Posted on 29 June 2013 with categories: Anime Reviews, Chihayafuru



Let’s put this into a bit of perspective: generally to warrant a second season a series needs to sell well in one way or the other. Chihayafuru’s DVD sales were abysmal: it sold like, 500 copies in its first week or so. Despite being a really excellent and well-made series, people just didn’t want to bite, and I had given up on any hope for a continuation. Imagine my surprise when the manga suddenly gets really popular and a second season has been highlighted!

And guess what? The production-values still are completely top-notch. There only are a few episodes with some bad and jerky animations. Otherwise: everything is perfectly crisp, the animation manages to make every single karuta match stand out and sparkle. There still is a ton of eye candy here. Any idea how hard it is to keep up this consistency for like fifty episodes?!

I mean, Chihayafuru’s sequel is just amazing. It continues the trend that the first season set, and just continues on with it, doing so many things right. Every single episode, it doesn’t just push one character forward; it tries to do this with as many characters as possible. No episode is wasted like this, and every episode brings something new to the table. It really is amazing how the creators continue to be able to do this. They introduce quite a few new characters that have a great impact on the storylines, and nearly all of them have some sort of gimmick, yet they feel real, and very relatable. The acting was fantastic in the first season, and that didn’t let up in the second, and the second now has so much build-up and development behind it!

It’s really clear that the creators here have a very good understanding of the game of Karuta: they really manage to flesh out the game even more in this season, and show many different sides of it. A downside is that if you just look at the matches objectively, then this series is a bit predictable in the big picture, but in the small picture, it’s everything but: the creators try their hardest to make the individual karuta-matches as exciting as possible.

This season does have a bit of a downside that it’s the middle arc, so there is no beginning, nor an ending, and because of that the juiciest developments are reserved for the other parts (if they’ll ever get there), and as a result this series does have less subject material, so it can move a bit slow at times. But still this show had some of the best characters of the year.
One-Sentence Review: If this series can’t get you fired up on Karuta, then nothing will; fantastic characterization.
Suggestions:
Hikaru no Go
Nodame Cantabile
Shion no Ou

Posted on with categories: Chihayafuru

Aftermaths often are boring. But no, not with Chihayafuru! I still remember how awesome the final episode of the first season was, and this too was a delight to watch due to the characterization, even though there was no Karuta in it. This definitely was not another one of those “let’s just fill in some time to give the characters a bit of time to cool down”, this too had a purpose.

I’m surprised that they never showed the actual king here, but the alternative was also quite good as it showed how Chihaya dealt with the fact that she had a very soft bone in her finger. It’s something that most people don’t even bother with: getting surgery just to fix it. It’s an interesting way of showing Chihaya’s resolve, but there was also no way for her not to get that surgery, with her entire life revolving around Karuta. It was also interesting that they showed that scar of her.

There also was a lot of romance, and I like how this episode relied on not saying everything explicitly, but instead showing how feelings are developing. First Taichi definitely got more serious about his feelings, and that got time to flesh out. In the meantime, we have Chihaya who is locked onto footage of Arata for days upon days while writing romantic poetry about him. Yeah. The thing is, Chihaya manages to just bring a smile to my face so many times per episode. It’s incredible how well she’s fleshed out at this point.

Season 3 would be awesome. How high would I guess those chances? Well, I’d say about 30%. The manga needs to end first, and then the producers of the manga must see it viable to invest for a third time into a full fledged series. Remember that the DVD sales for this thing are really bad and that it’s a miracle that it got a second season to begin with. And dangit this show is too awesome to end right here!
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 24 June 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

The second season of Chihayafuru was the obvious middle part of the story: lacking a beginning and end. While for Chihaya herself, it may not be the most important in terms of character-development, it definitely has its parts where it can shine above the other seasons. One of the biggest ones really became apparent in the conclusion: the fact that Chihaya can step down as the main character for a bit, to allow other characters to shine.

I forgotten about it, but I love it when the main character just spends a bit of time as a spectator. A time where the matches don’t revolve around building up a match for her, but instead are important in their own way. Episodes 23 and 24 were about matches that shouldn’t have been overshadowed by Chihaya. Taichi’s advance to Class A, and the match between Arata and Shinobu. These two things have been built up for so long now. They needed to be fully put in the spotlights.

