Chihayafuru 2 – 25 (End) and Series Review

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Oh my – where in the world can I possibly begin?

First things first.  Kanade, you sweet, wonderful, kind, perceptive girl – I adore you.  You have a heart as big as all outdoors and a soul that’s always reaching for the Heavens.  What a shame we didn’t see more of you this season.

In fact, that thought leads me to a couple of other observations about this last episode.  First, my favorite term for Chihayafuru 2 – “exquisite torture”.  This finale was all about exquisite torture.  Exquisite torture for Taichi, and for fans who love the character.  And for every fan of Chihayafuru who was presented with this emotional blockbuster, and now has to wait the better part of three years for more anime, if we get more at all (with one small but potentially important exception, which I’ll touch on shortly).

And second – this finale is a stark reminder of what this season could have been, if it hadn’t spent most of its time on one three-day Karuta tournament, and why the first season was on the whole the better.  Chihayafuru is almost unmatched when it comes to really emotionally compelling character dynamics, and they’ve been few and far between this season.  I love the way it portrays Karuta too, but I don’t love it as much.  I understand that this is mostly a result of Madhouse and Morio-sensei following Suetsugu-sensei’s script faithfully, but the annals of anime contain many examples of directors who’ve made changes in adapting manga that made the anime better.  Well over half the season on the High School tournament was not the best scenario for Chihayafuru, in my opinion.

Be that as it may, the finale was indeed a whopper – a WMD of emotions that cut right to the heart of what makes Chihayafuru such a wonderful (and agonizing) viewing experience.  We started out with the afterword of the tournament, though it was surprisingly brief (I think a good decision, in hindsight). We’re reminded that Arata is 4-0 lifetime against Shinobu.  Sakurazawa-san asks of herself whether anyone noticed who the only undefeated players at the tournament were, to which I answer – “Yes!”  I most certainly did notice, Sensei.  Taichi leaves Arata hanging on a high-five.  Sadly, there’s no cut-in on the finale of Tsutomu and Tsukuba’s matches – only a quick notification that they’ve in fact won.

The impression that T2 and T3 have really been shafted is hard to escape, because in addition to their matches being completely ignored, in point of fact their victories are only really important because they set up the narrative needs to move the story to the next level – that Chihaya is the reason the team wasn’t able to fulfil her outlandish promise that Mizusawa would sweep every category.  Mind you, what they’ve accomplished is still incredible, in winning every class but one and the team event, and the truth is that even uninjured it’s clear Chihaya would have defeated neither Shinobu or Arata.  But still, this serves to further deepen the sense of frustration for Chihaya.  She sees Arata and Shinobu on a level far above her.  She sees her teammates winning their events, while she falters.  She sees the “impassionate” serenity of Arata, and curses her own restless impatience.

This is a crisis of confidence of sorts for Chihaya, and it isn’t helped when her fourth (!) medical opinion tells her she has Enchondromatosis (I’m guessing that Wikipedia page has never been busier) a softening of the bone in the injured finger of her hand.  For most people it’s no big deal, but for Chihaya as a Karuta player it’s a problem – and it necessitates surgery to implant firm material inside the bone for support.  I’ve never heard of a week’s hospitalization for a finger operation (I suspect the existence of nationalizaed health insurance has something to do with that) but it’s clear the operation is not completely routine.  And obviously, this also means Chihaya is cut off from playing Karuta at just the time she’d most like to be obsessively practicing (though this requires the full vigilance of her put-upon nurses).

Sakurazawa-san has proved to be quite an important character in these last few weeks, and it’s she who gives Chihaya a copy of the video of the Class A final, which provides something else for the restless heroine to obsess over in the hospital.  The first of the big blockbuster moments comes as Chihaya makes a phone call to Arata after her operation (interestingly, it seems she doesn’t tell him about it).  It’s a revealing conversation in so many ways, starting with Arata (who happens to be ogling a photo of Chihaya’s sister at the time – I like anything that shows off his human side).  Arata confirms what’s been the dominant theme of his personal journey this season – he’s never felt as connected and at peace as he did during his time in Tokyo.  Most especially, of course, the time he spent with Chihaya playing Karuta in his humble apartment.  “No matter the match, I always flash back to that room.”

