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
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 10:32 AM)
    If a series wants to be sophisticated about complex concepts like war and conflict, then it has to presuppose the fact that it is part of human nature. Resources are limited, and even aside from that, greed exists. There is no way to take out a few head figures to stop a war- there will be a vacuum that will almost immediately be filled by a similar, if not worse, individual. A world “where no one cries” or suffers, or dies, etc, cannot exist as long as we have free will.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 10:26 AM)
    F/SN delved into this deeply with the Shirou/Archer dichotomy, but then it pussied out at the decisive moment. Archer was right, his arguments made perfect sense, yet the arrogant naive Shirou had to pull thru by sheer will alone, and a vague hope and promise that he’ll find a way somehow. I swear, I’m not sure if Nasu gave in to pressure to make a so-called “good prevails” ending, or that he honestly believes in it. Looking at his material, I’ll bet on the former.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 10:22 AM)
    hehe … that’s why you don’t get me started on Eva or Berserk.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 10:20 AM)
    It also delved into the depth of what a desperate goodie-two-shoes people-pleaser protagonist would actually be like, and the reception he would get from his peers, specially the women. That alone right there was a deconstruction of the majority of shonen main characters.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 10:00 AM)
    There was no hype machine back then. The internet was still in its infancy. So when a show became this popular there was certainly some merit to it. The organic/machine hybrid mecha was relatively new, and the scene construction and cinematography was for the most part immaculate. There’s a reason why the mecha genre is divided to “pre-Eva” and “post-Eva”.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:53 AM)
    It also didn’t hurt that the character, costume and mecha designs were slick and attractive, done by the under-appreciated Yoshiyuki Sadamoto.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:31 AM)
    It came up with clever scenarios to common mecha tropes, and answered the questions that would arise from them:
    -Why do we use mechas with melee weapons against alien invaders instead of conventional weapons? AT fields on Angels.
    -Why use kids to pilot them? The Gehrin Project.
    -What happens when you put kids in sever combat situations? Extreme PTSD.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:27 AM)
    These types of deconstruction shows that are run-of-the-mill now didn’t really exist back then. Eva did afterall became the tropemaker for Gainax endings. To see the creator’s psyche twist in front of our eyes was incredible. The show went from a regular monster of the week mecha series to a deranged psycho-thriller by the end of it.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:23 AM)
    Eva was fresh and quite unique for its time. Not that everything they did was original, but they certainly put their own twist on it. I also enjoyed the “fuck-you” ending of the tv series. Anno always defended it as intentional, but we all know it was really a budgetary constrain. well, at least we got the amazing End of Evangelion movie to supplement it.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:21 AM)
    @K-of: yup Eva geek here, guilty as charged. In my defense, I watched it week-to-week when it aired back in 96, and the landscape of anime was a lot different back then.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Joker Game - 12 2

Joker Game Review – 50/100

When experiencing the wave of new anime each season it can get rather tiresome to notice all the teenagers fighting supernatural forces while gathering a harem through seer luck or similarly tired concepts. So when something like Joker game comes along and takes a road less traveled with it’s story, naturally I am well on […]

3

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – 10

After the Horobi’s laser light show and having Biba-sama completely dominate the narrative with his super cool looking henchmen, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is back on track although it’s on different rails for here on out. Imprisoned by the Hunters and being caught in the middle of the impending final conflict between the Shogun and Biba, […]

mayoiga 07b

Mayoiga Review – 78/100

Mayoiga has to be one of the most misunderstood shows in recent years. On a surface, the premise alone has a lot of potential. The idea behind putting 30 people, each of them has very different set of personalities, together in a bus to a mysterious lost village, in order to start over new life […]

Joker Game - 12 2

Joker Game – 12

Upon finishing yet another rather uneventful episode of Joker Game, I began to wonder just what this series had planned for its finale. “How best to top off a rather mediocre series such as this?” I thought to myself. However when looking over general consensus over the episode I found out that I seen the […]

Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu - 12 4

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World – 12

This looks to be the weakest episode of Re:Zero to date which does seem to be a trend when it comes to the arcs of the series. When looking over these twelve episodes I have come to find that the weakest episodes of the series are the first episode of an arc which does make […]

