Guest Sep 13, 2012
Winner of the 2009 Manga Taishou Award and the 2011 Kodansha Manga Award in the shoujo category, Chihayafuru is published by Kodansha in their Be Love magazine. There are 14 volumes of this series in Japan, with the next volume being released on November 11, 2011.
The Gist: Chihaya Ayase is inspired by fellow classmate Arata Wataya to learn the game of Karuta of the Hyakunin Isshu variety, or 100 poems. When Chihaya, Arata, and classmate Taichi find a passion for Karuta in 6th grade, their friendships must endure an impending separation while attending different middle schools. Chihaya, now in high school, is fired up to become a master at Karuta and continues her practice in hopes of meeting Arata and Taichi in national competition. When Taichi enrolls at Chihaya’s high school, he discovers a girl who is not only passionate but beautiful. Influenced by Chihaya’s exuberance, he agrees to start a club with her if she can achieve A-rank in a city competition. When Chihaya and Taichi seek out Arata, they discover he refuses to play Karuta due to some painful memories. Will the three ever be reunited to play Karuta with passion again?
The “Give Me” Factor: The idea of this series reminds me somewhat of Hikaru no Go. I had no idea what Karuta was, but quickly picked up an understanding of it from the manga. The “sport” of Karuta seems like a reflexive and challenging game for all ages. I really love the friendship that is formed between these three characters as children. The understanding of having dreams for yourself and setting a goal are a positive message in this series. Since this series is aimed at a female audience, there will definitely be a love triangle between these three teens. I sooo want to watch how that plays out. Chihaya is the oblivious one, but it looks like she has feelings for Arata. Although, Arata and Taichi have had an understanding since elementary school that they both like her. Pretty please, publishers! I really want to read this story!
The Prospective Audience: I think this series would do well with both genders. Not only is the topic of Karuta fun and fascinating, the relationship of the three friends makes for an interesting dynamic. A huge plus for the series to do well in the US market is that the anime is already airing in Japan this fall and can be viewed on Crunchyroll. This story is not meant to be just a high school shoujo romance. Oh no, the character development and storyline push it outside those typical boundaries. I would love to get my hands on more volumes of this series!