|Original Manga||Yuki Suetsugu|
|# of Episodes||50|
Sum it up in a Sentence:
The series focuses on three friends brought together by the traditional Japanese card game Karuta.
Chihaya Ayase is a girl who has spent most of her life simply supporting her sister in her model career. That changes when she meets a boy named Arata Wataya, a talented karuta player. He thinks that Chihaya has a potential to become a great player. As Chihaya takes on a new dream of becoming Japan's best karuta player, she is soon separated from her karuta playing friends as they grow up. Now in high school, Chihaya still continues to play karuta in the hope that she will one day meet her friends again.
Voiced by: Asami Seto
A headstrong girl who holds a strong admiration for her fashion model sister, but ultimately has no aspirations of her own. She becomes close to Arata after seeing him bullied by her classmates and is inspired by his own love of competitive Karuta to partake in it as well.
Voiced by: Mamoru Miyano
Childhood friend of Chihaya. A popular and arrogant boy who is quick to bully Arata. Kind of a huge jerk, but has a strong sense of pride in himself instilled by a family that refuses to accept failure.
Voiced by: Yoshimasa Hosoya
A transfer student to Chihaya and Taichi's school. He's consistently bullied for an endless number of reasons, but never loses sight of his goal to be the greatest Karuta player in the world.
If You Liked This, You Might Like...
- Hikaru no Go - Probably the only other show were you can clearly watch the evolution of the main character's game. Hikaru goes from complete novice at Go to one of the best players in Japan.
- Skip Beat!
- NANA - Same studio, same craftsmanship. Very different tone.
- Cross Game
- Glass Mask
- Lovely Complex
A show combining amazing characters, fierce competition, friendships, rivalries, a love of language, tentative love, growing up, humor, drama and really basically everything I love to see in a story doesn't come along very often and this show is now one of my true favorites. All of the cast is well written, nuanced and so amazingly human that every episode (even the recap episode!) was a true joy to watch and get caught up in.
More than just a sports show, much more than a typical high school show, and more than the tentative love triangle that simmers throughout it, Chihayafuru is simply one of the best, most well crafted series around and I can't recommend it highly enough.
It also has some of the best reaction faces ever to grace an anime.
Second season addendum: The show continues to be fantastic, here's hoping there is a third season eventually.
This is one of those shows that is really hard to explain why it was so damn good. The characters are fantastic, the visual presentation frequently breathtaking and if you get nothing else from it the show competes with Bakuman for the title of "Funny Faces: the anime". In a nutshell Chihayafuru is an exploration of the love a girl has for an obscure Japanese card game you've never heard of and how that binds her to the people around her. But the reason the show is so fantastic is because it moves past specifics into something much more basic. Chihayafuru is a story about anyone's love for for any competitive activity. Minute details about Karuta like card placement and swing technique aren't inherently interesting, but watching Chihaya devour and internalize such things is far more enduring than it has any right to be.
Chihayafuru is a series about a girl with no social skills playing a boring card game. It's also one of the most enthralling series I'ver ever seen.
It's not that karuta is interesting in itself. What matters is the characters, how much you'll sympathise with them, and care about their minor but believably vital needs - and how deeply they care about the game. Every small detail of a game becomes important to them and interesting to watch, and part of the tension is that because the stakes are so low, anything can happen. And it's leavened with humour, pathos and a little melodrama, particularly regarding Arata.
Chihayafuru is overwhelmingly passionate about something that hardly matters. It's just like real life.
The Devil Tesla
A great manga and an essentially perfect anime. It's a little confounding at first, as it introduces Chihaya as an obnoxious teenager before the flashbacks explain what makes her tick, but once you get into its rhythm it's addictive. The majority of the story is spent in card games, but every game reveals something new about the expansive and balanced cast and connects to deeper themes about what kind of people they will grow up to be. And holy shit, the direction is amazing. It's completely over the top, treating Karuta as if it's the most dramatic subject possible, but with a self-aware sense of humor that makes it fit together perfectly.
I've watched it through about three times and each time I find something new to love about it. A romance plot that could have taken over the show is constantly pushed to the background only to pop up in extremely satisfying ways. The antagonists start out as entertainingly weird and eventually grow on you to the point where you can root for them (when they aren't playing the main cast). Quirky, insufferable team members show up in the second season, in time to provide a great foil to demonstrate how the rest of the team has grown.
I can't recommend this show enough.
I was quite wary coming into this, because I generally don't like sports anime, and I can take or leave shonen type stuff as well. Chihayafuru manages to be both of those things, but also has excellent writing, genuine characters and dialog, and a tangible progression that's often better than what you'll find in drama shows where you expect the bar to be higher. This show will make you actually care about a bunch of silly high school kids playing a silly ass card game. And while you may not really care about karuta, you will cheer on these kids as they each take their own approach at being the best at it they can be, and learning little things about life along the way. The best part is, however, that it never takes itself TOO seriously. There's always a keen sense of self-awareness when things go over the top, and it's refreshing to see how well grounded it can be. It's also funny as all hell when they decide to flip the humor switch.
There's nothing out there quite like it, and I've called it the best anime two years in a row now. I can't wait for the third.