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Chihayafuru: Mortality, My Friend


The summer just after turning seventeen my family dealt with the loss of our grandfather to brain cancer. It was a mere seven months after he had suffered a stroke and we noticed his mind and body began to falter. His degradation was sad, and there were many times during his last months here when we did not know if he would wake from momentary coma or even remember us at day’s end. For me this was the first time I parted with someone so close, a relative who shared his attention with me for as long as I could remember. Naturally, there was a sadness to his passing though difficult to recall my exact emotions, but this loss was distinct in the sense of helplessness felt by those who witness the gradual shift away from this life.

Taken by surprise, I had a soft identification to the shake-up Arata felt in episode 13 of Chihayafuru as his grandfather gradually passed on. This was the necessary exposition we’ve been waiting for in order to better understand Arata’s passionless attitude towards the game of Karuta. Arata is confronted with mortality through his grandfather, a person close to his heart, and learns the fragility of life first-hand through a somewhat dissonant experience. Much like my own experience, Arata’s grandfather was not simply here-then-gone but flickering as his health degenerated.

I wouldn’t suggest episode 13 further develops Arata as a character, but I think each scene focusing on him and his grandfather produces a much more emotionally convincing narrative altogether; it’s believable and especially powerful given the sense of identification. Healing takes times, and by the end of the episode we understand there is a distance between Arata’s period of loss and the present-day, making his timely return to the game feel appropriate.

Seeing how Arata was handled and the way I received Chihaya’s emotions, I’d say the writing is worthy of some praise.

Categories: Autumn, Meditation.