Chihayafuru Season 1, Episode 12 Musings: The Romanticism of Poetic Athleticism

Episode twelve takes us to the post-win celebrations and anxieties as the team prepares to head to Nationals with the weight of representing Tokyo on their backs.

Before I really dive into this musings gig, I must say that Chihayafuru is always making me cry. Whether they are tears from sadness, empathy, sympathy, anger, frustration, joy, love, cuteness—whatever other adjectives you can come up with, the tears are always genuine and guaranteed to appear with each segment watched. This is one of the very few anime serials that has effect on me, and I both love it dearly, yet also loathe that it can turn me into mush so quickly. Then again… that’s one-third of the appeal, so I’m not quite complaining. Merely whining with gratitude (if that makes sense).

It was both disheartening yet interesting to see how Chihaya’s family reacted to her team winning the tournament and heading off to an ever bigger competition in that they didn’t. They have always been so focused on Chihaya’s older sister, Chitose, that the younger Ayase sibling gets the short-end of the stick. I wanted to grab her parents, mostly her mum and sister, and then shake them for not listening to Chihaya’s news. That sense of being utterly uncared for or that your achievements don’t mean anything regardless of the hard work and passion that went into it can be wholeheartedly heart-breaking.

We witness similar reactions with their club advisor, The Empress (I forgot her actual name, oops). She is one-thousand-percent focused on the tennis team, babying them like little celebrities, and as someone who’s played sports before, it really does make you question your worth, not only as an athlete but as a person. It makes you question whether your desires and aspirations are as stupid as everyone treats them to be, which is a humongous demoralising boulder. Yet Chihaya has something that tonnes of people out there don’t: her teammates and her friends.

Their growing camaraderie and mutual respect is one of the greatest parts of Chihayafuru and is what makes it so fabulously heartfelt and uplifting, tears and all. But there is another quality that I am supremely addicted to and that is the romance.

There is an art to being an athlete, and with Karuta being so heavily influenced by Heian culture and history, the experiences that each athlete undergoes is quite reminiscent of the great sense of loneliness and isolation that fills the very poems that they engage with on a daily basis. The symbolism of the cards and poetry, coupled with each character’s individualistic struggle is absolutely brilliant and breath-taking. Not only does it paint the athlete as a contributing artist, but it also weaves the story and characters into a romanticist masterpiece all its own.

For example, one of the poems speaks of a woman, an Emperor’s wife, who is visited by her lover in the fields and while it brings her joy, she worries for his safety upon him being caught. The solitude that both the woman and lover must feel is difficult not to think about as it’s a perfect representation of Taichi, Chihaya, Arata, and Kana.

There’s another poem that describes the inherent isolation that one man feels as being comparable to snowy, Japanese winters. They are as harsh and brutal as they are cinematically wide and majestic. Again, this portrays a character from the anime and works to help visually substantiate the remoteness he’s trapped in.

Towards the end of the episode, Chihaya’s family goes off to take her sister to an event in another town. On the table, Chihaya discovers that the small periodical article about her team’s win has been snipped out. When she discovers that her father has also been collecting the moments of her rising success as a Karuta player, she breaks down in tears of joy and also relief. The very same emotions that can overwhelm when one has found a family or a circle of folx to interact with naturally rather than feeling like the world is against them and pushing them into seclusion. As the anime goes on, I’m sure we will hear of the poems that use Spring as the foundation for exhibiting the change of heart that one experienced when they go from being alone to be partnered and loved so wholly.

Other minor elements that I appreciated about this episode was how Mizusawa’s win wasn’t depicted as being only for their school and their team, but as them being chosen to be representors of the city of Tokyo. They carry the support and allyship of their fellow Tokyo schools and other teams with them as they embark to Nationals in Ōmi Jingū, which also comes with its very own set of pressures and concerns. Chihaya’s shortcomings as a karuta player and her weaknesses  become so apparent as to feel almost like a tangible sucker-punch to her confidence and her faith in doing well at Nationals, which was suggestive of the brief sense of hopelessness she faded into during the previous tournament.

Winning from hard-work and dedication in a good, clean manner is extraordinarily exhilarating, yet it is also quite astonishingly traumatic too. Again, this felt very romanticistic to me with the various relationships currently developing (and breaking), the changing of characters’ mindsets and beliefs as they mature with each new interaction, and the very nature of competitive sports in and of itself.

Chihayafuru S1 First Impressions
Chihayafuru S1, Episodes 2 & 3
Chihayafuru S1, Episodes 4 & 5
Chihayafuru S1, Episodes 6, 7, & 8
Chihayafuru S1, Episode 9
Chihayafuru S1, Episode 10 & 11

Native: ちはやふる
Slice-of-Life, Sports (Karuta)
Fall 2011
Morio Asaka
Content Warnings:
Mild cursing. Depiction of high school bullying. Depiction of terminal illness and death of loved one(s). Prep & consumption of food. Some mild sexuality. Some mild violence.
AniList: Chihayafuru
Stream Source:
CrunchyRoll, VRV, HiDive

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2 thoughts on “Chihayafuru Season 1, Episode 12 Musings: The Romanticism of Poetic Athleticism

  1. Reading this was beautiful. I’ve been enjoying your episodic musings a lot. Keep it up!

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