Chihayafuru: Episode 1

Chihayafuru was a manga series written by  Yuki Suetsugu about a young girl who had lived her childhood wanting nothing more than for her older sister to be a top model in Japan. Her life goal did not reflect upon herself, but when a transfer student named Arata Wataya came into her school and she befriended him, Chihaya Ayase came to understand that she had to start having dreams of her own, to live for her own life and not for others.

In the opening to the series we meet a Chihaya Ayase who has just transfered into a new high school and has already been nicknamed “Wasted Beauty” or a “tomboy trapped in a supermodel’s body”. She is a beautiful young girl who seems awkward and strange, posting about flyers and trying to start a karuta club (a dying Japanese card game based on memory stealth). Her old childhood friend Taichi Mashima finds her and tells her that she needs to move on from that time and that no one plays those games anymore. Chihaya is determined to get the club back since her goal in life is to take up karuta competitively and to be one day be the best at it. Taichi seems to harbor feelings for Chihaya even though he also reveals that he has a girlfriend. Chihaya instead of getting upset, wonders aloud if Arata would have one now. Arata Wataya is also an old classmate who was a part of the karuta club that the three participated in during grade school, but is not in attendance with the group any longer.

As the episode progresses we see Chihaya flashback to when she first met Arata and how he was an outcast, very quiet and teased by the other children for being poor. Chihaya takes an interest in Arata since she doesn’t believe the other children are being fair to him, which causes Taichi to become angry and shove the two into the rain. Arata takes Chihaya back to his apartment (which is falling apart) and finds out that she plays karuta which he ask her to join him in. Chihaya quickly learns that Arata is amazingly fast and very good at the game, but Arata also learns that Chihaya also has a very good hearing ability to catch the first word of the poem in order to capture the card before the announcer is even able to finish the word. Arata tells Chihaya that her obsession with her sisters dream to be a model is not something that she should be focused on, she should live for her own dreams and not the dreams of others. Arata tells Chihaya that his dream is to become the Master of Karuta like his grandfather.

Immediately the first episode caught my attention. I am always drawn to slice of life stories and this one promised something different. The theme around karuta is something that I haven’t heard about yet, it almost bordered on something a kin to any of the duel action animes out there except it’s not a fantasy world where monsters emerge or old spirits come into play. Chihayafuru has a more calm collected and interpersonal feeling with lots of growth and interesting intertwining aspects of everyday life, personal relationships, and coming of age. My only complaint really was the fact that Chihaya went from supporting her sister’s dream to taking someone else’s life goals. I thought the meaning behind Arata’s words was to find your own aspirations? Not take up mine because I shared it with you. I’m assuming that’s a personality trait of Chihaya… obsessing about one thing that comes into her life until something better throws it’s way in. We’ll just have to wait and see.