Mayu MatsuokaMone KamishiraishiChihayafuruMiyuki Matsuda
Chihayafuru Part 1
Also known as: Chihayafuru: Kami no Ku
Medium: film
Year: 2016
Writer/director: Norihiro Koizumi
Original creator: Yuki Suetsugu
Actor: Alice Hirose, Amon Kabe, Eru Yamada, Hiroya Shimizu, Jun Kunimura, Kaisei Kamimura, Kentaro Tamura, Kazunori Mimura, Kokoro Kuge, Mackenyu, Masane Tsukayama, Mayu Matsuoka, Miyuki Matsuda, Mone Kamishiraishi, Riku Hagiwara, Ryotaro Sakaguchi, Suzu Hirose, Shuhei Nomura, Yuma Yamoto, Yuki Morinaga
Keywords: Chihayafuru
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 111 minutes
Website category: Japanese
Review date: 28 April 2022
chihaya furu
It's pretty good. It's likeable, funny, etc. I enjoyed it and I'll be watching all three movies in the trilogy. For me, though, it's missing something important. The anime/manga is the real Chihayafuru and this is just a live-action movie adaptation, much better than it might have been but still nowhere near the real thing. It's missing the karuta depth. The anime takes you inside the mind sport. You understand the strengths and weaknesses of Chihaya, Taichi and their friends. You're analysing as you watch. The matches are exciting because you want to see how these different play styles will work against each other. It's deep.
Here... no. This Chihaya's not a freak. She's just an ordinary, somewhat mental schoolgirl who really likes karuta. I like her, mind you. She's funny and Suzu Hirose is charming in the role. However, we never learn what makes her play style different from anyone else's. There's nothing to dig into when we watch her matches, because her karuta is anonymous. She learns how to snatch cards from under Sudou's defence, yes, but even then the film's terrified of verbal explanations. It's conveyed visually, which is fine as far as it goes but is just a trick with no context.
Similarly, we learn nothing about Taichi's style. You could watch this film a hundred times and never guess that his bedrock is memorisation.
It's a nice film... but for me it's not Chihayafuru. It lacks analysis. The matches can be exciting, but they're all about the characters and their emotions. Lots of head shots, very few inner monologues about the cards. I can respect this, up to a point, and it works very well in its way. It might even have been the right choice for a live-action movie. For me, though, it makes the karuta shallow and anonymous.
Everything else about the film, though, I like.
It's well cast. Suzu Hirose's way too short for Chihaya, but this only bothered me for a few seconds. I love her unreasonable mad logic and her pursuit of Kana-chan. ("Why are you running away?") Yuuki Morinaga is surprisingly crucial as Tsukue-kun. Shuuhei Nomura as Taichi is arguably the protagonist, not Chihaya, and he carries the responsibility well. The film's Sudou is admirably unlikeable and Hyoro-kun couldn't look more perfect. The child actors are fine in the flashback scenes. The cast's veterans (Jun Kunimura, Miyuki Matsuda) are solid.
The adaptation choices are sensible. They've ditched a fair amount (e.g. Chihaya's family), but it never feels as if they've cut too much. You don't miss anything. They've juggled the order of things with Arata's grandfather, which makes sense, and they're only adapting the equivalent of Season 1 eps.1-11.
It's a warm, enjoyable film with quite a few laughs. I'd recommend it. I missed the karuta analysis, but maybe they'll take that further in the sequel. There's the odd time when Chihaya takes a card with what looks like super-hearing, although there's no suggestion of her animal-like speed. Happy to watch the rest of the series.