Not all reviews are happy ones.
I picked up Chihayafuru at the behest of “the IT guy” at my husband’s work, who is always suggesting new animes for us to watch (I have never met the fellow, so I just assume that he is Moss from the IT Crowd.) He adored the series and said it was one of his favorites, so we should watch it. I was hesitant to pick it up, because the anime is about a card game and I’m always a little wary of animes about sports or really specific subject matter, but decided to give it a shot anyway.
A brief synopsis: Chihaya is a high schooler who looooves karuta, a Japanese card game also known as 100 Poets. She’s obsessed with the idea of becoming the karuta “Queen”, a title given to the best female player in Japan. But when she starts high school, no one is interested in playing with her or starting a karuta club! Of her two childhood friends who used to play with her, Taichi has moved onto other interests like his new girlfriend and Arata moved away so she cannot play against them anymore. Will she find enough members to create her own competitive Karuta team and achieve her dream of becoming the best player in the world?
A quick word on karuta the game, since the anime pretty much revolves around it: It’s basically a card game where two people sit facing each other with cards laid out face up in front of them. Each card has the second line of a poem on it. A third person draws a card from a separate deck that has all the first lines of the poems on them and reads off the card. The players then compete to be the first to grab the card that has the corresponding second line of the poem on it. Or at least, that’s how I think you play it based on the very confusing descriptions in the anime…
This show is terrible, to be blunt. It makes me angry and want to punch my tv. Why? The biggest problem is with the main character’s personality: with Chihaya herself. She is dumb and she is mean! But she doesn’t know that she’s being mean, because she’s so dumb and self-centered. She literally only thinks about herself and her dream to be the best karuta player (which mind you, is a dream she actually only has because it was Arata’s dream and he suggested she make it her goal in life.)
When Chihaya adds new members to the club, she insists on playing against them every day even though she’s a totally advanced player and the new players have literally never played before, and they just lose all the time and are totally miserable because they basically just watch her beat them badly every day. But then, someone (usually Taichi in these instances) will point out that she’s being mean, and then she’ll just say something like “well this is how I learned and it worked for me” and THEN she’ll start to look around and realize that she’s hurting other people and being a horrible person. What kills me about all this though, is how much pain she’s in when she realizes that she’s being mean! She becomes so affected by it that she’s not able to sleep or play karuta and goes to great lengths to fix things. Only to do it all again and continue to ignore everyone around her! She literally does not EVER learn anything about considering other people’s feelings. Taichi repeatedly has to be so blunt about it with her that he ends up hurting her feelings (over and over again) while explaining that SHE is hurting others and she hurts even worse when she realizes how mean she is. Ahhhhhh!
Another example is around the character who is called “Porky”. They explain that his nickname is Porky because Chihaya met him at a karuta tournament as a kid and he loved to eat pork buns after the tournament (hence, Porky.) However, when she meets him again in high school he immediately says “Don’t call me Porky” and she continues to. Actually, he says “Don’t call me Porky” probably about ten times in that episode, it’s one of the only things he says, but she still calls him Porky (he also clearly has some weight and stress eating issues, which makes me feel like the writers are horrible people for doing this!) He also says “I don’t want to join the Karuta club” about ten times but they make a big deal about how Chihaya has this special intuition, so she stalks Porky and gets him in trouble with the tennis club (of which he is a member, because he was able to lose weight playing tennis,) then he ends up quitting and joining the Karuta club. And then proceeds to binge eat at competitions. Sigh.
At the regional semifinal tournament, the club now has five members and two of them are literally brand new to the game and totally suck. The team strategy (lead by Chihaya of course, with help from Taichi and Porky) becomes putting the shitty new members against the other school’s best team members even though the new members will lose badly, because that means their club’s strongest members can play the competing school’s weaker members and definitely win. Another character, Desktomu (another cruel nickname given by taunting classmates since “Desktomu” is always at his desk studying and he ALSO asked Chihaya to stop calling him that and she wouldn’t) asks if he can just leave the tournament because clearly they don’t really want him to play karuta, they just need a body to lose against the other school. Chihaya somehow is completely baffled by this and why he would not be excited to play in the semifinals like she is! So Taichi of course gives it to her straight up and she becomes so upset that she nearly loses her match! And somehow Desktomu feels bad for what he said and goes and cheers Chihaya on! I hate this show!
Taichi is probably the best character on the show, and even then he’s a little smarmy for me. He reminds me of Freddie Prinze Jr.’s character from She’s All That or something. Even though he’s on the Karuta team, he’s athletic, popular, nice, smart, attractive, etc. He has too many good qualities to be hanging around with someone as lacking as Chihaya all the time, and for Chihaya to actually be a better Karuta player than him is ridiculous. Arata is an okay character too, and he’s forgiven for having a crush on Chihaya because he moved away after elementary school and doesn’t really know what a bitch high school Chihaya is. Maybe I am okay with Arata because his character design is basically the same as Kyoya Ootori from Ouran High School Host Club.
As dreadful as I find the writing, the animation is nice to look at and the character designs aren’t bad. The music is pretty good too. It’s a show I want to like because it’s pretty to look at and listen to, and I just never will like it nor watch it again, as 15 episodes were clearly too many for me.