Yuki Suetsugu's Chihayafuru is finally available in English. Since Kodansha has the first chapter up, let's talk about it!

Six years ago, Madhouse adapted an award-winning manga involving Karuta, romance, and friendships. When I watched the first episode, I liked it, but it didn’t jump out at me immediately.

By episode 3, I was captivated, and since then 47 more episodes aired for me to declare Chihayafuru as one of my favorite anime I’ve ever watched. But unfortunately, while the anime was successful, it didn’t translate to bringing the manga over. And despite the existence of Crunchyroll manga, the manga still didn’t come over here. After years with no announcements, getting news on a Chihayafuru manga coming over was unlikely.

But maybe Sentai Filmworks licensing Chihayafuru was a sign that Kodansha Comics couldn’t ignore. Or maybe they felt it was past time. Whatever their reasoning Chihayafuru will finally see a release February 14. But since they posted the first chapter, why not give it a look now?

Literally as I’m reading this chapter a thought came to mind: “Why the hell is Taichi a little snot?!?”

Our main protagonists, Arata Wataya in the first panel, Chihaya Ayase in the second panel

Chihayafuru starts us with the main protagonist, Chihaya Ayase, playing in a big time Karuta match. We then shift to her as a kid where she desired to make her sister the #1 idol in Japan. This mindset changes when she meets Arata, a country kid that’s super shy but also a karuta aficionado.

Chosen as the least liked classmate in class, Arata finds himself in a bad situation until Chihaya enters his life. That’s when he introduces her to Karuta, which is a competitive card game in Japan involving the Hyakunin Isshu, or 100 poems by 100 people.

In recalling the anime to manga conversion, I wish I had remembered that Taichi was a jerk as a kid because I completely forgot he was, and man, he’s pretty terrible. Although Chapter 2 may expand on it, his mother was more of a dominant presence in the anime so it was weird to get only a few panels with his mother in the manga. Otherwise though it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, Chapter 1 seems to be Episode 1 of the anime.

And I think this does the anime a lot better.

While getting used to the art will take some time since the characters are in black and white, and it does look kinda rough in spots, the reason why Chihayafuru became interesting is shown every time you flip the page. Once the central conflict is established, the time it takes to make it fun and worthwhile is fantastic. Even when Chihaya has to face off against Taichi in a Karuta match, while there’s a jokey design with her character at times, the situation remains important. It’s that balance between fun and serious that few series can pull off, yet Chihayafuru pulls it off smoothly.

In other words, once I got to the end of the chapter I wanted to read more. Well just like everyone else, I’m gonna have to wait until next week sadly.