This is a conversation that’s going to be analyzed to death, though there are parts of it that certainly speak for themselves.  To me, it seems clear that it awakens a kind of self-awareness in Chihaya that’s been absent up until that point.  She realizes that it was those moments that were the pivot-point in her life, and that started her on the journey she’s obsessively (yes, I’m using that word with her a lot, and it’s no coincidence) followed ever since.  Once again, we see Crunchyroll make a curious translation choice, which has been a theme with Chihayafuru.  They translate Chihaya’s thought as “I’ll always love Karuta, and I’ll always love Arata.”  In fact, Chihaya uses the word “suki” – which translates more correctly as “like” – but can also mean “love” in certain contexts.

I don’t want to make too much of this, but I think it’s a fascinating illustration of why Japanese doesn’t always translate well into English – and also a crucial one in the context of the moment.  In Japanese, many times translation boils down to context – the same word can mean different things in different situations, and even then it isn’t always clear (as witness Taichi’s use of “teki” earlier, which could mean “enemy” but probably meant “rival” as he intended it).  In terms of “suki“, it generally means like – the only time it would normally be used to express love would be in directly addressing someone.  In referring to someone in the third person “daisuki” or “ai” would usually be used to express love.  Of course, it’s clear Chihaya loves Karuta, and she’s certainly expressing her love for Arata here.  It’s also clear in this moment that she has romantic feelings for him.  But I think the reason Suetsugu used “suki” here is to express the fact that Chihaya still cannot separate her feelings for Arata and her feelings for Karuta – which I think is a vital theme going forward.  It isn’t so much that the CR translation was wrong, but that it – like the later line translated as “receive Arata’s passion” when the far more natural translation is “respond to that kind of passion” – seems intended to convey something definitive when the author probably intended to be ambiguous.

Any way you slice it, this amounts to the biggest lurch forward in the romantic side of the story so far.  While Chihaya saying she’s been working hard to get strong enough to “receive Arata’s passion” is another inexact translation that doesn’t tell the whole story, it has very broad implications, and reinforces the notion that Arata and Karuta are inseparable in her mind.  During one of their visits to the hospital Taichi and Kana see some poems that Chihaya has been writing (having received scary instruction from Kana-chan) for a school assignment.  Kanade, however, keeps reading after Taichi has tilted at how lame the first two were – and sees two poems that express Chihaya’s feelings for Arata in clear and surprisingly articulate terms.  It’s a beautiful notion, that Chihaya, still so clumsy when speaking and clueless about her own feelings, finds her voice when using poetry.

Poetry, of course, speaks directly to Kana’s soul – and it’s in this scene and the ones that follow that she has her finest moments of the season.  It’s been clear for a long time that Kana knew everything about Taichi’s feelings for Chihaya, and desperately wanted the two of them to be together.  I lost it when she lost it – when she stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and pounded Taichi’s back, over and over, before exhorting him “You have to try harder – Chihaya won’t be clueless forever!”  What a sweet, sensitive and beautiful person she is, and this is the conversation Taichi has needed to have for two seasons.  Yes he does know, as he tells her – and this is the ultimate test of his continuing quest to be a person who doesn’t run away.

There’s an almost staggering brilliance in the way Suetsugu connects the big moments in the series the way Shinobu connects herself to the cards – there’s a red string of fate from Taichi’s moment on the train platform with Harada-sensei in episode 20 of season one that leads right to this moment with Kana-chan.  This is the most visible and dynamic journey in Chihayafuru, and it hasn’t been a smooth one – there have been fits and starts and self-inflicted detours.  But Taichi is progressing – he is moving forward both as a person and as a Karuta player.  Now he faces the highest hurdle yet – to declare his love to Chihaya, knowing full-well he might be rejected.  “Forward.  We can only go forward.” he says, and he’s correct – this is the only direction his journey can go, and this step can be delayed no longer.  He’s finally reached Class A, and Chihaya has finally acknowledged him as a rival in Karuta.  Now he has to step up and declare his love for her no matter how terrifying that is.

