Chihayafuru – 02

[HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.48_[2011.10.11_19.52.25] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.49_[2011.10.11_19.52.18] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.03_[2011.10.11_19.52.40]
[HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.59_[2011.10.11_19.56.35] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.27_[2011.10.11_19.58.04] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.38_[2011.10.11_19.58.36]

If there were any doubts that this show was for real, Chihayafuru dispelled them with a second episode as nearly perfect the first.  This is a series that has the potential for greatness written all over it.

Among the many miracles accomplished in the first two episodes, one is that Chihayafuru has already made me feel as if I’ve known these characters for years.  Chihaya, Taichi and Arata are splendidly complex and interesting kids – and it does appear the focus will be on that time period for a while at least – and all different from each other.  In many ways Chihaya has the thankless job here, because she’s the heroine and more or less forced to take on the mantle of plucky, kind and defiant.  Fortunately she wears it well, providing one of the most likeable examples of the trope we’ve seen for ages.

It’s the boys, though, who’ve seen the most conflict and development in the first two episodes.  Arata has something of an obsession with Karuta, of course, but it’s clear that it’s also an escape for him from his difficult home life.  He’s quiet, but he’s not meek – Arata strikes me as a boy who’s just a little overwhelmed by the odds he sees stacked against him in life – life outside the Karuta ring, that is.  As for Taichi, he’s the most difficult to like so far.  There’s no defending the actions he’s taken towards Arata in the first two eps, but this is clearly the beginning of a long character journey for him – and I think we saw the first steps at the end of this episode.

If I’m to compare the tone of the second episode, it would be as a cross between Hikaru no Go and Hourou Musko – both high praise and a testament to another miraculous accomplishment Chihayafu can take credit for.  Without physical danger or romance, we saw an absolutely gripping episode – like HnG, making the playing of an ancient Asian game thrilling.  And like Hourou Musuko, it manages to really catch us up in the drama and tension of a different kind of danger – the raw, terrifying emotional trauma of something bad happening at school.  From the moment Chihaya walks in and sees the desks moved, we’re cheering her on for standing up to the forces of hate – rarely scarier than among schoolkids – and our hearts sink when we see Taichi (who we’d hoped for better from) following through on his threat to blackmail Chiahya into abandoning Arata through the threat of blacklisting.

Of course Taichi compounds his sins when it comes to the Karuta tournament itself.  But there’s more to this, and can any of us look back at the sixth grade as adults and not find things we’re ashamed of?  Taichi has no excuses, but he’s clearly driven by powerful incentives to stray from the right path.  He’s smitten by Chihaya and everything he does he thinks he’s doing to be with her, but of course we see what he can’t – that with every act of cruelty he pushes the gallant girl further away.  He’s also got a pushy mother, the worst kind of meddling parent.  She’s not interested in Taichi competing for fun – if he’s not guaranteed to win he shouldn’t play, and she’s damn well not going to tell Daddy what happened.  All this drives Taichi to what I think will be his low ebb of the series – stealing Arata’s glasses, abetted by a cruel but seemingly harmless prank with an overshaken Coke can.

The tournament was exciting as hell, though I confess I felt sad for Arata even though Chihaya stood up and won in his stead.  As much as I came to hate Taichi for a minute, I felt almost sorry for him at the end, and I think we saw that he at least has a sense of shame.  Arata’s sense of dedication to Karuta is stronger than anything in Taichi’s life, and it seems to be sweeping both he and Chihaya up in its wake.  It was cruel to see her mother and sister dismiss Chihaya’s victory without even wanting to hear about it, a different sort of family dysfunction but no less than what Taichi is facing.  All three kids have something at home to run away from, and Arata’s passion for Karuta is uniting them as a group.  We’re starting to see what brought them together – it’s obviously going to be left to later episodes to show us what drove them apart.  Will we eventually see them come back together, before all is said and done?

[HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_09.31_[2011.10.11_20.01.59] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.09_[2011.10.11_20.05.37] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.36_[2011.10.11_20.06.23]
[HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.19_[2011.10.11_20.07.10] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.25_[2011.10.11_20.07.15] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.01_[2011.10.11_20.07.52]
[HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.30_[2011.10.11_20.08.21] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_16.11_[2011.10.11_20.09.14] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.27_[2011.10.11_20.10.30]
[HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.28_[2011.10.11_20.12.30] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.36_[2011.10.11_20.12.39] [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 02 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.13_[2011.10.11_20.14.27]
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7 comments

  1. d

    beauty art.
    btw, are you going to cover Horizon?

  2. a

    Now that I'm seemingly over the freakishly drawn eyes, I really got into the emotions of this episode. I was about to turn it off because I hated the bullying going on towards the transfer kid. Only Ayase's friendliness towards him made up for it. It was so epic when she stepped in for him, and, well, "laid the smack down" on Taichi. Speaking of which, I have no idea why Ayase seems to like him, considering how badly he treats other people. Still, given how terribly his mother treats him, with the focus on winning, I felt a bit sorry for him. And also for Chihaya as her family wouldn't even let her tell them that she'd won at something – they just have eyes for her sister. And then seeing Wataru practise and Taichi admitting he stole his glasses. This is shaping up to be a really excellent series.

  3. t

    I said this on animesuki back when I first heard of this: "Asaka Morio is one of my favorite madhouse directors.This just instantly made it to my "must watch" this fall."

    Asaka is one of the few directors where I'd blindly watch something just from hearing his name and I'm glad he's coming through again.
    I've also got a special affection for him because Gunslinger Girl is the anime that got me into anime beyond just the standard shonen that aired on TV in the mourning.
    Of course how I like one of his anime depends on the source,but I've always felt that he manages to get the best out of the source material,and when the source material is an award winner you get greatness.

    Now that I've done my fanboying,about the episode,more than Taichi,I dislike his parents,putting so much pressure on the kid,but as Arata said,he's a coward,however I can't dislike a guy for that,I've acted like a coward so many times in my life that I'm in no place to judge him.
    Of course I strive to be someone like Chihaya,but that's easier said than done.

  4. U

    For the second time in my life, i cried while watching an anime. It's very hard for me to gather the right words to describe how good this episode was.

    This episode, entertaining as it presented itself, was over before i could notice. Yet, at the same time, the emotional weight behind it was worth an entire life.

    There is something called rapport, which is the ability to strike someone's feelings, to enter that person's world and stimulate his emotions.

    This episode smothly moved the strings of my emotions, carefully handling them, and letting them go at the moment Chihaya ended the game. The perfect rapport.

    The next episodes are probably going to "decline" from GODLY to "only" EXCELLENT. However, if, by any chance, they maintain this level on the following episodes, Chihayafuru may surpass the "merely" strong choice for the best anime of the year, and become a strong choice for the best anime ever.

  5. dv, I'll watch ep. 2 of Horizon today. Was bored by the premiere, but we'll see.

    totoum, I had this is a sleeper this season in the preview, and Morio was a big reason. He's legit.

    Ulisses, at this point I'm as impressed with the first two eps as I have been this season, along with Hourou Musuko and AnoHana. If this ends up at that level I'll be very happy, but with two cour the potential in both direction is greater.

  6. d

    @Enzo: nice work on the recent comments section.

  7. LOL, thx. Always nice to have third party widgets…

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