Posted on 7 November 2019 with categories: Chihayafuru, Currently Watching:

Raise your hand if you thought it would be Chihaya vs. Taichi in the finals of this tournament. Okay, manga readers, you can put your hands down.

The odds were against them; a former queen, a sadistic Class A beast, and a Meijin hopeful stood between our heroes and the finals of the Yoshino tournament. Sure, Hiroshi scooped to Chihaya in the semis so that she could get some sleep, but defeating Inokuma wasn’t easy for her. And Taichi’s path to the championship match was nothing short of harrowing, so he’s probably going to be wiped out during next week’s episode. Nevertheless, they made it, and their upcoming showdown will likely have a seismic impact on their relationship. Even if you set aside their rivalry and Taichi’s infatuation, one of them is about to win a tournament with dozens of Class A players in attendance. In the immortal words of Eri Ninamori, “That’s pretty good, right?”

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Posted on 31 October 2019 with categories: Chihayafuru, Currently Watching:

Chihayafuru’s cast of characters is its biggest asset, and these two episodes leave no room for debate on the matter. Plenty of sports series can build impressive rosters over multiple seasons, but how many of them can bounce between simultaneous matches in the same room with this degree of naturality? How many anime series (of any genre) can incorporate significant dialogue from upwards of 15 characters in the span of 45 minutes, each of whom make you smile when they burst onto the screen? How many shows with tumultuous shipping wars at the heart of their fandoms can make all three participants in a love triangle so interesting? “Not many” is the answer to all three questions. I was satisfied with last week’s premiere, but these two were on another level, thanks to the fantastic appearances by non-Mizusawa, non-Fujisaki competitors. And we’ve got another double episode coming next week, too! What have I done to deserve this anime bounty?

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Posted on 24 October 2019 with categories: Chihayafuru, Currently Watching:

It’s back! The sports/school club/romance hybrid has returned for a third season, and it hardly missed a beat in the six years it was off the air. I rewatched the second season a few months ago, and apart from the new voice actor for Harada-sensei (more on that in a bit), the show felt like its old self. It had the same traditional soundtrack, same sparkly backgrounds, same clever use of on-screen text, and same single-minded Chihaya. Sure, there was a single shot of CG karuta cards being shuffled, but what’s a little 3D animation next to your main character receiving an accurate TV transplant across more than half a decade? This episode was a definite success in my eyes, but I do wonder how season 3 will be received by an audience whose expectations (both for this series and for anime in general) have changed over time.

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Posted on 26 February 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective, Chihayafuru, Kami-Sama no Memo-Chou

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If you want a comparison to psgels’ reviews:

Chihayafuru

Heaven’s Memo Pad

Chihayafuru (Madhouse)

Chihayafuru is a sports show that done right. Moreover, it combines many good aspects of both josei and sports, making it thrilling to follow, while provide enough growth and conflicts for the main characters to achieve. Let’s me first point out how niche this sport Karuta is (and all the more reason to applause the show for bringing this niche sport to mainstream audience). Karuta is the sport that embrace the old to the modern Japan, it has a mixture between sport and poetry, it can be play competitively by people of all genders (can you think of other modern sports that allow this?), and lastly, unlike shogi players where they are full-time professional, all karuta players – even the Master and the Queen – aren’t. Most of them have office job or currently in college/ high-school. The latter, in particular, is one of the reason that make Chihayafuru interesting. For you see, people come to this sport purely by their passion. Chihayafuru’s core theme is the exploration of discovering and following your own passion. Each character has their own reason to play karuta, but they share the same love for the sport and it’s inspirational to see the team keeps trying their hardest and keeps improving themselves for the thing they love.

Chihayafuru also benefits from the fact that it understands sports, in general. I have some sports background so trust me when I say this: unless you’re incredibly talented, losing is always your best mate. You tend to lose way more than you win. And losing freaking hurts. EVERYTIME. In addition, your number one opponent is always yourself. Through the course of this season, Chihaya loses lots of times, some of them she was expected to win but failed due to her own lack of confidence. The show understands that losing is a natural part of the game, and never shy away from that. Secondly, I’m really digging how Chihayafuru underlines the fact that each player has their own karuta game; as in you can see their own personality reflected through the styles they play. Chihaya is quick-tempered; she’s born with fast style and quick reflex. Taichi relies more on his memory, while Desktomu uses statistic and analysis and Kana through her knowledge of the one hundred poems (if I were to approach karuta I’d be like Kana, as the “competitive” part is my least concern). These styles fit the personality of each player and as a whole, it’s a firm reminder that there is multifaceted approach to the game and more than once Chihaya learns how to improve her game by observing the good quality of other players.

