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Manga / Chihayafuru

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Chihaya Ayase dreamt of seeing her sister become Japan's next top model, until one day, when a new transfer student, Arata Wataya, tells her that she should have a dream for herself to work at. Arata's own dream is to become a top Karuta player; this dream also becomes Chihaya's own after she experiences the game firsthand and becomes entranced by it.

Chihayafuru is a josei sports/traditional games/romance manga that began its run in Be Love in 2007, and was the winner of the Kodansha Manga Award for Best Shoujo and the Manga Taisho Award. It also marked the recovery of the author, Yuki Suetsugu, after the infamous plagiarism scandal that almost ruined her career.

Two seasons of an anime adaptation aired as part of the Fall 2011 Anime and Winter 2013 Anime seasons, with a third season airing in 2019-2020. Three Japanese live action films starring Suzu Hirose, Shuhei Nomura, and Mackenyu Arata were released in 2016 and 2018.


This work contains:

  • As You Know: Kanade gives her knowledge of karuta's backstory in this fashion, not knowing that Chihaya knows next to nothing about it.
  • Bishounen: Arata and Taichi are slim attractive men, and they were also cute young boys in the flashback episodes.
  • Book Dumb: Chihaya. It's been noted by the others that she is one of the last twelve people in terms of grades.
  • Bookends: The first episode and the last episode of the first season has Chihaya pinning up notices for the karuta club.
  • Book Smart: Tsutomu Komano studies so much that everyone calls him Desktomu, and is #2 as a result. He is still not able to surpass Taichi, who is #1 without as much effort, and it's one of his major gripes.
  • Breather Episode: Episode 16 contains a mixture of omakes and a Clip Show, coming hot off the episode where Chihaya just lost to "The Queen" and Taichi losing in the final round of B group. These joke scenes take place in between clips from past episodes, which seem to serve solely as framing for when the scenes occur.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Taichi was a mean kid who wasn't ashamed for his bullying of Arata.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Chihaya's older sister is a teen/young adult who is obsessed with her career and not as grateful to her parents as Chihaya is.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • While trying to decide on a new design for the team uniforms, Chitose comes up with some pretty good concepts; but then Chihaya hears a "voice from the heavens" (the author) vetoing the designs.
      Sidetext: "Those are a pain to draw, so no thanks!"
    • In the second season, it's revealed that Chihaya doesn't actually know what "Chihayafuru" means, so Kanade says, "We're in the second season and she still doesn't know what the title means?!"
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: As Komano says it best:
    "All the best Karuta players are weirdos."
  • Buxom Is Better: Kana-chan, who is also a Nice Girl and is shown as getting approval as the most attractive dating candidate from all of the club members (quite begrudgingly from Taichi's side). Yes, even Chihaya's.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Yuki Suetsugu seems to go the extra mile on this trope. Sometimes when she makes some minor characters, she puts them in prominent places on the page, even gives them background stories, and we'll never see them again.
  • Catch Your Death of Cold: Shinobu catches the cold after getting caught out in the rain.
  • Character Development: Everyone gets some development in both technique and character as the story goes on.
  • Child Prodigy: Tachikawa Ririka, who made Rank A at grade 4.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Chitose sure is a Jerkass, but the New Year's money omake was so darn funny anyway.
  • Cool Old Lady: Kanai Sakura is a skilled and friendly karuta player who beat Chihaya in the latter's first Rank A tournament, and in doing so, gave her the epiphany she needed to really realize her weaknesses. They parted on good terms and hoped to see each other in the Eastern qualifiers.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Karuta players are required to memorize 100 poems (or at least their first few syllables) so that when a reader recites them, they would be able to find and take its corresponding card. On top of that, they are given 15 minutes to memorize the arrangement of the cards for their current match in order to take those cards before their opponents do. But after a series of matches within the tournament day, there is the growing possibility for them to mistakenly touch cards based on the position they used to have in previous matches. So karuta players also need to forget those past card positions and remember only the current card arrangements. Chihaya demonstrates this conditioned habit of remembering and forgetting when she was memorizing excerpts from Alice in Wonderland while listening from an audio book, only to forget them minutes later.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Shinobu is like Arata since she is also a young karuta prodigy who strongly outclasses most players and can come off as a little awkward or stoic.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Funnily enough Taichi, a handsome and popular guy, is unable to get his feelings across to Chihaya nor catch her affection.
  • Dude Magnet:
    • Chihaya attracts many guys to her looks, but said guys are usually driven off by her personality afterward.
    • Kanade is this along with Even the Girls Want Her, as all the other karuta club members unanimously decided that she's the person they would all want to date (Chihaya included).
  • Epiphany Therapy: Chihaya and Taichi go to Fukui to see Arata during his Heroic BSoD, and their meeting helps bring him back to karuta.
