It’s been a while since I finished season two of Chihayafuru and I keep thinking it every day. It’s one of those series that left some impact on my life, so it’s not yet another series that I call done and move on to something else. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t enjoy this season as much compared to first season. There is something to be said about the cyclic nature of sports anime with each season having the same kind of tournaments as the first one. I mean, season one was centered around Chihaya and gang’s first year of high school and second two was focused around Chihaya’s second year. Both seasons revolved around our home Karuta club making a bid towards the Nationals in hopes of winning everything forever. Of course the same things are going to happen again. Man, I was underestimating this writer. Yuki Suetsugu, is obviously a genius because she knew about the cyclic nature of sports anime and how to change it up to feel natural. The stakes were the same, but the conditions were different. Season one was an introduction into the world of Chihayafuru when it comes to tournament stuff and everything else. By comparison, season two is an all-out war of our Mizusawa group with each of our loveable cast members going out for blood. (Not literally I assure you) Other then that and a couple new characters that add to the dynamics of the Mizusawa Karuta group, everything else stayed the same as season one.
Now let’s move onto the topic that I presented in this post’s title. If there was one thing that has constantly amazed me about Chihayafuru, it’s how realistic it’s world is. I say this knowing that Chihayafuru is an anime and must deal with everything that means. It is a series based around this strange matching card game called Karuta. Something completely normal for an anime to be based considering the strong lack of holographic monsters and sending people to their deaths/shadow realm. There are the usual anime antics of overly dramatic arm movements at the speed of light and the typical anime narration that is involved in general shonen anime. You know that meme going around the internet where Uno is played in an anime style with the explanations on the side? It’s a lot like that. (Kind of proves that I would watch anything if it somehow was turned into an anime.) The game of Karuta is where this anime’s sense of reality starts. The rest revolves around how the anime has realistic limitations in it and how Chihaya and crew just feel like another cog or stepping stone in our side character’s worlds. All of this clicks together I assure you.
Let’s talk about how Chihayafuru handles injuries and sickness. They are real things in this series, not just things our characters can overcome through shear will power. Especially for our beloved main character, Chihaya. In the first season, there were times when she was overcome with exhaustion. She was in the middle of a karuta match that she should have won, but Chihaya fainted. She didn’t push through all of this through her strength of will, she was carried out of the room by people and taken to a hospital room to sleep and recover. Exhaustion is a serious thing and I’m glad Chihayafuru covered that in a realistic way. I should also mention the numerous amount of times when other characters are overtaken with exhaustion by forgetting who they are playing and where their opponents cards are during a match. Then in season two, Chihaya injured her finger. Yes, she did push past it and find a way to win in the match she was in, but her finger swelled up during that match. After spending some time in a hospital again, she wasn’t supposed to use her right hand at all. It was interesting to see her adapt to using her left hand and win. Of course, she didn’t play as well as she could have, but it shows how disciplined Chihaya is. Then when she took the bandages of her right hand to play at full power against the queen of Karuta again, the result was still no good. Despite all of her practice and year training since Chihaya first played against the Queen, she lost worse in this individual match then she did in the first season. There is something to be said for injuries that effect people in debilitating ways. Even if they are minor injuries that you would never have heard about unless you play things like Karuta to the highest level possible. All of this caused Chihayafuru to win even more of my respect. (Not that it needed more of it.)
Then let’s talk about the other thing that Chihayafuru does extremely well. Chihaya isn’t the center of everyone’s motivations. Yes, I know that people who immediately meet Chihaya are influenced by her enthusiasm in some way. She is very shonen hero like that. Every single member of Mizusawa’s Karuta team is just as into the game as Chihaya is. Not to mention that there are some characters who are greatly skilled but unmotivated until they play Chihaya. That all comes with the shonen protagonist territory as well. Still, there are plenty of characters that are motivated for their own reasons. The Queen of Karuta is an example. As of the end of season two, Chihaya is nothing but a road bump to the Queen. Should I also mention that for the same match Chihaya was playing against another queen candidate, the queen candidate has a rival on her own team that wanted to beat her? Not to mention the endless number of teams which involved characters who play Karuta for their own reasons and are road blocked for Mizusawa’s success. As sad as that is, this is a story for every sports game/thing ever. Everybody wins for some reason and Chihayafuru is tapping into that potential as well as it could. We just happen to have Chihaya and the gang as our view point character into this world of Karuta. I’m not complaining, I like these characters.
Lastly, there is also the fact that Karuta isn’t taken seriously anywhere in Chihayafuru’s world. After we as an audience see how intense the game could be with injuries and people whose hands travel then faster then light somehow, nobody outside of the Karuta circle takes it seriously. When Chihaya and everyone else wanted to create a club at their school, nobody wanted to take part in it because they thought it was a kiddy game. Their advisor cast aside how serious they wanted to practice until she caught how intense they were tossing cards around their club room. After that, she was won over and did her best to support the club. That’s a rare exception though. Let’s also mention how Chihaya’s sister can’t believe that Chihaya is still playing it after all these years and completely dismisses it. Also, what about the nurses that told Chihaya that she could still play Karuta after getting her hand bandaged up? They didn’t care much either. It’s not focused on a lot, but this is a little piece of world development that made the show a little more interesting to me.
As you can all tell, I love this show. Chihayafuru is great and Chihaya’s route to become queen is filled with all sorts of realistic gaps and challenges that make the sport extremely compelling. I know that I focused on Chihaya only in this article, but each character faces their own challenges in similar yet different ways. We just see more of Chihaya’s conflicts because she is the main character after all. I won’t say that Chihayafuru is flawless, because it does focus on a lot of things and repeat what people have said all the time not to mention all of the animation that isn’t there at all, but all of the strengths of Chihayafuru greatly over took those weakneses. Being one of the most grounded anime series in existence besides many romantic comedies is one of those.