Autumn sadness, Chihayafuru

Chihayafuru, an autumn show but the time frame is spring. Why sakura? Should be autumn leaves. It’s a show about Karuta (from carta in Portuguese/Spanish), a card game based on Hyakunin Isshu.

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.

Les Feuilles Mortes. Yes, Autumn Leaves (秋葉 “Akiba, Akiha”). Chanson d’automne by Paul Verlaine. That’s the spirit of Akiba. And Akiba’s color is Chinese crimson (唐紅 kara-kurenai)!

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.

Author: Monsieur LaMoe

A refugee from Japan. Live in NAFTA. Get hooked on Moe. Moe is opium? Twitter: @MonsieurLamoe

10 thoughts on “Autumn sadness, Chihayafuru

  1. Are you sure that Chihayafuru is a pillow-word for “god”? The second line of the poem includes the word kami. I looked up 千早ぶる via Google Translate, and it gives me, “Pretend to be Chihaya” (??). I noticed that the word “Chihayafuru” is used in the OP, and I looked at different translations of that. One seemed to be “ancient days” and another was “Chihayafuru’s passion”.

    At any rate, I hope they will keep raising the issue of the poetry as well. I liked the scene in episode 1, in which she starts to cry when listening to the poem about the Takasago pines.

    Oh, and episode 2 is a lot more Autumnal. Plenty of dried leaves, including red maples.

    1. @Joojoobees

      Thank you for the comment! Yes, it’s a pillow word for Kami. Chihayaburu is literally “intense energetic force.” An attribute of god. But, it’s just a pillow word, it’s not that significant as a word itself, just to make it flow beautifully.

      You’re poetically observant. Yes, visual is very beautiful. The beauty of poetry is visually expressed. To me, a story of childhood is not that exciting. I rather see the current high schoolers’ interaction, especially romantic interaction.

  2. Thank you for that explanation, as I have been wondering what that meant. I’m looking forward to seeing the high school story as well, but I appreciate knowing the back story that formed their current selves. Best wishes!

    1. You’re very welcome! I appreciate childhood story as well, but one episode is enough. Best wishes!

  3. Really like the show so far. Much better than Gundam Age :/ The back story is excellent. And it will help when narrative jumps back to the present.

    1. @The Paper

      Thanks for the comment. That’s cool you really like the show. I’m not even watching Gundam Age since I’m not into mecha. The back story is fine for one episode, and I rather want to see the present high school romance.

  4. The present will make more sense and easier to appreciate with more background. Can one really do justice in twenty minutes? Sixty? Maybe.

    And watch Gundam before you make such a sweeping generalization. I am fairly confident that most people who watch and love Gundam are not into mechas. Because it’s not about mechas. At all.

    1. @The Paper

      Maybe yes, but I’m not interested in childhood story that much. It can be done in one episode. Kamisama Dolls did it. And it was dense.

      Gundam’s genre is mecha, so, it’s a mecha show. Or Real Robot, in a more accurate term. And Tomino is responsible for creating that genre. And I watched Tomino’s Gundam. And even though I admit it was the greatest masterpiece around that era, I didn’t like it. I’m not fond of that genre, so I’m not following Gundam. Some people love Gundam, and some don’t like myself. Real Robot is a great genre, but sorry to tell you, it doesn’t fit my taste.

  5. Haven’t seen this anime yet, but to the changing season aspects. I see four seasons of it in NYC. Yes to the fallen leaves being melancholic, but what makes it fun is also kicking or stepping through leaves, and hearing that rustle and crunch. Time to bring out the sweaters or in my cast huge hoodies and have hearty soups!

    1. @animemiz

      That’s good to be in NYC. SoCal is so warm, green palm trees all year long. Yes, rustle and crunch, I remember that in Japan, leaves of ginnan. And that smell of it too. Ah, melancholy arising from change of season is essential for romance. I definitely miss four seasons.

      Man, I just watched episode 3, and they’re still doing childhood story! I don’t know if I gonna continue to watch this show (sigh).

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