Chihayafuru – 02 Review
Reviews by M0rg0th and Saranaufogus
I sort of want to cry after having seen this episode.
It is not because it was sad, nor is it because it was emotional, but simply because I could not help but cringe multiple times whilst watching the show and that disappointed me.
One thing this episode did for me was that it reaffirmed my lack of tolerance for brats. =P
Short Episode Summary
The episode starts off with the continuation of a young Chihaya attending school the next day after the Karuta match with Wataya and is now shunned by her classmates. Through the course of the day, she defends Wataya and this ends up in a bet in which if Wataya loses a single card during the Karuta Competition, he would be considered a loser.
On the day of the competition, Wataya wins his way to the finals with his opponent being Taichi. Whilst washing his face before the finals, Taichi steals Wataya’s glasses which ended up in Wataya losing the match. Chihaya then steps in halfway through the final match as a replacement for Wataya and wins the competition for him. (Don’t ask how that is legal. They are kids and it is only a school competition anyway)
Like I had said above, I wanted to cry after watching the episode. There were way too many cringe worthy moments with the way the show played up the importance of Karuta in such a forceful manner, an example would be when Chihaya had declared that Wataya could beat everyone. The over importance placed on the game felt sudden and did not continue what the last episode did – which was the way the game was eased into the audience’s minds at a slower pace. This episode just went heavy on the notion and expected us to swallow it all up.
Then there is the unrealistic and over glorified manner in the execution of each movement made during the Karuta competition. It made me feel like I was watching some mahou shoujo show with the pink starry atmosphere and glowing aura around Chihaya (lets not forget her hair that is flying around due to a mystical wind blowing it). That plus the fact that everything turned out so conveniently for Chihaya with how she remembered the match winning poem that was related to her name. We also have the kids who started to murmur about how awesome Wataya was when he played the game. (Don’t get me started on the fickle mindedness of children right now, I will get to that shortly.)
Last episode I was wondering how a straight forward and seemingly boring game like Karuta could be made entertaining. After seeing what Taichi and Chihaya were up to, Karuta could actually be turned into an all our brawl where it can escalte to the characters punching one another. (Think of Ben-to, or maybe even made into a life or death thing like in Phi Brain)
However, the episode did have a few good moments. For instance, I could not help but laugh when the lady started singing the starting poem (I know it is most likely not an intentional comedic moment but I could not help it), it was also pretty funny when Wataya had called Taichi a coward. The change in atmosphere was sudden and not what I had expected and that made it funny for me. We also got to see a Wataya with confidence that is not confined to only during a game of Karuta.
The Children aka Bringers of Doom
If my Kimi to Boku “Impression” taught you anything about me, I would hope that it’d be about the fact that kids are not at the top of my list of “happy things in life”.
All the children in this episode were so annoying, the only one who seemed relatively normal was Wataya, but then again, we all know that a person who slams the floor constantly without any physical reason is probably insane. I don’t care what sort of inspiring and imaginative reaction that got out of Taichi and Chihaya, a person who plays Karuta without cards, without glasses and without sound is probably most likely the first inline for admittance into a mental institution. =P
Another sudden thing that did not make sense (but is still acceptable) was the whole bet in the first place. If they hated Wataya so much, why would it matter if he won? It was not like they were going to actually treat him any better, and if they did, it just shows the fickle mindedness and shallowness of the children in this series. I don’t remember my childhood all that well but I sure hope that my classmates were not like that.
The Main Characters
Chihaya is pretty much the same old over enthusiastic kid who just does things without thinking and she was really out of control this episode what with her doing whatever she wanted to do.
Taichi really had me hating him for being such an pig and snob and I honestly wanted to strangle that kid despite the fact he did earn some of my compassion later in the episode.
Wataya… Well, I think I had already stated my case with this guy.
The good in this episode
I had already previously mention the comedic moments in this episode but what I also did like was how they showed they way the three main characters were being treated by their parents. Wataya’s parents are non-existent in this episode despite the fact that many of the players parents were there to support their child. Chihaya gets ignored by her family who places her sister before her. Taichi suffers at the hands of an overachieving parent who wants her son to only do things that he can succeed in. I really could not help but feel sorry for these character during those times and it made me forget about how painful some of the other scenes were.
Then we have the nice touch with the glasses. The way Taichi kept consciously touching the glasses as a sign of his guilt was nice. The animation is of course still as pretty as the first episode despite all the panning scenes during the Karuta competition.
Despite all is downs, the episode was still entertaining. The kids may have annoyed me but they were merely acting like the immature brats that they are. The hint of the romantic triangle between the characters is probably the main reason why I am still going to watch this show since I am a sucker for romance shoujo/josei series. At the end of the day, I had fun watching the show and I have decided that this is not a show to be critical about when one is watching. If this episode is anything to go by, the show will have its fair share of cringe worthy moments whenever Karuta comes into play. Right now, I really am looking forward to seeing the three main characters reunite back in present time and watch how they progress from there.
