Reading Between The Cards; Chihayafuru S2 Episodes 3-4

Chihayafuru S2 - 03 [720p]_Feb 24, 2013 9.15.46 AM

illegenes: If I had any doubts about Chihayafuru season 2 having a new screenwriter, they’re gone now; four episodes in, and this show consistently proves how amazing and solid it can be.

One of the main qualities that separates Chihayafuru from other shows is how it pays equal attention and love to all of its characters, whether they be new, old, friends, or enemies. It’s a rare spectacle to see a story root for both the protagonist and his or her opponent, but Chihayafuru manages to do it well and with taste. Such is the component that we see in Episode 3 and 4, when we see Tsukuba and Taichi play.

Tsukuba for starters, settles right in with Episode 3, as he has his own reasons for playing the game. As Steven will explain in a bit, his journey to find himself through the cards is both inspiring and engaging to watch, and as someone who has a sibling, I also know the pressure of living up to certain standards. That said, I think he has a long way to go, but one of my most favorite moments of the episode was when Tsutomu and Tsukuba share that brief moment of being new to the game. Maybe it’s just because we’ve witnessed a bit of Tsutomu’s growth in season 1, so it’s nice to see how far he’s come, but more than anything, it’s just really great to see how two very different people can set aside their differences and root for each other for just a game. Then again, Chihayafuru has taught us that karuta is anything but a simple game – it brings people together, and gives them a way to find meaning in their life.

On the other hand, Taichi continues to struggle with his inner demons for nearly an entire season. I’ll be honest; I’m not a fan of Taichi. More specifically, I’m not a fan of Taichi and how he wallows in self-regret when he’s very skilled; even Chihaya has her moments of self-doubt, as do the others, but they rely on each other and their love for karuta to persevere. Taichi’s relationship with karuta is much more rocky (he originally joined the karuta team solely for Chihaya, see other semi-Nice Dude acts), but it’s never properly been looked at, until now. It doesn’t make me like him any more, but nevertheless, the episode was fun to see how Taichi learned how to focus on his own goddamn game instead of focusing on everyone else’s. I mean hell, nearly losing a match against a Group C player is pretty sad, but at the same time, I am glad that Taichi is slowly understanding that he has his own personal motivation for playing karuta. He wants to win, and that’s a good start, but we also have to remember that everyone else wants to win, but for different reasons. A main strength of Chihayafuru is how each player contributes to the fun of the sport in a different fashion. Kana loves the poems, Nishida plays for the memories and competition, Komano plays for calculations, and Tsukuba plays to please himself and his family. Even Sumire has found a reason to play for herself! In terms of character development, Taichi is lagging behind, which is why this episode was so important. Hopefully we’ll see some improvement from him in the future.

Also, is it me or has Chihayfuru‘s budget gone down this season? It’s inevitable, as the sales were pretty poor for the first season, but I saw some animation inconsistencies throughout the third episode. But as they say, you can’t always get what you want, so I’ll take what I can get!

gallifreyians: One of the more subtextual themes of Chihayafuru is finding yourself and finding what drives you, which I feel as though these two episodes helped to bring back to the foreground of the show after spending so much time, both this season and last season, on plot developments.

In the first season, we saw Chihaya, Komano, Kana, and Nishida go through the process of quête de soi during karuta matches and discover that one thing about the game that makes them play, as well as that one way they manage to fit into the rest of the group. In episodes three and four, the show seems to come in a circle back to the Toyko high school regionals, where last season we saw Komano really develop as a person. This time around though, we get to see into Tsubuka, Hanano, and Taichi (the last of who Natasha has already talked about) come out of their shells and into the spotlight for once. It it especially important in these episodes to discuss the development of Tsubuka and Hanano, as they are the two new additions to the cast, and haven’t really been too developed so far.

As Hanano has already been discussed at length in our review of the first two episodes, I’ll start with Tsubuka. We already know from his initial introduction that he is from Hokkaido, where they play a form of karuta known as “first verse karuta” that Tsubuka was remarkably good at. Episode three takes the declaration that Tsubuka wants to be just as good at second verse karuta as he was as first verse karuta and expands upon that by going back to the age old “show, don’t tell”. At first during Tsubuka’s match he became easily disheartened by the gap in ability between him and his A-level opponent, only to then realize that they were more evenly matched then he had assumed. Tsubuka renewed his commitment to karuta, not wanting to disappoint his little brothers, who idolized him as some sort of karuta master back in Hokkaido. Even after the match, when Tsubuka’s brothers praise Chihaya for her stellar performance, they do rally around Tsubuka in the end and help to give him the confidence to tell himself that he will be an A-level player. And while I know that I’ve already talked about Hanano at length, it must be said that she did undergo what appears to be a sudden, but rather profound and natural, epiphany about her relationship to karuta and the rest of the team.

Komano brought out his research notes and determined that Hanano should play in his place since their opponents seemed to fair worse against females. Hanano unwillingly took Komano’s place in the match and didn’t exactly fair too well, but afterwards in watching Tsubuka struggle against an A-level player, Hanano realized that even if she can’t play karuta, she can still try to help the team in some way.  Hanano then decided to observe the other match taking place on the other side of the room in order to size up Mizusawa’s opponent in the finals. While not being a large step, it is a decise step away from being a passive part of the team and toward being an active member, which is indicative of a larger shift in Hanano’s thinking about karuta — Hanano now wants to be a part of the team in a meaningful way ergo she is now looking at karuta as a meaningful thing.

There may be a contrast in magnitude between Tsubuka’s resolution and Hanano’s steps, but all the same our new characters (and Taichi), are slowly changing and becoming developed. As much as I love Chihaya and everything about her relationships with Arata and Shinobu, I cannot wait for Tsubuka and Hanano to really come into their own as characters.

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One response to “Reading Between The Cards; Chihayafuru S2 Episodes 3-4

  1. Just like with season one, I asked myself what I actually liked about this show. The game itself doesn’t seem that super tense and the setting isn’t that unique. What I do think though, is that Madhouse really knows how to make something that seems boring on the outside, look very spectacular.
    On the animation note, I didn’t see any particularly odd animations or anything. The color scheme still is bright and cheerful and Madhouse is pretty consistent overall.
    The new characters are a good addition to the show, else it would have felt like the same formula all over again. They sure give added value. Still I wonder how popular Karuta in Japan really is.

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