Anime Review: Chihayafuru Season 2 (2013)

TL;DR – season 2 of Chihayafuru throws us into the action with both team and individual tournaments. With a huge cast of characters from multiple schools, the focus is still on Chihaya, Taichi and Arata, and the journeys they undertake to be part of the karuta elite.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Please go to my anime reviews page for previous seasons of this series.

Who knew a card game could be this exciting? And a card game that involves Japanese poetry no less!

Season 2 introduces us to new characters, each with their own quirks, insecurities, and passions while still revolving around our trio of main protagonists – Chihaya, Taichi and Arata. Their bond is one of love and friendship where the line between the two emotions moves throughout the series depending on which character you are looking at.

A lot of ground is covered in season 2. The twenty-six episode series includes:

  • Tokyo regional team tournament
  • The National Team competition
  • The National Individual competition per grade level (i.e. ‘A-class’ being the highest to ‘D-class’ being the lowest)

Chihaya’s karuta club is made up of a modest following of members. These are:

  • Taichi Mashima – who is in B-class but is bordering on A-class
  • Sumire Hanano – who has only joined the club because she’s infatuated with Taichi (so, she’s at beginner level)
  • Yusei Nishida – an A-class player who gave up karuta after losing to Arata but is convinced to play again by Chihaya
  • Kanade Oe – a lover of poetry and traditional dress
  • Tsutomu Komano – quiet and observant, Tsutomu is a C-class player bordering on B-class. He’s also very good at scouting other teams and their players to identify how they play and strategies that might be effective against them
  • Akihiro Tsukuba – an overconfident D-class player. He wants to be one of the greats of karuta but learns over time he has a long way to go.

Together they go through the challenges and growing pains of any club competing in a sport. The beauty of the anime is not only in the matches between players but also the game itself. The history, poetic meanings, and the many skills required to play the game are all showcased. And when you combine that with the emotional and mental undercurrents that we get to listen in on with each character, you cannot help but be glued to the screen.

Key characters from other schools also play a huge part in showing different perspectives and reasons why people play karuta. The most intriguing of these I found to be are:

  • Shinobu Wakamiya – the current Queen of Karuta., She is the youngest female to hold the title
  • Megumu Osaka – considered western Japan’s strongest player and competed for the title of Queen
  • Rion – a very strong B-class player whose grandmother is a legendary karuta reader (the person who reads out the poems)
  • Nayuta Amakasu – an A-class player that Chihaya faces
  • Hiro “Retro” Kinashi – a very competitive B-class player

While all the matches grabbed me, and the team versus team competition had plenty of interesting facets. At the end of the day, it all came down to three matches that really drove home how great this anime series is.

The first was seeing Chihaya versus Shinobu. What Chihaya has to go through to reach the round where she meets Shinobu is extraordinary in itself (she injures her right index finger and plays left handed in the initial rounds). The interaction between her and the current reigning Queen is fascinating and though Shinobu ends up winning, you can tell the Queen’s curiosity has been piqued.

The second was Taichi versus Rion for the winner of the B-class. Chihaya had already played Rion previously in the team competition, so I already knew how good she was. And Taichi, with his own internal conflicts, tries to rush the victory but realises he will not succeed unless he plays with greater accuracy. Taichi manages to win and gets promoted into A-class.

The third match that had me completely riveted was Arata versus Shinobu for the A-class final. Prior to the final, we see that Arata and Shinobu have a bit of history playing against each other. Both are not interested in team competition and both wish to become the master of karuta. Though their goals are the same, they come to realise different things by playing against each other.

An anime that is more than the sport it depicts, Chihayafuru season 2 will have fans binging this series in record time.

9 out of 10

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