By Jared Cyhowski / February 26th, 2013
Operation Rainfall’s coverage of anime series’ premiering in Japan started with Sword Art Online and then continued with Girls und Panzer, BTOOOM!, and Shin Sekai Yori. We are continuing our coverage as a sectioned recap series, so instead of seeing weekly installments you will see an installment every handful of episodes. Jeff is continuing his coverage with The Unlimited and I will be covering Chihayafuru 2. If you’re interested in catching up with the first season of Chihayafuru, you still can over at Crunchyroll. Now, without further ado.
Chihayafuru 2 Ep. 1: So The Flower Has Wilted
Chihayafuru 2 Ep. 2: As My Love First Came
Chihayafuru 2 Ep. 3: Feel Love Deepen
Chihayafuru 2 Ep. 4: To Tell the People in the Capitals That I Make for the Islands
Chihayafuru 2 Ep. 5: Be As Dear Now, Those Were the Good Old Days
Chihayafuru 2 Ep. 6: To Set the Tatsuta River Ablaze
Chihayafuru originally premiered with a first season back in October of 2011. It feels good saying that now because for a time fans of the series had no idea if there would even be a second installment to enjoy. Thankfully someone out there recognized that Chihayafuru has a passionate fan base, completely enthralled by the show’s epic feel-good moments and somewhat-awkward love triangle. Never has a series been so engaging to the point that each episode truly feels as if only five minutes has passed. Okay, enough gushing for now, and let’s take a look at what Chihayafuru 2 is all about.
Chihayafuru is in my opinion centered around two main plot themes. The first features a slight love triangle between the series’ main characters (Chihaya, Arata, Taichi). The second includes every aspect related to the Japanese card game karuta. Somehow these two elements come together in a way that’s highly entertaining and addicting. Chihayafuru can be considered a sports drama but it’s certainly something much more than that. The first season introduces a host of characters and we learn each of their strengths and weaknesses, both emotionally and competitively. Thankfully the second season continues on the trend of maintaining a high quality and brings something special to each episode in the series.
The first six episodes feature somewhat of a story arc. It starts off with familiar characters Chihaya, Taichi, Tsutomu, Kana, and Nishida starting off another year of school. Their goal is to attract as many new members to the karuta club as possible, especially since an influx of freshmen have entered the school. But of course everyone but Chihaya accounted for the fact that member retention is incredibly difficult to pull off. A slew of freshmen girls enter the club thinking they can get a grasp on, well, not karuta but the club’s captain Taichi. It’s no secret that he’s considered a fairly attractive character in this series, and we all know he already has his heart set on one person: Chihaya.
This doesn’t stop one of the newest members, Sumire, from selfishly wanting Taichi to notice her. She’s kind of a ridiculous character at first but she soon becomes a part of the team. There is a nice bonding moment between Kana and Sumire, after she embarrassingly blurts out that the only reason she attends club is because Taichi is there. Sumire runs away to escape the embarrassing atmosphere and Kana chases after her, eventually telling her that she has a beautiful soul. Everything is just so well-paced and the scene adds up to being a heart-felt moment.
Another new character is introduced as well. His name is Akihiro and he is used to playing a different style of karuta. So far he exists to create fantastically creepy faces with his tongue sticking out, and to provide a strong influence for his three younger brothers. This is really the core of what we know about Akihiro so far. He contains a great pride in having his brothers look up to him, and it’s sort of what pushes him to keep going. Just as Sumire has a few flaws, Akihiro does as well. He seems to only want to work with certain people (that he finds attractive) and I believe he’s a bit closed-minded. Because Chihayafuru is a series where characters learn and grow fairly quickly, Akihiro soon begins to accept help from the Misuzawa team.
Akihiro and Sumire are the only new members who actually stay, and soon enough they are thrown into a high school tournament. Chihayafuru 2 knows that it has an audience who is aware of everything that happened in season 1, so instead of spending a few episodes building into the tournament, we arrive at the tournament in full force. Roughly two and a half episodes are catered to a few matches. We have left the territory of Chihayafuru where everything is roughly centered around school life, and now it’s all about playing karuta competitively. Though it’s a card game that involves memorization and reacting to a reader’s voice, the drama level is at an all time high. And by drama I mean an incredible sense of realism and endearing strength. Each character plays against someone from another school, and in these matches they find their inner strengths and weaknesses.
It’s easy to feel for our characters, in almost the same ways they are feeling in their matches. When Taichi is sweating bullets you can almost feel the heat of the room. When Nishida loses his match early to Hokuo he feels ashamed, and when he tries to make excuses we see him cave under more emotions. They seem real and not faked, as in we may feel the same way if we were in Nishida’s shoes. Akihiro realizes he’s not really that far away from getting better at karuta after losing against a class A player and Kana continues to hear pure love stories when each card is read out. And with Chihaya, she is continuing her efforts to combine both elements of Shinobu and the Master’s strengths in order to improve.
The rematch between Hokuo and Misuzawa is especially telling, as every member does their best to take a win. When Hokuo successfully pulls off an even split in the match the series first emphasizes that Misuzawa made a mistake. But then after everyone realizes what’s going on, they push themselves to do better even when the odds are completely against them. A chunk of the episode is given to explaining just what is going on (an advanced team skill employed rarely) and then shows our beloved characters reacting to the situation by becoming better. After the match ends with an honest Chihaya giving her card to Hokuo’s ace, it turns out that both schools were evenly matched. It’s a bittersweet realization that is so completely different from what we’ve seen in the past. The level of sportsmanship here is extremely well done.
I will admit to never having heard of karuta before Chihayafuru. There’s really no hiding the fact that I would have never cared about the card game, or the stories behind each card, if it wasn’t for this manga adaptation. It’s amazing how much I have learned from this series and how much more there is to learn. There’s a side to each character that comes out in and outside of school, and then in karuta. We have seen them come together and fight on to do well in tournaments and matches before, and there is still so much to come. The anime expertly shows and explains what’s going on in the match to a point where it makes sense. I get chills every time Taichi begins to state off the remaining cards in the deck because he is able to keep track of what’s been called and what hasn’t. I don’t respond emotionally to too many shows out there, but with this one I do unashamedly.
Here’s to another season of Chihayafuru!
Chihayafuru 2 can be found streaming weekly on Crunchyroll.
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