Archives for : Sports

Chihayafuru Season One (anime review)

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Chihayafuru Season One on Blu-ray

Director: Morio Asaka

Studio: Madhouse

Author: Sumino Kawashima

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: September 12, 2017

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 625 Minutes

Genre: Drama, School Life, Slice of Life, Sports, Card Game

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: A

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow


Chihaya Ayase was a girl who never seemed to fit in. She never had much in common with the other kids, and her family was so obsessed with her older sister’s modeling career that, sometimes, it was like Chihaya was not even there. Everything changes when transfer student Arata gets Chihaya interested in the world of competitive Karuta, a unique card-based game that requires lightning fast reflexes, an exceptional memory, and a keen ear. Chihaya is a natural, and she has the skills to take her to the very top. Suddenly, Chihaya has found her goal: to become the best player in Japan! It will not be easy, but when a girl has a dream in her heart, nothing else matters! Will Chihaya become the Queen of Karuta? You will have to watch Chihayafuru and find out.


Chihayafuru is a series that starts off very slow but then it becomes something amazing. The character development is amazing and I truly believe that Chihayafuru loves its characters. Chihaya is the tom-boy who wanted nothing better than for her sister to become the top supermodel in Japan. That was her dream for her life. But thanks to Arata and Taichi, she finally realizes that she wants to be the Queen of Karuta. Taichi is from a wealthy family and he is quite the golden boy as he is smart, good looking, and mature. He also excels at nearly everything he does which is why he is the President of the Misusawa Karuta Club. He has a crush on Chihaya but is hesitant to do anything about it as he believes she only has eyes for Arata. Arata left after elementary school graduation to take care of his grandfather. His passion for Karuta is inspired by his grandfather who was a Meijin (master).

I will try and explain Karuta but it will not be short. Karuta is not to be compared with playing cards in the sense of the Western World. It is not Poker, Rummy or Skat. It would be most comparable to Memory. There are different types of Karuta that can be played. Uta-Garuta is played in Chihayafuru. The card game consists of 200 cards, 100 of which are called Yomifuda, this are the reading cards and 100 Torifuda, which are the cards that are use by the players itself. On the Yomifuda are the first three verses of a traditional Japanese poem. The Poetry comes from the Hyakunin Isshu (100 poems of 100 poets, each poet one poem). The Torifuda (game- or field-cards) contain the last two verses of the respective poem. The challenge consists in recognizing the poems during the reading and to catch the corresponding play card in front of the opponent. Karuta fulfills everything a sport should have, high concentration, excellent memory, lightning reflexes, strategic thinking, endurance, resilience, mental strength and a tremendous commitment to the long training for coordination and precession. The person who touches the right card on the field first gets the card, when you take a card from the opponents side you can give them one of yours, when your half of the playing field is empty you win.

It sounds simple and quite boring but it’s NOT. In order to touch the right card quickly, cards get flung of the playing field, people are sweating, thinking and reacting at full speed and crazy-eating chocolate in between these intense games. To really play Karuta at top level you need memorization skills, good hearing and senses, good posture, analytic and strategic skills, precision, strength, speed, perseverance, an emotional connection to the cards and so much more. As you can see, Karuta is very difficult to play but when it is played by people who love it, it is a beautiful thing.

The animation was so beautiful and colorful. They showed off backgrounds that will take your breath away and traditional Japanese clothing that is just amazing. The voice actors did a great job and I really enjoyed this series even if the first five to six episodes drag a bit.


Chihayafuru includes clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as Special Features. This series was released with both English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options.

Overall Grade: A

Haikyu!! Collection 2

Haikyu!!-Collection-2Title: Haikyu!! collection 2

Director: Susumu Mitsunaka

Studio: Production I.G.

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Aug. 8th, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / 13 espisodes / 325 minutes

Genre: Sports, Comedy, Drama, Slice of Life, High School

Age Rating: TV 14 (really it should be PG)

Overall Personal Rating: A-


In the wake of the blistering practice match against the Nekoma High School team, the Karasuno High School volleyball squad digs in and vows to bring their game up another level. Prior to the arrival of the new freshmen, the general belief was that Karasuno’s day in the sun was over, but while the ongoing rivalry between Hinata and Kageyama has inspired everyone to push themselves even further, there’s still a lot of friction that’s ultimately slowing down their game.