It says something about how incredible this three-way dynamic is that despite being largely ignored all season, it remains the most compelling romantic triangle in recent anime.  Arata and Taichi could hardly be more different, physically and otherwise.  Taichi is all turbulence and self-doubt and struggle, and Arata is forever the spinning top, moving so swiftly and smoothly that there appears to be no effort at all.  In a sense Taichi is right to consider the moment Chihaya acknowledges him as a rival a crucial one, because it’s clear that the path to her heart is through Karuta.  If Arata is indeed moving ever closer to being an object of her romantic love (as he surely is) it’s partly because he’s still the God of Karuta in her eyes.  Arata’s move to Tokyo (Grandpa’s insurance policy seems to guarantee it will happen – sorry, Dad) is so crucial in every respect because at last, Chihaya will come to know the person and not the God – the reality and not the fantasy.  And so, at the same time, will we – for Arata has remained for most of the series a distant presence, only rarely showing us his vulnerabilities.  Nothing will ever be the same once that move happens.

This is a cruel time indeed to cut off the series, on the eve of a Karuta training camp Fujisaki is holding, and that Sakurazawa-sensei has invited Mizusawa to.  It’s crucial because Kana has engineered it as a two-person trip for Taichi and Chihaya – a chance for Taichi to at last share his feelings, if he can summon the courage.  The reality, as I’ve mentioned before, is that there simply won’t be enough manga material for a third season for a very long time – probably the better part of three years.  By any measure Chihayafuru is more successful than ever – the manga remains a powerhouse (over 300K in the first two weeks for Vol. 21) and despite a shift to a more expensive format Blu-ray Vol. 1 outsold the first volume of the first season.  But will the impetus to move ahead with a S3 still be there in 2016?  We’ll see.  The wild-card here is an OVA due in September.  Normally OVAs don’t deal with heavy canon storylines, but the tea leaves seem to indicate that this one will – that training camp will likely be the subject of the episode, and with it a crucial moment in Chihaya and Taichi’s development.

And with the end of the season comes another dilemma for me.  When S1 ended there was no decision about reading the manga, because there were (and are) no translations of the bulk of the chapters that make up S2, and a second season seemed like a better-than-even bet.  Now, we’re looking at a long wait if we get another season at all – and the continuation of the storyline in manga form is very much available in English.  Do I cave and finally read the manga, spoiling myself for a potential third season?  Or do I remain a pure-pure boy, saving myself for a season that may never come?  Agony, I tell you – I suppose I’ll take a few days to decide one way or the other.

In the meantime, I can look back on an astonishing year’s worth of anime from Madhouse.  What an emotional roller-coaster Chihayafuru is, combining the most stressful elements of shounen, shoujo and josei into an impossibly compelling and frustrating package.  I adore this show, even if I don’t love the second season as much as the first.  I’e already been quite clear on why – the balance and pacing of the season simply haven’t been as spot-on as they were in S1.  Too much Karuta, too much time spent on marginally interesting moments and preliminary matches, not enough focus on the core cast like Taichi, Arata, Kanade and Tsutomu.  I would have been fine with Morio-sensei speeding up the tournament some and devoting the last few episodes to the chapters that follow – as I said, I don’t take it as holy writ that directors have to be letter-faithful when adapting manga (look at the wonders Watanabe-sensei achieved with Nazo no Kanojo X by making major changes in pacing and chapter order).  But of course if he had, he would have been delaying any possible third season even further – so let’s be optimistic and hope he didn’t because Madhouse fully expects that season to become a reality.

