Number of episodes: 25 episodes
Plot 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.
What pop first in your mind if you were asked to think about anime that blend Josei drama and sport in the form of Japanese card-game called Karuta? If you think “It must be really boring”,or “it’s not going to work” then think again. Chihayafuru say hello, and it’s surprisingly engaging.
First thing first, I have to mention one nice aspect of this anime. Which is how, in addition to telling the story, this anime is also about promoting Karuta. To be honest, I did not even know what Karuta is, how to play it, and rules of it before seeing this anime. But the anime handles newcomer like me so well. The introduction to the card game is easy to digest and not too confusing. Even more, this anime portray Karuta in certain fashion that makes each game interesting to viewer. Just so you know, in this anime (maybe in real life too) Karuta described as a game that is considered ancient and lame. To me the message is clear, it’s as if to remind the younger generation to not forgetting thing like this because it is part of the culture.
Then again, this anime is not just about Karuta. Other big focus, of course, is the people who play it. They have a passion in Karuta, they love it but outside that, they still human which have their own dilemma in their life. Whether it is a motivation issue, losing the way to their dream, or some romantic problem surrounding some triangle love, it will not work if the characters itself are not interesting. Well, I can say they are interesting and have unique personality. In fact, I dare say Chihaya Ayase is one of the memorable strong female lead out there. The result is: a solid and enjoyable Josei drama. Someone could argue that there are some moments that are too melodramatic, but it’s only minor complaint and not distracts the overall experience, because most of the times it works.
Chihayafuru story is actually simple and straightforward but what’s so great about it was the execution. I mean, who need a more complex plot if the execution is bad? Chihayafuru don’t need that to be great, as the storytelling of simple story can also be meaningful, through the way of good writing. Chihayafuru excels in that. Visual and music also set the mood perfectly, which is good.
The thing is the story is not really over yet, as the manga, the original media, is still ongoing. I really hope Madhouse have second season in mind, because it would be a great shame if this wonderful gem didn’t get any continuation on form of anime. But even then, that doesn’t take away from the fun ride I have had with this show and it was a pleasure to watch it, and of course highly recommend it to any anime fans.