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Chihayafuru – 03 »« Chihayafuru – 01

Chihayafuru – 02

「からくれなゐに」 (Karakurenai ni)
“I Won’t Give Up”

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 Chihayafuru can take credit for. Without physical danger or romance, we saw an absolutely gripping episode – like HnG, making the playing of an ancient Japanese 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?

October 11, 2011 at 9:46 pm
53 comments »
  • October 11, 2011 at 9:48 pmJustin

    More importantly, who will Chihaya end up with romantically??! 8|

  • October 11, 2011 at 9:48 pmFencedude

    I’m a little irritated that every single person other than Chihaya and Arata is a massive asshole. And yes, that includes Taichi. Still. As the beginning of last episode showed, he hasn’t actually improved.

    I really liked this episode, but I really hate everyone but Chihaya and Arata.

    • October 12, 2011 at 12:46 amSoiyeruda

      In a way, it’s a fairly accurate depiction of Japan in general, which I find rather scary.

      I’ve heard stories and read several articles, but I always get caught off guard when I see a kid being actively bullied by the rest of the class, due to herd-mentality, for being different. Even worse is that the teacher is usually encouraged in such a situation to ignore the bullying, which we see a little bit of over the first two episodes.

      • October 12, 2011 at 9:12 amjames

        Sounds pretty true, considering the tendency for japanese culture to advocate conformity rather than individuality. Hence why you hear stories about the Japanese doing all sorts of weird shit behind closed doors ahahah. But seriously, I ain’t judging…. ;)

    • October 12, 2011 at 9:02 amjames

      Don’t hate, playa.
      I think it’s important to try to empathize with every character, no matter how unpleasant their characteristics may be. That way, you actually learn a thing or two about how people think. You never want to be that person that thinks that there are no flaws in their character, because I guarantee that there are haha. It’s not like I’m saying that you or me would act like Taichi, but we’re not perfect either. Maybe you’ve never been put in a situation where you were too naive or cowardly to do the right thing? I’m not afraid to admit that I have lol

  • October 11, 2011 at 9:51 pmGuardian Enzo

    Justin, I haven’t read the manga and have no wish to until this is over. My gut tells me Taichi is the “male lead” here, but it’s waaaay too early to tell.

    Fence, I truly think Taichi took the first step at the end of the episode. Being ashamed is the first step towards doing the right thing next time.

    • October 11, 2011 at 10:10 pmFencedude

      I’d be more sympathetic if we didn’t already know that he’s still a dick in highschool.

      • October 12, 2011 at 9:34 amjames

        damn, you must be amazing at prediction, bro. I didn’t see anything in the first episode that suggested much less guaranteed that Taichi was a dick in high school. I don’t know, but I think you jump to conclusions way too fast. Humans aren’t just black and white. We’re complex. Just because we do things that are objectionable, it doesn’t mean there isn’t good in our hearts. You need to start seeing things from multiple perspectives man. Otherwise, you’re going to end of being a very ignorant and arrogant person

  • October 11, 2011 at 10:12 pmJoojoobees

    Taichi needs to get punched repeatedly. Little jerk. If he doesn’t want Chihaya finding out about his bad behavior, he can start acting like a nicer person.

    • October 12, 2011 at 12:06 amAlec

      In the manga though, which I just recently read, Taichi had a clear reason for his actions

  • October 11, 2011 at 10:15 pmKiiragi

    Is it just me or are the rules of Karuta a bit too forgiving? Apparently you can swipe out as many cards as you want, as long as the right card is also thrown out. Cheap way to win?
    I’ve been hearing the Karuta isn’t just going to be a plot device and will be a large focus, so I’m wondering if there’s more advanced rules for the game to play at a higher level, since it’s rather simplistic.
    Anyway, I came a little late into watching this, but this is a great series so far. Nice catch, Enzo.

    • October 11, 2011 at 10:19 pmDrew

      Perhaps the manga/anime makes some up, but no. Karuta in the real world is a very simple game with zero depth, largely played by children to learn their Hiragana. I’ve heard manga readers also say that Karuta isn’t going to just be a plot device and will feature big time in the story, so I honestly have no idea how they are going to do that. I guess we’ll see.