It helps that the josei part of the show, the undertone relationship of the three mains, remains as a backbone and never overwhelm the whole show. At least for now the romance is kept at the right balance, while allow our characters growing, both in the game skills and in their maturity. I still don’t buy much about the affection of Chihaya towards Arata but I can live with that. If I have one main complain, however, it is that because the sports drama is so well done, when Chihayafuru tries to create its own conflict, it usually falls flat. At the top of my head I could name 2 instances like that (the bully act when they were primary schoolers – actually this show has a very insensitive depiction of bullying; the little drama of Desktomu trying to quit in the middle of the tournament). Other mild complain I would have is how the show can be damn overbearing at times with so much tears. I’m starting to wonder whether it caused by the source materials or by Madhouse volume up the emotional response.

All in all, Chihayafuru is a clear winner. The pacing and the production are top notch, the matches are exciting and thrilling and the characters are relatable with both their quirks, their chemistry and their deep. This is one of those rare show that has universal appeal, given I can pretty much recommend Chihayafuru to any other viewers, anime fan or not, without much hesitation. Can’t wait to watch its second season.

Rating: 83/100

Heaven’s Memo Pad (J.C.Staff)

Well, I’m thoroughly bored.

And I already put aside many of its obvious issues (like NEET detective agency – yeah it doesn’t make sense to me. Or after finishing the show I still don’t get the title at all. I know KamiMemo explained it somewhere but I failed to grasp it).

But let’s be positive. I will address many of the show’s strengths first before touch upon its problematic parts. The production values of this show are surprisingly above par for a low-tier title. The art settings remain its best assets. Each of the setting has a personality of their own and I certainly remember the ramen store, Alice’s room and even the garden rooftop fondly. I also like the way each case takes up usually about 2 or 3 episodes, which for me is a right length to introduce, develop and resolve each case (Un-Go suffered from this). The actual cases are a bit mixed though, as I only enjoyed the first and the last cases. Each arc revolves around a character in Narumi and Alice’s circle, so it’s a good opportunity to flesh out the said characters too.

Or so I thought.

Here’s the biggest issue with KamiMemo: All the characters feel pretty empty. You often see how I complain about characters betraying their own personality, right? Now, this is the exact opposite problem. All the characters of KamiMemo have significant traits that made them stand out at first glance, but they keep that same lines of thought for an entire season and thus they become a bunch of cardboards who say “cheese”. It feels to me that I was reading some typical Visual Novel about stereotyped stock characters. Take Doki Doki Literature Club, using those empty lines with a purpose. In this show they serve no purpose other than making the characters look cool. And cool dish gets cold really fast without any substantial support. As a result, it’s hard to care for any of the character, and it’s a big bummer because those cases based around those said characters. The main duo Alice and Narumi, likewise, still feel very plain and her tsundere act is not something that I need to see again. Alice sounds pretentious all the time and Narumi always shines when the plot calls for it; which again are just plain weak and terrible.

The actual cases themselves, are nothing worth bragging about. It’s neither realistic, nor well-made enough. Many contrived details in the service of moving the plot forward, many big words that trying too hard to impress and Alice has overpowered ability so that when she’s on board, everything is pretty much solved without much sweat. I figure the reason I like the first case is because the cast still feels fresh and I believe the last case redeems the show a fair bit (look, KamiMemo, at least Ayaka has some deeper level). KamiMemo still works as a mild mystery detective case, and the presentation is competent enough to keep viewers engaged, but the serious lack of well-developed characters makes it hard to invest to the show on deeper level.

Rating: 71/100

And done. Tell me your own thoughts on Chihayafuru and Heaven’s Memo Pad if you have seen either of these. Next post, to celebrate one of the most anticipated sequel of next season (no, not Legend of the Galactic Heroes), we will head back to the future for Steins;Gate and its diary in the future Mirai Nikki. Should be a fun ride, Doc. Till then.

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)

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