Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Chihayafuru - Episode 2

Despite having no plans to pick up this series, Chihayafuru's first episode managed to wend its way into my affections immediately thanks to a good first episode - the best news at all is that this same sense of quality also seems to pervade its second instalment.

Despite the warnings from her friend Taichi that hanging around with loner Arata would see her ignored by the whole class, Chihaya continues to associate with him no matter the price - a decision which soon leads to an argument, and before we know it a boast from Chihaya as to Arata's karuta abilities turns into a bet from Taichi that he'll be able to at least snatch a single card from our karuta playing genius during an upcoming school tournament.

Of course, Taichi makes this bet before having actually seen Arata play karuta, and having done so it quickly becomes clear that he doesn't have a chance.  With his pride at stake, and even worse with his demanding perfectionist mum watching in the audience, Taichi resorts to foul means to win his game, as practical jokes turn into the theft of Arata's glasses to ensure he can't even see the cards he's playing with.  This, couple with some more sleight of hand from Taichi, ensures that he has little chance of winning - enter Chihaya, who takes Arata's place in this all-important match and somehow contrives to win via her own unique brand of gamesmanship.  Come the end of the episode, even Arata and Taichi seem to have let bygones be bygones under the umbrella of hyperactive fascination that is Chihaya.

With that previous sentence in mind, I can't really stress enough that it's Chihaya herself who makes this series what it is - her sheer energy and passion for pretty much everything is as admirable as it is compelling to watch, especially when it occurs in the face of the complete indifference of the rest of her family.  Indeed, parental issues seems to be a theme with both Chihaya and Taichi, both of whom have clearly been moulded somewhat from their experiences within their family, as perhaps has Arata.  This adds an extra dimension to this series that we don't see often enough from anime (parents are usually absent or never mentioned), and paired with its other elements Chihayafuru continues to be both entertaining and fascinating in equal measure.

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