Remembering just how great this show is, even with its inconsistencies, is probably a good way to finish.  Watching a well-written show about fascinating and endearing kids you come to care about deeply is one of anime’s greatest pleasures, and moments like that scene between Taichi and Kana-chan can only come with the deep emotional buy-in Chihayafuru has.  Thank you sincerely to Suetsugu-sensei, Mori-sensei and Madhouse for bringing us one of the greatest character arcs – and characters – in amime with Taichi.  And for Arata’s nobility and class, for Chihaya’s shounen male-lead intensity and emotional vulnerability, Kanade’s beautiful soul and Tsutomu’s self-effacing courage and determination and Nishida’s everyman struggles.  For supporting players and opponents and the wonderful coaches and adults like Harada-sensei and The Empress, and for bringing my attention to the strange and utterly fascinating ancient sport of Karuta.  Chihayafuru is very, very special, and whether the OVA is the end of the anime or not, I’ll never forget the experience of watching it.

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ED Sequence: “Youthful” by 99RadioService

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  1. G

    This was a good series and I am gonna miss it. I am just curious what planet this series takes place on, it can't be earth:

    * Person goes into the hospital the day before their operation?

    * Hospital provides all the patients custom fit pajamas and not one size fits all johnies?

    * After the operation on her finger (requiring 4 stitches) she has to stay in the hospital for 5 MORE days?

    Like any HMO would let any of those things happen. Anyways it looks like Taichi has no shot at capruring her heart as it already belongs to Arata. Would have been nice to see if this training camp gave Taichi the chance to tell her how he feels at least.

  2. I don't know whether you're kidding or not, but in countries like Japan and Sweden that sort of thing happens all the time.

  3. K

    Yes are wonderful US healthcare system that we pay an arm & a leg for.

  4. i

    I remember writing something about Chihayafuru an the inevitable and possibly lasting parting that we had to make at the end of season 1. That season is and likely always will be my favourite in anime. It combined everything I love in Shounen, Josei, Sports and Shoujo while being humble and never overly pursuing one of its elements.

    This second season was like meeting those friends again for the first time in 2-3 years. I knew it was coming but I couldn't be more excited. However like meetings after a long wait, expectations grew to an unnatural level as memory became fantasy in my mind and when those fantasies didn't match reality I felt a tinge of disappointment. They are still my friends and I cherish the time we spend together but I don't feel as heartbroken as I once did when I wave goodbye at the airport for the second time.

    That is what I feel this 2nd season was like. I laugh, smile and joke with them but inside something feels a bit off and I don't go home wishing I didn't have to after meeting. Chihayafuru suffered from the impossible to avoid middle season syndrome. Its not the beginning that is the start of a friendship and nor is it our final farewell, though Chihaya's parting gift was like someone yelling at the terminal, "Oh yeah I'm getting married."

    But I'd still take a Chihayafuru season 3 than any other anime sequel, except that of Ginban Kaleidoscope.

  5. R

    Very well said, ishruns — it's exactly how I felt about about both seasons and the finale. I still adore Chihayafuru though — I think it's quite deeply rooted in me because of season 1. However, if I have to separate season 2 from the first, I think I may like SSY slightly better for 2013 so far. Just a thought.

  6. R

    Oh God, where should I start? I think I should start thanking you, Enzo, for all your passionate reviews and acute analysis of the show, for your respect and understanding of great writing and characters, and, simply for sharing the love of Chihayfuru.

    “Forward. We can only move forward,” said Taichi. “Yes,” replied Chihaya. Indeed, how wonderful it is to end the story — in anime form — by the two founders of the Mizusawa Karuta Club. Of course, the confirmation of Arata’s move to Tokyo when he enters college signifies an interesting future of the story.

    I love this finale for how it gave us glimpses of the characters outside of Karuta…although I missed seeing how Tsutomu and Tsukuba won their matches. I love how it reminded me why I came to love the show, but what I love the most was what Kana-chan did. Like you said, she's a beautiful person, and I wish that we could see her more. When she couldn’t hold her feelings and pounded hardly on Taichi’s back, I couldn’t hold my tears — it's as if our wishes came through her voice encouraging him to ganbatte.