    • October 11, 2011 at 11:14 pmOri

      Yeah, karuta is not just a plot device. In this series, people take karuta very seriously even though in real life it’s just a children card game.

      To be honest, by 4th book I was kind of bored about the game. They talk about the poems and their meaning, and they talk about winning strategies, but no matter how you do it, karuto is just a very simple and boring game. It has nothing to go or chess.

      Also the series seems pretty drawn out. I hope that they can speed things up a bit in the anime, cause if it goes at the same speed as manga it wouldn’t be very good.

      • October 11, 2011 at 11:25 pmKiiragi

        Ugh. An unfinished series that’s lost its steam? Hope madhouse can cook up a good original ending.

    • October 11, 2011 at 11:34 pmGuardian Enzo

      Kiiragi! Yeah, I’m no expert but I think this is nothing like Go – this is primarily a children’s game and the rules are pretty simple. But I’m not making any judgements – I’m happy to see how it plays out.

    • October 12, 2011 at 5:35 amAnchen

      According to http://myanimelist.net/reviews.php?id=44875 which is translated from the japanese wiki, you can swipe/touch as many cards in your own territory as you want as long as you eventually touch the correct one as long as the correct card is in your territory. So it would be a foul if the verse being read is not present at all in the board, but it seems ok to touch as many cards in your own territory as you want. For some opponents I think they might just try to see what you grab for and then reach it before you, and if you slap an incorrect card on purpose in your territory you can get your opponent to commit a foul. It is still a simple game but I guess it adds some depth to what is essentially a slapping game.

  • October 11, 2011 at 10:17 pmDrew

    If it’s like any other Josei, Taichi will be the male “lead” until Chihaya realizes what a jerk he is and how she’s got this great (but quiet) guy near her already (Arata). I also agree with Fencedude that Taichi is still a jerk in highschool. The guy is going out with a girl he clearly doesn’t care for and if his expressions in episode one are anything to go by, he’d clearly kick her to the curb if Chihaya would only fall for him. Plus, his whole demeanor when Arata was brought up on the train just screamed to me that he’s still hung up over our (hopefully) eventual male hero. ;D

    I don’t really mind the jerkiness. I mean, it’s part of adding drama and growth to the characters, unless you’re just shooting for a mindless slice of life.

    • October 12, 2011 at 4:41 pmsynkronized

      Yeah Taichi’s not a very endearing character by any means. He represents eneric shoujo boy with looks, intelligence and athletic ability, yawn. At least they make him out to be some shit head in grade school and a douche in high school. Seriously, he has a girlfriend but shamelessly admits he’d dump her at the drop of a hat.

  • October 11, 2011 at 10:21 pmOri

    Read up to book 6. There’s really not enough Arata in this series. It sort of pisses me off because I really like Arata.

  • October 11, 2011 at 10:26 pmGhostalker

    This is quite a nice episode, I like how everything develop. I don’t like bullies, so Taichi is not my kind of character whether it’s the younger or older version (at least what I saw on episode 1). As for Arata, back in episode 1, it seems he failed to reach the Nationals and because of that decided to not get in touch with the others? I like the character of Chihaya, I’m particularly bias to female leads with that kind of personally, so she along is a driving force for me into watching this.

    Also, the background art is quite stunning, the character designs makes me think its actually target for the girls, the theme songs are also good.

    Well, that’s for my initial impressions, I just hope this series turns out to be more than what I expected from it.

  • October 11, 2011 at 11:02 pmGuardian Enzo

    Way too early to decide what Taichi is like in high school, IMO. We don’t know what’s happened in the 5-6 “missing” years, for one. For another, he can’t be blamed for having a GF if he and Chihaya have lost touch – and we don’t know why they’ve lost touch. Finally, the fact that Chihaya was so glad to run into him hints that his she’s still fond of him, which hints he might have turned into a nice enough guy.

    As I said, there’s no defending what he did in this episode (especially the glasses, I was ready to strangle him for that) but let he who is without sin cast the first stone, you know? I think he’s a decent kid at heart and still has a chance at redemption. That doesn’t mean I don’t like Arata better right now – I’m just not ready to throw Taichi under the bus.

    • October 12, 2011 at 12:17 amvector

      It’s really great that you are so open-minded about characters in general, especially complex ones as is hinted by this show, but I would give up trying to defend him if I were you, since it is a pointless cause.

