Posted by psgels on 28 March 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Chihayafuru




Most people here will be unfamiliar with the game of Karuta. Its rules are fairly simple: two people sit around a bunch of cards that each contain a half of a poem. Someone on the sidelines starts reading cards that contain the other halves of these poems, and it’s up to the player to get each corresponding card as quickly as possible. At first sight it doesn’t seem like your interesting game that you can make a full series off, unlike games as Go, Shougi or Mahjong. But after 25 episodes of Chihayafuru, I had to change my mind about this. This series really managed to show what makes Karuta a great game.

The execution of this series is simply stunning. When you take a look at the animation, for example, movement is incredibly fluid. Scenes are directed with a lot of force and energy behind them. Every single time a character claims a card, it feels like a ton of energy is devoted to just show how difficult this is. The acting also is really excellent, with just about every character and actor giving off a memorable performance.

What really sets this series apart is the way it handles its characters. Seriously, this episode has a cast of about five main characters. Every single episode manages to add something to these characters. Seriously, from the moment they’re introduced, this series very actively tries to flesh out these characters as much as possible, and every episode feels like we get to know more and more about them. The consistency with which this series does this is almost scary, and even the minor characters are colourful and surprisingly well developed.

What this show also does brilliantly is making the skills in Karuta of each of the characters grow. I mean, most training arcs in anime consist of “character trains for a while, character is stronger”. Chihayafuru goes in-depth to this much more than I at first thought it would. It examines what it takes to get good at Karuta, how the best players out there are playing, and it shows the full train of thought of the characters as they try to get better, and try to find out their weaknesses. I mean, this series closes off with an open-ended cliff-hanger (ongoing manga…), but even here the creators managed to actually make all this focus on training come together wonderfully at the end.

If I had to mention a flaw, then it’s this: the series takes place at a high school and is focused on a club whose members enter a bunch of tournaments. The detail on karuta is amazing, but beyond that this series uses a set-up that has been done so often already. This series is just karuta match after karuta match after karuta match, with very little variety along the way. It really solely relies on the karuta and the characters to spice up its story, and it does so brilliantly, however, it also is a bit of a monotone series because of this.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Amazing direction, wonderful pacing. Needs perhaps a tad more variety in its story, but really brings its story to life. The unfinished ending will leave you wanting more, though.
Characters: 9/10 – Amazing characters who keep getting developed and fleshed out. Every epsode adds something new and interesting about them.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Lots of eye candy, very fluid animation.
Setting: 9/10 – When this series started, I thought Karuta was a bit of a boring game. Right now however, I don’t think that anymore. This show really showed a ton of the different sides of the game.

Suggestions:
Hikaru no Go
Ookiku Furikabutte
Shion no Ou

15 Responses

  1. Snowolf says:

    Oh wow, I was expecting a solid 90/100 from you. Close though! Are those 2.5 points taken off because of the ending? I for one, thought that it was actually quite un-monotonous with the way they handle each match, focusing on different players and strengths and also perspectives, with the cast taking away an important lesson from each game. Personally, I’d rank it as the best anime of what was otherwise a dull start to the 2012 year. The storytelling for what is generally a seemingly-generic story is amazing though. Exceptional direction and execution. I’m going to miss this show.

    • psgels psgels says:

      Yeah, if this had ended conclusively I probably would have rated it a 90/100. Right now though, there is just too much potential lost in comparison to the other serie that I rated this high.

  2. joojoobees says:

    I honestly have never seen a show this solid before. I often proclaim the virtues of shows that have flashes of brilliance, and I can brush off an occasional bad episode, because I recognize that unevenness often is a sign that someone is reaching out to the end of their limits. I always thought “consistency” meant tame, and unambitious, but I have never seen a show that consistently delivered great pacing, and character growth the way Chihayafuru did. I may need to rethink my ideas about what “excellence” even means.

  3. starry says:

    Beautiful show. Solid series. Will definitely keep up with the manga once scanlations surpass what the anime has already done. Good review and a 87.5 is still pretty high.

  4. Stars says:

    It’s easy to see how someone might find this show to be boring and with the repetitive karuta matches, but I never saw Chihayafuru like that. I watched it for the beauty of it’s characters and emotions, and boy Chihayafuru did not disappoint. It made me laugh, then cry, added some tension then made me cry and laugh again.
    Absolutely loved it.

  5. tk007 says:

    This series really has no weak episode. Every single ep is rock solid and captivating. I actually watched every ep at least twice every week and now that this has ended, I’m actually going to rewatch the entire series again. That’s something I’ve never done before!

