When the second season of Chihayafuru was announced I was excited along with all of my fellow fans after having enjoyed the first season. At the same time, though, I was worried that a second season could not live up to what I saw as the success of the first season, and that karuta would, in time, grow stale even to those of us who love the show. That said, with the conclusion of the second season, I can gladly say that I was completely wrong about my concerns.
Contrary to my concern, karuta did not grow stale, even by the end of season two. Instead, what happened was that I came to appreciate karuta and its complexities as a competitive game even more. It makes sense because we had spent the duration of season one learning the game and becoming familiar with karuta. Thus, once we had a solid understanding of the game’s basics, the show could delve deeper into the game and its strategies. Season two does this and managed to keep the games exciting week in and week out.
Game mechanics and strategy isn’t enough to make an engaging story by itself, but fortunately what carries this show, both in the first season and the second, is the characters and their love for karuta. Characters of all shapes and sizes, with varying reasons for playing karuta, are all able to communicate their passion and love for this game. It’s this passion that keeps them playing the game for years and spending countless hours practicing in their spare time and nowhere is this more apparent than the fact that everyone is playing to win. Not everyone gets to win, of course, as that is the nature of competition, and those that lose are heartbroken. But a loss just inspires them to improve. Characters don’t settle for any of the “It’s okay because I did my best” nonsense. The desire to win, to succeed, drives their passion and is why they are so enjoyable to watch.
For this reason, the star of the show (for me at least) was Taichi. He’s come a long way from the whiny noob that complained to Dr. Harada about being able to never catch up to Arata no matter how much he practiced. He’s come a long way from the constantly angsting about his unrequited love for Chihaya. Taichi has grown the considerably over the course of the series in comparison to all of the other characters, and most noticeable is that he has developed a love for karuta himself. In the Class B finals in his match against Rion, Taichi is finally able to stop holding himself back with his insecurities. He compares Rion, whose talent rivals Chihaya’s, to Chihaya in his mind which means that he is finally able to admit to himself that he can beat the karuta players whose talents far surpass his own. More than any kind of romantic progression, Taichi getting to the point where he wants to succeed in karuta was the best progression for his character.
Taichi is my favorite character in Chihayafuru, but he is only one in a cast of great and memorable characters. Arata, who was largely absent in the first season, plays a bigger role in the season. Even though he’s graduated and is less important of a player, Sudo from Hokuo makes his return in the season for a few memorable moments. The whole of Mizusawa’s team, including the first years, get a chance to shine.
The second season definitely surpasses the first and though there we are already up to fifty episodes, it feels like Chihayafuru is just getting started. With Arata returning to the world of karuta in a magnificent display of skill and Taichi firmly establishing himself as a rival to both Arata and Chihaya by making Class A, Chihayafuru indicates that it still has a lot to offer. Whether the rest of the manga gets adapted into future seasons or not, I intend to follow the story to the end. Chihayafuru has been one hell of a ride so far, and whatever the story does from here, I’m sure it will have the same passion and fun that has gotten me to watch it in the first place.