    As I reflect, I can’t help but admit that all my affection towards the show comes from season 1. To be blunt, I missed bonding with the characters this season. However, to think holistically, I still adore Chihayafuru, and to have a finale like this one, I can't help but feel sad that it finally ended — and it would be years should we have a season 3. I will miss Miyano’s voice of Taichi, the beautiful bond shared amongst the Mizusawa Karuta Club, and the many other wonderful experiences that the show has brought to us.

    Again, Enzo, thanks sincerely for everything and many things that you did for the show. Chihayafuru is a very special show to me, and I enjoyed wholeheartedly the journey together at LiA.

    p.s. I definitely will follow should you decide to blog the manga.

  7. i

    I too completely forgot to say thanks GE for blogging this amazing show, though I doubt you will blog the manga should you give in and read it as it will account to spoiling should a season 3 be made. On that front I suggest you do read the manga as even if an anime comes out it won't ruin the experience. Looking how knowing the story in GoT has made the experience on screen better (I think) for you.

  8. G

    Chihayafuru is a very problematic series. I think many people love the idea of it, what they hoped it would become and not what it actually is. The sport of karuta is not portrayed in a realistic way, too many coincidences and things happening for the sake of happening. The characters are also gimmicky and don't feel like real people most of the time.

    But that's ok, it's still an alright series most of the time. But this final episode made me puke with disgust.Alright I may be exaggerating a bit but still. I never really liked Kanna with her obsession over traditions and all that but her final scene with Taichi was really bad.This is a person who thinks she is cultured and reads poems but the advice she gave to Taichi was absolutely horrible.She told him to fight for her attentions and set them up on a date or something. Like Chihaya, her friend, is an object that he needs to fight to obtain her. That was just wrong on all possible levels. Of course Taichi needs to come clean to Chihaya but the way Kanna phrased the whole thing was just…no.

    Chihaya also made me puke a bit. That scene at the hospital,writing poems for Arata reminded me of another terrible scene from Major. That girl who was on the team admitted to herself that she never really REALLY liked baseball. She played for Goro's attention. She also tore up all their childhood pictures because he didn't notice her anymore or something. It was just horrifying. And then the series proceeded to portray her in a sympathetic light and she even hooked up with Goro later. Now Chihaya is a bit different. She really likes karuta, but still she openly said that a big reason for doing that was in order to "receive Arata's passion". Well that was disturbing. But the reason I am frustrated is not because this happened in both series. But because the series didn't seem to have a problem with that. Like to give your life to a sport or interest in general to make a boy or girl like you was fine. Which is not. Slam Dunk also played with that trope but Sakuragi was retarded from start to finish. Don't get me wrong I like the guy, but Inoue clearly showed that this dude is wrong in everything on all possible levels. And that's why Sakuragi is a good character. He is flawed as fuck and the series knows it.

  9. G

    Kana is my favorite character in this series. Everyone sees things differently and you are entitled to your opinion on this series and its characters but perhaps your life experiences have jaded you towards an honest and romantic pure girl like Kana.

    Taichi needed a kick in the pants to move forward if he has any intention of trying to win Chihaya's heart and Kana was giving him that kick in the pants.

  10. G

    Kana is supposed to be Chihaya's friend. But there is no real connection there,she doesn't know her,not really. Chihaya being a totally batshit character doesn't help of course. But think about it, she doesn't even know if Chihaya is sexually attracted to boys. And yes, say she noticed the way she talked with Arata was different but there's no indication she is attracted to Taichi the 2 years they spent together on the team.

    What's her fucking business then to set up a sort of a date with them because somehow she wants to see them together or something.That is mindless shipping and it totally ignores what Chihaya might want. And you don't fight to win someone's heart, that's creepy. She/He either likes you that way or doesn't. She could have told Taichi what she intuited about her and Arata, have a real conversation and then maybe advise him to tell her the truth of what he feels and be done with it.But her wanting them to be a couple out of the blue was not pure nor romantic, just wrong.

    And that part about my life experiences was funny.