All three characters were awesome. These matches didn’t serve to particularly develop them, but rather, they highlighted their development: they showed how much they had grown to this point and how well they prepared. This also looked so well into how their karuta works, and the difference in their playstyles. The focus on Karuta was the icing on the cake, by the way: to close off the season with what a play between two of the best players looks like. It made the sport even deeper than it already was.

So, what about this hypothetical third season. Let’s suppose that it gets made. The strange thing is that the creators are building up Arata as the ultimate rival for Chihaya, and not Shinobu. When looking at the chronological events, this has to be the case if they want to end predictably: Chihaya will beat Shinobu in the Queen’s match, and she’ll then be up against Arata during the regular finals for the actual climax.

The problem with that will obviously be predictability. The creators will have to pull out all of their tricks to spice things up and pull away focus from this predictability. The first steps were made for this by giving Shinobu a cold in this episode. That was very clever, because it still is a mystery who would win in a fair match where both are at their best. Also, Suoh will need to be developed really badly there. He will probably be dethroned by Arata. The trick is to give this as much depth as possible.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 10 June 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

Oh man, these two episodes. They both were amazing in their own ways. These were possibly the two most important matches in the second season when it comes to character development. First of all the creators still wanted Chihaya to play Shinobu, but also: Nishida versus Arata. And the thing is that both matches had incredibly obvious outcomes. You see? Tension isn’t just making the results as close as possible!

When Arata first was matched up against Nishida, I didn’t think much behind it. But holy crap, that match was intense. I mean, this match really went back to the beginning of this show, where Nishida and Arata still had this rivalry. And it was so tragic: Nishida has actually more experience: his period of not playing was actually pretty short. And yet, Arata just blew him away. I love how Nishida’s frustrations didn’t just go away with winning the team finals. His struggles, they were awesome!

But seriously. The energy and the tension in the match between Chihaya and Shinobu was even better! The way in which Chihaya set the tone of the match right at the start. That was done amazingly! The match was not meant to give Chihaya a chance: there was no way she would win with that hand of her. It was meant for character development: Shinobu’s loneliness really got fleshed out some more here: she finally got to the age where she can just play people her age, and she finally met someone who didn’t mind it if she went all out. That showed so much promise for that third season. If it’ll ever come… yeah.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 29 May 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

And so the team tournaments finally ends, and seriously I am so impressed with all of the build-up that prepared just for this episode. Every single result for Chihaya, Taichi and Nishida in the previous matches was used in the big finale. It’s just amazing, and definitely worked as a climax.

Also, the individual tournaments. I didn’t realize this, but holy crap there is a complete busload of named and developed characters present at the tournament now. So much variety! I mean that recap was bad and all, but after that I really liked the build-up for the individual tournaments. Take all teams that made it to the semi finals: that’s already more than twenty different characters participating, with all of the bench people, Arata and the Queen and some other random characters. And all of them are great!

So yeah, Chihaya is not going to get far. This really wil be about the Queen and Arata. With the third year, Arata will be getting back to Tokyo, and I predict that that will really bring everything together for this series. If it will ever get made!
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 15 May 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

Don’t get me wrong, this finale is amazing. But I can only see an incredible cliff-hanger coming ahead at the end of this series. Chihayafuru was lucky to get a second season. But a THIRD? It will need it though. This entire second season was just one giant build-up for the what’s left to come.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: the second season so far has been fantastic. Every match has been awesome and the finale of the team matches is quite possibly the best yet. But none of the things that we were hoping for has happened yet! Arata and the Queen have pretty much been sitting around doing nothing, and that king guy is nowhere to be seen either. Oh, there were hints. The build-up for these guys is beautiful. But that only works if we’re ever going to get there!

Slow pacing… it is a double edged sword. You can see that with both Chihayafuru and Space Brothers here. I really don’t mind this series taking its time. Both series are absolutely brilliant at building atmosphere and keeping me at the edge of my seat for episode after episode. However, that is just the storytelling. The way they test my patience with recaps, on top of recaps at the start of each episode is counter-productive. This is the wrong use of flashbacks!

