Chihayafuru Ep. 3: This is it

This is the last time I’m going to blog about this show. I just can’t do it. I’m too cynical for a show like this. All the crying, the rising crescendos, the “Karuta daisuke!” — good lord, the anime sends a shiver down my spine. I’m pulling out now before I get a sugar shock by how sickeningly sweet everything is. Do I think the anime sucks? No. Overall, it’s probably the most decent show at this point in the early season. Yes, I’m not a fan of most of the fall anime thus far, and Chihayafuru tops a very short list of watchable show. So if it’s so “good,” why am I calling it quits? Because I feel like I’d get diabetes watching something so saccharinely cloying.

First, there’s no understated emotions or subtlety whatsoever in Chihayafuru. Its themes are always in-your-face obvious. Shoujo (or, if you want to be pedantic, josei) anime isn’t any more delicate or sophisticated than shounen. What separates them is just how they go about presenting the same basic ideas in different ways. We might be dealing with Japanese poetry and such, but don’t think for one second that Chihayafuru won’t bash you over the head with its ideas of friendship and teamwork. Worst of all, there’s nothing left to the viewer. Everything’s so clearly spelled out to us that there’s nothing for us to do but sit and watch.


Who is the mother talking to? Is she talking directly to us?

Case in point, Chihaya finally reveals to her mother and sister that she has a life goal of her own: she wants to become the queen of karuta. How does the older sibling react? To hell with subtlety: “Chihaya should just keep gushing about how great I am.” The anime simply lacks depth. The sister is disappointed because she says she’s disappointed. Her actions don’t contribute anything to her characterization. The cinematography is pretty but doesn’t imbue anything extra to the show’s meaning. The dialogue is simple and blunt. In another example, Chihaya learns that her two best friends are moving away. As a result, they can no longer play karuta together. Again, the characters’ feelings are blatantly obvious and one-dimensional. Chihaya really, really wants to play karuta so she essentially throws a tantrum over the current situation.

A large part of what makes visual media interesting, especially visual media that contains motion, is discerning how everything — not just the actual content of the characters’ words but everything — contributes to a story’s overall meaning and tone. Chihayafuru looks pretty, but it wears its message directly on its sleeves. The characters say exactly what they are thinking (except when it comes to the matters of the heart, but anime has always been cripplingly coy about this sort of thing). What you see is what you get. The end result is a show that I find very boring even if I can’t find any technical flaws with it.

But hey, your mileage may vary. Some of you will find this show very heartwarming. And again, I wouldn’t say that the anime sucks. It’s just not my cup of tea. The triumph of friendship doesn’t actually do anything for me. So without that, what else does Chihayafuru have going for it? As I’ve argued, it’s certainly not a complex anime. I also don’t find the karuta premise very interesting either. To me, it seems like a game of memorization with an inkling of strategy involved. Unlike most games, there doesn’t seem to be both an offense and a defense. As a result, karuta seems one-dimensional and uninteresting to me… much like the anime itself.

With that said, I’m done. Godspeed to Chihayafuru ’cause at least its heroine isn’t tripping over herself and having her clothes inexplicably fall off. It’s clear, however, that the show is just not for me. Maybe the other writers on this blog will take over Chiha–… naw, who am I kidding?

19 thoughts on “Chihayafuru Ep. 3: This is it

  1. Marow

    One of the shows I wasn’t sure about picking up or not, but having read a couple of summaries, it seems like typical shoujo. Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t want it right now. Doubt I will pick it up afterwards though.

    Maybe the other writers on this blog will take over Chiha–… naw, who am I kidding?

    Aaaaw

    Reply
  2. thearbee

    Can’t Chihaya just teach or promote other people how to… oh, wait… yeah, everyone else in this show only knows how to be girly, or be a bully. Sorry.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Well, at least the doctor dude seemed nice, but who knows if he’ll still be around when the show stops finally focusing on the flashback. Well, I wouldn’t know ’cause I’m done watching it!

      Reply
  3. Ando

    Fair enough. No point watching it if it’s not your cup of tea. Personally, I’m enjoying this series enough that I plan to follow it for the season. I’m still holding out on judging karuta yet since I don’t think we’ve seen a proper full match. I really like Hikaru no Go so I’m hoping this will take that route once it returns to the highschool era.

    Reply
      1. Ando

        More strategy, changing fortunes through a game, pressure. I thought this ep hinted at some offensive/defensive manouvers with the glasses guy blocking his opponent by covering a card. I don’t actually think memorisation is a big factor because (apart from the newbies) it looks like knowing all the cards is a given.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          And yet Chihaya’s weakness is that she doesn’t know the cards all that well. So I don’t understand how you could say memorization isn’t a factor. Blocking a person from grabbing a card doesn’t really feel like much strategy to me anyway. But oh well, it’s clear that I just don’t like this show very much so I’ll just leave it at that.

          Reply
  4. Ryan R

    I don’t find Chihayafuru “sickeningly sweet”, or overly saccharine, but I do agree with you that it completely lacks subtlety. Much like Anohana, that’s it’s biggest weakness… but it’s also what many viewers love about it, I’ve found, so there’s not much point arguing a lot against it. I’ve learned in recent years that a lot of anime fans just totally dig heavy melodrama.

    Chihayafuru is also very technically sound, as you say. Apart from the choice to be really melodramatic, there’s not much to critique about it. It’s not an anime that I would want to write episodic blogs for either, because it doesn’t leave you with a lot to say (everything is laid out so clearly that series speculation is just about pointless with this show).

    I enjoy watching Chihayafuru – It’s one of my five favorite Fall 2011 anime shows – but the melodrama holds it back from being a true masterpiece, imo.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      If Chihaya showing up at the last minute to join her team didn’t seem sickeningly sweet to you, oh well. I never could tolerate sugar all that well!

      Reply
      1. rose

        I didn’t view that as sweet, but a responsible thing for her to do. Chihaya felt that it was her duty as their teammate to show up no matter what. She was being a responsible teammate, even if she arrived at the last minute. If she didn’t show up, she would’ve been thought of as someone who purposely bailed.

        Reply
  5. inushinde

    It’s josei, but the shoujo themes make it difficult to say for sure. Either way I certainly enjoy it, but there is virtually no subtext worth elaborating on. I’d blog it, but I know that writing a summary each week coupled with little else would get tedious after a little while.

    Reply
    1. rose

      how is karuta a stupid game?

      The anime picks itself up at around episode 5. Sure there’s a lot of crying from Chihaya in that episode, but it’s the episode in the entire series so far that has the most depth, especially from Arata. I’m still watching this because the animation is fucking amazing and top quality, and because the concept of karuta is interesting.

      Reply
  6. e_major

    This whole article makes me think the writer is very new to anime. Lacking subtlety and depth… yeah you just described 80% of anime from the last 10 years.

    Reply

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