OP Sequence

OP: “STAR” by (99RadioService)

「はなのいろは」 (Hana no Iro wa)
“So The Flower Has Wilted”

You’d have to search long and hard for two words that would make me happier than these: “Chihayafuru’s back”.

I suppose for most of us that love this show dearly there was just the tiniest bit of anxiety going into this week: would the magic still be there? The adaptation is still drawing from the manga, the key staff and cast is unchanged, and Madhouse is still producing – so all indications were that everything would be fine. But until that moment came, we couldn’t be sure – Chihayafuru was so special that I always had a small, nagging worry that somehow the chemistry might be different this time around.

Well, we can put that behind us. Chihayafuru is still Chihayafuru. The visuals are still beautiful, the BGM stirring, the characters are still endlessly endearing, and the writing and direction is still sharp as a tack. I’ve watched Season 1 twice, but it’s been a few months – and it really is striking just how unique and special this show is. This is an anime made with great care and passion, and it shows in every facet of the thing – the casting, the animation, the backgrounds – combining that with a truly great manga gets you a show like this one (but it doesn’t happen very often). The only problem is the schedule change – as “Taichi Tuesdays” was my very first (and only, I suppose) meme, I have a sentimental attachment to the phrase. But what do we use now? I’m leaning towards “Friendzone Fridays” but admittedly, that has a certain despairing ring to it…

There was surely some prime Kobe beef for fans of all types and of all the main characters to chew on this week, but whether merely as a result of timing with the manga or a directorial choice by Morio Asaka, Chihayafuru makes a rather bold move in presenting the premiere mostly through the eyes of a new character. That would be Hanano Sumire (Han Megumi), a first-year who’s just been dumped by her boyfriend. She’s part of the twenty-strong recruiting class of prospective members the Karuta Club manages to attract, but she’s not remotely interested in the Hundred Poets – it’s the Jack of all Trades, Master of None that Sumire is after, as she seeks out the handsomest guy in school as karmic payback to the guy that broke it off with her.

Sumire is a bit of a break from the usual Chihayafuru mold, which makes starting the season with her an even bolder move. She’s pushy, brash, a bit obnoxious and not especially an example of the conventional kawaii girl that dominates anime casts these days. It’s a remarkable introduction to the versatility of Han Megumi, whose performance as Gon in Hunter X Hunter is one of the best by any woman playing a boy in recent memory. There could hardly be a greater distance between Gon and Sumire, but Han-san is up to the task – she nails Sumire’s impulsive braggadocio but undercuts it with enough insecurity and idealism to make her sympathetic. After seeing Taichi she proclaims “I’ve found my man!” and declares that her “slightly above average looks” make her the perfect manga heroine – and that will lead to her victory over the gorgeous Chihaya, who she’s already branded “the enemy”. Sumire is a character that isn’t going to ignored, that’s for sure.

More than just about any recent series, Chihayafuru is impossible to pigeonhole in a specific genre. It combines many plot elements and intricate character development in a way that makes it hard to say just what the series is “about”. That makes it endlessly fascinating for me, and the first episode is a reminder of just how many threads are unwinding in this story. Of course the potential romantic triangle between Chihaya, Taichi and Arata is the elephant in the room – always on our minds though not often the literal focus of what’s on-screen. Arata is a distant figure here, appearing only briefly in the pre-open, but his presence is felt even when he isn’t physically present. The most telling moment on this front comes when Chihaya says her “top priority is seeing Taichi make Class A” – and not only because it feeds the beast in terms of possible romantic developments. Much more directly it represents a sign of growth for Chihaya, who was too often inwardly focused in the first season – and it’s her gesture that makes Taichi think that it might be OK for him to be selfish for a change, and practice at the Shiranami Society instead of the club a couple days a week. As the others – especially Nishida-kun – desperately want to see Taichi advance too, this is no problem for them.