  6. Oroboros says:

    Clearly clinches a spot in my upcoming Top Anime of 2012 list. Any show that encourages me to read the original manga is awesome in my book.

    Anyone know where the anime finishes in the manga?

  7. ronbb says:

    I have decided – Chihayafuru is my favourite of winter 2012. When it was announced that Asaka Morio was the director, I had no doubt that I would follow this series – I was not disappointed for a single moment. There was not a single minute in this two-cour series that I would take my eyes off the screen. The topnotch directing, the superb writing, the beautiful score, the flawless art, the great acting by the seiyus, and the powerful character development – all make this series a rock-solid one from start to finish…for all 25 episodes… I was so drawn to the characters – listening to their thoughts, witnessing their growth, feeling their pain when losing a game, and cheering for them when they’re in one.

    This is, and Natsume Yuuchin-Chou, the series I had anticipated so much every week, and now I feel a bit sad to say good-bye… While I hopelessly wish and pray for a second season to come, I am sure I will revisit the series many times…

    Lastly, thank-you psgels for blogging this series for the past 6 months…enjoy reading every post of Chihayafuru that you wrote.

  8. johnnski says:

    Chihaya is the prettiest heroine ever.

  9. Hogart says:

    FINALLY got a chance to watch some anime again, and this was the first thing on my list to finish. For me, Chihayafuru really only suffered from a little too much unresolved shoujo melodrama with Taichi. It did it’s job otherwise – it inspired me to read the manga some day, and ended on a decent enough note to not leave a sour taste in my mouth. Not many series try this hard, especially in terms of portraying it’s many quirky characters without them feeling like anime characters. I’m actually glad they kept it “monotone”, because it makes for a fantastic contrast to the more childish card battle anime.

  10. Vanichu says:

    I knew the ending wouldn’t give us some sort of closure, but at least it gives a feeling like “and the club who loves karuta still goes on…”
    I would have loved to see more screen time between the trio childhood friends. I wonder why didn’t they include any of that? For me, a phone call from either trio saying they should meet up to play karuta would be satisfying for me.

    It was a good anime in my book. I don’t think I’ll be able to forget Chihayafuru… just like how I still remember Shion no Ou, despite the fact that I do not like to watch sports-related anime in general.
    There’s just something about Chihayafuru that draws me so into it and leaving me a deep impression of the anime.

    I’m glad they decided to make a manga adaptation. Now… off to read the manga ^^b

  11. Random says:

    Now that we got a second season can I consider this a 90/100?

Leave a Reply

Shoutbox

Name:
Email:
For:  
Mail will not be published
  • Pentel
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 09:09 AM)
    and totally unrelated otherwise. Maybe the target audience is actually for stupid people who didn’t learn basic arithmetic terminology in which case, the writers get a pass.
  • Pentel
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 09:07 AM)
    Trinity Seven is a retarded name. It’s like saying Dozen Nine. Or Twin Three. Or Quartet One. Or Sextet Eleven. Or Septem Thirteen. Or Octet Three. Or Nonet Two. Do the writers not know how to count? Or do they think they were being clever and squeezed in the “trinity” to make it sound cooler than the show actually is? Not that it helps, since Trinity and Seven are multipliers and factors of each other.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 08:54 AM)
    @Bam You know who’s even better? Dr.Dog.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 08:15 AM)
    Also Walk The Moon is a tight band. Jess sayin.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 08:15 AM)
    @Friend: sweet. Will download tmrw and start messing around with it.
  • Friend
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 07:59 AM)
    @Bam The beauty of Blender is that it is 100% free.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 07:44 AM)
    @Friend: no can’t say I have. Is it freeware or do I have to pay for the license?
  • Friend
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 06:31 AM)
    @Bam Have you played around with Blender? It has a relatively simple and intuitive 3d rig, video editing, amd game designing interface that a lot of people like to use. I haven’t played around with making games on Blender myself, but I do use Blender’s 3d animation creator for some films when I need to.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 06:26 AM)
    I much rather direct and design then code the damn thing.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Oct 26. 2014 06:26 AM)
    @Friend: I have made very simple ones with Java as an effort to better understand the language but nothing serious.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks – 03

Well what can I say besides, I told you so. But even though I knew what was coming this is still remarkable. Not only is this episode excellent but it may in fact have topped it’s source material. It is at times like these that it is difficult to be both a Fate fan and […]