Mayoiga 12d

Mayoiga – 12 (end)

Mayoiga pretty much wraps up its story this week and for the series that focus much about anti-climaxes and inconsistency, this ending neatly conclude all of its main loose end. In the final twist of Mayoiga, it turns out that Koharun is God’s daughter (now I understand the inclusion of him in Mayoiga) and all […]

Kiznaiver - 11 3

Kiznaiver – 11

I believe I finally figured out something much like Agata of this episode did. Over the course of watching Kiznaiver something in the back of my mind bugged me about it. It was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on but after watching this episode I believe it’s finally hit me. I now know […]

Bungou Stray Dogs 11d

Bungou Stray Dogs – 11

Bungou Stray Dogs strays to another side stories this week, it’s pretty much set up for the second cour, and in that aspect this week is a success one, both gives us a new light to existing characters and makes quite a bit of impression on our new characters. I kind of appreciate how the […]

Joker Game - 11 2

Joker Game – 11

Sometimes I wonder if Joker Game is intentionally trying to kill my sense of disbelief as it really does pull out some mind numbingly dumb things from time to time. Today’s “What!” moment comes right at the start of the episode when a young Yuuki escapes imprisonment by blowing up a live grenade in his […]

Latest Reviews

Joker Game - 12 2

Joker Game Review – 50/100

When experiencing the wave of new anime each season it can get rather tiresome to notice all the teenagers fighting supernatural forces while gathering a harem through seer luck or similarly tired concepts. So when something like Joker game comes along and takes a road less traveled with it’s story, naturally I am well on […]

mayoiga 07b

Mayoiga Review – 78/100

Mayoiga has to be one of the most misunderstood shows in recent years. On a surface, the premise alone has a lot of potential. The idea behind putting 30 people, each of them has very different set of personalities, together in a bus to a mysterious lost village, in order to start over new life […]

akTwkhF

Stella Glow Game Review-60/100

I really should be getting Grand Kingdom or waiting for Mirage Sessions. My review of Stella Glow is way past relevancy being nearly 8 months late, but I finally completed this and it wouldn’t hurt to briefly wrap up my thoughts about the game created by the now-defunct Imageepoch. I somehow managed to get through Lord of […]

rs33

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir Game Review – 87/100

Oh my. This game was just utterly, utterly incredible when it came out, so despite disliking the usual remasters (ahem, Valkyria Chronicles), I was pretty stoked when I learned I’d be able to play this again on better hardware. It came out really late into the PS2’s lifetime in 2007, so at the time, I […]

romance of 3 kingdoms

Chinese Animation Guide – Part 4: Chinese Traditional Animated shows

Welcome to the last part of our Chinese animated guide. This part will cover Chinese traditional art style, for me personally this is the most enjoyable group. The first thing you might notice in these shows are they were in different format ratio, lean more towards the Academy ratio format. I always find their traditional art […]

20160513001913_1

Lucid9: Inciting Incident Video Game Review – 85/100

It’s not often I pick a game up without prior knowledge. I abhor the act of pre-ordering and at least do a google search on the title to get a general idea of it’s overall quality. Gone are the day you walk into a game store and buy something purely on a whim or the […]

The Totem Warrior

Chinese Animation Guide – Part 3: Haoliners inputs

This part we explore one Chinese animation studio’s works. I choose Haoliners partly because they are independent studio, and their works are not hard to find. Just established in 2013, Haoliners is an indie studio but gathered more reputation in the last few years in their homeland. My experience with them through those titles below […]

Cover

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress OST Review

This will be the first time in my anime blogging career that I have ever done one of these anime OST review. It should be known that I have a complete bias for Hiroyuki Sawano as he has become one of the biggest composer for anime in recent years in some of my favorite anime […]

Nüwa’s Growth Diary

Chinese Animation Guide – Part 2: Chinese Anime shows

As much as I hated the term Chinese Anime (Anime stands for Japanese animation, strictly speaking), this is the exact term for those shows. Their influence from the Anime was so heavy that apart from the voice cast and some scene settings, you can’t tell those apart from the original anime. With that said, judge from […]