If I did have to pick a theme that emerged as the most prevalent in season one, it would be friendship more than anything else – the bond that develops in the first section between the sixth-grade Chihaya and the boys, and the one that develops in 10th-grade between the five members of the club. In this, the premiere reminded me – not remotely for the first time – of Hikaru no Go. As with that show, the main character was focused like a laser on finding members to form a club at school – but soon enough reached a point where that club really shouldn’t be the top priority. As Hikaru’s competitive skills outgrew his school club, so it is with Chihaya in many ways – she needs to be thinking about the Master/Queen matches, as Taichi reminds her. But what we see most strikingly in this episode is that each of the Mizusawa club members have different goals. Nishida dreams of success for the five elite members – as a team, but also seeing Taichi advance and the three of them succeed nationally. Taichi pushes for Chihaya to focus on her individual goals, Kana dreams of an elite club where everyone respects the form and tradition of Karuta (and of becoming a professional reader), Tsutomu sees the first-years as primarily a means to keep the club going (without five new members, they’ll lose the clubroom, according to The Empress).

As for Chihaya, she’s “greedy” – but in this case, her greed is the most selfless thing we’ve seen from her. She wants everything – she wants to focus on the national team title, on the Master/Queen matches, and to personally teach all the new kids the game – and to leave the legacy of a strong and stable Karuta Club that will continue after she graduates. She even says she’ll come back and coach after she graduates – a pipe dream surely, but a noble notion nonetheless. The hard truth though is that just as she wasn’t the best person to represent the club at the school assembly (despite matching Taichi in the “easy on the eyes” department, she drew only one guy while he drew twenty girls) she’s the wrong person to teach them. She bullies them without meaning to, and worse, her skill is so instinctual that it’s impossible to teach. Great natural talents generally make mediocre coaches – it’s the hard-working journeymen who excel at that, and it seems to me that Taichi and Tsutomu (a fine tutor, as we know) are the best-suited to teach the new members. But everyone’s priorities are pulling them in different directions, and Taichi’s resolve – thanks to Chihaya’s words – to achieve Class A status has to take the top spot for him.

What leaps out for me is how natural the transition to the second season is. This is still very much Chihayafuru, but there’s an inescapable sense of change – and the five regular cast members seem much more mature than the first-year prospective members (who just want to play Bozu Mekuri in the corner and stare at Taichi). They’ve grown up, certainly, and grown apart some as well – which is a sad reality of life. This sense of change is a constant in Chihayafuru, though, and it gives the series an underlying poignancy that sometimes makes it as painful to watch as it is joyful. There’s so much to look forward to here – some of the best shounen-style competition in anime, the most compelling romantic triangle around, a possible second triangle forming around the other second-years (if Nishida’s blush is any clue) and the introduction of the other regular cast member – that one guy who showed up amongst all the girls. He’s going to be played by Irino Miyu, as if there weren’t already enough reasons to be enthused about this season. Chihayafuru is back, and it’s like it never left – and any season with Chihayafuru on the schedule is much better off for it.


ED Sequence

ED: 「茜空」 (Akane Kara) by (Seto Asami)


  1. This is the best first premier of the season — no doubt about it. It is rock solid in the 20+ minutes from bringing back the cast to introducing a new character to giving the audience a glimpse of premise — it also manages to dive in the bond amongst the cast and to throw in some amusing jokes. Love it…every minute of it.

    This Winter season is a bit of a lackluster comparing to the last few seasons. I am glad that at least we have Chihayafuru to show it to the rest what it means by a great anime.

  2. It’s more like EVERYONE ELSE of the (now) second years knows that Chihaya’s not a great tutor (yet)

    on the other hand, 3 points:
    – Oh hey, an early cameo.
    – Oh wow, both OP2 and ED2 have the same band/singer…
    -…and I’m pretty sure that was not part of the ED…

  3. “Even his voice is perfect.”

    Yes, Sumire-chan, Miyano Mamoru’s voice IS perfect.

    also, i love her lol. i find that josei genres definitely bring out personalities much better than shoujou series. props to her for getting all of the best BGM scenes too. the new score fits the series so well!

