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Unfinished Business: Chihayafuru 2
Although it is little more than a standard filler episode, this OVA proves its worth with consistent comedy and all the fixings that made the series a success.
Episode Title: "During My Forlorn Years in This World" a.k.a. "Waga Mi Yo ni Furu Nagame Seshi Ma ni"
Format: 1 OVA (24 minutes)
Air Dates: 9/13/2013
Summary: As the culture festival draws near, Sumire finds that she constantly dreams about Taichi, and to put the matter to rest once and for all, she decides she's gonna make her move (Chihaya still being in the hospital for her surgery for the next week also gives her a bit of time to exact her plan). As the Karuta Club sits down to discuss their ideas for the culture festival on a hot summer day, Sumire is inspired by Kana's copy of The Tales of Genji to put on a stage play based on it. Solely driven by her desire to see Taichi and herself as the leads, Sumire begins a sinister campaign to get the others on her side, but given that no one in the room is an actor, the play seems doomed right from the get-go.
The Good: Everything that made the series great; relentlessly funny
The Bad: Essentially just a filler episode
The Ugly: Heian-era Japan's obsession with those creepy eyebrows
So, if you keep up with my hubs, you already know how much I love Chihayafuru. And its sequel. So, of course, when an OVA was announced and subsequently released, I was as giddy as a schoolgirl. I mean, come on! It's more Chihayafuru! That's reason enough alone to expect great things! And lucky for me, that's exactly what I got, because this OVA delivers spectacularly in just about every department.
Unsurprisingly, given its Studio Madhouse credentials, this OVA looks and sounds great. As with the TV series, the colors are bright and vibrant and the animation quality is top-notch. Now, I wasn't expecting anything different, so I can hardly say this is news, but it still must be said. The soundtrack still works wonders, too, for what it's worth. All in all, the OVA at least equals the TV series in its aesthetics, and given how high that bar's been set, it's no small feat.
Above all, where this OVA shines is in its writing. And its comedy. And how well those two things go together. The episode starts off with a scene from the 2nd season (Taichi and Sumire in a train station), but where it goes (with Taichi's deadpan delivery), it becomes ludicrous and hilarious. And that's pretty much how the entire OVA goes--there's a situation, Sumire manipulates the situation to fit her scheme, monkey wrench causes new situation, rinse and repeat. And it's the good kind of rinsing and repeating, too, if that makes any sense. To make a long story short, this OVA is comedy gold from start (and especially) to finish.
Of course, this episode hinges entirely on Sumire, and she was one of the weaker characters in the TV series, so I was a little worried about an episode centered on her, but my fears were for naught--she's on her A-game (and so are the writers), so every moment she's on-screen becomes an absolute joy. That's not to say the other characters aren't as on the ball--they clearly are--but it was just surprising to see a Sumire-centered episode work so well. Sadly, there is very little of Chihaya (and even less of Arata). So it goes.
Now, with all that said, the biggest fault with this episode is that it really is just filler. Sumire gets a bit of development, but that doesn't change the fact that this episode is not at all vital to the plot. It's a great slice of character-driven fun, but it does ultimately feel pointless. It's not much of a sticking point, but hey. No free rides or whatnot.
While the biggest problem with Chihayafuru 2 was its tendency to get a little too serious, I feel that this OVA adds some much-needed levity and makes the series that much better for it. Even if it wasn't necessary plot-wise, it was almost essential tone-wise, and I, for one, am glad it's here. Now if only Studio Madhouse would get to work on season three...
Episode Score: 9 out of 10.
Series' Total Score: 9 out of 10. A breath of fresh comedic air added the comparatively serious Chihayafuru 2, this OVA further reminds us fans of the series why we kept coming back for more, even if this episode is little more than filler.