Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chihayafuru 2, Friendship Changes, and Finishing Thoughts

[Some small spoilers ahead - nothing about who wins/loses any matches, though]

Chihayafuru 2 is over. It’s been over for a week an a half, but I’ve finally finished episode 25.

I love this show. 

The suspense of karuta tournaments, the lovely art, the good pacing, and the entertaining characters would keep me hooked no matter what. Yet Chihayafuru does more than entertain me. It draws out an empathy that I feel with very few other shows. Part of me doesn’t like the attachment I feel to the characters and their relationships, because it makes my heart hurt a little.

Chihaya shares a bond with two dear childhood friends: Taichi and Arata. Over the years, they’ve gone their separate ways. Arata only lived nearby for a short time in elementary school before he moved back to Fukui, but he is the one who ignited Chihaya’s passion for karuta. Because of that, he’s secured a special place in her heart. Taichi was never truly far away. He went to a different middle school than Chihaya, but when they reunite in high school, it’s clear that he still feels deeply connected to her, and not just because they played karuta together.

Each of the three see their bond in a slightly different light: 

Flashback to the good old days of
Chihaya and Arata's early matches.
Chihaya holds tightly to their connection through karuta. She has a passion not only for the game, but for the people she shares it with, especially Arata and Taichi. The game bonded them when they were little, and now it draws them back together. Arata is the goal Chihaya reaches for as a karuta player. In the end of the most recent series, it appears her heart has begun to go even further, as she muses, “For the rest of my life, I’ll always love karuta, and I’ll always love Arata.” I’m not sure if she means love love, or if she even knows what she means, but something’s there.

To Arata, the days he spent with Chihaya and Taichi are sweet memories. It is clear that, despite the distance, and despite the long periods of time without contact, he holds them dear. He would love to play on a team with them again, and he visualizes his matches with Chihaya to put himself in the zone when he plays competitive karuta.

Episode 20, Taichi and Arata
Taichi’s feelings aren’t so simple. He loves karuta, but it is not the only thing on his mind. He cares for Chihaya as more than a friend or teammate. Because of that, Arata isn’t just a childhood friend or a friendly rival. In Taichi’s mind, it’s not just karuta that’s on the table: it’s Chihaya’s heart. In fact, in episode 20 of Chihayafuru 2, Taichi says to his back, “You are my enemy.” Arata doesn’t hear the quiet words. In fact, Arata seems almost as oblivious as Chihaya to the whole thing. But I heard it clearly, and it made me a bit sad.

If I think back, I remember that Taichi wasn’t all that fond of Arata when they were young; he seemed to fake it to make Chihaya happy. Still, I, like Chihaya, wanted the friendship to be real and lasting.

I’m a loyal person. Once I decide someone is important to me, they stay important to me forever. Our paths may part. We may move away and find other interests. Yet, no matter how far apart we wander, that person will always have a place in my heart and home. 

Since I feel my attachments so deeply, I can’t help but project the same feelings onto Chihaya and her friendships. I long for peace among the three. I want them to play karuta together again, both on a team and as friendly rivals. I want Chihaya to remain ignorant of the ways of the heart, and I want Taichi’s heart to be at peace. I want to know where Arata’s heart is. I just want them all to be okay.

The reality is that friendships change. I’m afraid that, someday, Chihaya will have to let go of the bond she thought they all felt. That will be hard. I haven’t had to deal with romance, but I’ve had to make my peace with changing friendship. It hurt, even though the change had nothing to do with negative interactions or fights. Yet I’m okay. I know that Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata will be okay someday to, but I’m afraid that at least one of them will feel lonely.

Chihaya and Taichi at the end of
episode 25, moving forward, eyes
on the future.
I keep trying to think of a way for things to turn out positively for the three. Maybe if Chihaya outgrows her infatuation with Arata, she and Taichi will eventually become a couple. I think they’d be great together. I don’t know where Arata’s heart is, but maybe he will eventually find someone, too, someone who will join Chihaya in strengthening the bonds even as they change. First, though, I think the three need to make peace with their childhood friendship and what it means for their current relationship. Maybe they’ll be able to do that the next time they meet karuta tournament. I hope so.

But does it matter what I hope? Aren’t I powerless in the face of the original mangaka’s work? All I can do is re-watch old episodes and wait for Chihayafuru 3 to come out. Because there must be another season coming eventually, right? Sure, nothing’s planned yet, but no halfway decent studio could leave us hanging like this, at least not without someone having a guilty conscience... right? Yeah, sure, I could always switch to the manga if I got too desperate, but still... No matter. Time to move on. I’ve got novels to read, Spring anime to finish, and life to live. I refuse to hang my happiness on a single anime, even one so good as Chihayafuru

1 comment:

  1. SUCH a great series. You hit it on the head - the relationship between the three is part of what makes the series so wonderful and angsty, and what keeps us viewers wondering (and hoping).


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