Chihayafuru is one of the best shows to come out in the last few seasons hands down. With its masterful artistry and its breathtaking story telling, this fusion between old Japanese culture and new is a gorgeous example of what anime could become.
The show focuses on Chihaya, a girl who is not particularly good at anything, until she discovers a traditional game called Karuta. Karuta is a very old game that started decades ago. For those of you who are Japanese culture savy, you might know this game as the one they play on new years.
The premise of the game is to match the ends of these very old traditional poems when the beginning of them is read. The players have 100 poems memorized, and the cards are split into 2 fields, 50 on each side. The name of the game is speed, the faster you are, the more cards you take. You try to take the cards on your opponents side, while defending the ones on your side. This game however, can get pretty intense, with people aiming to take cards on the first read syllable that is distinguishable. One wouldn’t normally think this game could be animated in an exciting and compelling way, but then you’d be dead wrong.
The show never feels slow paced and there is always a lot going on; not only within the games, but in the characters as they try to meet goals and beat their limitations. The characters are all really well thought out. They each have flaws and even better then that, they all have some sort of development that is believable and interesting.
The art for this show is also above par. The character designs are right up my alley and the key animation is very fluid. Although as the show goes on, the quality never attains the same level it has at the beginning of the show, I honestly must say that it never falls below the level of 9 out of 10. It’s so beautiful and dramatic it suits the atmosphere of the traditional hakuma and kimono that are very prominent in the show.
On another aspect, the soundtrack for this show is perfection. There has been very few soundtracks that I’d classify as perfection, and this is one. The main theme of this show is arguably one of the best anime themes ever put on television. It’s gorgeous, and every time it appears in the show I get shivers. I honestly haven’t felt that way about an anime soundtrack since (maybe) Yoko Kanno’s early works. I feel that the soundtrack itself deserves its own review, so look forward to that (as well as a download link? >.<) in the future.
There is one thing that I wished there was more of in the show, however… throughout the show there is a very prominent love subplot. They never really get to into depth with it, but it’s very present since episode one. Honestly I feel like it gives the show another whole dimension, and even better then that, it doesn’t feel forced like most subplots do. Unfortunately, they never resolve it properly (in my opinion). Perhaps they left it open ended because that leaves room for a second season. In fact, the ending I feel was satisfactory, but it was a bit to open for an ultimate conclusion.
That leads me to my one negative thought on this show. It’s way to short! It needs another season immediately.
Until then, it will have to make do with its rating of 11/10.