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.
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?