Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A quick note before the review starts. I was able to see the first two episodes at Crunchyroll Expo 2019 and these episodes are not currently available on streaming websites.
The producer of Season 3, Toshio Nakatani was present for this event and he revealed some interesting facts about the Chihayafuru anime. He said that they had gone to actual Karuta matches to understand how people’s emotions are during their matches. They recorded some sounds at tournaments to use for the anime. He mentioned specifically that they recorded people playing Karuta as they hit the tatami mats and used these sounds for the anime. He said that Karuta has grown in popularity due to the various media adaptations of Chihayafuru.
Another interesting fact is that Toshio Nakatani was also the producer for Hunter X Hunter. He revealed that the voice actress for Chihaya, Seto Asami, had originally auditioned for a role in Hunter X Hunter but ended up arriving late and had shown up wearing her school uniform. She said “I’m so sorry, I’m late” and he saw Chihaya in her spirit and said that “Woah, its Chihaya” and she ended up getting the role for Chihaya. Unfortunately, she didn’t get a role in Hunter X Hunter.
Now onto the episode 1. The episode starts off with some backstory of when Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata are children and how they grew to love Karuta. It was a sweet scene seeing all three of them together as children before they go off on their own separate ways. This episode then directly continues where Chihayafuru left off in Season 2. Chihaya is left off with some fingers broken on her right hand but of course this doesn’t stop her from playing Karuta. Chihaya and Taichi attend a training camp hosted by Fujisaki High School.
Chihaya was matched up to practice with Rion and they make for a great comedy duo with their clashing personalities. Chihaya is the fighting hot spirit and Rion only plays Karuta for rice and has such a laid back attitude. Chihaya tries to be a regular teenager and fit in with the rest of the girls as they talk about who they have a crush on but she fails humorously. Her mind is only fill with Karuta thoughts and wanting to be queen. She doesn’t understand what it means to love someone.
In the second episode, Arata finally begins to accept that he isn’t able to everything that he wants on his own. He seeks to create his own Karuta club at his high school imitating Chihaya and Taichi. It’s great to see him progress from being so focused on himself and expand his horizons.
This episode does leave off with a great cliffhanger and leaves the Mizusawa Karuta Club members facing a difficult decision on their Karuta future. They are being required to attend their school trip but this date overlaps with the Meijin and Queen challenger tournament. Chihaya had previously planned to attend the school trip with some friends but it’s interesting to see how this will affect her progression to fit in with other people. Or will she choose to stick to her Karuta.
These two episodes were highly focused on character development for Chihaya and Arata. Both of these characters have been so focused on their Karuta and these episodes characters give them a chance to do something besides playing Karuta. Chihaya has the more difficult challenge of giving up Karuta for a little while and attempting to fit in with other people. These two episodes start off directly where season 2 ends. It is still that same wonderful show that was last seen six years ago.