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Chihayafuru Part 1 ("Chihayafuru Kami no Ku")

North American Premiere
  • Japan
  • 2016
  • 111 mins
  • HD
  • Japanese
  • English (subtitles)
Official Selection: Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival 2016, Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival 2016

Chihayafuru from Festival Fantasia on Vimeo.

Chihaya (Suzu Hirose) is driven like few shojo heroines are: she wants to become the world champion of karuta, the traditional, competitive card-playing game that involves picking out and discarding poem cards as quickly as possible, in one-to-one battle scenarios, or in more complex team configurations. Passionate about this little-known sport since she was very small, when she used to play with her childhood friends Taichi (Shuhei Nomura) and Arata (Mackenyu), Chihaya is now a high-school student, pouring all of her energy and love into forming a karuta club. Secretly, she’s hoping to get her childhood band back together. The good-spirited Kanade, bumbling Yusei, and intellectual Tsutomu soon join, and from hardship to hardship, they work hard and play hard to become the best karuta team Japan has ever known! Arata, however, is still missing in action…

Join us for the first part of this blockbuster adaptation of Yuki Suetsugu’s acclaimed manga series “Chihayafuru” (published in French translation by Pika). A delightful and earnest pop sensation in its original shojo format, Nori Koizumi’s two-part mini-epic takes the source material and transforms it into a celebration of the art of karuta that should charm boys and girls alike. A rare positive spin on the Japanese high-school experience, and the importance of tenacious friendship, it is an unusual take on a competitive sport that is little-known in the West, but is no less fascinating. Seeing karuta in action will surely illuminate the tremendous influence it’s had on the card-playing phenomenon that followed — think Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! — and that is now inseparable from Japanese pop culture narratives. CHIHAYAFURU PART I proves as thrilling, and Koizumi’s adaptation might very well make the sport itself as iconic as its imaginary counterparts.

— Ariel Esteban Cayer