It was one of last year's surprise successes, to the point where I doubt many of us had any real hope for a second season, but here it is again this winter as the year begins with a return to the world of competitive karuta.
With a new school year beginning, this opening episode of series two brings us to a stable of any club-related anime - the recruitment drive for new members. Given that the club needs at least one additional member to retain its status, club room and budget, Chihaya and company clearly need to put some work in to sell the idea of playing karuta to the school's newcomers, and it seems that Kana has the perfect masterplan to bring in new blood.
Indeed, Kana probably has no idea as to just how ruthlessly targeted her campaign to recruit new members is, and it's Taichi's presence that brings in the crowds - quite literally, as twenty girls sign up to the club without a second thought, ostensibly all because they have their eyes on the dishy club president. At the head of this pack is Sumire Hanano, who is determined to get over a recent break-up by bagging the hottest boy at her new school as a boyfriend - can she really win over Taichi though? You certainly have to give her points for determination, as she goes about her business while the existing club members come to realise that they all have very different goals for the coming year that will be difficult for them to reconcile.
It's hard for me to cast a subjective eye over this first episode of Chihayafuru's return, simply because I'm so happy to be reunited with its main cast - right off the bat, it's nice to see them all exhibiting some growth to their personalities in different ways, which bodes well for the series going forward. It's also enjoyable to see a different take on club recruitment from the norm - rather than struggling to being in members, the problem our karuta club faces is being flooded with newcomers, putting a strain on their various ambitions and offering some new angles for the series to pursue in terms of drama and emotion. I hope this won't distil that core of what made the first season so thoroughly enjoyable, but things are looking good so far, and I'm all set for another six months of embracing the world's most difficult game of Snap.