  • Fan Disservice: In-universe example with Chihaya and Shinobu, both are often complimented on their looks and at the same time they're considered weird (the former's personality and the latter's fashion sense).
  • Fighting Your Friend: The Individual Tournament Class B and D matches ends with Taichi vs Nishida and Kanade vs Komano respectively.
  • Force and Finesse: A common clash of styles, most notably in Chihaya's first encounters with Sakura and Shinobu (both extremely precise and efficient players) when she was still relying on speed and power to bull her way through matches.
  • Gainaxing: Kanade's chest bounces quite prominently in episode 17 during the relay race. Cheers from the male crowd were extra loud when it's her turn to run.
  • Gaming and Sports Anime & Manga: A series about karuta which cross over to Slice of Life sometimes.
  • Genki Girl: Chihaya is a cute and very enthusiastic and energetic girl.
  • The Gloves Come Off: At the end of episode 21 of season 2, Chihaya unwraps her injured right hand in preparation for the match with the Queen.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: In-Universe example. Taichi had this attitude for a while, even quitting karuta for a while because he felt that he wouldn't be able to catch up to Arata even if he kept it up his whole life. Harada-sensei told him that it's a waste to think like that if he never even tried. Ultimately averted when it comes to any player who's at all good, even Arata and the Queen, who all achieved their levels of skill through determination, hard work and practice.
  • Heritage Disconnect: Played for Laughs in one episode. The gang goes against the Chiba team, which consists of "foreigners" who speak English with Japanese accents. This however is intentional. They were raised in Japan and can barely speak English. They were just pretending to be foreigners to freak out their competition.
  • Hot-Blooded:
    • Chihaya is very dedicated to playing karuta and will make very sure that everyone around her knows it.
    • So is Sudo, who manages to drive Chihaya to tears by bullying her "lack of motivation" (ie. passing out during the match).
  • How We Got Here: Manga begins with an 18 year old Chihaya playing in the Queen match. Immediately flashes back 6 years before to show us how she met Arata and discovered her passion for karuta. The story picks up again 3 years later when the cast is in their first year of highschool.
  • Important Haircut: In chapter 193, Taichi cuts his hair short right before his Meijin qualifier final against Arata.
  • In-Series Nickname: Most of the cast.
    • Tsutomu is Tsukue ("desk")/"Desktomu," due to his studiousness and hilarious devotion to his school desk.
    • Kanade goes as "Kana-chan."
    • Nishida is "Nikuman" ("pork bun")/"Porky," no points for guessing for what reason.
    • Chihaya is known as "Beauty in Vain" in the school.
    • Arata is called "Megane-kun" ("glasses") by Harada-sensei.
    • Taichi is called "Matsuge-kun" ("eyelashes") by Harada-sensei. Which fits as Taichi is a Bishounen.
    • Hiro is "Hyoro-kun" ("retro").
    • Taichi's mom is, quite fittingly, "Mrs. Pressure."
  • Jerkass: Taichi and his mom, but the former kinda leans to Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Sometimes.
    • As of the timeskip, Taichi is more firmly within the Jerk with a Heart of Gold category.
    • Also, Chitose, who withheld from giving Chihaya her New Year's money to buy herself some new clothes (since she'll be giving them to Chihaya in two years anyway) can't bring herself to continue acting that way seeing how nice and cheerful Chihaya always is and immediately gave her that fashionable new jacket she bought as an indirect apology.
  • Kansai Regional Accent: Arata gets teased because of his.
  • Kawaiiko: Kanai Sakura, whom Chihaya is playing during her first A Class tournament, dresses and speaks in a manner of a teenager despite being a middle-aged woman.
  • Kick the Dog: We immediately see that Taichi's mother is a jerkass when she harshly reprimands him for the The B Grade.
  • Kids Are Cruel: When the whole class (except Chihaya) bullies Arata.
  • Lady of War: Kanade tells Chihaya that she needs to be more graceful at all times even in the heat of battle.
  • Lap Pillow: Between Chihaya and Arata, after she faints from a fever during a match.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Taichi, Arata and Chihaya form the main one, as both boys pursue Chihaya.
    • Sumire tries to form one for Taichi against Chihaya, but she is so far unsuccessful in the endeavor.
  • Meaningful Name: All of the major characters have a karuta poem with which they are associated, often times this card is considered their "signature card". The most blatant one is Chihayaburu, which is both Chihaya's signature card and the series namesake. However, Kanade's signature card is Ooeyama, and the card Sumire identifies with is Hananoiro, which both of their last names reference.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Played straight in the manga, which actually takes a few chapters to get through. The anime starts with Chihaya in high school and turns the childhood stories into a few whole episode flashbacks in order to make the Grand Finale come full circle.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: The rules of Karuta are amazingly lax when it comes to unfair playing tactics. For example, if you aren't sure which card to remove, you can swipe a whole bunch out of the playing area with one move. If the correct card is among them, you get the point; if not, there's no penalty. Since players are allowed to arrange their own cards as they choose, they can even maximize the effectiveness of this tactic. On the other hand, rearranging cards in the middle of a match too much is improper behavior.
    • Desktomu-kun uses this to his advantage in episode 19 to stage a comeback by rearranging his remaining cards so he can swipe them all without having to identify which one's being read.
  • Oblivious to Love: Chihaya seems to be oblivious to Taichi's crush on her.
