“The Cards Dealt” – Chihayafuru (anime) – 9/10 Pencils

Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play. ~Mike Singletary

Genre: School/Sports/Josei/Romance

Review Status: Complete (25 Episodes/25 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US by

Art/Animation: Thjis looks pretty nice, looking a lot like shoujo but with a good amount of detail in character design and backgrounds, moreso than usual these days. The colors are bright and vidid, to boot, making it look fantastic! The animation is also quite good. They saved on the budget by having a solid amount of cut-away and slow-motion shots when cards are flung into the air, but it doesn’t look stupid and the money saved went into making the rest of the animation look very good.

Summary: Chihaya Ayase is a frank and ebullient girl who becomes fascinated by the obscure world of competitive karuta, a card game based on Japanese poetry. Introduced to the aggressive style of the game by a quiet and thoughtful elementary school classmate named Arata Wataya, the two quickly become close friends. They start playing as a group with Taichi Mashima, Chihaya’s smart and athletic childhood friend, until they have to part ways during their middle school years due to several circumstances. As their high school life begins, they meet once again. (ANN.com)

Review: I feel guilty for being so behind on this! I waited for the consensus to come in on whether it was any good, and then had to delay watching it for a while. This is definitely a sports anime along the lines of Hikaru no Go, with solid character drama and skill-building and game-playing, mixed together into a wonderfully exciting anime that i a bit different from the norm – especially for josei anime! No other josei anime touches this sort of high-adrenaline competition, but Chiyahafuru manages it beautifully.

The nice thing about this show is that it’s even easier than Hikaru no Go to follow with the game. It’s an easy one to play, with poems being read, and the players swiping cards off of the field of play when they are able to recognize what line is being read. It’s easy to become familiar with the poems that they use, and they gain an extra level of depth as the show goes on when one of the club members expresses her love of the poems themselves that made me, at least, appreciate the meanings of the poems more, which meant I was more engaged when I watched them play. The play itself is handled well, with interesting adversaries and different aspects of the game dealt with. I was a bit bored at first, as Chihaya won every game she came across. I didn’t realize it was because she was just that good until she got to the higher-level players, where every card was a hard-won victory, where it began really focusing on the game and whether they’d really be able to win. She’s not a perfect player – as the man, Chihaya does have the inborn ability to be top-notch (made especially clear in the last episode), but she still has many flaws that need working on.

It also meant that the firt half of the series was more about building relationships and a team. Since Karuta is a team sport, it means that the story has to be as much about the side characters as it is about Chihaya, and that’s pulled off with as much skill as the games. Chihaya is a pretty standard, almost shoujo-like heroine. She’s lighthearted, determined to follow her dreams, loves Karuta, and is determined to get others to like it as well. There’s a romantic triangle brewing between her and her two childhood friends, Taichi and Arata. Taichi has been in love with her for a while but is wary about revealing his feelings because she’s still hung up a bit on Arata, the grandson of a Karuta master and who moved away in their childhood. Arata has come across his own difficulties playing it since they last saw him and a chance meeting with his old friends reignites a desire to play, but they won’t be playing against him until the second season comes around! Taichi joines the Karuta club because of Chihaya, but he finds tht he has his own determination to win regardless since it’s a way to escape his mother’s overbearing rules and desire to see him be #1 in everything.

The other three members recieve varying amounts of screentime and importance. Kana is the next most important, a poetry and classical-Japan enthusiast that has set her sights on becoming a professional card reader. Her hopes and disappointments on that journey are given some highlight, and it’s sure to become even moreso later, as she heeds to become a Class-A player for 5 years to do it! Since she’s now Class-D, it will be a long, hard struggle. She serves as a disciplinarian and loveable little sister to the rest of the members. Komano is almost as important, more of a strategian for the group than anything else. His statistics have helped out numarous times, and on the last episode of the season they reveal something important that mean Chuhaya mught have a shot at taking the title of ‘Queen’ of Karuta players! These two have their struggles and joys wth the game made clear. Unfortunately, the third member Nishida gets a passing glance. He’s there just to fill space in the club, and that’s how he’s treated story-wise.

One of the more interesting parts of the show was watching them be recruited one by one into the blub. Not everyone bends to Chihaya’s will, and she doesn’t exactly make the best club leader. She’s more of their mascot than anything, and watching them try and figure out how to deal with each other is one big ball of fun! They don’t all get along at first, and don’t all get along all the time, either. And on top if it they’re struggling to keep the team alive since it’s not a national sport or recognized activity that can win scholarships or national acclaim. The school will shut them down in a heartbeat, so theyneed to struggle for a few wins to try and win over their advisor; she’s as against the team as anyone, but got roped with it through some faculty shennanigans. Watching her come over to their side was fun and encouraging. It lightly parallels some of the issues Chihaya faces at home, shadowed by her glamorous older sister. Even though she’s proud of her sister, sometimes it’s nice to have some recognition.

This was definitely made for a second season, and I am eagerly awaiting it. This shone among the winter anime, is a really fun anime in and of itself, and left off on such a cliffhanger! I’m crossing my fingers that it will be announced soon.

Overall, while this did have a bit of a slow start with Chihaya winning everything, this show gained a lot as it went on and is one of the better anime out there.

Recommended: 8+. This has no objectionable content, but whether the younger kids would be interested is up for debate.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Hikaru no Go (manga)

Bakuman (manga)

Big Windup (anime)

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. TWWK
    May 30, 2012 @ 08:31:55

    Chihayafuru is definitely a terrific show. Each week, I kind of tuned in out of habit, but by the end of the episode, kept telling myself, “Wow, what a great show!”

    Here’s desperately hoping for a second season on down the line.

    Oh, and just one note – “this anime is licensed in the US by”…?

    Reply

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