Asami SetoYoshimasa HosoyaChihayafuruMegumi Han
Chihayafuru Season 2
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2013
Director: Morio Asaka
Writer: Ayako Katoh, Yuuko Kakihara
Original creator: Yuki Suetsugu
Actor: Ai Kayano, Asami Seto, Mamoru Miyano, Megumi Han, Mihoko Nakamichi, Miyu Irino, Tooru Nara, Tsubasa Yonaga, Yoshimasa Hosoya
Keywords: Chihayafuru, anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Episodes 26-50 + a 51st OVA
Website category: Anime 2013
Review date: 25 April 2022
chihaya furu
It's Season 2 of the sports anime about memorising 100 Japanese poems and slapping a card faster than your opponent. I will never play this game. The anime's very good, but I don't, ultimately, care that much about karuta. I randomly stopped watching for two months and never really thought about the show, but then one day started again and didn't stop until I'd finished the season.
I enjoyed the show a lot and I'd strongly recommend it. This might seem paradoxical, given everything I've just said, but there are different approaches one can have to a sports show. Ideally, you'll already be a fan of the sport, or even perhaps play it yourself. I'd watch the living daylights out of an anime about bridge, for instance. Sometimes, though, you just can't bring yourself to care about what's on the screen. Free! is supposedly very good, for instance, but it's pretty boys swimming. I approve of the activity and it's good exercise, but that's not the same as sitting through 39 episodes of it.
Then there's the neutral position, i.e. me and karuta. I'd be an embarrassing failure if I tried to play it. It's easy for me to drift away from this series. That said, though, I have nothing against the sport and I can respect someone who's put in the work required to become an expert at it. Crucially, I'm happy to watch a karuta match if it's dramatic, well written and is between people I want to watch.
This series does that in spades. It's awesome. Chihaya makes me laugh out loud. She can be a wild beast if you give her an opponent, but the politest, nicest, doziest one in the world. She's given over her brain almost entirely to karuta, including the mental energy that the rest of us might devote to schoolwork, boys, common sense and/or not being a doofus. There's a glorious line when Sumire joins the karuta club and Kanade is delighted that at last they'll have a second girl. (The camera immediately cuts to Chihaya, with on-screen text saying that she's just been demoted to "boy".)
Chihaya is also potentially the strongest player in the show. She's fragile, an idiot and capable of crumbling in a self-inflicted heap, but there's no one she can't take a brilliant card from, even if she ends up losing. No one. She's a freak... but she's our freak and we love her.
Taichi doesn't have a fraction of his peers' flair, so needs to make up for it with sheer bloody hard work. His memorisation can freak out even his teammates. Arata's a self-made genius. Kanade's in it for the beautiful poetry and loves a good reading better than anyone else. Tsutomu doesn't have that much innate talent, but he's an invaluable team member because he's a bookworm who can analyse his teammates and opponents. Nishida has been playing karuta for longer than any of his teammates and is currently the team's second strongest player. (It's either him or Taichi. Arata could crush any of them in a heartbeat, but he's not on their team.)
Then we have this year's new members. Sumire didn't care about karuta and joined because she thinks Taichi's hot. Tsukuba is hero-worshipped by his three brothers, thinks he's better than he is and keeps trying to force himself on to the team instead of better players. (He's not a bad person at all, though. Just weird.)
As for the matches themselves, they're fascinating. I'd never have imagined how many angles, tactics, tricks and psychological approaches there are to karuta. The Queen (Shinobu) sneers at team matches, for instance, but there's a basis for her prejudice. It's possible to defeat a stronger team by deliberately sending your weakest players to lose against your opponents' aces, for instance, and relying on winning the rest of your matches. (This won't work unless you've guessed their starting order, though.) Left-handed vs. right-handed techniques. The card-splitting tactic in luck-of-the-draw team finales.
I loved the matches. I still don't plan to start playing karuta, but I loved them. The best of them are electrifying, while Chihaya's opponents realising what kind of player she is can be hilarious. (Ep.10, for instance. "No brain" beats "brain". Oh, wow.)
I like both seasons' opening theme songs.
I love all the regional accents.
Oh, and in both seasons, ep.16 is a recap episode (with a few gag inserts).
You can and will cheer for all these people. A team match is five individual matches side by side and every single one of our heroes can be cool, with their own eccentricities and specialities. Chihaya can freak out freaks. I'm not surprised at all that this show came alive again six years later with a Season 3 when enough of the manga had come out for more adaptation. I'm expecting a Season 4 in 2025.