千早ぶる 神代も聞かず 龍田川 唐紅に 水くくるとは
Chihayaburu, kamiyomo-kikazu, tatsutagawa, kara-kurenawini, mizu-kukurutowa
I never heard such thing like this, even during the gods’ era when a lot of mysterious things happened, that the water of the Tatsuta River is kukuri-dyed with Chinese crimson.
Chihayafuru is a pillow word for kami (神 “god”). And the main character’s name is Chihaya, yes, the first word of the poem about autumn leaves. Of course, her favorite poem.
Yes, autumn is a season of saudade. It’s getting chilly and windy out there. Leaves flown in the wind. So, it’s Koi no kisetsu (恋の季節), season of romance! It’s time to stay inside alone like hikikomori, going inward, brooding emotional reactions to your own surroundings. This manque (lack) of warmth makes people yearn for skinship. Yes, manque produces poetry, just like saudade produces bossa nova. It makes us cuddlesome.
Yes, saudade, 郷愁 (kyoshu), nostalgia. Nostos (returning home) + algos (pain). Missing of hometown. 愁 (shuu) is algos, suffering, lamentation. It’s a combination of 秋 (autumn) and 心 (heart). So, algos is autumn’s heart, best symbolized by autumn leaves (秋葉 Akiba). Alternatively, 枯れ葉 (kareha).
It’s something Southern Californians lack, since there aren’t four seasons here. I always miss that emotion. Change of season makes me melancholic. Suddenly you feel lonely during the fall watching falling leaves (落ち葉 “ochiba”). Les feuilles mortes (dead leaves) force us to realize our own fate, death. From that, romance will sprout. And to sprout is moeru, or moyuru. 萌ゆる恋 (moyuru-koi). Because of lonesomeness, cuddlesomeness swells!
Chihaya is a breathtaking nymph, but zannenkei (残念系 “disappointing”) because she wears the jersey pants under the skirt. But who cares? Pretty girl is cute no matter what she wears!
But the thing is this anime starts from her memory of osananajimi (幼馴染み “childhood friend”). Childhood, I don’t remember that much. I didn’t have enough ability to comprehend surroundings at that time. But I remember clearly my adolescence, especially the girls I fell in love with. So, these starting episodes don’t resonate in me. Yes, childhood is important to her, I got that, but already spending two episodes for that? Enough is enough.
I rather like to see how her love affair relates to the poems she recites. Seems to me that they play Karuta without getting into the beautiful lyrics of Classic Japanese. They just play it solely for win or lose, just like college entrance exam. It’s no different from playing chess, shogi, or go like Hikaru-no-go. Then, any game would work. Doesn’t have to be Karuta. Or it may be expressed in cinematography rather than in story-telling. But I like to see aesthetics of the poems involved in the story. At least, the season should be autumn, not sakura-fubuki, doesn’t fit her favorite poem and her name either.
Hyakunin Isshu is a Classic Japanese poetry collection, an anthology of small stories. If this anime doesn’t get into that but instead just depicts the high schoolers’ competition, then I probably wouldn’t enjoy this show very much.