Chihayafuru is an average anime. I have nothing significantly bad to say about it, yet at the same time, giving it anything more than a 6 doesn't feel right.
The first half of season one is quite predictable (and slow paced) and the second half begins to feel repetitive. At one point, I considered dropping the series because I was so bored. It certainly didn't help that the show fails to maintain a tense atmosphere to keep the viewer on edge of his/her seat.
Lessons that the main character, Chihaya, supposedly learns during matches seem to be forgotten all the time. For example, they seemed to emphasize teamwork so much in the first highschool tournament, yet by the end of the series, all we see is individual competitions.
There are a couple other points I could probably nitpick about, but I'll move onto the positives.
My favorite aspect of the show is that, overall, the show seems plausible. I don't know much about Karuta, so I can't comment on whether the main antagonist is ridiculously overpowered, but I can say that the drama and interactions between characters are depicted very well.
The various tactics introduced in this show also keep the anime interesting. For those who never knew about Karuta prior to watching Chihayafuru, the game appears extremely complex. For those like me who did know about Karuta itself, but not about the competitive tournaments, the show was certainly an eye opener.
Nothing special here, but was well done.
One of the things I really appreciate about this show's sound is that the ED never felt like it disrupted the mood created by the last scene (I'm looking at you, Log Horizon).
Other than that, voice acting was fine and the soundtrack and OP fit the show.
Chihayafuru is as close to a sports anime as any card game is ever going to get. That being said, many sports anime have Mary Sue protagonists. Whlie Chihaya certainly appears to be an inherent genius at first, that intial impression is quickly cast away as the story goes on. I can confidently say she is not a Mary Sue. That in itself is a big positive for me.
The main cast (the team) is quite well balanced in terms of personalities. Interaction between characters are entertaining and it really brings the team together, even with the focus on individual success in the second half.
Chihaya's character development is nothing special, overall, but there certainly is a slight shift in her priorities from her personal/individual goal, to a more team-oriented one.
Other than their respective "recruitment" episodes, the supporting cast receives little character development, even though they receive quite a bit of attention at times.
I was a little disappointed at the lack of screen time for the main rival. I would've liked to know more about her.
Chihayafuru fell below my expectations, but at the same time, I don't feel disappointed in it either. I honestly can't tell right now if it was worth watching or not. If you're into slice of life/slight romance/sports, maybe you'll like it. If you're looking for some fast paced content, you won't.
This is so fucking shit I watched 5 episodes of this bullshit because of all these nerds overhyping it but it's just the same generic bullshit as with every other sports anime, except now it's a shitty card game. Some nerd doesn't want to play because a relative died, some kid has a too big dream and one dude is just trying to get himself some booty but he's beta as fuck.
Uber shit tier/10
Go watch ping pong.
It's a pretty simple formula of a high school student's journey through trials and tribulations with a passion/skill and determined goals.
Chihaya is a beautiful high school student, who is perceived to 'ruin' her beauty when she opens her mouth to speak and reveals herself to be a little less dazzlingly intelligent than her beauty might complement. Despite this, she is painted as always being up against this image - which never sat quite right with me, as her character was never particularly stupid, and I thought this consistent reinforcement cheapened her character a little, which dulled a certain empathetic quality about her journey.
The show began to drag on a bit, especially toward the end [SPOILER]where I felt as though things should have been at least progressing a little with Arata or Taichi[/SPOILER]. I realise that there is supposed to be a second series, but I felt more frustrated by the lack of forward momentum than I felt could be justified by the - as yet still unsubstantiated - promise of a second season.
Otherwise, it's a relatively tight story, but people who don't like karuta should steer clear, as all of the storyline's subtleties and developments stem almost wholly from karuta being played, watched, analysed and used in metaphor.
Sometimes it could be a little bland, but otherwise functional, and no real jarring complaints on that aspect.
VA's were good, and did particularly well in creating tension through inner dialogue throughout in all the characters, which was a large portion of the series' 'action'.
Aside from Chihaya's unfortunate lumping into the 'not too bright' category, the rest of the characterisation was good, in general, with all things mentioned.
7.5/10 - with a second series
6.5/10 - as is/without a second series
Here we are with yet another series about high school students determined to reach their goals. The humor isn't particularly good when it makes a showing, the drama isn't particularly dramatic. The characters aren't particularly likable. The story, as mentioned, is part of the same cookie cutter cliche that so many others are from. And yet, Chihayafuru has a unique charm. The fact that it is dealing with poetry is magnificent for any literature geek, and the episode where they delved a bit into the meaning behind the words made me love the theme.
Once you like the theme, and even begin to understand the tricks behind it (should happen by the seventh episode or so), the series becomes one where you can actually feel for the drama. It is an uncool story about an uncool game which only uncool people are drawn to because they mind. The competitive aspect is rather nonsensical, and the drama in them is about as over the top and silly as every stupid sports/tournament series out there... but is equally effective and gets extra credit for originality.
Really though, Chihayafuru manages to be surprisingly effective despite the fact that it really doesn't do anything fundamentally better than other shows. It tends to be cheesy, and is cerebral only in the most simplistic ways. There is reliance on tropes and standard practices in anime, which is both a strength and a weakness. The romantic aspect is forced and downright blatant jab at getting the female viewers on board. All this does not take away from the fact that it is a good show.
There is an ineffable charm to Chihayafuru that manages to overcome just how silly it is. I'm sure that teenagers would find it far more impressive than I do, but somehow I just can't bring myself to actually dislike anything in the series. Usually there is something that just pisses me off how formulaic it gets on the competitive front. But somehow it doesn't.
