One of my goals for Otakon 2011 was to snap as many pictures as I could of those cosplaying Stocking. I had just seen PS&G several weeks before the con (I am behind in my animes but who isn’t) and it was forelsket. Essentially love at first sight. (I am following the footsteps of my colleague Monsieur LaMoe by incorporating more culture into my vocabulary.)
This year, Chihaya is the goal and I like to apologize in advance for the disgrace I shall commit by taking her photo with my cheap, undeserving Fuji point-and-shoot. For those who have been following the show, no other introduction is necessary. Suffice to say, this review is meant for those who have erred by leaving Chihayafuru in the queue for later. DO NOT. Chihaya is exponentially better than PS&G in every aspect. Except fanservice.
Before I dive into the treasures of this anime, I like to express my wonder at the magic that the Japanese have in making rather mudane topics into much, much more exciting fanfare. Hikaru no Go comes to mind. The boardgame is far from boring but we can all agree that there are likely more cheers in a game of football than a lifetime of Go matches. And so it is with karuta. Which is far simpler than Go. At least upon first impression. For those unfamiliar (like I before the show), karuta is a card game where each player tries to grab the announced card before the opponent.
The success of Chihayafuru lies on two main pillars. Opening with flashbacks to childhood, the plot sets a foundation that is highly realistic for anyone to relate to. Welcoming tangents into jargon and history paint a detailed picture. Moreover, it holds enough mystery and potential for the audience to know that there are enough cards under those sleeves to make a karuta deck. While the foreshadowing makes the plot somewhat predictable at times, the method in which it unfolds remains engaging. I hate spoiling plots but rest assured that the doses of love, dreams and conflict are more than enough to put one into rapture.
This is accomplished with aplomb due to the entire cast of characters. The masterful development spent on each reminds me of Fujishima’s trademark talent of bringing characters to life. One dimensional characters based on conventional steretypes mature into individuals that reminds us, for better or worse, of those we have in our lives. It almost gets to the point where choosing a favorite character is akin to a mother choosing a favorite offspring. Almost.
Haruhi Suzumiya will always have a spot in my heart but real estate just got infinitely expensive with the arrival of Chihaya. Or should I say Chihaya’s passion. Chihaya didn’t just replace Haruhi as the benchmark of passion. She is the personification. In this case, it’s karuta but I would be just as amoured with her if it was grass growing watching contest. Like the others, we were treated to her history that gradually drew us in until we could no longer escape her orbit, not that we would want to. This is certainly not the first admirable attempt at creating a character who breathes but never has it felt more natural. This is true because I don’t think that. I feel that. I feel forelsket.