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Chihaya Simplicity

Chihayafuru 17

Chihaya’s openly energetic personality is one of Chihayafuru‘s most entertaining qualities. I noted early on how emotionally transparent she was in childhood, and we have an understanding of her nature because of the flashback. What is interesting about Chihaya is not her genki girl spirit, but the fact that she is one of few main characters who fit this one-dimensional personality. Along with Haruhi Suzumiya (The Melancholy of Haruhia Suzumiya, 2006) and Manabi (Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight, 2007), Chihaya is among exclusive company when it comes to well-characterized leads of the genki girl persuasion [1].

Unlike Haruhi and Manabi, Chihaya’s situation is quite plain despite the similarities: she attends a fairly typical high school and is involved in a pretty standard  karuta club. As ruler of the universe, Haruhi keeps eccentric company and Manabi’s present-day is set in a slightly Dystopian future. There isn’t a comparable edge in the context of Chihayafuru, unless we consider the distance between Chihaya and Arata something of magnitude [2]. But this is where the story shows a unique sense of narrative in developing a genki heroine.

I will confess to liking Chihaya’s character but acknowledge she is too simple shoulder the story on her own. In most situations this would be considered a weakness, but the writing utilizes Chihaya in order to better establish the secondary cast. Her simplicity allows characters who are less experienced in karuta to approach the game in their individual ways with complete relevance as we see Chihaya integrate external perspectives into her own ability.

Chihaya was afflicted after facing Shinobu in the tournament to the point of revitalizing her karuta training and focusing solely on physical aspects including speed and movement. She is obvious in conceding Shinobu’s physical ability as a means to winning. Admittedly, I was also impressed with Shinobu’s sinister precision and phantom movement, and I understand how easy it was to neglect fundamental skills of karuta-play: placement, memory, strategy. And we know, professionals are renowned for making their realm appear elegant and effortless.

This happens to be a great recipe for balancing the justification of characters without unconvincing development. Kana and Desktomu have learned the basics and experienced tournament play, but they are not advancing in a stroke of genius. Their progress is modest and believable. And while they are not the best karuta players in the club, they continue to prove themselves in other ways, especially in enlightening Chihaya so that she may become a better player herself.

Call it obstinate, but Chihaya does not have the required depth to arrive at the same realizations on her own. She is basic and reckless, a type of lead that can easily become a turn-off by draining the audience. But that is not the case with Chihayafuru. Characters, their distinct abilities, and the chemistry between them give us reason to understand Chihaya’s development beyond plain hard work. Such chemistry may be insignificant, but I believe it is valuable in maintaining a satisfying story.

That would be another testament to the writing in Chihayafuru.

Notes

[1] – I attribute 10 Things I Hate About You to the phrasing; “angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion.”
[2] – 5 Centimeters Per Second.

Categories: Autumn, Meditation.

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12 Responses

  1. So here goes another awesome post from Ryan-san!

    I’m happy to see your blogging is getting active recently; I do get a motiviation whenever you write a new post. It helps me write more. :p

    I do feel like watching Chihayafuru. From your analysis on Chihaya, I think it brings a pretty dramatic experience. It might be fun to write about!

    • Haha, I’m not sure about awesome, but thanks. I’m glad my activity motivates you, that’s very kind.

      Check out the first few episodes. It doesn’t take long to know if you like it. The childhood flashback had me hooked.

      Cheers!

  2. Chihayafuru is the only show where I really liked the first episode, but then failed to continue watching it because there were so many other shows (and things in life) going on. I am happy to hear that the story continues to be well-written, despite your complaints about Chihaya’s simplicity your post actually made me watch more.

    • Haha, it wasn’t meant to be a complaint but an observation that the character’s simplicity is a display of good writing that could have easily fell flat. I enjoy the genki girls very much. I do have complaints about the show’s composition and animation direction, stylistic elements, but they don’t relegate what’s going on.

      Yes, watch more. Although I’m not hooked on karuta, there are some beautiful concepts.

