Chihayafuru – Episode 13

Let’s get right the heck back to Chihayafuru! Last episode covered pretty much the entire transition from the end of the club’s first tournament to the beginning of the second one, bringing the whole gang closer together and proving their dedication to their faculty advisor along the way. Chihaya’s breakneck pacing is certainly one of its greatest strengths, and I’m actually even more excited for this tournament than the last one. The club’s first tournament was largely dedicated to actually proving their ability to function as a team – with that soundly accomplished, I’m guessing this next tournament will be the first one that hews to a more traditional sports structure, full of ominous opponents and thrilling faceoffs.

The thing I’m most looking forward to seeing is the show demonstrate that karuta really can support a sports narrative’s dramatic weight. I know that’s an odd thing to question twelve episodes in, but the show so far has leaned heavily on personal drama over sports drama, and in spite of that, has still burned through a worrying number of easy tactical setups. The show’s done a great job keeping karuta interesting so far, but I’m still worried the sport just doesn’t have the complexity to offer fresh-feeling conflicts all the way through. But everybody loves Chihayafuru, so I’m excited to see just how it solves that problem. Let’s get to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 12

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! Last episode saw Chihaya’s whole team win their first tournament, defeating Nerdy Minor Character and his Merry Men in order to advance to the regional competition. Chihayafuru worked mightily to make sure that last episode in particular felt like a team effort, in spite of the fact that it was ultimately the team’s three ringers that actually won and pulled them through. The episode before that was chiefly dedicated to making sure Tsutomu felt valued in spite of his current, er, non-value, so I’ll be interested in seeing how the show does right by its weaker teammates going forward.

That said, I’m guessing that the last few episodes’ total focus on the new team means we’re likely to get caught up in Chihaya’s Arata fixation soon, and I’m also hoping the show can find a way to make that thread a bit more interesting. I’m not invested in Chihaya’s obsession with Arata, but Arata himself seems like he’s grown into a more well-rounded and endearing character, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him again. Let’s find out what’s in store!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 11

Alright everybody, it is TOURNAMENT TIME WOOO. Technically last episode was actually the start of the tournament, but in practice, that episode was mostly about figuring out how Chihaya’s team will deal with the fact that Kana and Tsutomu are so much worse than their other team members. I’d been worried the show would essentially just push them off to the side, but thankfully, Tsutomu’s feelings of rejection and inadequacy were given almost a full episode’s worth of focus, and the idea of using them to waste their opponent’s best players was raised and rejected. Even Chihaya was forced to acknowledge she hadn’t been accounting for her teammates’ feelings, and considering Chihaya has the emotional intelligence of a large rock, that’s a pretty major breakthrough. But with all that very necessary emotional material settled, the team is now in a position to SLING SOME GODDAMN CARDS. I’ve been waiting for Chihayafuru to fully stretch its sports muscles, and I’m guessing this is the time. Let’s get right to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 10

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! With her team fully established and a tournament goal already in sight, last episode saw Chihaya and the gang setting up a grueling training regimen. I had somewhat mixed feelings on how the episode handled Chihaya’s behavior there – it initially seemed like the show was going to acknowledge that Chihaya was acting in a pretty terrible way, but the finale saw her teammates forgiving her in a way that seemed like the show tonally supported her actions. Chihaya’s let’s-plow-ahead exuberance is her most powerful quality, but her actions aren’t always justified, and I’m hoping the show mines that for interesting drama eventually. Either way, we’re fast approaching the school team’s first tournament, so let’s get to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 9

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! Chihaya has her team now, the full squad of five necessary to actually make a club. In spite of that, her new crew haven’t really interacted in any meaningful ways yet – we’ve basically just put each character on the roster and then moved on to recruiting the next one. Chihayafuru’s heavy character focus makes me think we’re likely to see some bonding before we return to the initial love triangle, but that bonding could come in the form of any activity that forces the group to approach a challenge together, be it finding a faculty advisor or training for their first tournament. Either way, this last stage of Chihayafuru was an altogether strong one, so I’m ready for whatever’s next. Let’s get to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 8

We’re back with more Chihayafuru! The last episode was very likely the strongest episode of the show to date, merging an excellent character introduction with some desperately needed Taichi development. Taichi had really gotten the short straw up until that point, being forced to act as the third tag-along pillar of a Destined Romance that had constantly presented Chihaya and Arata as fated partners. Seeing him articulate his frustration about his lack of talent, and also legitimately earn a win off Chihaya, was a very satisfying experience. And with four members in the bag, we now only need one more signee to make the karuta club real. Let’s get right to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 7

Hey everybody! Today I wanted to watch some Chihayafuru, so damnit, that’s what I’m gonna do. I’ve kinda burned through my buffer of funded Chihayafuru episodes, but hey, that’s what happens when shows have the audacity to be good. Solid character writing and great color work aside, Chihayafuru is fundamentally blessed with a sense of momentum that makes it an easily marathonable show. Outside of a few slower, reflective moments, basically everything in the show is consistently aiming at its next engaging goal. Right now, Chihaya and Taichi are short just two club members, having conscripted the reluctant Kana with promises of fancy competition uniforms. Let’s see who they grab next!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 6

Let’s get back to Chihayafuru! When we last left off, Chihaya and Taichi had successfully rekindled Arata’s passion for karuta, meaning it might be time to actually compete again! But I’m guessing the first order of business will be establishing Chihaya and Taichi’s school club, which means it’s also likely time to introduce some new characters. I’m totally cool with that – Chihaya’s been great, but Taichi and Arata both often feel like they’re stuck in her shadow, and I’d appreciate some characters who are less clearly infatuated with our admittedly charming lead. Either way, let’s get right to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 5

It’s time for Chihayafuru! We’ve fully transitioned over to the modern-day narrative now, though things certainly haven’t settled into any kind of reliable neutral. The main issue now seems to be that Arata’s gloomy-ass self has given up on karuta for some reason, leaving Chihaya with only two legs of her three-legged karuta stool. Taichi would clearly be fine with that, since he’s never really demonstrated much passion for katura outside of its ability to bring him closer to Chihaya, but Chihaya herself is presumably not pleased.

The depth of her desire is frankly still pretty unfathomable to me – not only did Chihaya only spend a few days playing karuta with the boys back in elementary school, but she’s passed through the entirety of middle school since then. I suppose I kind of have to accept some contrived “destined companions” stuff given the genre, but that disconnect keeps making it tough to engage with this show’s drama on the terms it demands. The matches themselves are great, but the connective tissue is a little iffy. But we’re still early in the show and it’s still fun to watch, so hopefully Chihayafuru will earn its drama over time. Let’s get to it!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 4

And we’re back with more Chihayafuru! Last episode brought us to what I assume is the end of the show’s flashback arc, with Chihaya and her two karuta buddies separating at the end of elementary school. The overall arc left me with some mixed structural feelings, as I felt that not only did this flashback kinda dampen the show’s dramatic momentum, but it also didn’t necessarily sell the depth of the bond between our leads. But even though I had a number of narrative structure concerns, the actual moment-to-moment execution of the show was still very solid throughout. Let’s see what high school brings!

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