
This is only helped by the fantastic art direction and visuals. This show is absolutely gorgeous, featuring some of the most charming character designs, environments, and music that I’ve ever seen in an anime.
To put it simply: Chihayafuru is a sports anime that doesn’t bore me to tears. And when the only other show to do so is March Comes in Like a Lion (which barely counts as a sports anime), you know I’ve got some high standards.
This show is highly underappreciated. If you haven’t seen it before, I’d highly recommend checking it out on Crunchyroll (not sponsored). Both seasons are a great time from beginning to end, and they sit highly on my list of recommended anime.
Much like the show for tomorrow’s post…