  3. “What is interesting about Chihaya is not her genki girl spirit, but the fact that she is one of few main characters who fit this one-dimensional personality.”

    This is also what I exactly liked about Chihaya. Her character is very down-to-earth. Although she’s talented, I love how she’s capable of being vulnerable in a very organic way. Whenever I watch her, it feels like I’m watching a real character with believable emotions.

    Also, I love her match with Shinobu and with the “Lucky” woman really portrayed how her character isn’t invincible because she exactly delivers the message that brilliance is 90% hard-work +dedication and 10% talent. Plus, even her beauty has its flaws which is so adorable. I appreciate the fact that it’s not being used to exploit the spotlight. For instance, she doesn’t have the gracefulness of Kanna, the leadership of Taichi, and cleverness of Desk-kun letting the other characters to shine on their own moments…

    I always believe that one’s simplicity makes it extraordinary, and Chihyafuru is one of them mainly because of Chihaya. Btw, sorry for quite a rant, I’m a very huge Chihaya fan.

    • Haha, I’m aware you’re a Chihaya fan.

      I love how she’s capable of being vulnerable in a very organic way.

      Yes, it feels very natural and in-character for her to lose control of a match and ultimately fail. She has a minimal level of awareness, but we see her developing. You lead me to an interesting thought. Her obliviousness, her simple modes of vision and expression, these are hints at something larger: a lack of identity. What we may be seeing is Chihaya finding “herself,” which of course will allow her to be a greater player.

      Ah, that’s refreshing! Thank you for the rant Ms. Snippet.

      • But come to think of it, that lack of identity is somewhat ironic. First, Chihaya knows exactly what she wants to be–to become a queen. At the same time, as you have mentioned her obliviousness and her search for strengths leads to the lack of identity because she doesn’t know yet her true trump cards or winning moves yet.

        I ranted because your interesting post gave me an opportunity to rant that’s why I should be the one thanking you. Now, you made me rant again. fufu~

        • Yea, and this last episode was great because it focused on her battling [with herself] and striving to become more self-aware of her game. The next episode should also hold more realizations as she observes the other matches. Would be great if the story can keep this momentum.

          Snippet is too cute!

  4. You are very insightful! I really like your analysis. Indeed Chihaya would be the type of girl I’d usually hate in anime/ manga, you know, beautiful but dense, and yet they excecute the story in a way there’s not a single person disliking her. The side-characters are also very likeable and thus they make a very impressive whole.

    • they excecute the story in a way there’s not a single person disliking her.

      It’s so true. And I think the only point she might frustrate viewers is in the romance department. We’re so used to seeing dense harem leads, it’s sickening. Chihaya is a fresh take on the type of character who isn’t properly in-tune with others’ affection for her. It’s not unfathomable either because we see her so caught up in karuta.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. I will confess to liking Chihaya’s character but acknowledge she is too simple to shoulder the story on her own…

    The chemistry and variety of development amongst the characters, and the tightness of the writing, are definite strengths. The comments re: Chihaya journeying to find her own identity are interesting, and also make me recall Arata’s admonishment that she needs to stop living in the shadow of her sister and find her own dream. Chihaya’s dream of being Queen and her struggle to get there is thus admirable, but I hope she isn’t just chasing Arata and Shinobu and living in their collective shadow either. Just a thought, but given how the story is more heavilly Karuta-based that I first thought it would be (not that I mind, I especially enjoy Kana-chan’s love of the game/ poetry), it’ll be interesting to see how the game os used to flesh out the idea of Chihaya carving out her own idenity and legacy, whatever the latter will end up being…

    • She has been chasing a dream that is largely dependent on others, it in their shadows. But that also makes it relateable. It takes a while to develop one’s identity, usually from early teens to twenties. And what is it, if nothing more than a framework which we see ourselves for the purpose of learning and furthering growth. That is where she is at, so it may not be her identity but can be viewed as similar. Sometimes I have heard masters of such things say that their domain, whether it sport or not, has brought them vast self-knowledge. I like that idea, because I like metaphors too.

      I think we look forward to see how much she can learn.