Genres: Drama, Josei
Creators: Suetsugu Yuki and Takayama Naoya
Length: 50 episodes (two seasons)
Highlights: An introduction to the Josei genre
Shoujo is the female counterpart of shōnen, being aimed at young and teenage girls. These shows are typically highly cutesy and pink and focused on romance and friendship. We have not covered any shoujo shows in this series because I don’t watch any shoujo. Josei is the female counterpart to seinen, and while it generally has shoujo’s emphasis on romance and friendship, it also possesses seinen’s emphasis on mature themes and realistic character development. Josei is the least lucrative of the four genres, and these anime series are rare. One example of this genre is Eden of the East, and another is Chihayafuru.
Chihaya Ayase is a girl who is convinced she has no talents of her own, and for a long time has had only goal in life: to support her sister in her modeling career. That is, until she meets a boy named Arata Wataya. He is a skilled player of a card game called “karuta” (meaning “One Hundred Poets”), who sees her play and believes she has potential in it. The two of them become friends as he teaches Chihaya and her friend, Taichi Mashima, karuta. They are separated when Arata moves to a different town, but Chihaya keeps her passion alive by starting a karuta club at her high school. Arata has helped Chihaya develop a dream of her own: to become the “Queen”, the best female karuta player in the world.
Often referred to as “the other anime about a card game” (in reference to Yu-Gi-Oh!), the game portrayed in the show is a real sport. A karuta deck consists of 100 cards, each of which has an ancient Japanese poem printed on it. A game has two players facing each other, who divide the cards between them and lay them out in a grid pattern in front of them. A reader then draws cards from a matching deck and reads the poem printed upon it; the players then have to swipe the card off the board before their opponent does. The game continues until the board is empty, and the player who took the most cards is the winner. Chihayafuru uses the game of karuta as a plot device to bring its characters together, as well as provide tension and a form of action in the form of competitive games.
Although the show places karuta in the center stage, in actuality the show is really just a drama series about Chihaya and her friends, most of who are fellow karuta players. Because this is a josei series, the character development and relationships are portrayed in a very realistic manner. I was a little bit hesitant to watch Chihayafuru initially due to my limited experience with josei series; however I quickly grew to enjoy it as a both a drama show which portrays a refreshingly realistic version of interpersonal relationships and as a change of pace from the typically dark and action-orientated series I usually watch (and write about in this series).
So, if big, dark actions shows aren’t really your thing, or you just need a change of pace, then Chihayafuru is a great entryway to the josei genre.