  • One Steve Limit: With the ever-growing list of characters, this is bound to be averted. As of the last count, there are 3 (GASP!) Taichis, 3 Makotos and 4 Midoris.
  • Potty Emergency: Arata due to food poisoning. He also routinely has unlucky illnesses.
  • The Power of Friendship: Harada-sensei says it best: kids can't go far in karuta without friends.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: What karuta teams are in general and Mizusawa's in particular. Kana-chan is all about kimonos and early Japanese culture, but isn't really good in sports. Desktomu was a serious, study-oriented type who had no time for extracurricular activities. Chihaya is karuta-obsessed to the point of monomania. Taichi and Porky seem to be the most well-adjusted in the group.
  • Rich Bitch: Taichi's mother, emphasis on bitch, because she gives her kid crap for getting great but not perfect grades in school.
  • Same-Sex Triplets: Tsukuba's three younger brothers aren't really triplets (they're year apart), but their Strong Family Resemblance and characterization in general fits the manner of showing Same-Sex Triplets in fiction. Chihaya even mistakes them for triplets.
  • Scary Black Man: The team of students from Chiba International School Play With this. Tsukuba has some decidedly cringe-worthy and uncomfortable interactions with the team's black member, Matt, but Matt turns out to be a total sweetheart and a bit of a Gentle Giant. More than anything, Tsukuba comes away looking like a bigot.
  • Serious Business:
    • Traditional Japanese clothing is this for Kanade, to the point where she joins the club only on the condition that they start wearing hakama. She gets it from her mom.
    • The actual hundred poems, also to Kana. She takes it as a personal affront when Nishida berates her card arrangement, when he doesn't know any more about the cards than how he arranges them for ease of play, as Kana knows them all by heart.
    • Karuta to the karuta players, who don't let the fact that few others care for karuta get in the way of them playing their best.
      • Arata's grandfather, who was diagnosed with early dementia and was on his sick bed, for a brief moment remembers the tournament and demands that Arata goes.
  • Shipper on Deck: When Kana starts to notice Chihaya may have feelings for Arata, she strongly encourages Taichi to visit her without other club members, insists he should make his feelings known, and even arranges for them to have time alone together.
  • Sleep Cute: Between Chihaya and Taichi.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Arata's dad is indirectly responsible for his son's meeting with Chihaya and Taichi, as he had moved away from Fukui because of a spat with his own dad, the Eternal Meijin Hajime Arata.
  • Stern Teacher: Miyauchi-sensei, who is feared for her strictness but is also supportive of her students. She initially doesn't think much of competitive karuta until she sees how seriously the karuta club was practicing, after which she decides to personally chaperone them to Omi Jingu and learn some about the one-hundred poems herself.
    • She's also pretty accepting of the karuta club's formation before she even got serious with it at all, giving them a room to use (even if it's a storage room) and immediately recognizing them as an official club as soon as they got all five members, the only other condition being that someone other than Chihaya becomes the president.
  • Underdogs Always Win:
    • The karuta club won against all the athletic clubs during their school's athletic meet. While they did regularly train to build up their stamina (with Chihaya having done so since she started karuta) and that Taichi and Nishida were in athletic clubs before, Tsutomu and Kana-chan started only relatively recently, and they won against even the track team.
    • This is subverted when it comes to Karuta itself.
  • The Unfavorite: Chihaya appears to be less favored than her sister but she becomes a subversion. Her parents seem to come off as uncaring toward her at first when they seem to have endless picture albums of her older sister and her modeling career, but it turns out that they're overjoyed at the fact they can now collect newspaper clippings of both their daughters. Chihaya's only just started.
  • Unknown Rival: The Queen treats Sudo as though she's unaware that he is trying to defeat her specifically, although it's quite obvious that she's mocking him.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Chihaya. She's incredibly fast, but has no technique. In episode 17, both Tsutomu and Kana-chan point out her weaknesses, which actually pulls her out of her Heroic BSoD after Harada-sensei points out to her the problem of relying on speed alone. In episode 18, it's all but spelled out to her why her over reliance on her speed and sharp ears isn't always the best way to play.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Tsutomu and Kanade aren't the quickest to react in a karuta game, but after some time, they've both devised personalized playing styles that utilize their strengths. Tsutomu keeps track of his games with everyone, figuring out their strengths and weaknesses through observation and using them against them. Kanade can tell apart the cards with a certainty, to the point where multi-syllabic cards that start similarly are two totally different cards to her. They haven't won much, and still lose often to those faster then them, but in such a short amount of time, they've already closed the gap against ranked players.
    • Kanade's arrangement of cards on her side of the field (by season instead of by sound) probably also confuses the heck out of her opponents, although it hasn't been mentioned as a competitive advantage.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The flashback when Chihaya is pinning up the notice about the karuta club that starts halfway through episode 1 doesn't end until the end of episode 5.

Alternative Title(s): Chihaya Full