Posted on 18 March 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

Let’s first talk about the story of these two episodes. Most notably, Arata. The creators used him for a story that involved two completely unrelated characters and at the start, I really had to wonder why they had to spend an episode on them. It could have easily be omitted… or so I thought. But even then, it looked like a bit of an odd choice to spend an episode on when you look at just the premise: Arata almost gets into trouble when he breaks the rules. It’s this kind of hijinks side story that is often used to fill up time or something.

But holy crap, the execution. These two episodes were roller-coaster rides. These two episodes just kept going with the mood switches and plot twists that just went completely against my expectations. At the start I really wondered what the heck the creators were thinking with such a random subplot. Then Arata nearly got expelled, and I wondered why on earth the creators would be including this. Wasn’t it in the benefit of everything if he just ended up playing? What are you doing here creating “pointless” extra drama? And then the Queen randomly appeared from out of nowhere, and I understood completely. The climax for that subplo really surprised me, but it paid off incredibly well. And in the meantime it did a brilliant job of fleshing everyone out: Arata’s feelings about not competing in the team matches, the Queen’s feelings over Arata, the headaches that everyone is having with the King. Not to mention how Arata’s shadow has been constantly looming over Chihaya and Satoru.

And then, there was the match against that ultra high-class school. That was pretty much one of the best told karuta matches against gimmick teams. The opponents were really interesting, but what really made it stand out is how it was brought, making clever use of how it appears to lump everyone together, only to do the complete opposite. It’s the kind of match that the team was bound to win due to the other team being completely insignificant, and yet Chihaya’s win just felt so incredibly good. The creators really cleverly just focused on one match: Chihaya’s. At the same time it just casually ignored that she pretty much was the only one in big trouble by the opponents’ playstyle, not to mention that she was up against their best player who really was a complete genius in terms of memorization.

The creators just kept throwing different twists and turns to the match. They gave some good characterization of the guy, Chihaya’s mix of admiration and fear was hilarious, the Queen’s random appearance was also perfectly timed and the moment when there were only six cards left and Chihaya’s strengths started to show: it was glorious.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 8 March 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

Holy crap, that cliff-hanter! I was all set to type up about this episode’s use of foreigners, but first I just have to say that that caught me completely by surprise. Right from out of nowhere the end of this episode foreshadows so many things that we’ve been looking forward to: ARata seeing Chihaya again was already great. But for the Queen to also appear. Awesome.

Anyway, as for the foreigners, I see what you did there, Chihayafuru. First you made yourself seem like you had these horribly voiced foreigners with horrible Engirsh, only to reveal that they were raised in Japan for their lives. Instead this episode touched a bit upon their alienation as foreigners, and how they’re doomed to stand out in the xemophobic Japan. It worked well. Aside from the black guy perhaps. He just looked silly.

But yeah, the first match in a tournament is usually just the one that we breeze through and who hardly pose a challenge. It’s predictable, and this was an interesting way to fill it up: show people with a passion for Karuta, but who aren’t bothered with being competitive. They’re just doing this for fun and because they enjoy it.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 23 February 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

And here this series comes and goes like “I’m sorry I haven’t spent much attention on some of the minor characters, let me make up for that.” This episode brought so much life to them. Not just Sumire and Akihiro, but also Chihaya’s parents, her sister, Kanade’s mother, Akihiro’s brothers, even some unnamed people from the school’s band club and some random teachers. The band and their performance in particular was awesome. Now this is how you should spend an aftermath!

Chihaya feeling down over the loss, you see it everywhere, and yet the creators managed to spice even that up with that focus on her parents, not to mention showing how she has grown (being able to tie her own kimono and how she has completely changed from who she used to be). The time she spent with her mother was also awesome. It’s a really personal time with someone she knows for her entire life. There are little other series that have managed to put the same focus there.

And then this show suddenly started to toy with the symbolism behind words and it actually was very interesting to follow how this all related back to the characters themselves.

Also, the budget. I have no clue what happened in the first two episodes, but for some reason the series looks as awesome as it ever has. The differences in animation are not noticeable anymore, and the drawings really look crisp again. Some budget issues at the start or something?
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Chihayafuru

Holy crap. The way this episode begun. I had no clue that the creators would even put so much meaning into the reading. To the point where Chihaya is able to take control of the reader and how this plays off to the actual readers (so that’s why they used that guy for that! He already was an established character so this makes more impact! How is this show able to do so many things at the same time!?).

Heck, yet again this show manages to put so much meaning into just about every scene of its. Every character here has a moment. How the heck has it been doing this for so many episodes already? I sound like a broken record saying this.

