A friend of mine, Tony sent me a line of texts over Discord when I mentioned Chihayafuru 3 to him. It wasn’t a compliment. It wasn’t a bunch of question marks. No, the exact words that he typed were: ‘NANIWA ZU NIIII SAKUYA KONO HANAAA’.
And I thought, oh god. I know what these words mean. I even know when and why they are used. ‘HAHA’, was all I could reply him at that moment because I was shocked by what Chihayafuru has done to both of us.
Unlike other after-school sports clubs shown in anime, competitive karuta was a card game that I’ve never heard of before, despite being an Asian. And Tony, is from Italy. Yet, we both know the memorisation time for both game participants, what double faults mean, the significance of their playing position and most importantly, the players’ untold hardwork and unshakable determination.
The anime adaptation of Chihayafuru could have ended seven years ago with its second season, but then an unexpected but a pleasant surprise happened. Chihayafuru 3. After years of waiting, it’s almost like a dream came true for all its fans. Who would have thought that a game of two people sitting across each other, swiping cards can create so many anticipation?
The answer lies in Chihaya. One of the karuta poems ‘Chihayaburu kamiyo mo kikazu Tatsuta-gawa, karakurenai ni mizu kukuru towa‘ expresses the beauty of the red autumn leaves which cover up the surface of the river. Chihayafuru came from Chihayaburu, which also defines Chihaya as a character. Strong in the heart, and an unconditional love and passion towards karuta, and everyone around her. In a way, she becomes the embodiment of Chihayafuru that everyone can emphatize with.
Over the years, being both a josei and slice of life anime, Chihayafuru has evolved to become more diverse, gentle yet impactful. And somewhere along this line, it has created a niche of its own. Expanded it. Presented vivid characters with different motivations. Portrayed various stories behind the cards that reflect characters’ introspective thoughts. Built up the tension for the King and Queen’s match. Took the bittersweet triangle love that had remained stagnant all this time, to a turning point.
Chihayafuru 3 is the prime example of how great the heights this premise can reach.
This is because Chihayafuru doesn’t just let the audience know what happened, but it let us feel how and why it happened. We see the layout of the game from two perspective, and feel the impact of each card being swiped away. Both physically, and mentally. We choose who we want to root for, and can explain why they deserve it.
Much like Haikyuu!!, it’s the visualization of both side’s thinking process that leaves the audience a vivid impression of the game. It makes us want to try it. To extend our hands out there, as fast and as precise as we can. To practice, and to experience the hardship.
But in the end, competitive karuta like any other sports, has only one goal. To win. The rest, are the winning reasons of each of the player inside the room. Of which, Chihayafuru is great at depicting. And like any famous anime franchises, Chihayafuru will always have its own fans hyping, laughing and crying because of it.
After all, it’s an honor and pleasure to be a part of the community that adore Chihayafuru, with its colorful characters and mesmerizing stories. So, from one of its fans – this is my love letter to Chihayafuru, like its love letter to competitive karuta, and like Taichi’s longing feelings towards Chihaya.
Though we are parted,
If on Mount Inaba’s peak
I should hear the sound
Of the pine trees growing there,
I’ll come back again to you.
Thanks for reading.