The Japanese Film Festival's Poster for Chihayafuru

The Japanese Film Festival’s Poster for Chihayafuru

Chihayafuru part 2 is probably not as strong a film as part 1, but is still definitely worth seeing. It is also the film where Chihaya gets her emotional arc. That arc is highly satisfying, but involves substantial compression of material covered in the anime, as well as a significant change in focus.

These are necessary changes due to the time constraints of fitting within movie length, but may be disconcerting to fans of the Chihayafuru franchise, especially fans of the manga[1].

The Actual Timeframe

Barring a framing device used in both parts 1[2] and 2[3], Chihayafuru part 2 covers from approximately episode 12 Sets These Forbidden Fields Aglow through to episode 15 As Though Pearls Have Been Strung Across the Autumn Plain. In other words from Mizusawa High qualifying for the nationals through to Chihaya’s defeat by the Queen Shinobu in the individual matches.

Thematically it reaches well into season 2.

The Thematic Timeframe

A major theme of the post episode 16[4] season 1 Chihayafuru was Chihaya learning painful lessons about her weaknesses as a karuta player. During these episodes Chihaya had to stop relying on her speed and learn from her teammates.

Love of the poems from Kana.

Strategy from Komano.

Improved memorisation from Taichi.

Persistence and passion from Nishida.

All of these things needed to be added to Chihaya’s own karuta to raise her to the level of the Queen. A good chunk of this happens over the course of episodes 17 World Offers No Escape through to 25 Moonlight, Clear and Bright in season 1, with more in season 2 if I recall correctly[5].

However, a movie like Chihayafuru doesn’t have enough time to really examine those things, and so an alternative approach was needed.

Isolation and Teamwork

The solution for Chihayafuru part 2 is to draw heavily on another theme of the franchise, solitude vs teams, and use that to drive Chihaya’s emotional growth.

Essentially Chihaya finds out that she’s likely to face Shinobu in the individual matches and becomes obsessed with defeating her.

In her attempts to become strong enough to defeat Shinobu, Chihaya ends up isolating herself from the team, and to an extent loses herself in the process. Meanwhile Taichi is doing the same with his quest to become an A-grade player, albeit to a somewhat lesser extent.

All of this is in the shadow of Arata having abandoned karuta with neither Taichi nor Chihaya knowing what to do about that, only that their original team is broken somehow.

Chihaya goes through some painful isolation in the midsection of Chihayafuru part 2, but the eventual realisation of what she needs, and the reconciliation with the Mizusawa Karuta Club is beautifully handled.

It’s also neatly structured so that Taichi being called out by, and reconciling to the club, then plays into Chihaya’s reconciliation. This moment also builds nicely on Komano’s moment in part 1[6].

The team matches at the nationals go the way they did in the anime: Chihaya gets sick as a means to get them out of the way quickly. Once the individual matches begin, Harada-sensei again intervenes to give a bit of priestly advice to treat even these individual matches as team matches.

Arata and Shinobu

Chihayafuru part 2 seems to establish a more formal connection, if not rivalry, between Arata and Shinobu, to the extent of Shinobu attending the funeral of Arata’s grandfather. I’m not sure, but I think this is staged to give an explicit voice in Shinobu to the case for solitary karuta versus the team approach for Chihaya, Mizusawa and, although he doesn’t quite realise it yet, Arata himself.

This is another moment towards the finale where Harada-sensei plays the priest to Arata to help him find his own path to karuta, and a reason beyond his grandfather.

Chihaya vs Shinobu

As in the anime, Chihaya gets pretty thoroughly hammered.

But this is where she really learns the lesson of friendship and teamwork, remembers to have fun simply doing the best that she can, and just never gives up until she’s finally beaten. There are some gloriously staged moments here, particularly one with Kana that just make the friendship and teamwork sequence sing.

Chihayafuru part 2 may stumble a bit getting to this point, but once it gets here it is emotionally just as good as part 1.

The Verdict

I’m still tempted to go back next week to watch Chihayafuru part 1 and 2 again on the big screen, just to let them roll over me without thinking about what I’d write about them. Part 1 is definitely the stronger part, but part 2 is still an excellent film and again thoroughly recommended to fans of the Chihayafuru franchise. As with part 1 it looks and sounds great, and the cast all deliver solid performances.

It’s hard for me to say but I think that the films will also work for people who aren’t familiar with the franchise, and hopefully Grant Watson will also review these films when the Japanese Film Festival hits Melbourne in late November.

Snarky Bits and Barely Hidden Spoilers of Awesome

[1] I haven’t read the manga, but I am considering sourcing a fan translation.

[2] Although I didn’t mention it then because it was a truly major spoiler. See next footnote if you dare.

[3] ROT-13 because this is one spoiler you should have to make an effort for: Puvunln’f ragenapr gb gur Dhrra zngpu ntnvafg Fuvaboh juvyfg Nengn vf qrsraqvat gur gvgyr bs Znfgre ntnvafg Gnvpuv. Puvunln’f cbjre jnyx va gung unxnzn vf whfg NJRFBZR..

[4] Episode 16 The Mountain Leaves of Mount Ogura is the recap episode featuring the animated yonkoma gags in addition to the recap. Specifically the yonkomas where Chihaya’s sister Chitose is bad and should feel bad.

[5] I haven’t rewatched S2 yet, so I may come back to confirm that point later.

[6] Although poor Kana-chan does get a few key moments, overall she and Nishida seem to be a little hard done-by in the movies.