I’ll admit that I only started watching this series on Guardian Enzo’s recommendation and is the first new series I’ve started watching of the Fall/Autumn season. The start of the first episode was immediately appealing, with lots of flowers and sakura, reminding me in a way of Hanasaku Iroha, and also Seitokai Yakuindomo, as the high school uniforms are very similar. This series appears to be a coming of age drama focussed around the very Japanese game of Karuta, which I hadn’t heard of previously. However, no knowledge of the game is neccesary as its all about the emotional drama. The game itself consists of laying out 100 cards featuring famous Japanese poems. A singer starts singing a line of one of these at random (by drawing out of a lucky dip box) and the first out of the two participants to bat away the right card scores a point. The first episode starts of in highschool, with mentions of three main characters, the titular Ayase Chihaya, whose dream is to see her older sister become a famous beauty pagent queen and model, and her two male friends. Most of the epsiode (and all of the second episode) consists of a flashback to when Ayase and Taichi (not related any way to the exercise I hope) first encounter a transfer student, Wataya. The first episode was enjoyable, and shows Ayase and Wataya bonding over the card game, whereas everyone else in the class makes fun of him due to his funny accent. However, I was mostly put off my the way the eyes are drawn. It freaks me out like dolls eyes. However, the end of the episode was highly enjoyable, with Wataya again being bullied (mostly by Taichi) and Ayase sticking up for him.
However, the second episode really drew me in with the emotional drama. Now that I’m seemingly over the freakishly drawn eyes, I really got into the emotions of this episode. I was about to turn it off because I hated the bullying going on towards the transfer kid. Watayu. Only Ayase’s friendliness towards him made up for it. It was so epic when she stepped in for him in the tournament when his glasses were stolen by her best friend (although unknown to her) and, well, “laid the smack down” on Taichi in the game of karuta. Speaking of which, I have no idea why Ayase seems to like him, considering how badly he treats other people. Still, given how terribly his mother treats him, with her sole focus on winning, I felt a bit sorry for him. And also for Chihaya as her family wouldn’t even let her tell them that she’d won the tournatment – they just have eyes for her sister aspiring to be a model. Seeing Watayu practise at the end without even needing cards was impressive – and made such an impression on Taichi that he admitted he stole his glasses, a really strong emotional moment – and the moment that a bully and his target become good friends. This is shaping up to be one really excellent anime series.