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
  • Emma
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 08:24 PM)
    Death billiards getting an announcement like that, I’m pleased with the news but am surprised by it. It was the best of those shorts that have been cropping up in recent years.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 05:39 PM)
    Well well well….Death Billiards is getting a full anime. The short was a great and does have potentail. I like. I like a lot.
  • Syndrome
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 04:23 PM)
    Ok, fourth episode of Psycho Pass was really good. I was afraid of what this second season would looks like, I’m strating now to get hyped.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 02:25 PM)
    @Realist: Stereotyping is intrinsic to human beings in too many ways, so much so that even when a “safe”, “attractive”, “normal” looking person is caught out they still become surprised at the revelation, even if they admit that stereotyping is wrong.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 02:14 PM)
    I think I’ve got a good handle on Yamaguchi Mikoto as an author now, I also read the first volume of Mayonaka and as I thought, it began deceptively and that maybe there wouldn’t be too much to it, but turns into something surprising, far more interesting.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 01:38 PM)
    @Trass, I can sort of understand that. Though as you likely noticed, psgels isn’t as active as he used to be. So rather than let this blog die a slow death it would be better to see something done with it. We ain’t prefect but well people improve over time.
  • Trass
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 12:47 PM)
    I came back here after a long while and saw how the blog is active again. I was really excited but then found out it’s not psgels who are writing the posts anymore… I’m happy but really sad at the same time ;w;
  • Bam
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 08:31 AM)
    *this time
  • Bam
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 08:28 AM)
    @K-off: it wasn’t the most visually impressive episode anyways, so it’s alright is time.
  • k-off
    (Friday, Oct 31. 2014 08:19 AM)
    @Bam I know you’re going to point it out, so yes, I know the screenshots aren’t very good…But it was very difficult for me to find a decent clip that wasn’t a spoiler in this episode.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis- 04

By now, I have a general idea of where this story is going. Our characters finally face the main villains of the story and starting next episode, I reckon that we’ll get some real story progression because frankly, the past few episodes did almost nothing to get me to care much for the characters, no matter […]

Nanatsu no Taizai Episode 1-4

Sorry for not giving this a first impression but I felt that to do so at this point would be redundant. So Nanatsu no Taizai, or Seven Deadly Sins if you prefer. An anime that certainly does nothing new. Every ounce of which filled with standard shounen battle manga tropes. Yes this anime does nothing […]

Gugure! Kokkuri-San- 04

By now, I have a general idea of how the writers are going to go forward with this show. This show continues to jump the gun without setting up a clear voice for itself while pulling off some genuinely fun comedy, creating this weird combination that is somewhat off-putting yet fairly enticing. However, this episode […]

Grisaia no Kajitsu – 04

That’s it. I give up. I concede. I throw in the towel. I surrender. This is just a travesty, an unsalvageable mess. I have given this more patience than it deserves and it has rewarded me with tedium. The editing is schizophrenic and distracting. The dialogue and events passing by too fast for emotional impact. […]

Your Lie in April – 02 & 03

Your Lie in April has emerged as a bit of a nice surprise in this young season. The fairly popular noitaminA programming block has been pretty hit-and-miss of late, with some very good shows here and there but a much higher rate of complete duds compared to the block’s past. For this reason I approached […]

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 […]

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 […]