  11. G

    Maybe I should further explain that comparison I made between Chihayafuru and Slam Dunk. Slam Dunk's whole premise is a stupid (genius) guy who plays a sport in order to impress a girl. At the beginning he doesn't care about the sport. He is trying to shortcut training, make amazing plays with his physical talent and generally bullshit his way to victory. But gradually this changes. The more he learns about basketball and the more time he spends with his teammates he grows as a person and becomes sort of tsundere about basketball. And then that scene in the final chapter comes and you are blown away cause it feels real and earned and yes it's a confession of love to the sport. It didn't start this way. Usually the main character puts the sport of interest above everything right from the beginning. In Slam Dunk this was not the case, he grew to love it.

    In Chihayafuru it felt more like a betrayal of sorts cause it was the other way around. Chihaya was passionate to a fault about karuta. It really was everything she thought about. So of course you think that she plays for herself, cause the sport itself fills her with immense satisfaction. But then in the final episode we learned that her wanting to get close to Arata is a big part of that. And she clearly states that she wants to become stronger in order to receive his passion. And not just as a karuta rival but as something else. And that's kinda sad. It might make for an interesting storyline but I'm not sure the series knows how problematic her way of thinking really is.

  12. a

    I ruined the finale by reading the manga chapter ahead of time. Hahaha! But it's still nice to watch it animated. :) Anyway, just a little warning for the next season. I suspect it'll follow the pacing we had this season.

  13. i

    Also GE I took yours and a few other commenters advice and began reading A song of Ice and Fire from A Game of Thrones. Or rather I will once I have time, having just bought it. And you wouldn't believe the price I got it for – all 5 books for $45, that's it. They are the paperback and the page size is quite small and somewhat grey rather than white but on the whole I think that's a great deal. Read a couple of pages on the subway and it does bring back memories of the first episode.

  14. j

    That is indeed quite awesome!

  15. j

    Daww I really liked that ending sequence – there's no way I wouldn't with such an awesome song playing in the background.

    Arata is definetely the best character here – calm, never freaks out like anyone else in the cast, good-willed guy…Simple and clean. WHY must everyone else be such a freak :( I laughed so much at that post-credit scene.

    Also, wait, 2016? Did I miss something there? Why would Chihayafuru have to wait at least 3 years for a third season? There's plenty of material still to be adapted, isn't there?

  16. Only 19 chapters as of now.

  17. i

    Combined the two seasons managed 93 chapters so about 45 should be enough for another season. There's actually 21 chapters out (latest 2 are raw) so actually 2 years should provide enough material in which case summer 2015 is the point at which enough material would have accumulated.

    Nonetheless I doubt they'll make a season until enough important events have taken place. The Meijin/Queen qualifiers, further development amongst our characters, maybe another batch of freshmen and the Tokyo Regionals would certainly make for an interesting 24 episodes (recap noninclusive)

  18. M

    Is Chihayafuru a monthly manga? It would have to be, right?

  19. It's on some sort of "semi-monthly" rotation that seems to result in 18 releases a year.

  20. M

    @ishruns: Think of it this way, if you noticed how much time season 2 has covered relative to season 1, then I think you have an almost accurate idea of how much another season will cover.

    @Enzo: Looking at the volumes schedule, it looks like it's 3 months per volume and then 4-6 chapters per volume. Does it get published in the BeLove Magazine before getting compiled in the volumes?

