Weskalia's Chihayafuru Tv Review

Chihayafuru Chihayafuru Screenshot Beauty in vain you are not. Chihayafuru Screenshot Okay, now you are! Chihayafuru Screenshot Team Chihaya Full on a roll. Chihayafuru Screenshot Left to right: bullied kid, boyly girl, rich kid.

Chihayafuru tv Review

Story & Characters

We're all aware of card game-based anime Yu-Gi-Oh! may be the best known, but it certainly isn't alone in its field. Ever wondered what a shoujo-flavored card game-focused series might look like? This is it. On the shoujo romance scale, Chihayafuru weighs in on the lively, comedic side closer to the effervescent emotional attack of Kimi ni Todoke than the dead-serious drama of those shounen oriented card game shows. If anything it's even brighter than Kimi ni Todoke, which after all had a healthy obsession with heartbreak. Sensitive, smart and exceptionally well-balanced, it's also a towering good time that hearkens back to well-crafted tales of lives less ordinary while maintaining an emotional agenda all its own.

Chihaya is considered a "beauty in vain" by her schoolmates. She is weird and childish and obsessed with karuta, a traditional Japanese card game based on the 100 poets of classic Japanese literature. She learned the game back in primary school, but a meeting with transfer student Arata introduced her to the joys of playing competitively. In high school she and Arata have gone their separate ways, but Chihaya has not given up her love for karuta, and is determined to start a competitive karuta club. The only problem: aside from Chihaya herself, the karuta club only has her reluctantly old friend Taichi, and no one seems to care because of her eccentric personality. Three other members eventually follow to fill out the team with five, which is necessary when Chihaya decides that they should aim to win the national championship, hoping to one day reunite with her childhood friend through the game they both loved.

Clocking in at an unusual twenty-five episodes, Chihayafuru begins with Chihaya's first year in high school. Then shifts to flashback episodes, explaining how she got into the game in the first place. While this seems long enough to have its one standalone series, it introduces both Taichi and Arata and how the friendship between three kids cemented through this card game. After her two friends announce that they're both moving, there's a heartbreaking scene where Chihaya plays her last game with them, fervently wishing the moment would never end. It's a poignant moment, one that is so relatable to people of all ages. It's a desperate attempt to hold onto something intangible that will inevitably be wrenched away. It's enough to make someone cry.

Whatever expectations its opening episodes and chosen genre may give rise to, Chihayafuru is not a typical sport anime. This is one show about a girl trying to achieve her dream so that she can meet her childhood friends and play with them again. It's a sprightly, nimble performance from mangaka Suetsugu Yuki, author of the canceled Flower of Eden, craft a nearly perfect mixture of competitive sport drama, riotous humor, and yes, even romance. She keeps the series moving at a ricocheting gallop, pausing here to dwell on Taichi's insecurities about Chihaya's friendship, or there to appreciate Chihaya's changing priorities, but always returning to the quiet, incremental, and inextricably interwoven with Chihaya's dream (to say any more would ruin one of the great pleasures of the show).

A game that players require remarkable memorization and lightning fast reflexes to send paper cards flying across the room and slicing into walls. This is karuta. One can say this enough, it's karuta that makes this show unique. But it's not the game itself that makes it so great. It's the people playing it (as opposed to some intense karuta battles later on). Chihaya's love of karuta and evolution from disinterested amateur to true professional aren't dressing for the series, they are the series.

If there is anyone who can make this game look fun, it's Chihaya. She's positive about the world. Okay, maybe not exactly; but she does seem to never have a negative thought in her entire life. She's beautiful, but she doesn't know and doesn't care. She is loveable, hardworking, frustrating, and generally warm and delightful. Her goals are bittersweet. Rarely does one encounter such a pure, sweet character and not roll their eyes with cynicism, but with Chihaya, it just works. As the male lead, sadly Arata didn't make much screen times, while the later episodes explain why he has such low regard for karuta and some of his current behaviors, he barely moves beyond his initial mysterious and inspiring images. Chihaya and Arata are not the kind of people who are naturally suited to romance. Their courtship is a halting one, held back by both Chihaya's devotion for karuta and Arata's experience. The other male lead, Taichi starts as a standard character, but midway he has become one of the most sympathetic characters of all. He is a essentially a mama boy product. He's smart and perceptive too, but that doesn't stop him from being an underdog due to the environment he grew up with. It never occurs to Chihaya that he might be interested in her, and with so few emotional tools that she's incapable even of recognizing his feelings. Couple that with Taichi's own friendship with Arata, and unwillingness to force his feelings on her, his advancement is slow but far more interesting than that of Arata's. That could easily be infuriating if it wasn't for the lyrical gentleness and emotional clarity that the series brings to their relationship.

That balance - fun, cute, intelligent, emotionally satisfying - is characteristic of the show. Take the supporting cast. Kanade is a girl who got into karuta due to her fondness of poetry. Tsutomu offers a more serious-minded counterpoint as a guy whose circumstances forced him to become a loner bookworm but who still in need of friends despite his attempts to ignore it, while tubby Yusei acts like an ass contrasts to his kind persona. All have their own complex backstories and reasons for joining the club, which is one of Chihayafuru's strongest aspect. It's a recurrent concern; one that provides a consistent, deeply felt emotional core to what otherwise might have been a senseless kaleidoscope of fun.