  4. The premiere was just damn near perfect! Heck even that new girl was pretty interesting aside from being somewhat shallow. She provided a nice contrast to the more mature cast with her naivety and single mindedness. In fact she was a lot like the girls I knew growing up, so kudos for Chihayfuru nailing a realistic portrayal of a love struck, obsessive, young girl! For some reason, I just have a strange feeling that Chihaya and Taichi are going to be getting together by the end of this series. I mean Arata has been an incredibly motivating person for Chihaya…But that was in the past when they were kids! Taichi on the other hand has been there with her through her triumphs and failures. Also, with the new opening when it shows Chihaya, Arata and Taichi looking in different directions, Chihaya is seen staring at Taichi then smiling…Not Arata. Ah well. This could all be wishful thinking of course, but I do hope it comes true…

    Censor this!
  5. I think they have a larger budget this time because the animation feels smoother than the last one or is it only me?

    Sumire-chan is a great addition to the cast and I like her personality although she’s a b*tch. That line of her, “I don’t want to write poems of regret,” justifies it all hahaha

  6. When those familiar piano notes started at around 1:18 I actually shed some tears, Chihayafuru is back.
    I’ve been buying and reading the manga since a bit before season 1 ended and is up to date what will happen, but I’m really looking forward to see all that animated. It’s going to be some wonderful months ahead!

    I also have a guess where this season will end. Show Spoiler ▼

  7. I was so worried about the first episode, because I loved the how the first season was set, but I was shocked literly, it was as though there was not a long year break between that season and this one! I felt like only yesterday I finished watching season 1, 4 times, and now, I’m just continueing it.

    I watched the whole episode with a weird smile on my face because I was just so excited to see the five members again, I love each and every one of them in a way. I loved the subtle repetitive notion upon the first year ‘Ayase’s the model sister is here let’s check her out’ kind of thing XD though this time we didn’t see her on a chair attaching it on a wall, Why? We saw it in the last episode of the previous season!

    I loved it really, awesome review as well, speaks about everything I literly had in my mind.

    The ending though!!!!! Arata wearing their school uniform is killing me 😀 now I’m so nervous! I don’t think you mentioned it in your post XD but well! that sparks my braincells!


  8. the girl was soooo bait :’D just sit down… if she really wants to save seat for other people that needs the seat more she can always stand up. right now sumire is quite the annoyance to me… but i am sure she will redeem herself in the future… i hope :S

  9. I can see that the second season is going to focus more on the romantic side rather than the battle side. I think it would be a nice change of pace to focus more on the human factors instead of the tricks of the sports (not that there is anything wrong with talking about sports in a sports anime). So far, this is the best series I have watched this season.

    1. I’ve made a conscious effort to almost entirely avoid reading ahead since S2 was announced, so this is strictly a guess. But I really don’t think the romance side is going to be more focused on, per se. I mean really, the triangle is the reason the phrase “elephant in the room” was invented. It’s there and we all think about it – we know it, the mangaka knows it, Madhouse knows it. But it remains mostly an unspoken presence.

      I think Sumire’s character, if anything, is there to provide a sort of pressure-release valve for the main romantic triangle. She’s a character that can safely put conventional romantic developments on the table because she’s not one of the big three, and in doing so release some of the tension surrounding them.

      1. ‘Pressure-release’ I actually thought the same thing, I like that we have something to pay attention to besides the ‘elephant in the room’, as much as I can cheer for any shipment out of those pairs I like that the season started off throwing someone new in the mix for once. When Tachi left from the train a part of me was upset to actually assume that was ‘it’. That everything was going to return to what it was and another character will come by eventually if ever and that Sumire had her 15 seconds of fame persay, so I was really impress with her chasing after him. Regardless of her chances are slim to none, to even those that have read the manga and already know what will happen, I myself who haven’t read the manga, am excited to see what happens with this. To me it’s a ‘welcome distraction’ from the elephant room. Her being there is a character development for the MCs, and it can probably do more good than harm with her meddling with the elephant. I just hope she’s there for more than 3 episodes. She looks like a fun OC.

      2. a fun point: There’s no scans depicting the next 15-20 episodes.

