***This is a spoiler free review***
Chihayafuru completely blindsided me when I first watched it last year. No matter how I looked at it, it looked like a Josei anime which is usually a turn off for me. After much consideration though I ended up watching it and I never regretted doing so. Now that the second season has completed, I find myself pretty much with the same feelings; pure awesomeness.
Let’s get the formalities out of the way; this is a sports anime. If you do not like sports anime then I am 98% sure you will not like this anime at all. Chihayafuru follows the main character Chihaya as she tries to become better at the Japanese poetry card game Karuta. In the second season, the show focuses more on the Karuta club at Chihaya’s school as they prepare to compete in the district and regional tournament. Now for the second formality; like I posted in my opening statement this looks like and pretty much is a Josei anime. Josei shows usually shoots for the young to older teen girl audience and a unique characteristic that the Josei genre usually brings is its art style (read more about this in the animation section). So since this show is directed to young Japanese girls, you have to deal with the typical female lead that usually has two or three boys after her affection. This is somewhat true in Chihayafuru but the romance thankfully takes a back seat compared to the other things such as character development and the card game scenes. It also helps that Chihaya is a very strong willed and overall great lead character (more of this in the character section).
The most important thing about grading the story section is how the plot flows. While the two main arcs flow nicely into each other, I feel as if some of the match scenes dragged on a little too much (I call it the Bleach syndrome). That being said, some of the matches actually had me on the edge of my seat. I will not spoil the results but there is a team match where it literally comes down to the last card and I could not believe the result. My overall feelings are if you want a flowing story with tons of character development then stay away from this anime. While it does have the stuff you want in between the tournaments, once they start it is all about the matches. This is a sports anime.
If you look at any number of Josei anime you will see that they all pretty much have very light and bright colors and this is no exception for Chihayafuru 2. In the scenes where there is sunlight peering through the windows, there is beautiful and well down lighting. Also the character models (AND THE EYES) are so well done that even the talking scenes are beautiful (OMG THE EYES). Since this a sports anime, you would hope that the action oriented scenes flow well with great quality. I am happy to say that even the most intense matches have great quality and look extremely smooth. I honestly love the animation of this anime; all the characters (even the side ones) look unique and beautiful/handsome. Like or hate the Josei art style, this is one beautiful anime.
Another great asset this anime has is the overall sound design. The music that plays in the background for both the dialogue and match scenes is so spot on. In an intense match you will find that the music caters perfectly to what is going on and I also love how they included so many orchestral arrangements. The voice actors also did an awesome job reprising their roles. The new characters also sounded great as each one meshed quite well with their virtual counterpart. It has been quite some time since I have experienced an anime with such a great acoustic qualities.
I feel that this season did a much better job with the character interactions (since they added new people to the club) but at the same time it detracted from the characters I really like. The screen time for Chihaya and Taichi was more limited since we had to learn about the new members but this is not really a valid complaint since they still had screen time. Chihaya is a very strong female lead with an unfathomable amount of resolve to become better and better at Karuta. She wants to one day play a match against Arata like she did as a child. She is to my limited memory the strongest female anime character I can think of which is great because I am so tired of the weak willed and whiny females we usually get. Taichi in the first season made it quite clear he was crushin’ on Chihaya; I won’t spoil if he was man enough to make a confession this season but the time they had together in the second season was pretty nice. He also grew very much as a player in this season. There is a particular team match where he pretty much was the sole reason the team won. The other characters (boob girl, porky, glasses, and the two new members) really did help bring in some great moments for the team especially in the first tournament. It added a new element since the team now had people they could cycle in instead of always relying on the same people.
This show is really, really good. The continuing story of Chihaya and the Karuta club is so enjoyable to watch unfold. If you somehow missed or just decided to skip the first season of Chihayafuru then please do yourself a favor and at least give it a try. While the show covers a sport you have most likely never heard of, the anime does a superb job pulling you in which other great sport anime have done in the past (Capeta, Prince of Tennis, Major, ext).
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