Saturday, March 31, 2012

Taichi Tuesday: 3/27/12

 Chihayafuru Ep. 25: Moonlight, Clear and Bright

So this week we have been given the finale for Chihayafuru. So sad! ;_; But indeed we have the conclusion to a fantastic series that was never afraid to just be itself. With a cast of characters each unique to themselves and a strong story premise, Chihayafuru delivered like no other series that I viewed from the Fall season.

The episode opens with the championship match between Master Suo and a rather unknown opponent from last week. And quite thankfully it ended rather quickly, but not with a little more character progression with Suo himself. We learn that Suo is also passionate for the Japanese language and what each card evokes for an image and the feelings behind it. This is why he has a supposed 28 one-syllable cards to play with. Before the end of this scene, Yumin’s sensei takes a moment to think on how both Suo and Shinobu do not have teachers, thus leading to them never really being instructors themselves. It’s a strange but important thought that comes forth in an understandable way. It seems he is probably correct. 

After the match the entire gang seems to be a bit depressed in how excellent Shinobu and Suo are at karuta. They think, “How will we ever get to that level?” and walk home in a sullen slumber. Yet Tsutomu comes through for Chihaya once again after studying all of his notes, concluding that Chihaya herself has 20 one-syllable cards to play with. This revelation brings Chihaya to an emotional moment that she may be able to really use this as something to grow with.

Some of the final moments we have with Taichi and Arata happen to be a phone conversation between the two. They discuss the happenings of the championship match and the ways in which they can improve. But as Arata is talking his old mentor (the one who previously gave up karuta) walks in and offers a match. This is huge because now Arata has someone to play with that is on his level, someone to improve with. He was floored when his mentor entered the room.

I would say that the most beautiful scene of the final episode would be when Chihaya is standing there in the hallway and reciting her 20 one-syllable cards. She says the cards out loud in a passionate sort of way that scares away some until Kanade appears. Chihaya is passionate to learn more about the cards and she is now studying them more than ever. At the same time Kanade reveals to Chihaya that she wants to become a professional karuta card reader. Although… Kanade’s passion quickly turns sour when Chihaya reveals that she must become a Class A karuta player to become a reader. I don’t believe this is what Kanade had in mind!

The series takes its final ending in a way that softly closes the cover of a book. The club members practice in their club room. Taichi practices his swinging arm (something he was too embarrassed to do before) and Kanade takes a stab at reading the cards. A scene with the Empress and fellow school board members reveals that the karuta club’s room is in danger of being taken over by the much more popular school band. It’s decided that the karuta club must gather at least five more members or the room goes to band. And we all remember how difficult it was before for the club to gain even three members! The next semester begins with Chihaya putting up posters around the school, just as she did roughly 19 or 20 episodes ago. And, well, that is all.

The conclusion of the episode leaves the possibility for anything to happen with a new season. If we will ever see another seasons remains to be seen. It’s hard to tell just how popular Chihayafuru as an anime series really is, but from my understanding manga sales have seen a noticeable increase in sales because of the series. The following for Chihayafuru suggests the notion that this series truly deserves a sequel, hands down, and I agree with them. There is enough material in the manga series as of right now to support a full second season and then some. Why not give the sleeper hit of the season a proper sequel? There’s enough room to flesh out our characters even more.

And while speaking of the characters a bit, let’s take a look at them in general growth. Chihaya is likely the person who grew the least but it’s warranted for everything her character is. We know about her bubbly personality and sometimes-immature way of looking at things, but she did grow in learning about herself and karuta. She now has a passion for the cards and what they mean, and she completely appreciates Tsutomu’s efforts in studying the game itself. And from Nishida she has learned to study different player’s styles so that she can grow her own. But I’m not sure if she has really learned from Taichi in any specific way that improves her karuta or character, thus leading to Taichi’s realization that he can’t always be concerned with Chihaya as an individual. He very much seems to have strong feelings for Chihaya but he has shifted his efforts to himself more. Take for example the scene from a handful of episodes ago when Taichi lost the level-A qualifying match. He told Harada-sensei that he wanted to work for himself to get to class A and not have it handed to him. He is stronger than that. Kanade and Tsutomu have each grown in their own respective ways but we saw more of this earlier in the season. Kanade grew passionate with karuta because of her love for the poems and their meanings, and Tsutomu showed his passion in studying everyone’s play style to the max. In their rank match Kanade ultimately won but Tsutomu was there for her. They have grown a lot in such a short time it feels! And as for Nishida, I’m not really sure how much he’s changed. Change may not be the word to describe Nishida. Maybe instead it was self-realization that giving up on your passionate hobby isn’t the way to avoid it. In this he uses his skills to advance further beyond even Taichi, even if the match was a fluke.

Chihayafuru could have been handled differently but I don’t think it would have been as enjoyable. The series could have been more centered on the love triangle but thankfully it wasn’t. I do wish there was some closure to that but instead it was sort of phased out by the final episode. I’m sure Arata still has a thing for Chihaya and Taichi still loves Chihaya, but Chihaya is still so oblivious to it all. Maybe another season could fix this up a bit? Regardless we have an anime series that took each of its characters and gave them all the proper respect they deserved. No one was a throwaway, and to that we can applaud. A strong story, strong characters, excellent music and an ever-consistent quality in animation round out Chihayafuru to be one of my most favorite anime in a long while.

Thank you for traveling through this series with me!

-Jared Cyhowski

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