Japanese Film Festival 2016 Film Review: Chihayafuru Part 2 (Japan, 2016)

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This review is a continuation of Chihayafuru Part 1 if you’d like to read that first!

Leaving straight off from where Part 1 ended (they may as well be the one movie really) Chihaya and Taichi are now on their way to see Arata to try and convince him not to give up Karuta. When they arrive however they find a much-distanced version of their friend, as his beloved mentor and grandfather has passed away.

In explanation Arata’s mother tells Chihaya that to Arata “Grandpa was Karuta itself”. Taichi tells Chihaya that they should leave Arata alone, but the word startles Chihaya and she begins to obsess even further with her Karuta. Hearing that The Queen (the top female player at Karuta) will be playing at Nationals she desperately begins to train individually, leaving her disappointed teammates to watch on.

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Unaware, even to himself, Taichi reacts similarly- determined to reach the A Rank player status he begins to obsess over entering tournaments. After multiple losses he reaches out to Arata to ask him what he used to do when he lost the flow of the game. Arata explains that his Grandfather always told him to “Imagine”, to imagine the time that he was happiest playing Karuta. Flashing back to when Chihaya, Taichi and Arata were in a team, and imagining their first win together, Taichi is able to secure A Rank. And after a rather needed awakening from her opponent in Regionals Chihaya returns to herself, and to the team. We’re back on track for Nationals!

However not all goes to plan for our favourites this time, and you know what? That’s perfectly ok by them. A thrilled Mr Desk has won his first big time match (tears everywhere) and the team is excited to just have put in their best efforts. A brilliant demonstration of what sport is all about! Our beloved Mr Harada steps in again with another important lesson- that the next round of Individual matches are just as much of a team effort as the team rounds.

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And surprising everyone around them that’s just what they do- they continue to support and congratulate each other, despite technically being opponents. And as they themselves become aware of it, it is clear that they are also the ones having the most fun. Arata, who has come to watch the matches feels conflicted by watching them have fun and begins to want to play again. Luckily our Mr Harada is also there to knock some sense back into him- telling him that his grandfather “doesn’t have to be the only reason you play”. A valuable lesson for Arata, but also for Chihaya and Taichi. And when finally facing off with The Queen Chihaya is able to teach her a little bit about the true enjoyment of Karuta too.

At the heart of Chihayafuru is of course Karuta itself, and how its players begin to understand the true meaning of the game. Throughout both films we see our main characters grow and develop into strong believers of themselves and of their teammates. They begin to understand why they themselves play Karuta, and as a result learn to enjoy the game rather than just play it. I laughed, I cried a lot of happy tears, and I fell a little in love with all the characters. Chihaya is such a wonderfully strong female protagonist. And that moment when the whole team reaches out for the Chihayafuru card together is just perfect. You know what? I’m just so glad I still have the manga and anime to turn to- Chihayafuru I’m coming for more of you reaches across the cards and slams away Chi Ha

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Review score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Chihayafuru Part 2 will be screening in Sydney on the 26th November and in Melbourne on the 26th November and 3rd December.

The Japanese Film Festival is in Sydney until the 27th November, then in Melbourne from the 24th November to the 4th December.

Visit Japanese Film Festival for more information and session times.