Oh, but really: these two episodes were glorious. Chihayafuru has completely nailed the tournament arc. It understands that you can’t just show stronger opponents and just expect things to work. The key is spicing things up. Making every match different and unique. This show managed to do that in so many different ways: every character is evolving, every opponent is different, every theme is different. But really, the finale. It didn’t have intimidating opponents that were different from every other opponent so far, it also used the Queen brilliantly. And Chihaya’s injury. Holy crap that made this match intense. Now that I think about it: the team matches really are the meat of the second season. They are what symbolizes Chihaya’s growth, since with this, she pretty much won’t be able to participate in the individual matches.

There is this big theme of loneliness hidden underneath these team matches, visible with the top players. I mean, I said that Arata and the King and the Queen have been sitting around doing nothing. The only reason why this bothers me is my impatience (in a good way!). This show likes to dance around the issue, but it does paint that threesome to be really lonesome. This point was the first time at which this really came to the surface. But while just about every other character in this series is chock-full of team spirit, they don’t. That contrast is stark, and I love it.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 26 April 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

I just realized this at the end of the episode… but the opposing team on the finals consists out of a bunch of nut-cases.

I think this keeps true to one of the themes of this series: geniuses are eccentric in one way or the other (even Arata with how seriously he takes his punishment). I’m not sure whether this has a deeper meaning beyond just being really entertaining, but I love it. At first they seem like this very serious team to come over, only to get completely hilarious once the actual match starts.

The creators also really know how to torture Kanade here, by having like, the best announcer in existance voice the finals. If there is anything that this second season has been brilliant at, it’s its build-up. The final match was hinted at many times before, the creators keep referring back to Arata and the Queen, which will just happen much, much later. And it does interesting thing with them: it really plays with its characters and finds creative ways for hinting like that. The comedy really works when it needs to and that really helps.

The cliff-hanger was awesome, but I am a bit worried that at this point in the series, we’re still stuck in the team matches. I mean, this is nice and all but the team matches are not what really matters here in this series. That goes to the individual matches, in which we can see all these characters participate yet again. There are so many awesome matches and re-matches about to happen that I worry that they’re not going to be able to fit all of that in what? eight remaining episodes?
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 18 April 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

Holy crap! When Nishida lashed out to Tsutomu last episode, I did not expect that it was about to build up to something as amazing as here right now. I mean, the outcome of this episode was predictable, but the way in which it happened totally wasn’t!

Most of the episode was about Chihaya and her growth. Chihaya lost to Megumu, but it’s clear that she has become better, while at the same time that she has a long way to go (the way how her nails were clenched into the palm of her hands the whole time). And then when she lost, Tsutomu really came out of nowhere to really steal the show. This show already had the luck of the draw decide against the team’s favor, so with this it is a really good way to balance out. Because of this you really don’t know what to expect when things come down to it. Either way it was Tsutomu’s crowning moment of awesome there.

Then there is Kanade. What really surprised me here was that there were two matches of which we hardly got to see anything: Kanade’s and Taichi’s. What really intrigues me was why Kanade finished before Taichi, which really made me think that we haven’t really seen much about how she actually improved. All we know is that she suddenly has gotten really good, with multiple wins in a row despite being dead tired. Still, was Taichi just against a better player? It seemed like the best two seemed to be against Chihaya and Nishida. I mean, Taichi is pretty much an A-Class player at this point, as soon as he manages to win that damned tournament, so what exactly worked against him there?

This episode was also full of hints about special cards: the cards that contain the names of everyone. Chhaya lost hers to Megumu, Megumu lost hers to Chihaya. And I noticed the creators also dropping the names for the cards for Arata and Shinobu. Yay for building up!

One thing never improved though: the photographing guys never really stopped being annoying.
Rating: 6,5/8 (Amazing)

Posted on 12 April 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

This match is very different from usual for Chihayafuru. Normally, it delivers in every episode. Last episode felt a bit flat. Normally it tries to push forward as many characters as possible. Here however, the focus was different. This really was about Chihaya versus Megumu. This episode at least.

Perhaps I’m not a fan of making the match go on for three entire episodes, but that allowed this episode to have that clear purpose for a change: a really detailed view of how Megumu changes through a match. That really had me fired up much more than I expected and I really have to say that how she gradually lost that ditzy behavior of her was done in this episode.

