Chihayafuru Season 2 – The Triumphant return of Chihaya!
January 18, 2013 Leave a comment
Chihayafuru was one of those special series that managed to fit high school romance together with a traditional Japanese card game called karuta. Part of the fun of the first series was watching how oblivious Chihaya was to the increasing affection from both Taichi and Arata, even though the later spent half the series as an invisible force without any physical presence. It was a series with complicated character that were all struggling with their own view of the world, and karuta acted as a way to bring them all together under a common cause. The brilliance of the original series was how much tension an apparently simple game could produce and the increasingly complicated nature of Chihaya’s relationship with it and her schools karuta club. Karuta is a fascinating game, one that relies upon an intimate knowledge and understanding of 100 cards that represent 100 classical Japanese poems. It is a popular, and also rather complex game at first, and because it is a classical Japanese card game doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone of the same age as Chihayafuru’s characters.
The world through the eyes of Chihaya is one that is utterly focussed on karuta, in face that is arguably the only thing she appears capable of thinking about, and her obsession of the game is phenomenal. As we followed her and her schools karuta club during the last series, we began to understand how important karuta is to Chihaya, but also how different her priorities were compared to others. She doesn’t want to lose, but also plays karuta because it is fun, and the moments when she comes alive also coincide with the times where she is enjoying herself the most. Of course, her complete obsession with this game can be frustrating for others because she is often blinkered, and doesn’t notice what other people think of her or say about her. The potential romance between her and Taichi for example is never fully realised because no matter what he may think of her, she views him as a childhood friend and someone whom she can play karuta with.
As the second series starts we are introduced to new characters and new challenges, with the karuta club members torn between their priorities and the club itself. Throughout the first half of the original series, we were shown a constant battle between Chihaya and Miyauchi or the ‘Empress’ over the formation and continuation of the karuta club. So, with the advent of the new school year, Chihaya views this as a perfect opportunity to recruit new members and to continue the work that everyone has started. Unfortunately, the various priorities that everyone in the karuta club already have clash with her idea and we are finally given a view into what these characters truly want to achieve through karuta. The club is seen by Nikuman as a way to win the summer high school championships at last, and as such that is what they should all be focussing on. However, Tsukue-kun, and Kana-chan also want to focus on their own priorities within the realms of karuta, and as such view the inclusion of new members as little more than a chore. On the other hand, Taichi wants to achieve ‘Rank-A’, which would finally allow him to complete with Arata in the major karuta competitions. And finally we are left with Chihaya, arguably the best karuta player they have, and also the hardest to deal with, someone who apparently has no priorities.
Chihaya is someone who simply wants to share her love of karuta to a wider audience, as demonstrated when she makes a brief speech during the karuta clubs recruitment demonstration. To Chihaya, karuta is essential, and it is at the very centre of her life, and remains something that she dearly wishes to share with others. The problem is that to everyone else, her wishes do not necessarily work in reality; furthermore, she has to be reminded that she is aiming for the Queen match and a shot at finally defeating Shinobu. It doesn’t appear that Chihaya as forgotten about defeating Shinobu, it is that she is overjoyed at the prospect of continuing the karuta club and helping others understand the joy that she gets from this game. The problem is that the way she views karuta has never really been shared by anyone else, with characters like Nikuman and Taichi often in awe at her speed and ability and perhaps jealous that she is such a natural. Also, the new recruits aren’t really there for the game, but are instead entirely focussed on Taichi as one of the most desirable boys at school.
This poses quite the problem since we have Chihaya stuck in-between characters that want to focus entirely on their own goals, and characters that aren’t really interested in karuta to begin with and would instead prefer to sit in the corner and play another game. Furthermore, she is also largely rejected by many due to her astounding looks, and viewed as someone who is either incredibly stupid or untouchable. That all she wishes to do is spread her love for karuta makes this situation a little sad, although due to her personality she will get some people to play, and simply push forwards to her own goals. And it is precisely because she has this sort of personality that Chihaya is so much fun to watch, instead of being a narrow minded individual, she wants to do as much as possible, and if she doesn’t always succeed at least she has tried. Taichi on the other hand is so utterly focussed on winning and being on an equal footing with Arata, so that, at least in his eyes they are finally equal in their battle for Chihaya’s affections that he often misses some of the most important aspects of Chihaya’s attitude towards karuta and life in general.
It was a wonderful first episode, one that started with what I shall call ‘Chihaya’s song’, a piece of music that is wonderfully evocative and immediately took me back to some of the greatest moments of the first series. We also have the wonderful animation and use of various plants and leaves to help create the mood in each scene. The introduction of new characters was inevitable, although, I remain ambivalent about the newest character ‘Sumire’, who was both interesting, but also rather annoying, or had the potential to be annoying in places. Her insistence of getting Taichi to fall in love with her may be admirable, but she also seems to be too pushy, then again, the way she automatically labels Kana-chan and Chihaya as enemies due to their looks and figures was entertaining to watch. It is however wonderful to have a second season of this story, and I do hope that we get some more progression with Chihaya’s attempts to gain the status of ‘Queen’. I would also like to see a little more of Arata since he was a fascinating but sadly underused character in the first season. His presence is arguably essential for Chihaya’s continued progress due to the way she continually thinks about him and strives to be as good as he is at karuta. That his character wasn’t seen all that often didn’t necessarily lessen his impact on the story, but it would be nice to see Chihaya, Arata and Taichi together once again.