Before, my definition of sports is ‘games played by running or jumping around a wide area which leaves the players breathless by the end’. That changed, though, when I was introduced to the competitive sports of karuta, a Japanese sports involving cards that requires agility, memory, and stamina. In karuta, the players play in a room while sitting down. I knew it through a josei manga series entitled Chihayafuru which is written by Suetsugu Yuki, serialized in Be Love magazine, and published by Kodansha.
Sitting on the top of my anime list with Haikyuu!!, Chihayafuru is my other favorite sports series. The first chapter was published late December 2007 and the manga is still ongoing now. It has already been made into an anime series, with the first season that premiered Fall 2011 while the second season premiered Winter 2013. This year, it also inspired a two-part movie adaptations were released on theatres as well; the first was shown on March while the second was on April. Now, I’m here to talk about the live action films.
When the official announcement about the live action was out, I was anxious. These past few years, there has been a sudden explosion of live action movies and only a few of them give at least some justice to the original source. Naturally, I don’t want by beloved series to be butchered.
When the casting was announced, the anxiety still didn’t quite subside. I only had faith that Matsuoka Mayu and Kamishiraishi Mone would surely pull their parts off, but I was apprehensive of others. I only saw Hirose Suzu twice (first was on Gakkou no Kaidan and second was on Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko which I haven’t finished watching yet) and though I thought she did well on both roles, that was still Chihaya. I’ve seen Nomura Shuhei a couple of times, yet he didn’t make much impression on me, except maybe on Biri Girl, so I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to portray my beloved Taichi. Of course, I had even more fears for Mackenyu’s Arata. That time, I haven’t seen him in any roles because he just started getting more roles around the same time.
How relieved I was when I watched the first movie! It covers the arc when Chihaya was forming the Mizusawa Karuta Club, so Arata and the Queen had not much exposure. I thought Suzu was able to embody Ayase Chihaya, the tomboyish, karuta-loving main female protagonist. It was amusing to see her show Chihaya’s ridiculous expressions, even her sleeping face. I saw Chihaya’s passion for karuta and obliviousness to other matters.
Meanwhile, Nomura seemed to nail Mashima Taichi to me. He had Taichi’s body built and he got his expressions (especially the pained ones!) just right. He exuded the aura as the captain, plus he’s got the right looks (thanks to the stylist). I fell in love with Taichi all over again. And he broke my heart all over again, too.
Nishida Yusei was portrayed by Yamamoto Yuma. He was not as plump as in the manga, but I thought he was able to portray Nikuman’s energy and positivity. Meanwhile, Komano Tsutomu was portrayed by Morinaga Yuki. His only physical semblance with the manga was the eyeglasses, but that does not really matter, as he was able to give justice to Tsukue with his emotions. I loved how his conflicted expression looked like. I couldn’t believe when I realized that he’s the same friend from Kanojo wa Uso o Aishisugiteru.
Living up to my expectations was Kamishiraishi Mone who acted as Ooe Kanade. She was able to show Kana’s purity and innocence with her expressive eyes as well as sweet voice and graceful actions.
It was on the second movie when I confirmed that I was glad that Mackenyu and Matsuoka were chosen for the parts of Wataya Arata and Wakamiya Shinobu.
Mackenyu, who played Arata, sounded legitimately like someone from the countryside, what with his accent. At first he actually seemed weak to me, but I remembered that that was my first impression of Arata as well. How I loved the moments when he had to shed tears, though. He has expressive eyes that suck people in. And I loved his voice. And he looks good even with plain clothes!
And good-looking guys with blue bags never fail to get me.
Matsuoka, as expected, was able to embody Shinobu’s grace and quirkiness. I especially loved her expressions when she was exposed to her favorite things.
What delighted me more in this second movie as much as the Taichi and Chihaya moments are the Shinobu-Arata moments. Mackenyu and Matsuoka look good together! I’d love to see them together in another film as a couple or something. At first, I actually thought that their scenes made Matsuoka’s prowess in acting overshadow Mackenyu’s, but I was reminded that Shinobu really just have more presence than him. It’s in the difference of their characters.
Or so I like to think?
Of course, I adored the Taichi-Chihaya moments! Hirose and Nomura had chemistry like Mackenyu and Matsuoka, so I’d love to see them in another show, too. Too bad that Arata and Chihaya don’t really have much time together. (But Suzu and Mackenyu will be in Cheerdance movie next year. That’s still not Arata-Chihaya but still…)
Anyway, I thought that the Mizusawa Karuta Club had a good chemistry. The friendship felt real. (Though they must be real friends in real life now.)
Other than the actors, I loved the cinematography and editing, too. The use of angles, long shots and close ups, and scenes with slow motions emphasized emotions and feelings of the characters. I liked the color schemes, too, which are mostly pastel and rich, bright colors. I love how the bright colors seem to pop out on the scenes.
Another thing I liked about it is the sound and music. The main theme song is FLASH sang by Perfume. The background music effectively amplifies the emotions of the characters.
Overall, I loved the movies. I believe they belong to the list of the better done adaptations. Though the movies didn’t really cover much of the progress plot-wise (nor did they dwell on the beauty of the poems which gave the joy of close reading the manga), they still showed the characters’ development. The movies are there to promote the series, to encourage one to read the manga, or at least to watch the anime adaptation.
Perhaps especially for people who haven’t read the manga nor watched the anime, these movies are not satisfying. I, however, am one of those who are happy for these. Now, I see them as something like an OVA or OAD of anime series. I’m just grateful to see my beloved characters brought to life by well-chosen actors.
GIFs are not mine. They are all from the wonderful kdramastuff.