Manga Review: Chihayafuru Vol.1-4 by Suetsugu Yuki

MR-C-YS

I picked the series up right after I was prompted by Summer at XingSings when she commented on my post on Competitive Sports Manga, and can’t seem to stop! That’s how amazing it is! This series was recommended to me multiple times, by different people…but I never thought to picked it up because I’m not sure why aside from the mood never hit me…and I think a tiny part of me felt it wasn’t for me. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised by it! divider

General Plot:
All her life, Chihaya’s dream was to see her model sister become Japan’s best… That is, until a quiet, unassuming transfer student named Arata tells her otherwise. A dream, he explains to her, is something she needs to work at herself. Arata plays a competitive version of a traditional Japanese card game–known as Hyakunin Isshu–in a way Chihaya has never seen before. After taking Arata’s place in a game, Chihaya discovers she has a passion for it. Now Chihaya wants to become number one in the world, the Queen of Karuta.

Chihayafuru won the 2nd Manga Taisho Award. Winner of the 35th annual Kodansha Manga Award for Best Shoujo. – Taken from Goodreads

Genre:
Josei, Romance & Sports

My Impression:
I breezed through the first four volumes so quickly I didn’t even know I could get through that many in such a short span of time! Firstly, this is definitely while this is under the “sports” genre, its definitely not one of those traditional competitive sports, such as basketball, baseball, tennis and the likes…rather if I had to categorize it I think this manga is much closer to Hikaru no Go by Hotta Yumi and Obata Takeshi, where the “sport” is a board game. While the game itself is traditional, its not common in manga thats for sure. The mangaka has definitely found a niche space in the sports genre.

While I am a Japanese literature major, I’ve never studied the Hyakunin Isshu or any Japanese poetry for that matter, so a whole card game derived from traditional Japanese poetry is definitely fascinating! I didn’t think I would have gotten so drawn in, especially when I probably am not picking up on the more subtle idea of the whole game. Yet, the way the story was presented really draws you in. The mangaka does a really good job at holding our attention. I also love the whole idea around a type of competitive sports with literature.

I really enjoy the personality of the passion driven, Chihaya (main heroine), and how she gets into the game. The friendship and relationship which develops between her, Arata and Taichi; who were her elementary school friends. I like how the main character of the sport is female…most sports genre manga are male oriented so this was definitely refreshing for me (There might be some female driven sports manga/anime which I’ve not discovered but this was definitely my first). While female do practice Kendo, I’ve personally not read a Kendo manga featuring a female character; if there is a good one do tell me!

The story is paced quite well, at least from the way I’m flipping through it as quickly as I am at the moment, I personally find it quite easy to read. The story will probably be quite predictable with a triangle relationship between the 3 main characters, since the story has already strongly hinted at it from the beginning; but I’m fine with that, manga are also equally formulaic, but when all the elements come together so well, it definitely makes for an interesting read.

The art can be quite beautiful and dynamic at the same time. The character designs aren’t particularly gorgeous, and is quite common (the characters aren’t particularly out of this world GORGEOUS), but I think the art style does come down to reader preference. I do love the fact the characters eventually are made to wear hakama for tournaments due to certain circumstances, and these outfits are quite beautifully presented. The hakama it is one of my favorite traditional Japanese outfits…and I the only time I’ve seen it in sports would be for Japanese Long Bow Archery and Kendo.

dividerOverall, this is a wonderful start of a series for me, and I would recommend it if you enjoy competitive sport manga. I do regret not having started on this series earlier, so now I’m also playing catch up! I know the anime has released 2 seasons…but I’ve not started on that either, but I will eventually.

Have you read the series? If you have what did you think about it, who are your favorite character(s)? If you’ve not, do you think this is something you’d pick up? I really would love to hear from you!

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