It’s not until the announcement of the brackets for the Inter-School tourney are announced that the reality of what they are attempting to do finally takes hold. As talented as each of the team members may be individually, they have no chance of winning unless they can finally come together as a seamless unit. Can Hinata and Kageyama put their battle for dominance on hold long enough to take on the overwhelming brilliance of the Aoba Johsai squad?


Sports anime tend to make everything seem really hard and then pull out the magic at the end to prove everyone is a super hero. Haikyu!! takes a little different approach and just makes these wannabe champs and makes them something much more believable. They just become flawed heroes who try their best and long to stay on the court.

This passion to win is what makes the series worth while. Not all of the team members are superstars and those with natural abilities have issues. They learn the importance of trust and believing in themselves and come to understand what it means to be a part of something that on the surface may be meaningless to most, but ends up being important to them just because of each other.

Overall Grade: A-

Most anime fans don’t really line up for sports anime and to be honest Haikyu!! is a true sports anime. The thing that sets it apart is the fact that these players have are human and it is very easy to identify with because they are rather typical students who know they have to try harder to be better.

The series is full of feel good moments with an ending that speaks to more of us than those who are the superstars in life. The writing gets a tad preaching from time to time and maybe that is just the way it should be. I just think that some of the growth they have is a bit melodramtic with overall the development of the main characters is worth watching and rooting for.

Haikyu!! is a wonderful series that is a true feel-good story that takes on a hopeful ride and reminds us that even great stories don’t always end the way we might want them to.

Ping Pong (anime review)

Ping PongTitle: Ping Pong 

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Studio: Tatsunoko Productions

Music: Kensuke Ushio

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: June 23rd, 2015

Format: DVD/ Blu-ray/ 11 Episodes / 275 Minutes

Genre: Seinen, Coming of Age, Sports

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A-


Smile and Peco. Peco and Smile. Besties from the beginning, both with a badass backhand. Peco is known for his arrogance on the table tennis court, and Smile for his silence. But with a new school year and a new high school table tennis team, both boys are in for a challenge, on – and off – the court.

Peco’s slacker ways are hurting his game, and after getting crushed in a tournament, he decides to quit. Smile is finally learning to harness his natural talents, but can he squash his sympathy for his opponents enough to beat them?


Several years ago I had the opportunity to review a live action adaptation of Ping Pong and when I heard that the anime was being done I was very edited. The story is not so much the tail of Ping Pong players as it is the story of how these young men are finding their way in the world and how things change as they come of age. There is also the underlying question “Will the Hero Arrive”?

Anyway as I started watching the series I was at first blown away but the animation stylings and the free flowing aspects to the artistic choices. As I got further into the series I began to find it somewhat of a copout for shortcutting some of the visual language. I understand what they are trying to do with this loose and free line work, we have seen it may times in other anime when there is a reason to slip in a new perspective to a series. In the case of Ping Pong I think there should have been a little more attention to the solid conformity to the characters rattan than give us a loose depiction of the overall settings story. I think that with some more attention to detail there would have been a much more solid understanding of these characters as a hole.

The great thing about Ping Pong is that it is such a powerful story to begin with that even a loose free flowing artistic style did not fail the essence of the series. We live through self assurance turned self doubt and also see self loathing turned into loathing of all external forces. We get to taste how one owns understanding of who they are can make all the difference in the world and how powerful just playing a game at your best just for fun is where all the true fun lies.

Overall Grade: A-

Ping Pong is a powerful story that deserves a chance. If you do not like the animation style just give the story a chance. It won’t take long before you don’t care how it looks and just want to see how things turn out. I promise that this story will make you rethink your own ambitions or lack there of.

After you have watched the series you should check out the film, it was done by Sora, the same director who did Appleseed and a few other high profile CG films. But remember this film is not about special effects it is about the human condition and understanding ourselves.

Find out for yourself if the Hero arrives.