  21. AFAIK BeLove is where every Chihayafuru chapter premieres.

  22. e

    Actually I found your review here to be almost better than the episode itself Enzo , the way you approached the episode this week amplified and intensified everything :,).
    Interesting language notes you wrote. I waited for Commie as usual, Chihaya's thought was rendered as "(…) to enjoy Arata's passion" . I context and to this non-native English speaker the phrasing while retaining potentially romantic implications seemed most focused on the karuta game and to attain a state of play and mind closer to Arata's.
    Then of course the are the poems Chihaya wrote and Kanade (pretty much working as the embodiment/filter of a good chunk of the audience I'd be tempted to say)'s reaction to them fuelling the romance camp. For the record I liked the ice cream poem too – it really captured that refreshing feeling X,DDD -.
    Chihaya situation mho is that she has drive and focus but can't really improve as a player unless she gains more self-awareness, and romantic awareness. Her evolution as a player is tied into her evolution as a human being. And while she has improved in taking note of people and sourroundings romantic love has been conspicuously absent from her conscious thoughts. The relative pause of reflection due to her injury might play into it later on – or rather push her to obsess over karuta even more and become an ambidextrous karuta monster :p – . If Kanade's intuition is right she's getting closer to that romantic awareness and as time waits for no one she's pushing Taichi to make his position clear out of the friendzone before his chances are over before he even tries (:,) ) vs Arata the idealized haloed karuta god. But also I think Kana-chan here is doing what she does in this episode to allow Chihaya's vision/awareness to expand and for her friend to make an informed romantic choice if she so wishes.
    I can't really fault Kanade here unlike I've read in othe people's comments, she's just trying to give potential romance based on mutual caring between dear friends a chance (frankly the more I think to the bonding moments between the two the more I'm reminded of two osanajim from the RoV. Some of the dynamcs are uncannyly similar in spirit, and some of the romance dynamics too, quandrangle included), she's not locking them into a room or brainwashing Chihaya into falling – and to fall for Taichi – stat.
    Ironically we have Taichi's abilities being affected for so long because he's self-aware – romance-wise and not – to a fault. Arata instead is a balanced spinning top in this area too it seems :D. I'm quite looking forward to see him interacting daily with Taichi and Chihaya in Tokyo again at long last. A bit of a reality check and a closer look can only add to the whole trio. Oh more delicious torture ;p. Oh long wait XD.

    Taichi and Kana have been my fav characters since s1 with Tsutomu being close behind. I was so glad we had at least a glimpse of his ad Tsukuba's winning gesture and happy faces. Missed my megane-kun :,) , there haven't been nearly enough of him this season.
    If we're ever going to get an s3 I do hope it will be closer to the character/karuta balance we had back in s1 – Ronbb and Ishruns's comments encapsulated pretty much my take on s2 in this aspect – , even if with the new characters this season it might get even harder to juggle each character's screentime. Well for sure in my book the Fujisaki coach-mentor among the new entries is someone worth seeing more. Just no more – or at least much less – photostalkers moments please :,).

  23. R

    @elianthos80: Thanks! I have marked Chihayafuru as one of my all-time favourites, and I think — or at least to me — Suetsugu-sensei has successfully engaged the hearts of her readers.

    I have started reading the manga but haven't made much progress though — I actually went back a bit to revisit certain parts of the story and am now at a few chapters after where the show ended. Reading the manga is a totally different experience, and I think I am spoiled and benefited by experiencing the story in anime form first — I have a better imagination when reading.

    I do want to share a few things:
    – The show ended midway in chapter 93 with a couple small changes.
    – Chihaya's word of "suki" is translated as "like" in the manga, and to be specific, she thought to herself that she would always like Karuta and Arata.
    – In the manga, there was no sight of Arata or Chihaya's phone call to Arata when Kana-chan was reading Chihaya's poems — those were added in the anime.
    – Also in the manga, Chihaya wasn't exactly and specifically thinking of responding to Arata's passion but becoming "a person who can respond in kind to that passion." There were frames of Nishida vs. Arata, Shinobu vs. Arata, and even Chihaya herself vs. Shinobu when she was having that thought, so one could interpret that Chihaya was thinking of her passion towards Karuta.

    I think Morio-sensei is pretty "sneaky" trying to play up the love triangle here…teehee.

  24. I don't think it's sneaky at all – I think it's very open. But it's not his fault CR translated that dialogue the way they did – I think they're just trying to soap-opera this story as much as possible.

    I do think Suetsugu is going to end up pushing Chihaya and Arata together, mainly because I think she writes Arata as if she's in love with him herself, and that's a pretty strong tipoff. Neverthless, at this point in the manga (I have read up to where the anime ended) she's trying to project ambiguity as much as possible. Morio is trying to suggest something more concrete, and CR is trying to play up the romance angle with Arata at every turn. So it's a kind of stair-step process where relatively subtle changes leave a completely different impression in the anime from what you get in the manga.

