Sentai Filmworks has released Season 1 of the 2011 Japanese Anime show Chihayafuru. Read on to find out if it deserves a spot in your collection! Chihayafuru Season 1 is based on the 2007 Manga. In 2009 it won the 2nd Manga Taishō award. According to IMDB there are 2 seasons of the animated series and two live action movie adaptations. This release from Sentai only includes the first season. I had never heard of the show and there aren’t many ratings available of it in America but apparently it’s fairly highly regarded by those who have seen it.
It’s a unique (to me) premise. The show centers around a young girl named Chihaya who is fascinated by a card game called Karuta. These games with cards were introduced to Japan in the 16th century. The game in the show consists of lines of poetry and the card that produces the next line has to be quickly selected to win that hand. It’s shown as being an educational exercise for those in school and a national competition is held annually.
Chihayafuru Season 1 mostly focuses on 3 main characters. Chihaya Ayase as the girl who says what’s on her mind without thinking and has few friends. Arata Wataya the shy boy who just moved in but displays his mastery of the card game. And Taichi Mashima the childhood friend of Chihaya who is reunited with her in high school.
I won’t get into spoiler territory and I often try to do that in all my reviews. One of the things I liked about the show and felt it really pulled off was the character interactions. In some coming of age stories it seems like characters switch their entire life viewpoint for no reason and in an instant are completely grown up. This show treats it with more realism.
Chihaya is a nice girl at heart but her bluntness hurts the delicate feelings of the children around her. You can tell she is aimless and doesn’t really know what she wants. Her biggest dream deals more with her sister becoming successful. Early in the show she gets support to have her own dream and ambition in life. Chihaya decides she wants to be the best Karuta player in the world. That idea and turning point in her life starts with the first episode and we get to witness her striving to attain that in the series.
The show is colorful and is nicely done in a more innocent coming of age story line. The animation while not flashy gives it a bit of heart and emotion, especially in the glow of the characters eyes. The vocal acting in the Americanized version is atrociously irritating in my opinion. However I prefer to watch in the original language with subtitles and it was well done. It’s a very nuanced and interesting performance and is the only way to view it.
The episodes are 22 minutes each. There are all 25 episodes of Season One on 3 Blu-ray discs. It’s a coming of age story, set in school, and deals with a card game and the aspirations of the children playing it competitively. I didn’t see anything that would cause the show to be rated anything more than PG-13. The picture quality is nicely done and what you would expect from a modern stylized anime.
The sound came through clear, the English subtitles are yellow and I never had difficulty with them mixing in with the background. Some of the dialog went by fast but it was never too much to keep up with once I acclimated. The score is emotive, and memorable and really sets the tone for the show. Fans will be happy with the presentation and hopefully new viewers will find a show that they can enjoy as well.
Clean opening and closing animations
As is Sentai’s typical custom this release is lite on special features so you are really only getting it if you enjoy the show itself.
Chihayafuru Season 1 Final Thoughts:
At the beginning of the year I didn’t own any anime shows and only a couple of films. Sentai Filmworks has awoken an interest in this genre and I’m happy to say that Chihayafuru Season 1 is well made and an interesting addition to my collection. I enjoyed the characters and the story line and it’s easy to see why people fall in love with this type of media. Most if not all of these are blind watches for me. I’d say if you are even a little bit adventurous or think the concept is interesting/different then I would suggest giving it a try.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.