Episode Rating: 7/10 – I still had fun watching it, it was a mix bag of ups and downs.
Wataya still has the freakish habit of treating the cards as if they were Ninja-shuriken… Seriously, how the hell did he pick up this crazy habit?!
Chihayafuru moves along just fine with this week’s episode that continues its retrospection of the beginnings of Chiha and her growing friendship with Wataya. The plot concentrates on Chiha prompting Wataya to make a bold statement about his abilities as Karuta-player and to my surprise everyone’s like ‘Oh, Karuta, hmm? You don’t say? How about proving it in the upcoming tournament?’. If someone would say to me that he’s a really good Karuta-player I would congratulate him – if that person was an old geezer, that is. I still think this game is as boring as traditional games from the stone-age can get.
But Chihayafuru is naturally not really hell-bent on making this a realistic presentation of Karuta. It’s dramatized and to that effect there are indeed multiple moments that need your suspense of disbelief to work. But what keeps Chihayafuru entertaining is its engaging sentimentality.
‘Memory’, dude, she just has a good memory, instinct has nothing to do with winning this game…
As far as characterizations it’s easy to see why one would want to cheer for Wataya as the loner who gets his chance to be in the spotlight for once and earn himself some fame. And his ambitions are really pure, he just wants to be really good at what he likes to do and that’s Karuta. But that guy can’t hold a candle to Chiha when it comes to purity.
Chiha is still the character I actually dislike the most of the cast as she’s simply TOO pure. This girl doesn’t even have the ambition to be the best Karuta-player although she starts to like it. She really just plays for the fun of it – and by chance is also really good at it. Although you can see the cracks in her flawless personality with the way her family swoons over her sister while she’s mostly treated as a side-dish. But there’s no feeling of rebellion or revelation about the way Chiha reacted to her family’s disinterest about her achievements. She just accepts it, is a little bit upset but overall she moves one and takes it as the natural way of how things develop seemingly. It will be interesting to see how she handles this when the plot switches back to the present but the first episode didn’t really indicate that she wanted to stay the hell away from her family. Chiha just seems too much like this walking plot-device just waiting to win the day in the name of everything that’s sacred and tasty under this sky. I can already hearing her telling everyone something about what life really means – and why she in contrast to everyone else actually comes to school riding a unicorn. Chiha as a character is far too idealistic to make her interesting.
In contrast to Taichi… Now there’s a kind of character I would’ve liked to see as a main-character because Taichi has a really conflicted characterization. On one hand he’s this boy pressured by his parents who has to be perfect in everything and who therefore strives to be the cool guy who’s liked by everyone and who’s also good at everything. This makes him a really proud person who simply doesn’t like to lose. Therefore he accepts Wataya’s challenge and tries to beat him. But on the other hand he really cares for Chiha and deep down he’s simply jealous of the attention Wataya receives. And the way Taichi confesses his ‘crime’ to Wataya at the end shows that like Wataya and Chiha he actually just wants to find something he likes to do. But where Chiha is this idealistic brat just heading straight for paradise and Wataya is the underdog that just has to be discovered by the people that matter in the world of Karuta, Taichi actually has a complete plot waiting for him. That dude got practically ‘redemption’ written all over his face, you know. He has the chance to be either the perfect ‘shiny’ boy who’s just what everyone likes him to be. Or he can be himself and go his own way. And that’s a far better story than anything Chiha can offer and far more conflicted than what Wataya can offer at this point because Taichi has to make a decision whereas with Wataya and Chiha there’s no question where their happiness lies.
But with Chiha as the focus of the story, the whole plot seems as straightforward as her character. We already know that in the present she still cares about Karuta and tries to be the best. It’s easy to guess that she will become a sort of savior for Wataya and Taichi since she’s idealistically structured anyway. And therefore the story is all about the ideals Chiha shows off at every opportunity.
Another flaw is that it does indeed hamper the story when the storytelling gets a bit too overdramatized – convenient timing, ‘coincidencies’ and great gestures: it’s all this where the audience is painfully reminded that this series isn’t about the characters so much as the message it wants to share instead. But personally, I have to say, that I can stomach a lot of over-dramatization as long as it doesn’t get too silly and it really only gets used to boost the ambiance of a scene. And Chihayafuru is still in acceptable levels for me in that regard.
Don’t these kids have any normal games they could use to compete with each other…?
It’s another good episode of Chihayafuru that already cares about exploring the backgrounds of the characters. Focusing on the dramatic parts of the story can make the story a bit predictable as there are many things that are influenced more by sentimentality than realism. But Chihayafuru has style and the characters (except Chiha) are interesting enough to make the over-dramatization still engaging instead of silly.