Just yesterday, a friend tried to explain why Laguna Beach is an awesome show (I really hope he was being sarcastic), but in one of his attempts to defend the series, he asked me if I had watched any of it. I responded that I had accidentally stumbled into one episode, thereby wasting a good half an hour of my life. “A-ha,” he responded, “then you don’t really know how awesome it is.” I countered with: “Truly great shows are amazing in just one episode.”
Well, maybe that’s not strictly true. By that logic, I would’ve dropped Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya after “The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina” (still the weirdest first episode I’ve ever watched). But then there are some that just really grab you by your shirt in the first episode and make you pay attention. In ghostlightning’s Top 30 Anime of All Time (as of 2011), he listed Hanasaku Iroha as #29, despite its lack of completion at the time. I truly believe that there are certain shows that are so good at the beginning you know they’re going to be winners. For me, some examples of that were Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal, Fullmetal Alchemist, Nana, Honey and Clover, and Ergo Proxy. And now Chihayafuru.
I have always been a huge sucker for mood first and foremost. That was what drew me into Nana, RK: Trust and Betrayal, and Honey and Clover. The first episode of Chihayafuru didn’t start very gloriously. It seemed rather generic, a high school girl trying to start a club. How many shows have we seen with girls and clubs? It makes my head spin. But once the episode delved into Chihaya’s past and motivation for playing karuta, that was when I was irrevocably hooked. The art was beautiful, the music great, and the characters believable. The characters are far from perfect — with some rather annoying traits in some and character flaws in others. But what touches me is that the show documents each of their journeys to become better people and be true to themselves and their dreams.