Wanna Be the Strongest in the World (anime review)

Wanna Be the Strongest in the WorldTitle: Wanna Be the Strongest in the World complete series

Director: Rion Kujo

Studio: Arms

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: June 2nd, 2015

Format: DVD / Blu-ray / 300 minutes / 12 Episodes

Genre: Echii (serious fan service), Sports (not really), Comedy

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: C-


The eye-popping world of women’s professional wrestling is sweaty, sadistic, and savagely sexy. Famous Japanese pop idol Sakura Hagiwara is better suited for the dance floor than the wrestling ring, but this ravishing songstress is about to put her body to the ultimate test.

When she and fellow idol Elena are assigned to pose as wrestlers for a very special show, a vicious lady brawler by the name of Rio decides to teach the girls a lesson they won’t soon forget. Rio unleashes a flurry of ferocious of attacks on Elena, contorting her divine female form into an array of very naughty positions. Shocked by the blush-inducing beating taken by her friend, Sakura vows to get her heavenly curves ready to rumble and redeem the good name of idols everywhere by becoming a bona fide diva of the pro-wrestling world!


It has been some time since I sat through a series of this caliber, but Wanna Be the Strongest in the World should be called Boobies on Parade. There are plenty of series out there that try to blend a story with fan service and may of them succeed. In the case of of Wanna Be the Strongest in the World the plot is so simple it just tells you from the very beginning that it will be all about showing the exaggerated female form off.

Now I don’t have anything against wrestling or even pop idols. I just take issue with anime that is only in the game to show off their sexual body parts. There is also the typical attempt to make the female anatomy unbelievably over inflated and this too ends up turning me off. As someone who was educated as an artist I love the human form but the way it is depicted in WannaBe the Strongest in the World just makes me sad.

Overall Grade: C-

As a reviewer I have to take into consideration who the audience in mind is and that is why I did not fail this series completely. I understand the intent and the specialized demographic that Wanna Be the Strongest in the World is going after and that is why I gave it a C- rather than a D- or an F. In fact I would think that the fans that they are making this for will most likely give it an A for the level of echii/Fan Service that is provided.

I wish I could have at least enjoyed the plot line of the series but it was just too mean spirited and misogynistic for me. That is the world of anime and it covers plenty of genres and I can appreciate it for what it is. I know this series will be liked by its fan base.

Haikyu!! (anime review)

Haikyu!!Title: Haikyu!! collection 1

Director: Susumu Mitsunaka

Studio: Production I.G.

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: June 2nd, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / 13 espisodes / 325 minutes

Genre: Sports, Comedy, Drama, Slice of Life, High School

Age Rating: TV 14 (really it should be PG)

Overall Personal Rating: B+


Shoyo Hinata isn’t a large guy, but he’s got huge ambitions. Ever since seeing a small player score in a National Championship, he’s been determined to become the next big thing in High School Volleyball. Unfortunately, the one time he was able to pull enough players together to form a team in junior high, they were completely trashed in their first and only match against a team led by up-and-coming setter Tobio Kageyama.

Now, enrolled at the same high school where his idol once played, Shoyo’s finally going to get his shot to join and play with a top team. There’s just one problem: Tobio Kageyama’s decided to attend the same school, and he’s already considered one of the best players in the game. Can a kid out of nowhere hold his own against the King of the Court? Or could the rivalry and competition actually be the best thing for both of them?


The number of sports anime that are being released in the U.S. has managed to hit an all time high and Haikyu!! is a pleasant addition. The story is simple and and the outcome is easy to guess, but the way it is coming together is pleasing and fun to watch. Shoyo reminds me a lot of a Naruto on the volleyball court. He is the little engine that can and with his desire to be on the court he manages to infect everyone around him. On the other hand Tobio is rather talented and arrogant but once these two are forced to be toghter they discover that they balance each other out and a natural team is born.

My only issue with Haikyu!! is that it falls into the trap that most sports anime fall into. This is another down and out team that has a bigger heart than talent and it comes down to the fact that they must rely on each other to make it happen. The first 13 episodes take us to that point were they discover that they still have a long way to go and set us up for a big comeback as the rest of the series develops.

