TV (25 eps)
2011 - 2012
Fall 2011
4.08 out of 5 from 12,150 votes
Rank #690

Chihaya Ayase is a famous beauty at her school, but she’s far from a conventional girl. Three years ago in her final year of elementary school, Chihaya and her friend Taichi became infatuated with the card game, Karuta, after connecting with a lonely boy named Arata Wataya. But when the trio graduated from elementary school, they each went their separate ways but shared one common goal: to excel in the game and meet each other at the national championships. Now, Chihaya is attempting to share her passion for the game by creating a competitive Karuta club at school, but when she reunites with Taichi it seems that maybe she’s the only one with the intention of fulfilling their childhood promise...

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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. Overall: 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.

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