So – all that stuff I said about watching the Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun OVA with a heavy heart? Ditto here – but with the one caveat being that there’s at least a chance we’ll see more Chihayafuru animated sometime down the road, albeit not for a good while. Some would say a pretty good chance, in fact, given the decent (by shoujo standards, and better than the first season) disc sales and the continued powerhouse status of the manga. It’s still very wistful knowing this could be the last anime ever for one of my favorite series in years, though.
There are a couple pretty significant differences between the Chihayafuru and Tonari OVAs, though, namely that this one is anime-original and snugly fit inside the series timeline. As such it feels more connected to the actual story, but there’s still a certain detach here largely because the OVA is almost entirely missing two of the three central players in the romantic side of the plot (though each does make tiny appearances). Chronologically this all takes place during the finale of the second season, after Chihaya’s hospitalization but seemingly before the visit where Kana reads her love poems.
In point of fact, the star of this OVA is Sumire, just as the first couple of episodes of the second season were. In all honesty, while she’s played by one of my favorite up-and-coming young seiyuu Sumire is probably my least favorite member of the cast. She serves a very important function in that it’s her outsider status and bluntness that sometimes serves to drive the Chihaya-Taichi storyline, but with her constant whinging she can be a lot to take. I get where she’s coming from and I like her, but in a cast this good she’s not up to par – and just as I wasn’t over the moon for the first few eps of S2, this OVA won’t be threatening for a spot among my favorites either.
The storyline for Waga Mi You ni surounds the Mizusawa culture festival, which Sumire sees as a vehicle to advance her hopeless crush on Taichi while the competition is in the hospital (not that Taichi does anything to formalize that status). Her plan? Rather than the usual Karuta demonstration, stage a play – a version of Genji Monogatari, with Taichi as Genji and herself as (presumably) Lady Fujitsubo. There are some pretty funny moments as Sumire works to snow each of the club members individually, plying Kana with talk of free advertising for hem family’s story and comparing Tsutomu to Natsume Souseki (there’s also a puzzling visual obsession with a rusty CGI table fan).
As is so often the case with OVAs, this one feels like a pretty good but unexceptional episode of the TV series. Of course I was hoping it might be set at the training camp where we left Chihaya and Taichi, but perhaps the fact that Madhouse didn’t burn that here is evidence that they’re thinking long-term. There are some interesting little moments for all that – I found Kana’s attempt to usurp Sumire’s plan (though Kana didn’t know it was such) and turn the play into a Taichi-Chihaya catalyst a pretty amusing reminder that she’s the biggest shipper in the game. I also took note of Tsutomu’s rather dreamy endorsement of Kana for the lead role (“She’d pull of the kimono perfectly, and make a great princess!”), a gentle reminder of the forgotten promising romance in this series.
For Arata fans there’s not much to chew on – the only time we see him (apart from this) is in a news report getting blown away as a typhoon strikes Fukui on the way to Tokyo, where it promptly destroys the club’s props and forces them to stage a manzai comedy with Nishida as Genji, Chihaya as Murasaki Shikibu and Sumire as Sei Shounagon. That’s sort of fitting, I suppose, given how little we saw of him for most of the season. In the end, this OVA is a nice opportunity to reconnect with the series, but nothing indispensable – though it does score points for once again closing with the first season OP. So now the wait begins – hopefully it’s one that finds Chihayafuru’s loyal audience rewarded in the end.