Written by: Naoreen Kabir – Grade 11
Card games: there’s a reason they got banned in our school. They’re incredibly fun, relaxing, and probably distracting from our studies. Although many people can point out a few card games that they enjoy playing once in a while, few can claim to be as passionate about a card game as the characters of Chihayafuru.
Chihayafuru is a show about a style of card games called Karuta. It sounds like the most boring topic ever for an anime, so I wasn’t expecting to be as thoroughly entertained as I was.
Karuta is a Japanese card game involving two players. There are many different forms of the game with different decks you can use, but the basic idea is the same. The two players have cards laid in front of them and have to be the fastest to grab a card that is required. It’s a game of incredible speed and memory abilities, and has a deep connection to Japanese culture. The version used in the show involves hearing a speaker read out some lines of poetry and choosing the correct card with the poem on it.
You don’t have to know anything about Karuta to watch the anime, as it does a good job of explaining the game in bits throughout both seasons. It is also not required to enjoy card games yourself to enjoy the anime, just as how you don’t need to be a volleyball player to enjoy the anime “Haikyuu!!”
Chihaya fell in love with the game of competitive Karuta at a young age, introduced to it by her childhood friend Arata Wataya. The two of them formed a team with their classmate Taichi Mashima and became good friends. The anime takes place several years later, after Wataya moves away and the three of them attend different schools. Chihaya, upon entering her first year of high school, sets out to start a Karuta club at her school. To her surprise and delight, she reunites with her childhood friend Taichi. By the end of the first season, the club recruits a total of five members, which seems to be the magical number for membership requirements in every anime ever.
Being a sports anime, Chihayafuru does follow the general training and tournament cycle, but remains entertaining throughout. This is one of those shows where you can’t just watch one episode. You can really feel the tension during some of the games, and it keeps you craving one more episode to find out what happens.
Taichi was my favourite character, but the entire crew at the Karuta club really grew on me. At first, some of them were even a little annoying, but I really fell in love with the cast as I got to watch them grow as individual players and as a team. Character development for the main cast is spot-on. For the most part, they seemed like real people, each with their own strengths and motivations that they bring to the team.
The characters don’t always win- unlike certain shounen anime heroes, they’re not overpowered prodigies, they’re real people. They win, they lose. They face difficult opponents. They try their damned hardest, and no matter how much you cheer them on from the other side of reality, they don’t always beat their opponents. However, regardless of the outcome of the game, they always learn and improve as a result of them. It’s inspiring to watch them continually challenge themselves, especially the main character Chihaya, with her fiery and ambitious personality.
Music and Visuals
The soundtrack has some lovely pieces to it, with some signature melodies. Others don’t particularly stand out on their own but they complement the scenes nicely.
The visuals have some stunning natural and urban scenery, with warm colours and a soft texture. There’s really nothing to complain about in this department.
Personal Enjoyment + Recommendation
There are some romance elements to the story, however they are never truly the focus and therefore don’t receive much development. This didn’t affect my personal enjoyment of the show though. One aspect did affect my enjoyment, just a smidgen, and that was the melodrama. In particular, it was mildly annoying how often characters would cry, to the point where it seemed unrealistic and forced. However, this is just a minor complaint, coming from someone who generally dislikes shows using crying as a way to affect the audience’s emotions.
At the end of the day, this is an entertaining show with a lovable cast and excellent character development. I give it my full recommendation.