Sometimes the good guys win after all.
Of all the sequel announcements that have happened since I became an anime fan, this just might be my happiest moment. In the face of an upcoming season full of sequels and adaptations representing mostly safe and risk-free choices, a veritable celebration of mediocrity at the expense of art, Chihayafuru’s continuation signals that there’s still a place in anime for great storytelling and character drama. It’s one (quite wonderful) thing for a show like Sakamichi or Tsuritama to get made in the first place, but it’s quite another to see a show at that level actually get renewed.
So why did this happen, in the face of all seeming logic? Well, it had been rumored almost since the end of S1, as you know if you followed my posts. Blu-ray and DVD sales were pretty decent for a Josei show – about 2500 per volume. TV ratings were pretty good for a Midnight airing, though they don’t matter much at that hour. Probably most important was the success of the manga, whose sales spiked considerably after the anime began airing. That was arguably the top priority of the anime in the first place from a commercial standpoint.
Whatever success Chihayafuru did have commercially, it’s obviously a tribute to what mangaka Suetsugu Yuki created and the fantastic job Madhouse did in bringing it to the screen. This is a series than transcends genre as few others – a josei, it’s as good a sports shounen as any since the halcyon days of Major and Cross Game. In Taichi, it gave us one of the greatest character arcs in recent anime history. It also represents a non-romance series that has a more compelling romantic subplot than any romance currently airing, with three superb characters at its center. It may not have sparked quite the boom for Karuta that Hikaru no Go did for Go, but it’s definitely brought a surge in interest for the game (Summer’s Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi might very well never have been green-lit otherwise). Chihayafuru isn’t a series that fits neatly into a demographic box, and its ragtag gang of fans span as wide a range as any group I’ve seen since I’ve been blogging. We’re not the biggest fanbase in anime by a long shot, but we may be the most diverse.
I never gave up hope that this would happen, but it’s a pretty rare thing for this type of show to be renewed. We don’t know much – will Asaka Morio be directing? Will it be “Taichi Tuesdays” again (probably), or another day of the week (I’d like to see a weekend morning timeslot, myself, though it’s unlikely)? And of course, in what season will it begin airing – and for how long? But there’s plenty of time to worry about that – for now, it’s enough just to be happy. To everyone who followed the links I provided and bought Blu-rays, CDs or manga – thank you. For fans of great anime, this is indeed a rare and special day – no matter what Urobuchi Gen says, good things can happen to good people!