The passion intensifies as the Nationals are in sight.
What They Say:
Chihaya’s determination to become a master karuta player hasn’t changed, but as a new semester begins, the team’s focus switches to recruiting new members for the club in order to keep their meeting space. Unfortunately, while a number of students initially express interest, few are willing to put forth the effort it takes to play on the level of the existing members. Enter Sumire Hanano, who split with her boyfriend on the first day of school. Now seeking a replacement, she thinks that Taichi might just fill the role nicely… even if it means jumping into a pool with a shark like Chihaya! Now all the cards are on the table… or, in this case, the floor… and the games are really about to start!
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the newly created English language dub, both of which are in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that’s fairly straightforward as it’s heavy on the dialogue and not much in the way of action but it’s worked in a really good way. There’s a lot of intensity to the dialogue at times and the way that karuta works in how the pieces are read off has its own particular style that comes through in a rich way. The instrumental music accents the scenes nicely while the opening and closing songs are very well handled with the expanded design. It’s a solid release through and through in the audio area that will please fans.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-five episodes are spread across three discs in a nine/nine/seven format giving it a standard amount of room. Animated by Madhouse, there’s a whole lot to like in how this series is designed with its attention to detail in the cards and the setting in which the games are played but also in how the games are played. The little bits definitely help and they come through clearly here without any breakup or blending into other areas. The room and settings are done up in a good way where they feel lived in and filled with variety depending on the locale while the character animation feels like it exists fully within it rather than just layered on top of it. Colors are a bit more muted but that allows the standout scenes to do just that when the color design is ramped up. Fans of the series will be very pleased by what we get here.
The packaging design for this release brings us a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the three discs inside with a hinge for two of them. The front cover goes for an attempt at something that’s supposed to be a bit more elegant with the green leather-like framing. Similar to the first season, I’d rather not have it and just have the artwork itself because it looks great with the three main characters and the leaves around them. You get a good sense of the characters and the design of the show here and I like how the logo is kept in a separate box rather than trying to be laid on top of the artwork directly. The back cover has a good action shot from the show itself and a small selection of images along the right to tease a bit more. The summary of the premise is clean and easy to get into and the episode and disc count is clearly listed as well. The production credits break things out there cleanly and the technical grid lists all the elements of how the release is put together accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release has some minor in-theme elements to it but mostly just works some nice visuals. With the right side changing out the illustration artwork from volume to volume to show off different characters, the left side features the navigation done as a pair of karuta cards. The top one is the one we get to see in full s it breaks down the episodes by number and title, using “poem” as the prefix for the episode number, while the leave serve as the cursor. It works nicely in giving us a touch of what feels like something from within the show but the really nice part is the artwork as each one definitely is appealing with its detail and look.
The extras for this release are kept simple with just the clean opening and closing sequences, which are always welcome.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Just about two years after the first two-cour series of Chihayafuru came out, there was much delight at the realization of a second season. It’s the kind of property that I was surprised got a first season, never mind a second – and now a third is in the works as of this writing. There was a lot to like in getting to know the karuta club and the cast of characters assembled as it took us through the startup of the club, some of the youthful aspects that tie some of the characters together for a very lightly done romantic triangle the covers the years, and focusing on our central character of Chihaya and the kind of driver and passion that motivates her. These are all familiar things within the sports genre and Chihayafuru certainly qualifies for that, as really evidenced in this set.
It’s very easy to dismiss playing a card game as a sport but there’s a lot of physicality to this one that doesn’t happen in most others. That’s something that’s touched upon lightly in some scenes here, with how the players have to position themselves, the amount of time they play and the strain of it on their bodies, and just in seeing how many rounds they can go through. And that’s before digging into the attacks themselves along with the quick up and down. So it’s a reason that I like that we get some problems with this season, toward the end, with Chihaya suffering from damage done to her hand with such continuous play and practice. It’s not a broken or fractured bone thing but it’s creating that possibility and keeping her from playing for a while (if she listens to her elders). For me, it was good to see how she copes with such a situation since it’s not something you expect after playing for so long but also just to remind viewers of the toll of the game and competitions themselves.
Similar to the first season, I do find it a bit hard to talk about Chihayafuru because so much of it is like those extended sports shows that focus on the matches. There are a lot of matches that take place here as we get the team and individual events underway and that’s an area where there are some problems. For Chihaya, she’s trying to do her best and is very focused on winning but she’s still very new to being part of a team. That trips them up along the way with some of their initial matches because they’re not paying attention to each other and who is winning or losing, which when you need three out of five wins to move forward is problematic. This area gets some attention along the way as Chihaya has to realize things, but she naturally does it in her own kind of haphazard way that doesn’t involve talking to everyone until she really figures it out in full and puts it into motion.
The season does try to bring in some new characters at the start as there’s focus on ensuring that the club lives for some time and with the wins they had the last time around they’re definitely popular. Getting twenty first year students applying as prospective members is a great change from how these things usually go, but most are there just because of a certain handsome boy. The majority of them are whittled away quickly with Chihaya taking to teaching the new members, though it’s really just Sumire who ends up staying for the long haul. So some growth but not without challenges, which is more in line with tradition. The group dynamic is something that was really built up well in the first season as everyone came together and we got a lot of time with the core trio as kids to humanize and connect with them. Bringing Sumire in as the main addition makes it easier to nudge her in to that dynamic, which takes its hits along the way because of the lack of really being a team. The show also does a lot of good stuff in getting into the heads of most of the team as they play throughout these challenging matches so we know what they’re struggling with and seeing how they rally, on their own and with help. It’s all uplifting in the end but the struggles feel real and the accomplishments earned.
If there’s a downside to this set it’s in the whole triangle aspect of the series. Chihaya and Taichi spend a good bit of time together here as they’re in the club together obviously and he’s continually aware of his feelings toward her while she’s oblivious. She’s keen on being able to see Arata again and to play with him and against him, but that’s not set to happen here. In fact, what makes it frustrating is that Arata’s role is minimal overall outside of a subplot involving him being pulled out of competition for an issue and then being involved in the last couple of episodes as he goes up against the Queen. I really like Arata as a character but similar to the first season with a lot of it he’s more of shadow presence than a fully involved character. And it is realistic in how it operates here because it would feel very forced to put them up against each other more directly this early on in things. It’s a waiting game but it’s a hard and frustrating one.
As frustrated as I get with Chihayafuru at times I also realize a key piece about it; it’s addictive as hell. I may not understand a lick of the game of karuta but I enjoy the way it plays out, the tension the characters face, and the creative things they do to win and understand their opponents. This season ups the physical and emotional toll that it all takes as they’re making their way onto the stage more noticeably while having to learn how to be a real team together. It’s a show that looks great with some real attention to detail that I know karuta fans love about it from when I watched the simulcast years ago. Sentai’s release still astounds me that it got dubbed and it’s getting these gorgeous premium editions as well that make me drool with envy for those that pick them up. This season has a lot it deals with and I think it works best marathoning in chunks. Definitely a recommendation.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 20th, 2018
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.