Chihayafuru: the need for rivalry

Warning: this time, I’m going to be talking about the most recent chapters of the manga, so please stop here is you don’t want to be spoiled. (^_^)

One thing that many sports series – anime or manga – feature is the ‘rival’. The rival typically takes the form of another person or team whose skills are far above those of the protagonist at the start, an entity that the protagonist aims to compete with and eventually overcome. Given this set-up, one might expect that most stories end sometime after the protagonist passes the rival…but is that really the point of the ‘rival’? Merely to show the growth of the protagonist in the sport in question? Suetsugu Yuki – following in the footsteps of a number of writers before her – begs to differ.

I was here first.

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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...?

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First half impressions: Cross Game

Actually a bit late now, since the anime has progressed to episode 29 and introduced the last of the main players. Lots of developments left, right and center, so I’m really looking forward to the next part…but here’s my little look at the series so far.

Whilst I’ve been spamming about Bakemonogatari and the Cross Game manga elsewhere, I’ve also been religiously following the anime adaptation of the latter. It’s very unusual for me to watch a series that’s so distinctly shonen, but Adachi-sensei is such a master of realistic and subtle high-school relationships that I was seriously considering this for anime of the year, even though it won’t be finished until Spring next year. Not so much in terms of romantic relationships (although I can see why Azuma is becoming more content – Ichiyo and Junpei’s relationship is funny and kinda sweet!), but rather for the dynamic between Koh and the people close to him – his parents, the Tsukishimas (especially Momiji) and Akaishi. The development of Azuma, tied to his brother and his interaction with the rest of the Seishu team, especially Koh, is also spot on.

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Short reviews (i.e. stuff that’s not really worth the effort).

The Densha Otoko special was really, really cheesy…it basically consisted of more of the same (and I think I’d probably had quite enough by the time I saw it) as Yamada Tsuyoshi tries to work up the courage to propose to Saori but is continually thwarted by various situations, her grandfather and a new rival who’s even more irritating that Sakurai was in the drama series (well…at least Sakurai’s hair-brained schemes were amusing…this one was just stupid. And dammit, did they have to use that surname!). And of course all the important message board correspondents are there to help him out as usual, resulting in a completely unbelievable ending (though heartwarming I suppose). Oguri Shun was…basically there for the fangirls, as someone else (can’t remember who) mentioned somewhere online.

I did a brief review of the series previously…but never really said this: what exactly was all the fuss about? I find the opening amusing to sing along to (occasionally), and some of the side characters endearing in some ways (Jinkama Misuzu, and many of the message board characters), but although the series was often LOL funny, it was also painful because it was so ridiculous. It may be that I’ve heard way too many people recommend the series to me…maybe maybe live-action comedies that rely on caricature just aren’t my cup of tea, but there you have it. I’d give it a 7 at best.

The Densha Otoko movie is…better and worse at the same time. Being short, it wasn’t used for as much procrastination, but the side characters weren’t as interesting, and there weren’t very many of them either. The movie’s Densha (Yamada Takayuki) is considered a heart-throb by some…which led this reviewer to comment that he didn’t really fit the part. ‘Meh’ was my response…but given that he became the ‘cool office worker’ in the first episode of the series, that comment seems justified. The movie’s Hermes…didn’t come across as high class as in the drama, but she also didn’t irritate me as much. I understand that most of what we see of Hermes in the drama is through Densha’s p.o.v., which means that she comes across as an angel…but anyways, I guess the major problem was that it took itself a bit too seriously. If that’s the case, then it really should have remained private, don’t you think?

Grenadier…represents about 5 wasted hours of my life. Just based on the character designs, I really should have given it up by the end of the opening…it can only be meant for a male audience. I thought the non-fighting thing would be more interesting, but…it just wasn’t. 5.5/10.

I didn’t even watch Koi ni Ochitara properly. After about 5 episodes, I just started skipping through them to get the basic gist. I definitely didn’t like the later developments that saw the main character, Suzuki Shimao (played by SMAP’s Kusanagi Tsuyoshi, not that I knew until I actually checked it up) become an absolute prick – let’s just say that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Nice to know he came right back down, but it was still…unbelievable. What really irritated me was how Suzuki was so successful for that first half of the series…virtually everything he did once he entered Frontier returned good results…it’s just too convenient. But I guess short stories have to take certain liberties. A good procrastination tool, I suppose you could say – not something that I would dwell over too much. 6/10

H2 is also ok – I actually watched this one all the way through. There’s a rather amusing bit in the first episode where the main character and his friend realise that they’ve been had…and the competition between Kunimi Hiro and Tachibana Hideo made the baseball interesting to watch (although I will probably never understand how people can watch innings after scoreless innings. This show is actually based on a manga…which has 34 volumes, which explains why there were huge time gaps (the drama spans the three years of high school! Reminds me of Azumanga Daioh, which had a similar time frame). I probably wouldn’t have bothered if it had been longer, and am highly highly unlikely to ever try the manga or anime series…but well, it was kinda interesting for the most part 6.5/10.