And here this episode suddenly comes with the most impossible set-up of a luck of the draw match that is entirely against their favor due to Chihaya’s stupidity, leading to everyone suddenly needing to go after cards that are nearly impossible to get. And holy crap, the end results shocked me. I knew that the end result would not matter because the two teams would pass anyway. But the creators kept it exciting, first by having Retro screw up, and then having Chihaya actually lose again, despite all that build-up. There was so much emotion and build-up put into that match, that in the end result didn’t really matter.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 15 February 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

What the hell is up with this week? Just about every series surpasses itself. And here Chihayafuru comes, and effortlessly matches that level as if it’s nothing!

I mean, even for a sports series this was just really, really good. Only Giant Killing was better at developing such a large cast at the same time. This episode focused on a team-match between ten different characters, and in one episodes it somehow pulled it off to develop ten characters at the same time. Unlike Giant Killing though, which stood out by its great concept and outstanding execution, Chihayafuru makes everything look so incredibly easy. As if it’s the most normal thing in the world to have such tight character-development.

There is Chihaya who is trying to copy the styles of both the king and queen at the same time, Taichi’s rivalry and admiration for Retro-kun, Retro’s awesome development as he continues to try really hard to get ahead just like Taichi. There is Nishida with his sister who suddenly got a new boyfriend, Kanade and her pride for her kimonos after getting insulted, the small kid and his struggles amidst the A-Class in which he never can stand at the top, Sumire who actually does her job, Akihito who got a new job as a reader and holy crap how did all of that fit within 20 minutes?!

And the thing is that all of it was just really good. The matches themselves also were brilliant. One addition of the second season that I really like is how it uses those manga-styled notes all over the screen with nice little details that they can’t otherwise fit in. It’s a very clever idea to add even more detail to the characters. I’ve seen this done before, but never this consistent or well. Oh, perhaps Shaft-series had more text on the screen, but that never really related to the characters as well as it does here.

And good lord, Arata wasn’t even in this episode.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 3 February 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

This was one of those episodes that really caught my attention. It played with a common trope in fiction: the Underdog. With these kinds of competitive series, the underdog is a lot of times the focus: the people who you would not expect to win, yet prove to be surprisingly skillful. They’re very often main characters.

In Chihayafuru though, the characters aren’t underdogs. Perhaps the juniors, but all of the seniors have this undoubted talent, and stand out like they will get very far. And in this episode, they had to fight a group of underdogs. A group of players who only started recently, and yet who made a a huge improvement thanks to a very passionate coach who has regrets over never reaching his own goals.

And I love how they gave the cast a challenge, especially Taichi had a difficult time, and his opponent would have fitted perfectly in any underdog team. I also lvoe the way they were announced: completely out of left field. Taichi has always had his problems, but this was a big moment for him to realize that he thinks too much. In this way he really needs to take an example of Chihaya, whose entire mind is filled with nothing but Karuta. In that area, they really are the complete opposites.

One detail I really loved: Taichi finally dares to ask for a towel, and Chihaya immediately leaps over Tsutomu to give him one. No dialogue, no animation even. The creators just kept focusing on the same shot for what felt like ages. That was simple, but made a ton of impact.

Beyond that this episode also showed how important good readers are in order to keep people on their focus: a different rythm must make things more difficult for the seasoned player who is always used to the same timing.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on with categories: Chihayafuru

Okay, with the previous episodes I complained about the second season not looking as crisp as the first… and here this episode comes and it really looks amazing again, without the distorted animation that stood out. The thing with animation is that with every series, a different kind of animation is appropriate: some series can get away with distorted faces because they either have the character-designs for it, or they put in a lot of movements in their frames. Chihayafuru however was always amazing in how every shot looked great. The previous episode abandoned that a bit, butthis episode acted like nothing happened.

Speaking of acing like nothing happened, this show just continues to develop its characters like nothing happened. This episode was focused on Tsukuba, but at the same time it also found time to push Hamano’s character and Tsutomu’s character forward. Nishida is developing to be a dependable senior and the rest of the cast also had some nice moments. One of the big strengths in this series is its consistency in just about everything it does.

Nice little twist at the end: the queen has a history with Arata. It had it coming: they must have run into each other when they were young. But didn’t she gain a few pounds?
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 22 January 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

Awesome, Chihayafuru is back! More addictive Karuta, and the two new characters will definitely bring in a new dynamic that will keep the series fresh here. Karuta was just a simple card game, and yet this series made it exciting beyond belief.

I do have to voice two major concerns at this point though. First of all, there was the animation. Unfortunately, it’s clear that the second season either lacks the budget of the first, or a lot more scenes are outsourced. In the first season, every hit on the mat packed a punch. Here though, there are a lot of awkward movements, rushed drawings. It does not look as polished.