      Most viewers have probably made up their mind by now and even if he improves later on, he would still be hated. I find it funny how if there is a love triangle with 2 guys and one girl, they make one of the guys the jerk, and if there are two girls and one guy they make the guy the jerk.

      So, basically the message is – guys are jerks, we must hate them. It’s a really annoying double standard, since in real life girls can be just as annoying and bad but in anime they are always perfect.

      • October 12, 2011 at 9:37 amjames

        That’s the way people should see the world. There are way too many people out there that judge people based on one single thing. And after that, they’re too stubborn to take back what they say for fear of admitting that they were wrong.

      • October 12, 2011 at 10:05 amGuardian Enzo

        Vector, I don’t disagree that most of the viewers have made up their minds about Taichi, or that there’s an annoying double-standard in anime to make guys either jerks or stupid, and sanctify girls (as Elaine Benes said: “We just tease someone until they develop an eating disorder.”). But that isn’t going to cause me to “give up” or stop calling it out when I see it. If people only want to read bloggers that agree with them, I’m sure they can find choices more to their liking. ;-)

      • October 13, 2011 at 12:08 amvector

        I didn’t mean that you should stop, I just meant that it would be futile.
        As I said, it’s good that there are people like you with a more open mind.
        My post was mostly an expression of disappointment how your words probably would not make much impact rather than a suggestion about what you should or should not do.

      • October 13, 2011 at 3:29 amDivine

        How about my words then? :)

        During my research for the season preview, I ended up reading all the chapters about their last year in elementary school together. While I too found it really hard to like Taichi’s character after the glasses incident, he did slowly redeem himself in my eyes after the three of them get into karuta more.

  • October 11, 2011 at 11:04 pmdisgradius

    last time a show with kids was this interesting was when cross game came out. would still be interested in having the focus shift toward the present though.

    as a fan of go myself, felt compelled to make a minor correction: go originated in china though you are right that it’s ancient (something like a millenia plus old).

  • October 11, 2011 at 11:12 pmskylaris

    The only reason why I’m liking this is because of Taichi. He’s basically all the drama so far. Without him, this would be a boring, typical shoujo romance (just swap Chihaya and Arata genders). Besides, I think he’s the best character to add depth and it’s very apparent by the end of episode 2 when he finally gave the glasses over. There’s little to add to Chihaya and Arata to make them more likeable than they are now.

    And I’m not really defending his actions (they were horrible), but he shows how kids really act. They are simple minded and always thinking without consequences.

  • October 12, 2011 at 12:18 amFling

    In the last post I said I would watch Hikaru no Go over my next holidays. I ended up marathoning through all 75 episodes over the weekend instead :P How glad I am about not missing out on that series.

    Anyways, I agree with Kiiragi. I thought Chihaya was abusing the rules when she was just swiping a group of random cards away. May as well sweep the entire set away while you’re at it. Of course, if character development is the main focus of the anime and not Kurata, things should be fine in the coming episodes.

  • October 12, 2011 at 12:24 amlilu

    I think I like Taichi the most. It’s weird, maybe because he reminds of what little children able do to get some attention.

  • October 12, 2011 at 2:01 amAK-47

    The characters act like normal humans do now thats rare in anime.

  • October 12, 2011 at 2:30 amZeross

    chihaya remind me of ohana with her behavior and outburst, love her :)

  • October 12, 2011 at 7:16 amishruns

    this reminds of skip beat.

  • October 12, 2011 at 9:09 amjames

    What is up with all the hatred towards an elementary school student? ahahah. Talk about being mature huh?

    • October 12, 2011 at 4:49 pmsynkronized

      You sure seem to care about this subject a bit much considering how much you’ve written.

      • October 12, 2011 at 11:27 pmjames

        Yeah, actually, I kind of do. It’s one of my pet peeves when people harshly judge people (as well as fictional characters…lol) based on one thing.

  • October 12, 2011 at 10:19 amsally

    Vector@ what’s wrong with girls who are geniuningly nice and helpful? are you saying all girl should be mean-spirited, vain, and selfish just because that will add “depth” and “realism” to their characters. Every single girl in anime can’t be miss super amazon warrior or miss self assertive independence because that’s not how it is in real life. When it comes to anime characters it’s all about how one is brought up. Take nagisa from clannad for example she coula have a brat about everything ranging from her sickness to interacting with the members of the drama club and her family but did she no why because she was raised with good parents who taught her right from wrong and emcompassed that into her life and as a result has a good life.

