Chihayafuru season 2 isn’t as strong as season 1, but does still leave me hoping for an eventual season 3.
Copious spoilers ahead, and I’m more or less assuming that you’re familiar with the premise and characters from season 1 (which I also spoil by way of comparison).
The Team is the Theme We’re Thinking Of.
Ayase Chihaya is starting her second year of high school by once again promoting the competitive karuta club at Mizusawa. This is not as successful as Chihaya was hoping for, especially as the team is the core theme for season 2.
Season 1’s theme was mostly centred on Chihaya’s development, with the Mizusawa team as secondary (although still important). This is why Chihaya collapses in the national teams tournament in season 1 episode 13 For You, I Head Out: it shifts the focus to the individual tournament, whilst also leaving room for several episodes of Chihaya getting hammered in Tokyo as she attempts to qualify for the Queen match.
In season 2, that collapse becomes Chihaya’s primary motivation for wanting new members: to make Mizusawa into the national champions both as a team, and as individuals.
The Loon Squad Inductees
As I tweeted during this run through:
Indeed, and it applies to the two new members that Chihaya didn’t quite manage to scare off.
Hanano Sumire is a lovestruck girl who mostly joins because she is crushing on Taichi. Sumire is quite a shallow character, but does get some growth over the season, and ends up wanting to do better at karuta just like Chihaya said she would. Tsukuba Akihiro arrives from Hokkaido where he was used to a different type of karuta, but wants to learn the mainlaind style. Akihiro is, frankly, something of a jerk, but he also ends up fitting in quite nicely with the loon squad that is the Mizusawa High School Karuta Club.
The original members of the loon squad aren’t entirely neglected in S2, but many of their accomplishments do take place off screen, which is a pity.
The Teams Tournament
The national teams tournament at Omi Jingu shrine is the core of S2. Much of the story revolves around the members dealing with personal issues, and becoming a team in every sense as they fight their way to the national championship.
This is mostly well handled.
The exception is the pacing. The teams tournament runs from episode 8 Which Shines over Mount MIkasa through to episode 19 I do not know where this love will take me, pausing only for a recap in episode 16 Wait for the Emperor’s Return. At least one match took over three episodes to complete, and there’s a further partial recap in either episode 19 or 20. Bear in mind that by episode 20 in season 1 both the individual and teams tournaments have finished, and Chihaya is back in Tokyo being tutored by Komano to pass key exams.
This is way too close to ¼ opponent of the week territory for me. Individual episodes are well paced, and often have good character moments to make each worth watching. That said, Chihayafuru season 2 really would benefit from tighter editing, and possibly could lose as much as 3-4 episodes over the run.
One of the plot devices at the end of the teams tournament is Chihaya injuring her right hand in the final, and switching to her left for the start of the A-class individual tournament. Given that Chihaya worked for years to reach A-class with her right hand, I struggle to believe that she would be instantly competitive with her left simply by mirroring her card arrangements.
I understand why this was done – it both gives Chihaya insight into how the Queen Shinobu plays, and gives a dramatic moment when Chihaya swaps back to her right hand to face Shinobu again.
But it really does challenge my suspension of disbelief.
Seeing Chihaya get hammered (again) by Shinobu did go some way to restore my faith in Chihayafuru.
Chihayaburu vs Amaburu
One of the supporting themes throughout season 2 is the difference between the two forms of impassioned: chihayaburu and amaburu. The former is focused, balanced, centred, and controlled. The latter is frenzied and loose.
Kana-chan is the one to explain this in episode 7 They All Exchange Hellos and Goodbyes at the Gates of Osaka. After that, it mostly goes unmentioned until Chihaya finally sees Arata play Shinobu in the final of the A-grade individual competition in episode 24 When I Must hide…
That’s when Chihaya sees chihayaburu for hersef in Arata, and finally understands what Kana-chan explained in episode 7, and how far she still has to go to reach it.
But as of the end of season 2, Chihaya is yet to achieve chihayaburu for herself. Interestingly this means that the second Chhayafuru live action movie actually reached into what would be season 3 material. Which is a neat trick given that both live action movies only cover the timeframe up to season 1 episode 15 As Though Pearls Have Been Strung Across the Autumn Plain.
This only highlights the pacing issues for season 2, since the way Chihaya achieves chihayaburu in the live action movies worked dramatically, and emotionally resonated with me.
Pacing issues aside, Chihayafuru S2 is still a strong season that is both worth watching, and rewatching. There are some cringeworthy elements that need to be called out occasionally, especially the treatment of Kana-chan, but for the most part Chihayafuru continues to avoid most of the gratuitous mistakes so often seen in anime.
There is a clear theme, and direction, that makes all the elements work together and avoids the muddled mess of, say, Log Horizon season 2. If you enjoyed Chihayafuru S1, you’ll probably enjoy S2.
If you haven’t seen S1, well, you should fix that. Here’s the S2 opening which I kind of like but isn’t as good as the S1 opening:
 The operative word being “attempts”. During season 1 Chihaya still has far too much to learn about karuta at that level, and about herself as well.
 I have to wonder if the karuta establishment generally have noticed that Komano took less than two years between starting Karuta and winning the C-grade national tournament to make B-grade. And Kana-chan wouldn’t be far behind.