Anime Withdrawal: Chihayafuru

This winter I went on another anime binge and experienced that awful, bittersweet fangirl/boy feeling when you fall in love with something…and there’s no more. Although I loved Claymore, another anime I watched, Chihayafuru (and Chihayafuru 2) owns my heart right now. Already I’ve plowed through the (ongoing) manga and read most of the fic of interest to me on Archive of Our Own. The only thing saving my little fangirl heart is the fact that I just learned there will be another season of the anime once the manga finishes its current arc. THANK GOD. (And thank you to the fan writer who pointed this out in a note to her fic!)

To begin, here is what I loved about the anime (both seasons), in random order:

A love triangle done right. Love triangles are infamously mishandled and infuriating for fans. Typically, there is a clear “winner” or choice (even if only for the fan), and the other character is not an option at all. The girl/woman is often a prize and has little agency or is defined by her romantic interests. But I love both Taichi and Arata (okay, I admit I have a slight bias for Arata), and it is Chihaya’s search for an identity that leads her to learn and succeed at karuta, not romance. Arata introduces her to it, and her admiration for him plays a role, but even after reading 179 chapters of the manga, karuta is still her driving force. The romance is not the focal point; it’s wonderfully subtle–much goes unsaid or lies behind what is said. I also appreciate the way the characters’ love for one another manifests as respect and challenges each person to grow.


Gorgeous animation and music.

The idea of karuta: a game that revolves around cards with poems written on them. Poems. (Reminder/Note: I am a poet.) Kanade’s love of poetry also shapes how she plays and informs the story and Chihaya’s play as well. The last time I was so psyched about the role of poetry in a show, it was the Buffy the Vampire Slayer reveal that Spike was an awful Victorian poet as a human.

Likeable side characters. Whether fellow club or karuta society members or rivals (often the same), each character is distinguishable and showcases another facet of the karuta world or the main characters’ lives. At first, I was worried about Sumire, who initially appears to be a rival for Taichi’s affections and not much more, but as with everyone else, she’s developed nicely.

Arata’s Fukui dialect. Is Arata my first example of this, or is it something about Arata’s character that makes the sound of his speech so. damn. hot to me? It reminds me of a Southern drawl.

Competence as a defining trope. If you enjoy watching characters improve and excel at a sport/game/skill/whatever, you will have your fill of competence porn with this anime. It also never stops revealing new insights into the many ways and reasons why people play karuta. The matches and tournaments are dynamic to watch and include both team and individual play.


Just enough Arata but almost not. Once Arata moves back home from Tokyo where Taichi and Chihaya live, he appears sporadically. As much as I wanted the three to reunite, his absence is as powerful as his presence and builds a delicious tension for the viewer that mirrors the characters’ feelings.

Look at this fucking kid, I can’t even.

I’m enjoying the manga–though the anime brings matches to life more clearly and dynamically–but hope the current arc finishes soon so the next season of the anime is on its way!

Anime Withdrawal: Chihayafuru

Black Butler/Kuroshitsuji Vol. 23


Black Butler Vol. 23 - Yana Toboso

In this volume we see the return of some familiar faces (I won’t spoil them all), including the P4 from the Weston College arc, who are, shall we say, stars of a different sort. I’m excited to see Lizzie in a central role for this arc, though she’s only scattered throughout this volume. I hope we get some badass Lizzie next time. Also happy for some Emerald Witch, with her hilariously oversexed banter.

There’s of course also a new face, Blavat Sky (after the Victorian medium), who’s mysterious and interesting, especially due to his interactions with Sebastian (again, being intentionally vague and non-spoilery). He appears to have genuine fortune telling abilities, but I already have a theory about that. In addition, there’s what I think is a fresh face at the end who certain fans will surely love (for my part, I already clearly get confused about who’s new and who we simply haven’t seen in a while).

As a first volume in a new arc, there’s a lot of setting up the mystery happening, which is fun in its own way. There’s some Sebastian cat action, which is always entertaining, some Ciel in danger, and a bit of the Queen herself. This manga never disappoints, and I’m already anxious for the next chapters.

No Snake or Finny this volume, though, which breaks my fangirl heart…

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Black Butler/Kuroshitsuji Vol. 23

Black Butler/Kuroshitsuji Vol. 22


Black Butler, Vol. 22 - Yana Toboso

This volume felt like a quickie transitional one, with its final chapter presenting a fun standalone story featuring the characters readers voted as their favorites (fandom, please explain all the love for Charles Grey and Vincent Phantomhive; I don’t get it). We see the gang at Diedrich’s, followed by a return to London where the “emerald witch” (Sieglinde Sullivan) must be schooled in how to be a lady before she’s brought to meet the queen. At first I was side-eying the goings-on; I mean, this is a girl who can’t walk because her feet were bound for so long. But eventually Lizzie arrives to save the day (after a perfectly understandable misunderstanding), making Ciel join the lessons as well.


We also see a bit of Wolfram’s background, and a touching scene or two between him and his charge. Finally, we learn how reapers are made (no storks involved), or, I should say, what “qualifies” one to become a reaper; I don’t think this is information we’d already been given, but we’re at volume 22, so there’s a chance I forgot.


As usual, this volume could use 200% more Snake and Finny (and why is Mey-rin on the cover when she’s barely present?), but there’s some Undertaker at least!

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Black Butler/Kuroshitsuji Vol. 22