Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gaming Old School

So I FINALLY finished all bajillion chapters of Bakuman...And I enjoyed it a lot. I think it gave me a unique perspective into the whole world of manga, its fans, how mangakas work and the whole creative process unfolding...Very neat- it finishes up as expected, but nevertheless triumphantly.

But I'm done!

So I caught up with fluffier stuff I like to read...and while exploring, discovered, via Baka-Updates Manga, a new series I am really getting sucked into.

Chihayafuru is the story of Chihaya Ayase, a beautiful girl who instead of capitalizing on her good looks is out to become the ultimate champion in the game of karuta.

What is karuta? you ask.

Allow me to explain: Karuta is a card game that challenges your speed, reflexes, and memory. You basically play with a set of cards that contains traditional poems and you need to grab the right cards when read by the caller before your opponent does.

Spoilers belooooooow!

Chihaya is first seen as a tomboy in elementary school who befriends a classmate who was being bullied. This quiet, shy, and out-of-town kid is Arata Wataya, who introduces Chihaya to the game of karuta and makes a lasting impression on her. Joining them is a former bully, the uber perfect Taichi Mashima, who becomes intrigued by his crush's interest in the odd boy.

Turns out Arata is related to karuta royalty- his grandfather is a former national champion, and Arata has learned from him and has a strong connection to the game thanks to his affection for his grandpa. He shares some of that passion with his friends, and together they set off to play at the competitive level.

Chihaya loves her friends and the bond they share over karuta; she wishes they could play together forever...After a while, though, the kids are separated through various circumstances. Arata needs to return to his family's prefecture after his grandfather falls ill and Taichi is admitted to a great school an hour away- each way- on the train.

Suddenly Chihaya is alone, her friends scattered, and only karuta remains...

A few years later, Taichi and Chihaya are going to the same high school. They rekindle their friendship and resume playing karuta. Chihaya is a natural at the game, but must develop skills to compete at a higher level. She often wonders how Arata is, especially since he never returned her calls or texts...

The story has a real slice of life feel as it examines the game, the friendships, the karuta club she and Taichi start up, and their lives.

There is a little bit of everything- a little comedy, some heartfelt moments, strategics, suspense, some sadness and loss, and yes, some romance too (lighthanded...like...a meringue).

I like Chihaya- she is very real in the sense that while she is a strong person, she is believably flawed She is stubborn, and sometimes insecure, and immature in certain aspects of life and competition. She isn't a typical hyperbolic heroine swinging from extremes: love, anger, joy, etc. She is deep and thoughtful, and her emotions are layered and complex.

I'm still at the beginning, but I already heard there's an anime of the manga...

Try it and tell me what you think.

And this manga is beautifully drawn. Arata and Taichi are om nom nom...(It's poetry coz it rhymed. It could be a karuta card, darn it!)

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