Chihayafuru: the sorrows of solitude

Okay, karuta. Hands up who’s played this game – by which I mean the competitive version where you use the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (100 Poems by 100 Poets).

Thought so. And no, I haven’t played it either…though I’m game to try, if that’s any reflection of my current obsession with Chihayafuru.

The beauty of words...

Well, at the very least, I want to become friends with the 100 poems myself. They’re really quite fascinating – though I’ll have to thank hyperborealis on the AS forums for those incredible analyses each week!

But enough of tangents and back to the point!

Friends forever...?

Chihayafuru, which just about everyone watching seemed to love, is another show in the vein of Hikaru no Go – a ‘sports’ anime about a traditional Japanese game that simply does not register on most people’s radars. However, whilst its effect on the popularity of karuta might end up being similar to HikaGo’s effect on that of Igo (though I personally think it can’t be as effective, for a number of reasons), the core themes and messages of Chihayafuru are, IMHO, rather different.

Unlike HikaGo, which I would say was about connecting the past to the present and future, Chihayafuru really is about connecting with the people around you. This theme is embodied in the way Chihaya approaches karuta – to her, it’s fun because she’s playing it with friends, and she wants to share that love and passion (a passion that she originally got from Arata), with as many people as she can. She manages to infect Taichi, then Kana-chan and Komano-kun with that passion, and it also reminds others of their love for the game. As Chihaya intones at the end of the 6th episode: “I want to play karuta with Arata again. I want to tell him that karuta is fun, that’s it’s fun when you’re with friends.”

No doubt about it: passion is contagious

In this sense, Chihaya’s obvious counterparts are the current Queen and Meijin – Wakamiya Shinobu and Suou Hisashi. Despite being brilliant players who are obviously a league above those dreaming about challenging them, they cut lonely figures at the top. Their innate talent for the game has secluded them from the rest of the karuta world – to them, there is no point playing with others, there is nothing that they can learn from them, no one whom they can call a teacher. Perhaps, they even feel that there is no one that loves karuta as much as they do, and that it would be sacrilegious to contaminate their love by associating with others.

How much longer will they be alone at the top?

However, as Nishida’s karuta master observes in the penultimate episode, that is unfortunate indeed. Someone who has no teacher cannot become a teacher him/herself, that is to say, his/her talent will die with him or her. The point of being the best at something isn’t so that you can hole yourself up in a castle of solitude. Rather, it’s an opportunity for you to share your love and talent – yes, I am making the assumption that you have to love something in order to be brilliant at it – and pull others along with you. When, and how, will that message get through?

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

One Response to Chihayafuru: the sorrows of solitude

  1. Pingback: For the record: かるたしょっさ | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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