Chihayafuru 2: telling a story through poetry is not quite so easy on screen…

It's good to see you again!

It’s good to see you again!

Ever since the first season ended just over a year ago, many fans were clamouring for a continuation. Hence, it should be no surprise that these fans – yours truly included – were quite ecstatic when it was announced, and highly excited when Chihayafuru 2 began in January this year. That said…

Watching the second season of Chihayafuru as part of a predominantly anime-only community – or, at least, attempting to do so – was a frustrating experience. After the characters plunged into the high school tournaments a few episodes in, the only thing that stayed the same just about every single week was a bevy of complaints about how much the poster/blogger wished for more character development instead of match after match. People also lamented that the slower pace would mean that certain big tournaments would not make it onto the screen. All-in-all, my sense is that many of the anime-only viewers were somewhat disappointed with this second round of Chihaya and co.

Match...after match...after match...

Match…after match…after match…

Looking at the second criticism first, personally, I’ve never understood why anyone would want a second season to follow the preceding one that closely in terms of events. There’s a reason why I find shows such as Gundam quite tedious after a while…and whilst I do like Natsume Yuujinchou, I must admit that I still haven’t found the drive to watch the third and fourth seasons. More of the same simply doesn’t interest me all that much. So I was really glad to see more karuta, more Arata, and more karuta development for Chihaya in these past 25 episodes! The most surprising development was probably that one moment in the final episode, where Chihaya realises that her love for karuta is also bound up with as-yet unclear feelings towards Arata. Ever since I read about that scene over a year ago, I’ve been dying to see it animated, and Madhouse did not let me down. Of course there were other moments that I loved, but that’s really the one scene in the entire story so far that has taken my breath away.

Chihayafuru_25-01 Chihayafuru_25-03
Even now, more than one year on, it still takes my breath away…

Returning to the first issue, I feel that the the problem lay as much with the misplaced expectations of many viewers as with the difficulty of depicting the symbolic importance of certain poems at various stages. As someone who also follows the manga as it comes out in Japan, I’ve seen a number of fantastic analyses about why Suetsugu-sensei chose to use particular poems from the Ogura collection as crucial cards in several matches. Unfortunately, the nature of moving pictures is that most viewers don’t pause long enough to identify which poems have been read, much less to consider their significance in the narrative. Furthermore, whilst the production team did their best in selecting as episode titles phrases from poems that seemed to match the main point of each episode, and the person that provides the analyses for the manga took it upon his- or herself to do the same for these episode titles, most people seemed to ignore that commentary.

Just two of the many Chihayafuru_22-01
Just two of the many pointed references to the poetry around which this story is built…

Whilst that is perhaps understandable, given that most English-speaking viewers have probably never encountered traditional Japanese poetry (composing English haiku doesn’t count), I was even more stunned to realise that few people seemed to be interested in the significance of the 2nd season ending theme. The first season’s theme, “And now…” (Soshite Ima), was arguably entirely about Arata, showing how Chihaya was completely focused on him and karuta. The second one, however, was clearly about her relationships with both Arata and Taichi; the verse about Taichi being played at the end of the 6th and 23rd episodes, both of which feature him rising above a ‘defeatist’ tendency. (And I must admit, I was surprised not to hear it at the end of the 19th episode too, in hindsight.) But I only ever saw one person bring it up, at the Mangafox forums after the 23rd episode. Given this general ignorance of ‘song’ and its huge symbolism in Chihayafur, it does not surprise me that many of the anime-only viewers found the second season less satisfying than many of us manga readers. The anime production team really deserves more credit for keeping the spirit and themes of the manga, despite some of the challenges of trying to represent that in a faster-paced medium.

I believe in you, so please do not give up...

I believe in you, so please do not give up…

That said, nothing is ever without flaws. As is typical in a weekly show, the animation in some weeks was clearly much better than in others. I also did wonder why they chose to end where they did instead of where the OAD that comes with volume 22 will undoubtedly end. Perhaps it’s a way of maintaining interest in the story in what should be a long 1.5-2 year break until the next full season of anime, which is understandable. But most of all, I was somewhat disappointed to see a pretty bad animation mistake, one that showed that some of the staff really don’t know the game of karuta as well as they should. I hope they’ll correct it for the BD/DVD releases (though, admittedly, I’m not holding my breath).

In any case, I really enjoyed this season of Chihayafuru as well, and would love to see another. But in the meantime, I’m quite happy to keep following the manga.

p.s. It didn’t fit anywhere here, but I also touched on some of the events in this season in my second post on the first season…

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

3 Responses to Chihayafuru 2: telling a story through poetry is not quite so easy on screen…

  1. Lav says:

    Just a short (and late!) reply here but I, too, found the second season satisfying and didn’t quite understand the complaints of anime-only viewers. In fact, I would even venture to say that I fond the second season better than the first. Now, if only I could travel to the future for the next season… 😥


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

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