Rating: 9


That's part of what makes Chihayafuru such a great series. The character designs are handsome, stunning yet unpretentious background artistry, clean and gorgeous traditional dress, and there's something about the relative detail on Chihaya that makes her pleasantly stand out in every scene. Like in any sports anime, the camera lingers lovingly over beads of sweat working their way down someone's face, moving fast when there's a card send including flawless sound design and sakura CG effect. Madhouse put a lot of effort into fabricating Chihayafuru's world - bright, dominated by flowing lines and soft, textured colors, blossoming sakura trees, gardens of flowers, a moonlit meadow, beautifully rendered weather.

Rating: 8


The series is heavily character-driven. Without guileless, kindhearted and lovable Chihaya or breezy but oft-misunderstood Taichi, the series would be just another school romance; ditto for the superb supporting cast. The show is worth it just to see newbie Seto Asami and Miyano Mamoru dig into rare romantic roles, or to see Hosoya Yoshimasa put that slightly forced quality of his to work as the Fukui dialect Arata. With the emphasis on recognizing poems by their opening syllables, the letters feel very appropriate.

New age 99RadioService supplies a score that is simple, easy on the ear OP, while Chihaya's seiyuu Seto Asami did a noticeably gentle and fairly low on overt emotional manipulation. In short, a nearly perfect complement to Chihayafuru's visual world. Its themes get repeated pretty frequently, but blend in so well that you're unlikely to notice. As with the pleasant soundtrack, the inclusion of character image songs eliminates any worries about its repeated nature.

Rating: 9


It's a blessing that something as pleasantly effective as Chihayafuru was released at all in today's anime market. It doesn't do anything complicated. That said, the strengths and weaknesses the author developed during her previous work are still in evidence. It is clear that Chihayafuru is still an open story, the ending suggests that something needs to be done. That isn't it, of course. There's season two yet. But that's no way to end a season.

So who should watch a shoujo anime about a team of competitive poetry card playing high school students? To be sure, it has its nuances - it isn't as naive as it first seems, nor are its characters - but in the end its formula is simplicity itself: good characters, an interesting story, and beautiful execution. That's a lot going for the first season, Chihayafuru is all set to please fans who like their anime not only as entertainment but also as art.
Story: 8
Characters: 10
Art: 9
Animation: 8
Voice: 10
Music: 9
Overall: 9

+Charming characters who all have their own motivations and personalities.
+Beautiful poetry.
+Made to be more about the characters than the game.
+Central romance moves at its own (very slow) pace.
+"Death" of Arata.

Rating: 10

Final Verdict

9.17 (very good)

Reviewed by Weskalia, Jan 10, 2013


  1. Angi Retired Moderator Jan 10, 2013

    The artwork for this series is beautiful!
    As for the plot I haven't watched it, but surely I have to try it. Its not usual to se a "sport" related shoujo and best of all this is not moe! XD

  2. CyanideBlizzard Retired Moderator Feb 07, 2013

    So I heard a lot of mixed feedback about this series when I was researching it last year and ended up passing on it. Seeing the second season come out, I decided to start looking into it a bit more. However, after reading your review I can definitely say I want to make the time to sit down and watch it.

    It genuinely sounds like a well done shojo story with the base material normally found in most shounen series. More importantly, it sounds not only pleasant to watch but enjoyable to watch the characters develop. Given the fact that it's also sport related, I really didn't expect myself to be nearly as interested in this show as I am. Although, I personally think a lot of that has to do with how well you worded your review. Strong reviews like this really can compel someone to become interested in a series or a video game and I seriously think this is one of those reviews. I can't help but to be bewitched by this review.

    On a side note, it's great to see a review from you again in a virtually dead review section! So terribly sorry for taking so long to comment on this review, but if it's any consolation I've read this review three times and it gets better each time I read it.

  3. SnickerdoodleNinja Retired Moderator Apr 29, 2013

    The artwork looks gorgeous. *__*

    Anyways, I've been having a lot of trouble finding slice of life shows that hold my attention lately, but this one sounds like it's really worth giving a shot. I'm also a sucker for poetry, so this sounds right up my alley. It's also nice to see a slice of life show that isn't over 9000 episodes long. DX Anyways, I'll definitely have to give this one a try sometime!

    As always, it's great to see another Weskalia review. It's clear that you're not afraid to be brutally honest when necessary nor do you hesitate to give praise where it's due, and you always do it with style. Looking forward to reading your Bakuman review soon!

  4. Monu-chan Moderator Oct 19, 2014

    Such a great review that tells the whole story of Chihayafuru.
    I love this anime, and currently watching the second season.
    Artwork is great too!
    But I'm wondering that the anime is more "sound" based (because the poem reciting and quick reflexes) then how mangaka managed to put it into manga?
    And definitely I love the song "Soshite Ima"
    The poems are so touching and romantic.
    I wish they'll make a third season for this anime.

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