  25. R

    That's a very interesting view. My only speculation is that Suetsugu-sensei is perhaps using Arata as a plot device — a moving goal post — for both Chihaya and Taichi, but maybe you're right — Arata is too perfect and likable comparing to other major characters in the story, and I often wonder why.

    You're right — it's still quite ambiguous in the manga up to where the show ended. It's funny how by adding up the tiny changes here and there can make such a difference.

  26. A

    Even though this season did not match the heights the first season reached, Chihayafuru is still the best thing in anime. I enjoyed every moment, even when the series dragged a bit with irrelevant characters or stereotypes.

    If it wasn't for Chihayafuru or Aku no Hana, I would have given up on anime this season entirely. :(

  27. H

    Bit of a random question but are we sure that those two poems Kana read were written by Chihaya? I ask since I could have sworn they were numbered six and seven yet Chihaya herself said right before it that she had hurriedly written five. I was actually wondering if Kana was remembering some other poems from the the Hakkun Isshun that hadn't come up in the show yet, could anyone confirm which it was?

  28. They're numbered as "#6" and "#7" so I just assume Chihaya wrote them after she'd blasted out those original five.

  29. r

    Thanks so much for blogging this wonderful show!… Yeah, I know I'm kinda late since it already ended last week… ;A;
    I really had a wonderful time watching this anime then reading every episodes reviews. They are all balance and insightful!

    I do hope you'll really consider reviewing the manga too! (fingers' crossed)

  30. I'm still on the fence, but thanks for the kind words.

  31. R

    I have caught up reading all chapters available. All that I can say is that it's good. I hope that — if you can find time — you will blog the manga. It's a very different experience from watching the anime even when years after there will be a season 3.

  32. I've caved and read a bit past where the anime ended, in fact I think I've found the likely stopping point for the OVA. I would say more, but…

  33. R

    That's true…with an OVA coming out soon, it may seem like a spoiler if we talk about the manga now. I think I am being selfish — I love the story a lot, and I love reading your thoughts on it, but there are a lot of readers here who also love Chihayafuru probably haven't read the manga.

  34. R

    I like s2 over s1 mainly because of the unbalance. You mention that like a weakness in s2 (or a strength in s1) but for me, that is what it makes s2 so unique. The pace is so distorted in s2 (especially in karuta matches) that make every episode a experience by itself. OK, maybe s2 will not be remember as the best josei of the last 10 years, but (for me) it's the best sports series since ippo new challenger.
    You know, I couldn't resist and i'm reading the manga, and it has the pace that you will like but ,the karuta matches (and tournaments) is definitely at another level and i think people need to recognize that like THE BEST of chihayafuru. The mangaka is just outstanding on that.

    (sorry about my english)

  35. Y

    Bit late, but since I just stumbled upon your blog I felt the need to make a comment!

    Chihayafuru was definitely hands down my favorite anime for the past few years (probably my favorite anime EVER) and I had to admit your review hit the mark for everything. I don't think I've been this into a josei anime, even though Nana was also one of my favorites.

    It's definitely going to be painful waiting 3+ years for season three to come out. I'm going to be old by then…

  36. I don't know you but somehow I doubt your last statement! In any event thanks very much for commenting. Will you read the manga in the meantime?

  37. K

    First off, I've never watched a "slice of life" anime before, but Chihayafuru was AMAZING! Honestly I thought I would hate a normal type of anime, but it was unique in it's own way, and I loved it! I pray so much, that they make a 3rd season!!!

  38. Both seasons in a week? That's a pretty good marathon.

    You're very welcome. I'm really hoping for that third season, because the manga gets really great.

  39. Nicole, I'm terribly sorry – I deleted your post by mistake. I'm on my tablet and I hit the wrong button when replying.

  40. n

    No worries! I was reluctant to start the manga in case of a 3rd season, but I couldn't refrain. I'm now caught up on the manga, which is also absolutely marvelous. I don't know who much longer I'll be able to wait for the next chapter! Chihayafuru is truly a jewel.

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