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)

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)

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