Chihayafuru Second Verse
Director: Norihiro Koizumi
Starring: Hirose Suzu, Shuhei Nomura, Mackenyu, Mayu Matsuoka, Kamishiraishi Mone, Yamoto Yuma, Kunimura Jun, Yuki Morinaga
Following the shocking revelation at the end of the first film, Chihaya (Hirose Suzu) and Taichi (Shuhei Nomura) head to Fukui to see Arata (Mackenyu). With his decision seemingly final, Chihaya and Taichi attempt to focus on the upcoming national tournament until Chihaya finds a new focus; Shinobu Wakamiya (Mayu Matsuoka), a karuta grandmaster also known as “The Queen” who also has a surprising history with Arata. As she splits her time trying to prepare to play Shinobu, Taichi grows frustrated at her seeming abandonment of the club’s goals for the team competition. As the national tournament looms, can the karuta club regain their focus and will Arata see his friends in the same way they do him?
Norihiro Koizumi directs this second film, shot simultaneously with the first and released a month after. Expanding the cast of characters, we see the very entertaining Morning Musume alum Mayu Matsuoka portray the stoic but still girlish Shinobu. Injecting a good bit of comedy, as well as a serious obstacle, it’s a good performance that melds her in easily with the rest of the cast despite being absent during the events of the first film. Returning is the same attention to photography and good dramatic storytelling centered around the dynamically explosive world of competitive karuta.
Following a natural progression from the previous film, we get to see quite a bit of Mackenyu’s Arata at last and his studious and serious nature is seemingly at odds with the carefree and wild personality of Chihaya. It’s an interesting dynamic that exists between these three friends but it also embroils some really moving sentiment concerning their unlikely friendship.
Honestly, there isn’t much to add to my previous review concerning the quality of the picture; it is still beautifully shot with very effective comedy and high character investment. The film does shift a bit towards Chihaya’s personal arc and while she doesn’t really change in terms of personality, it is a true learning experience for the girl who tends to go at her own pace.
The film itself wraps up the story in a nice bookend to the first film, but with numerous chapters and periods of time unaccounted for in the films, a third film is already set to go into production with the same cast and crew. Considering the very high opinion I carry for these two previous films, Part 3 has quickly jumped into among my most anticipated films of 2018. While it exists as a separate release, Second Verse is a very satisfying film that continues everything that made the first movie so engaging. With so many manga and anime live action adaptations failing so spectacularly, it is great to see such high quality work that respects the source as well as effectively stir interest in not only the manga but the sport itself.