Oh and I said that this episode didn’t really focus on pushing forward the other characters. but still, Chihaya forcing herself to contest cards, Nishida losing badly, Tsutomu trying hard, the other girls trying really hard for Megumu, they were all really nice touches. I just meant it for the really high standards of this series. Seriously you do not see series that are as consistent as this series. Especially considering that we’re almost forty episodes in!

One point of criticism: that point where Tsutomu figures that a girl will likely want to grab cards about broken hearts because it’s one of the themes that the singer whose name is on one of the towels of the girls sings about… that is overanalyzing things a bit too much.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 1 April 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

These two episodes showed a match and a half. The first was surprisingly short, the second surprisingly long. Usually episode 11 and 12 are some sort of midway climax. Not here. Here they’re just meant for build-up.

What I liked most, was Desk-kun. A support character like him has been done before, but I just loved Nishida as he wanted to prevent Desk-kun from turning into one of them. The ones who can never stand on the spotlights because they’re just not as good as the aces. It’s rare to see a show actually tackle that issue, because there are not many series that can balance their characters out as well as this series did.

But dammit, I have to say this: Megumu and her fanclub really are annoying. Especially the latter. This series has this unnerving talent to make any single character great, but I do wonder how they were planning to do it with these stalkerish types. The best they did so far was note that Megumu has improved, but that could just as easily have been done without them. And I like Megumu’s teacher and advisor.

I’d also have loved to see more of the other match that went on in episode 12, but that only appeared in a few details (like when Megumu accidentally grabbed some cards that belonged to them, that was a nice detail).
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

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  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 02:27 PM)
    Deadpool belongs to Fox, not Disney, but there are rumors circling of the two studios opening up to negotiation. The success of Spiderman Homecoming will greatly precipitate another such lucrative cooperation.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 02:23 PM)
    I have yet to see Civil War, but by every new entry their colorful feel-good flicks are starting to become too derivative and cliche. It feels like as if they’re doing the same story arc over and over again. It’s almost lazy at this point, if you ask me, and they really need to Shae things up.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 02:18 PM)
    @Aidan: such high praise. So Marvel did in a cameo what Sony failed to do in 5 movies. I hate the massive bandwagon that Marvel is steering, but I’m not the kind of hipster contrarian that hates on things just for their mainstream appeal, so I give them credit for doing things right; despite the fact that they really go out their way to please the masses. Their love and respect for the material far outshines their prerogative of their by the book fan-pleasing.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 12:21 PM)
    Also like how they differed him from the other fast talkers of the universe. Deadpool is pure insane comedy, Ant man has this sarcastic awkward thing going on and Spiderman is like the nerdy fanboy. I would love to see a movie with all three together as it would be pure comic gold.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 12:18 PM)
    @bam, I was taken back by him at first. I wasn’t used to seeing Spiderman and especially aunt May look so young. I thought he was too bumbling in the beginning but as I watched on he just clicked. He has the nerdy nature of Tobies Peter Parker and the spitfire commentary of Garfield’s Spiderman. He’s spot on perfect.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 10:05 AM)
    I was staying clean for a drug test, and during this hiatus I completely fell out of anime. Surely enough, as soon as I resumed burning again I also started getting into some of this season’s shows. I wonder if there’s a direct correlation, or just a byproduct of having some free time again. I’m interested in comparing my experience to others, but (un)fortunately nobody here seems to share my vices.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 09:54 AM)
    @Kaiser: do you mean Brotherhood of the Wolf? Cuz in that case I have seen it, and we have both remarked about our enjoyment of the ambitious, yet messy, movie.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 09:51 AM)
    @Aidan: how was the new Spiderman?
  • SuperMario
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 09:07 AM)
    I just checked my rating on Valerie and Her Week of Wonders and I gave it a 3-star (which were negative). Weird that now I don’t remember much about the details of that film (I remember bits and bits but they were more like fragments of dream), but now thinking back I actually have a fond feeling for it.
  • SuperMario
    (Wednesday, May 4. 2016 09:00 AM)
    @Kaiser: Don;t remember what I listed Tinker Tailor for though, but the more I think about that film the more it holds up, that’s why I also want to check out the mini series of Tinker tailor back in 1970s. I have seen and enjoyed 3 of John Le Carre’s thriller adaptations (Tinker Tailor, Constant Gardener, A Most Wanted Man), so I think I won’t have any problem enjoying the Night Manager

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