Overall Grade: B+

The great thing about Haikyu!! is that you get a blending of characters that make up the team and how they manage to work out the problems they face. I also like the fact that Shoyo has that never say die attitude but is only a little annoying. Most of the time you want him to succeed.

Although I do like the series there are other sports anime out there that make the action even more powerful, but Haikyu!!manages to keep you rooting for these wannabe super stars. I am looking forward to the second half of the series to see if they end up in the finals at the high school tournament.


Stella Women’s Academy High School Division Class C³: The Complete Collection

Stella Women’s Academy High School Review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Stella Women’s Academy High School Division Class C³: The Complete Collection

Director: Masayoshi Kawajiri

Studio: Gainax

Author: Getsumin Ikoma

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: September 2, 2014

Format and Length: DVD / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Action, Comedy, School, Sports, Military, Slice of Life

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating:C

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Girls und Panzer and Upotte!!


Yura Yamato has just arrived at Stella Women’s Academy. She transferred in wanting to avoid people from her old school, seeking a “new life” because her shy nature has made her a social outcast at her middle school. On her first day she remains shy, but is overwhelmed with requests to join a club called C³, who are lacking members. After finding out her roommate Sonora was also part of the club, she was again extended an invitation to join. It quickly becomes clear that the girls of Stella Women’s Academy are VERY different. She joins C³ (which stands for Command, Control and Communications) whose main afterschool activity is playing survival games! It’s not a typical teenage girl pastime, but Sonora and her trigger-happy friends are seriously into it. The question that puts Yura in the crosshairs of a dilemma is if she has what it takes to join up, stand up, and deliver in the face of friendly fire.


Stella Women’s Academy High School Division Class C³: The Complete Collection on its face looked to be another notch in the belt of the “cute girls doing cute things” slice of life genre, a genre that has had a few successful entries in the last two years. Right off the bat, it wastes no time starting out as a “cute girls doing cute things” series. Cute girls playing war games with airsoft guns. What’s not to like? The main story line revolves around Yura, the quiet newbie that everyone continuously tries to get to come out of her shell. It continues on its way the way all the others did. It looked like it was gonna be a cliché addition to all the rest. At this point you are looking for something to differentiate one series from another. Then out of nowhere it changes. Suddenly it adds a supernatural link. A deity from feudal Japan suddenly joins the story line, to teach someone that they have some special power. The artistry in this portion is quite good. At first it seemed it would be quite an intriguing addition. You are suddenly drawn back in wondering where they may take this. You think of how this could make the series very unique. They focus on it quite strongly… For one episode… Then it returned back to the slice of life it was beforehand completely forgetting that a feudal deity ever even appeared. Then out of nowhere it changes once again. Then it becomes a motivational story line. How with hard work, you can do anything. That lasted for maybe one and a half episodes. After that it quickly becomes completely serious, a lesson teacher. Suddenly morals come into play. It’s now a story about how a character loses sight of what’s really important while chasing a dream and how she works to gain it back. This at least sticks around for a few episodes. Then once again, all is forgotten and returns back to being cute. This discombobulated mess tends to leave you scratching your head. Don’t get me wrong. Individually, they are all good ideas to go with this type of series, to help further expand the normally weak story line. But the problem is that they cannot seem to choose a direction of which they want to go. And this odd range of choices does not go well together, since they can’t seem to pick which one they really want to go with. And they change the idea as quickly as a quack experimental anime. I wish they would have choose one and stuck with it.
The character development was pretty decent. Even at the end you tend to see everyone is likeable, and that each have individual, and maybe a little cliché, but developed personalities. You even tend to like the person you least expected to like. The art was standard. Not anything special, except the details of the supernatural scene, and the weapons. None actually look like airsoft unless you see them loading and charging them. With no differentiating characteristics from the real thing, you would probably be arrested for having one in Japan. The battle background music caught my ear quickly, being a nice higher tempo modern jazz piece. The opening and ending were nothing special either. Overall I had high hopes for this one and they made sure to quash them at every turn.

Stella Women’s Academy High School Division Class C³: The Complete Collection includes clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This series was released with only Japanese language with English subtitles.

Overall Grade: C

While I enjoyed watching Stella Women’s Academy High School Division Class C³: The Complete Collection, it fell short of what it could have been.