Writing (Story and Characters):
Chihayafuru is well written, though written unimaginatively. There is nothing unique but the premise itself, and we get a character/tournament hybrid executed very well. I usually dislike these types of things for sheer sillyness and lack of realism, as well as for beating the tropes into the ground. The fact that this is a type of tournament game I know nothing about helps a lot, because the moment anime touches something like chess or boxing I just can't take it as anything other than a parody.
Is the story of Chihayafuru particularly good? No, absolutely not. It is the standard formula executed in the most standard way. The premise is rather unique but not completely outlandish, which helps maintain a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief. It is character driven, with the classic tournament themes taken straight out of A Book of Five Rings (for those that didn't know, it's the Japanese equivalent of Sun Tzu's The Art of War). The struggles are obvious and get good resolutions including losses, and luckily not "the good guys always win because determination" shounen path.
the flaws of the characters are either insignificant or ignored from a certain point like most shows aimed at younger demographics. This is where Chihayafuru is at its weakest... or strongest, depending on how much depth you want. There is character development in the most cliche way possible. The cast is rather well balanced, though as I mentioned their faults don't amount to much so the characters don't feel like they complete each other. Still, not really much of a complaint for the average viewer.
I can't say that the writing of Chihayafuru is top notch. But what it is, is fun in a light viewing kind of way. The edge-of-your-seat feel is superficial at best, you don't have to pay close attention to keep track of anything. It isn't artistic despite having artistic themes in the premise, but it is effective and technically strong writing. It is somewhat emotionally manipulative, though not going over the top too many times.
Art (Animation and Sound):
When a series isn't heavy on the wow factor, people usually fail to credit the art and instead think that the writing is better than it is when the artwork is the star. Chihayafuru is obviously such a case. The series doesn't try to make the presentation the star, but rather the ultimate tool to make the writing shine, and does so beyond any reasonable measure. The voice acting and facial expressions give the cheapest texts elegance that they don't deserve, and the body language and effects give the characters more emotion that the script has any right to demand.
Madhouse are glorious when they do something right. The backgrounds are just detailed enough, the lighting is something wonderful to behold, and everything just feels right. The character designs are clever (if a bit standard at times), and the body language convincing. There are moments where the characters are stiff during some of the texts, which is the single most common fault of any series (and just means that in the future when animation will be cheaper it will be solved better). Still, this is vintage Madhouse stuff, and executed in an incredibly solid way (in the best meaning of it). The use of visual gags give a lot of life while helping with the light hearted feel without going to childish extremes (too much).
Where the animation is downright great, the audio is downright great. The voice acting brings personality and depth far beyond what the series deserves. The soundtrack is a good fit for the series, and is used aggressively to give tension to the tournament scenes. The effect use is great and at times inspired. The stereo positioning is clever and helps give depth to the animation. Overall, this is how sound production is done in order to bring a script to life and glue it to the animation. While not spectacular, it adds a lot to the series.
Chihayafuru has great art. Perhaps even excellent artwork, all things considered. It does not go outside the box nor is it especially creative, but from a technical point of view it is extremely well produced. Not only is the series brought to life, but it is made lively by the audio/video aspect. It takes average writing and makes it feel a lot better than it is.
Chihayafuru is a fun series in a light hearted way. Yes, it is aimed at a younger crowd and it is quite silly for a large part, but overall enjoyable. It will not require a lot of concentration, but it will give you a nice thing to view, and manages to be memorable and not just good. Recommended for anyone who likes a tournament premise.
I have never seen an anime based on this game called "Karuta", however there's plenty of tournament love triangle shows out there. Chihayafuru is a show that never really tries to do anything special or different with the plot, it simply bounces from one arc to the next- from the setting up arc where characters are introduced and backstories are told (at least for Chihaya, Arata, and Taichi.) right into a plethora of different tournaments (all of which seem to drag out their matches for as many inner monologues as possible.)
I guess right about now I should give you the disclaimer that the only other tournament show I've watched is Bamboo Blade. BB was not quite as excessive with inner monologues.
At the beginning the show is very sweet and fun, but around the middle I started to find myself getting bored with it. Not to the point of staring at the wall behind my computer, but there were times I felt like the show was just too formulaic to hold my attention much longer.
The animation itself was decent (other than one part of the OP wear Chihaya moves but the pattern on her hakama doesn't. YOU WILL NOT UNSEE.) and the art was pretty. The palet was soft and the character designs were clean and, if not memorable, they were at least suitable. The three main characters were all bishounen/bishoujo.
The OP was fantastic (I downloaded it instantly), but I skipped the ED. The soundtrack I always noticed because it followed a pattern and was pretty suitable for the over-the-top drama in the show.
The majority of the show was focused on Chihaya's quest to become Queen while the rest of the characters struggled to improve. While near the end, Kana got some development with her goals, most development was hogged by Chihaya and Taichi. Even Arata was fairly 2-dimensional. Chihaya as a main character was not much more than your average loud-mouthed determined girl who doesn't excel at school work, etc. She's fairly mediocre as a lead character. Taichi recieved a bit of character development, and was actually a fairly interesting character to watch. The other three in the Karuta club, Kana, Desky, and Porky, recieve little to no character development.
I want to rate Chihayafuru higher, but it's just too average to rate too highly. Chihayafuru knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything but. It bounces from tournament to tournament and never tries to be superb or unique.
It's still a good anime, and if you like tournament anime then you shouldn't skip Chihayafuru. Just don't go in expecting to be blown away.