    • October 12, 2011 at 11:30 pmjames

      I don’t think you understood what he said at all. Either that, or you’re trying your best to misinterpret what he said just so your own argument would make a bit of sense.

    • October 13, 2011 at 12:14 amvector

      Yeah, like james said you misinterpreted my statement. I don’t have a problem with girls that are nice and loving, as a matter of fact, I prefer them to the violent, bitchy ones. I just have a problem with the way guys and girls are portrayed in anime lately with girls clearly being “morally superior” while guys are mostly wimps or jerks, while the truths is there are people from both genders who fall in all of those categories I described.

  • October 12, 2011 at 10:45 aminnerchihiro

    Fo me, this is one of THE shows of the season. It’s just so rock solid and the atmosphere is great. I love the OST as well, and I find myself humming the OP all the time.

  • October 12, 2011 at 1:00 pmZaku Fan

    Taichi needs to be smacked. Hard. Repeatedly. That is all

  • October 12, 2011 at 8:36 pmkaon

    thanks

  • October 12, 2011 at 10:16 pmSouth

    Aww I really like the three main characters, Taichi was a douche but come on you know he’ll become Arata’s good friend, while his actions suck there’s some family background and he is obviously infatuated with Chihaya.

  • October 12, 2011 at 10:41 pmnagi

    this is so nice, I have two GREAT Chihayas this season ;)

  • October 13, 2011 at 12:50 pminfo600

    wow…its stunning, just like when Usagi Drop was airing, complete devotion (with some modern changes)…

    …and it’s NOT a bad thing – as the best joke in the episode was there unedited.

  • October 13, 2011 at 1:11 pminnerchihiro

    I’m surprised at all the hate Taichi is receiving!! I mean jeez, he’s got a lot of pressure on him and he’ only a kid! And he actually admitted what he had done in the end. I don’t see what te big deal is. People are like “he should be slapped” or “he sucks.” You guys make it sound like he’s heartless or something.

  • October 13, 2011 at 6:39 pmMimo

    “I don’t have a problem with girls that are nice and loving, as a matter of fact, I prefer them to the violent, bitchy ones.” @Vector, yep, definitely the way to go!

  • October 14, 2011 at 7:04 amsally

    k vector sorry about my rant i just don’t like it when fans bash female characters just because they want to be nice to people and help them.

  • October 18, 2011 at 10:19 amaaa

    The anime adaptation is INCREDIBLE!!

    They made a lame game into such an excitement! AND the female lead is completely loveable, which is quite a feat for me, as I usually dislike female leads in shojo manga’s.

  • October 18, 2011 at 10:21 amaaa

    Also, the “situations” they created in the story are soo REALISTIC . It’s not lame conversations like “Ohh what do you have in your Bento?” “Omg, oishii~~~” =___+

  • November 9, 2011 at 8:56 pmErif

    I doubt anyone will read, but I just watched the first five episodes of the series, and after reading over the comments I can’t quite understand why people are totally bashing Taichi.

    Has anyone taken into account the fact that these kids are around ten? Because I seem to be one of the only ones who went into this episode thinking it would a learning experience for all the characters, including Taichi, in which they’d grow stronger at the end. Kids do stupid things. They don’t know how to express their feelings as well as adults, and when they are face with multiple conflicts they may act out irrationally. I hardly think that makes Taichi a “massive asshole”, really. If he went away from all this without gaining or admitting anything, then I could see why people might be peeved. But because he ultimately admitted his faults, I should be even easier to sympathize for him. Nothing about this episode, or any of his actions, make Taichi “hard to like” (IMO).

    Also, I don’t understand how after watching these first two episodes one could conclude that he’s still a dick in highschool (ohay Fencedude).

    • November 9, 2011 at 11:23 pmGuardian Enzo

      There’s an irrational quality to the Taichi-hate that’s puzzled me, right from the beginning. Seems totally out of proportion to the events in the series.

      • November 12, 2011 at 3:34 pmErif

        I’m glad I’m not the only one then. :/

        Off to watch the sixth episode~