Second of all… the series composition has changed people. This time there are two people doing it. The first is pretty much new: after writing one of the Stitch series, she did a bunch of episodes for the first season, and she adapted half of Sakamichi no Apollon. The second one though… is behind the mess that was Persona 4. In fact, she did the series composition for a lot of different series, none of which I liked. For Chihayafuru, it is the original material that shines through, but I’m really scared about them keeping the balance, which was done so well in the perfectly paced first season.

So far though, the two new characters still need to get introduced, and the problem with them is that they’re initially very unlikable, so they need a lot of time to warm up. With that in mind, the past two episodes did a very good job. The girl in particular is already developed and has quite a few different sides, playing off really well against Kana. Meanwhile the new guy will probably play really well off Nishida. It’s an interesting idea here to have this guy show off a different style of Karuta.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted 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

Posted on 27 March 2012 with categories: Chihayafuru

So it was pretty obvious from the start that Chihayafuru and Natsume Yuujinchou would have the best final episodes of this season. But what about the ending? Ironically the best shows this season are both based on manga that are still on-going. Natsume Yuujin-Chou solved it wonderfully. Chihayafuru’s ending did some things really well, but at the same time, it unfortunately also did what I feared for ever since this show was announced: it made me hungry for more. There is so much potential with that ending… that we’re never going to see animated.

But don’t get me wrong though, I loved this episode. Perhaps it wasn’t as intense as the previous episode, but it really brought this series to a great closure, while pushing the charcters even more forward. And yet again it does that for every single member of the main cast. The King match taught the characters a lot about themselves that flowed so naturally from the rest of the series. This episode emphasized even more how different the playstyles of these people.The creators also brilliantly used Arata at the end. Finally he is thinking in-depth about karuta again, and ironically it was Taichi of all people who he needed to remind to do this as well. Everything fitted together amazingly.

And yet, then the second half came, and that teacher suddenly made the deal that the club will lose their position if they can’t recruit five new members. Five new characters will be joining the Karuta club to add to the current main cast!? Talk about potential here! I mean, fleshing out such a large cast is difficult and all, but this is Chihayafuru: if anyone can do it, it’s these guys. This is by far the series that is in most need of a sequel, out of the entire season.

Overall though, I absolutely love sports series. And yet, I have no interest in sports series whatsoever. In fact, I find myself not looking forward to most sports series, because of their premises. And yet, for some really weird reason, the majority of them is incredibly well executed. And this standard just keeps on going. Sure, we have a Knight in the Area once in a while, and I wasn’t really charmed by Major either, but for those series in return we have such beauties as Chihayafuru, Cross Game, Ookiku Furikabutte, Giant Killing, Touch, Shion no Ou, Hikaru no Go, and that list just goes on and on. Net season will have two new sports series: one shounen jump adaptation and a NHK show about a kid and his football team. These two series are really going to challenge this trend, but heck. I have been pleasantly surprised by so many sports shows already. It’s entirely possible.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

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  • ninjarealist
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 08:31 PM)
    @Vincent The first episode of Akatsuki no Yona was definitely the worst. The second was OK but the third episode was the best one by far. I’m still not sure what to think. If there are a lot more episodes as good as the third one then it could be a really good series. If there are a lot more episodes as mediocre as the first one, then it’s going to be a very mediocre series indeed.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 08:24 PM)
    As much as I liked Parasytes manga, I needed to read up to volume three before I really properly got into it.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 08:23 PM)
    @Bam:That woman who showed up in this weeks episode ends up being one of the best characters in the series.
  • Bam
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 08:22 PM)
    Parasyte 03: it was decent. This monster of the week might be getting a little stale, but I believe they are using it to set up the plot and open the story by introducing some pivotal characters. The body transformations remain pretty entertaining. This show plays a lot of its tropes straight, but at least does them in a competent way.
  • Bam
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 08:18 PM)
    Cross Ange has pretty much ascended to the most anticipated show of the season.
  • Bam
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 08:08 PM)
    @Vincent: like Jumong m8? ;-)
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 07:06 PM)
    @Vincent: I wasn’t a fan of the manga, there are far too many shoujo fantasy/action series out there and thats one of the weaker ones, the characters aren’t up to much beyond the villain, its too predictable and the art lets it down in the action scenes. Apparently it becomes a reverse harem later to.
  • Vincent
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 06:36 PM)
    Is Akatsuki no Yona that good? I tried watching the first episode and couldn’t finish it. The premise is generic and seems like a ripoff of every historical K-drama ever made.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 05:18 PM)
    Almost forgot to recommend this one: http://mangafox.me/manga/apocalypse_meow/
  • Jalapeno Bagel
    (Thursday, Oct 23. 2014 02:15 PM)
    show might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its a detailed look into anime production that’s pretty damn rare, especially in english.

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