        So I’m pretty sure everyone here is has no idea what’s going to happen in the short term (sans the Japanese literates…)

  10. I just hope that the new girl is not here to show how ‘oh oh, Taichi and Chihaya look good together!’ Actually I’m rooting for her choice over Taichi’s choice and certainly if she’s looking for a trophy boyfriend, she’s just located the best target possible.

  11. “Spring has come again.
    As the sakura leaves bloom,
    Chihaya returns.”

    Some great shows this season already, and it’s only the second week of January. This one is top of the pile by miles for me, though. Great stuff.

  12. My God I think I may cry, and I think I somewhat did. Chihayafuru has save this season for me. It really has. It is like the only show I was super anxious to see and I was worried that it may not be as great as the first one. I can rest assure now! Chihayafuru is back. Not just back but ‘MY FEELS’ are back too! I’m ready to scream at my monitor at any romantic scene waiting for anything to happen, cheer for excitement on each tournament match, see Arata and the Queen again!

    That aside; Tachi’s final line in the Train blew my mind. Right then and there I knew he just broke that girls heart. It really hit home for me. It was animated beautifully.. I love that she chased after him, it was unexpected to see, I can tell by now that Sumire is a force to be reckon with this season. I’m already excited for the next episodes. Come faster next week! T.G.I.T. sounds like a winner to me Enzo, since we can’t have Tachi’s Tuesday anymore due to the change of schedule.

  13. Great review for a great episode! I also was nervous about the show returning, and wondered if it would live up to the first season, but so far all seems to be excellent. Loving the new character, and can’t wait to see the guy introduced as well.

  14. This was the series I never thought would get a second season. I had hoped and prayed and dreamed naively that this non-moe, non-pandering, heart-tugging, achingly human, inherently beautiful anime would see the light of day for another round. And then it happened. I did actually leap up for joy when I read the news, and to see this first installment of season 2 made me remember with shocking clarity everything I’ve come to love about Chihayafuru.

    Come Hell or high water, somehow, someway I will own all of this anime. Most likely on BD if I can help it. It is so wonderful, it really feels like something special, and even if it never gets a dub I will happily share it with anyone who will give it a chance.

  15. Megumi Han is the daughter of the legendary voice actress Keiko Han and it’s nice to see that she continues to be continuing the trend of quality talent in the family. It’s funny that the two roles I’ve seen her in could not be more different than the types of roles her mother used to play. Keiko Han could often be seen in the role of dignified motherly type figures like Lalah Sune and Annerose von Grunewald, but Megumi seems to be getting a lot of roles as brash outspoken and loud mouth characters like Gon and the girl in this show. Very interesting stuff.

    Kaioshin Sama
  16. I had forgot how warm and fuzzy this anime made me feel so I did not watch it for a few days. Honest to god that was the worst mistake I made in a while so here by ”I swear I will watch this anime as soon as I get the download”

    Taichi Friday here we come!!!!

  17. Your assuming the boy joined because of Chihaya. Could have been Taichi. 😉

    I waited before watching this episode just to savor the anticipation. The OP and ED songs were good, though the situation with the club is basically, we need members to keep our room, otherwise just go off in a corner. Their attiudes sort of disapointed me. Somehow Surime also just doesn’t cut it for me as a rival for Taichi’s affections. I don’t think she’s anywhere near as cute as she thinks she is. Actually Chihaya and Kanade each have their flaws as instructors of newbies. Beating the crap out of them either in games (like Chihaya) or forced memorization before they’ve even gotten a taste of the game (Kanade) is not the way to get them started.

  18. Easily the best show of the season. Chihayafuru is that special (to me at least).

    Like GE and the others, I was also anxious that Chihayafuru will lose its magic in this second season. Of course we were all proven wrong because it’s even getting better!

  19. Oh, here I am again, continuously revisiting the recent Chihayafuru post here on RC even if there’s nothing new to see (just like during season 1), just to contain my Chihayafuru withdrawal :p

    I accidentally found a manga synopsis site and got very tempted to read it so I already know some of the things that will happen next (and I kinda regret it!). Word of caution though, next episode Sumire Show Spoiler ▼


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