Akatsuki no Yona – 03

Hak and Yona flee Soo-Won’s men, but Yona’s mental and physical condition continue to deteriorate. Yona and Hak are both haunted by memories from the past. This was easily the best episode in the series so far. Whereas the first two episodes primarily took place in the present or the future, this episode is mostly spent in […]

Grisaia no Kajitsu – 03

This isn’t looking good. Let me explain, Grisaia has a somewhat nakige visual novel approach. Meaning that it has a comedic relatively plotless first half, followed by a tragic heroine backstory related story arc. Notable examples of this is any Key visual novel anime adaption you can think of. So for the first half we […]

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis- 03

Okay, so this episode didn’t focus on Leone and Amira’s adventure. Instead, it focuses on building Kaisar’s character and it does so a bit awkwardly. This episode takes Kaisar and puts him into an overly bombastic situation in order to tell us about Kaisar’s past family problems, but it was so out of tone from […]

Gugure! Kokkuri-San- 03

This show has a great cast, but some chinks in the armor are starting to appear in the comedy. So far, this anime seems to lack a consistent tone, which shows through just how hit-and-miss the comedy is. It attempts to mix elements of light and dark comedy along with slice-of-life and tries to excel in all three […]

Psycho Pass 2 – 02

Episode two continues right where episode one left off and progresses about how you might have guessed. Akane chases the mysterious villain pulling the strings, getting only cryptic responses from Kitazawa. Shimotsuki confronts Akane with her misgivings about Akane’s handling of the arrest. And we finally get some subtle hints towards Kougami’s existence and how his disappearance might […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks – 02

The stage is set, the actors are in place and the curtain is rising. So I can say this episode’s title was certainly apt. Unfortunately this week we have no bombastic fight scene to ogle and instead we get a heavy dose of info dumping. This is not the most exciting of episodes but the […]

Grisaia no Kajitsu – 02

The grisaia visual novel was by no means perfect. In fact if I was to summarize it as concisely as possible I would deem it a mixed bag. Some great moments but quite a number of bad storytelling decisions. Still there was hope for this anime adaption. After all the Steins Gate adaption managed to […]

Parasyte-the Maxim- 02

Before I continue reviewing this anime, let me put up a disclaimer: I will be discussing the anime of Parasyte, not the manga. If you want to talk about spoilers, I recommend you go to a site that will talk about those things. Don’t be an ass and discuss spoilers down in the comments, because […]

Latest Reviews

Clipboard06

Nerawareta Gakuen Review – 84/100

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series […]

Clipboard03

Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]

Clipboard01

Kyousogiga Review – 90/100

Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a wonderful thing because that allows us to have so many different forms of media that all aim toward their own niche. My blog is obviously written from the perspective of my own taste, and even when a show doesn’t cater to it (which is nearly always), I love […]

Clipboard04

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru Review – 80/100

Noucome! You do not want to know how long I have been waiting for a series like this. More than half a decade, at the very least. Finally a series comes along and puts the incredibly overused harem genre in its place. And it actually does it well. Thank you! So to elaborate: the harem […]

Clipboard01

Pokemon: The Origin Review – 75/100

Normally I try to avoid spoilers with these reviews, but screw it, it’s Pokemon. Pokemon The Origin is a bomb of nostalgia. If you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green, then you will not enjoy this one slight bit. This really is made as pure undilluted fanservice for the fans of the first games. […]

Clipboard08

Tamayura – More Aggressive Review – 75/100

I’m not going to dedicate a post for my impression for the final three episodes of this series. It was just too boring to write much about. I guess that that gives a pretty accurate indication of what I think about this series. Right at the start of Tamayura’s second season, I asked one question: […]

Clipboard04

Silver Spoon Review – 86/100

When Noitamina started airing two series per season, it was amazing. It’s a timeslot that on average tends to be aimed at a much older audience than usual, and having two series with the same mentality definitely helped to bring more diversity to anime overall. Unfortunately it’s a schedule that could not be kept up […]

Clipboard07

Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San Z Review – 82,5/100

Reviewing a comedy sequel usually is quite simple: in most cases it just drops the bomb and runs out of inspiration, and in rare cases it actually manages to stay hilarious. The tricky thing with these kinds of series is that you need to remain funny, and you need to have the inspiration for that. […]

Clipboard05

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review – 81/100

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet tells the storyline of a planet that is completely submerged, with only giant ships residing on the surface, while one of those ships gets visited by this guy and his AI-mecha from this very technologically advanced civilization. Yes, this show is about world building. What this show managed to do […]