Following professional Shogi player Rei Kiriyama through the ups and downs of his young career, personal life and internal struggles, March Comes Like a Lion promises to be a story rich in character development and heart-plucking drama.
17 year-old Rei Kiriyama moves out from his foster family and leads the intense life of constant competitions and isolation from all social aspects of life. Trying to keep considerable distance from bonding with anyone, he finds himself being included into the kindhearted Kawamoto residence, which provides a homely connection he lacked from the recently departed foster home. Success comes and goes as it does, and the pro player comes to the crossroads that accompany the trials and tribulations of life.
This is where our impressions of episodes 4-6 in the series will go. Before reading on, be sure to check out our impressions of episodes 1-3 first!
Episode 4 Impressions:
Chapter 7- Hina / Chapter 8- V.S.
(Airing 29 October 16)
March continues to find its rhythm in a really fun spirited episode, featuring a little bit of everything short of the actual game of shogi that has made it work up to this point. The comedy feels organic, the emotions are raw and fleeting, and there is just enough sprinkled in the mix to remind you of where everybody is standing in their own personal situations. Rei sort of takes the backseat in both halves to this episode, as Hinata fights with Akari over constructing a lunch for a longshot crush and Harunobu befriends the girls whilst out in town with Rei. While it can be risky in high doses to do, it is a nice change of pace to have outsider commentary on the growing experiences of others portrayed here by our protagonist.
It might be argued as still too early to throw it under a microscope, but it really is admirable just how much care goes into plugging the most subtle of hints into the growing plotlines that will probably be bulldozing their way through our feelings in the later acts of the series. You hear Harunobu fidget over his food choices (as his health was brought on the radar last week), but it isn’t blasted across the narrative in some flashback scene to literally an episode ago. While comforting a rejected Hinata, Rei has a brief contemplation over what love is and a rather dark scene is played out briefly between him and a woman. Perhaps this woman is related to his nightmares he has, or it is just another brick from life crashing at the glasshouse of depression. Regardless, this show doesn’t hold your hand and exposition the living daylights out of the audience in a belittling fashion- it wants you to think and it trusts that you will understand what is going on without it having to scream “Look what I did!” for its messages and development to occur. Unless there is an uncharacteristic display of events in the immediate forecast, I don’t see this changing for a large (if not entire) duration of the show.
In One Line: Hinata goes all out to impress her crush, Harunobu is a massive hit with the girls as Rei gets some downtime from his shogi playing.
Episode 5 Impressions:
Chapter 9- Agreement / Chapter 10-Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
(Aired 5 Nov 16)
To no surprise, this week turned the dial up far more riding off the coattails of last week with a hard hitting one-two punch of flashbacks in each half of the episode. Considering that there had only been tiny flashes of Rei’s situation that could be pieced together, it was incredibly forward of the show for diving into his past with such detail. It doesn’t take much to note that this was the fastest pitch so far, but it is also worth noting that it was handled with the same methodical artistry steering things so far.
In several of their shows before, SHAFT has always made it their calling card to really bring the most out visually to match the level of drama in a scene. It is a lofty feat to accomplish, but with the jaw-dropping detail and direction between the chapters here, there is no doubt that they’ve nailed another one with March. The best part about things to come has to be without a doubt that there is an immeasurable amount of potential for a repeat of impressive scenes beckoning their scene reading transcriptions into the stunning visuals. Psychological warfare is on the menu for our young shogi player, and I couldn’t think of a better team to convey the impact Kyouko is going to have on Rei (after all, we were introduced to the entire series with an unsettling nightmare of the very same).
In One Line: Rei thinks back to coming under the wing of Masachika Kouda after his family catastrophe, the toxic situation he created within the Kouda household, specifically the level hatred the daughter Kyouko has for him.
Episode 6 Impressions:
Chapter 11 - Child of God (Part One) / Chapter 12-Child of God (Part Two)
(Aired 12 Nov '16)
While it might not look like it on surface level, there was quite a bit going on here in the entirety of the episode. Introducing itself at first glance as a potential vacation episode (the first two scenes involved brainstorming travel locations and a school trip), there began a very calculated juggling act of a couple of storylines developing. The first was in the current time, with Mr. Hayashida (the teacher from the roof scene in the beginning of the show) lending guidance over lunch. A growing trend can be found with just how much more we are starting to see with interactions for Rei outside of the girls, which is a very interesting thing to keep note of. The second, and potentially most difficult to breakdown part is just how much focus went into the comparison of the current Shogi champion to Kiriyama. After the dust settles it is easy to see that it was to subtly indicate that Rei has a lot to carry in expectation and comparisons to other prodigies, but such subtleties draw the line for those who have been critical of the methodical pace of the series.
The last bits, however, are by far the calling card as to why this show is so worth sticking through with. Amidst reflecting on his early slumps, Rei compares his depression to swimming through endless stormy waters, going from island to island. Stuck on one of the islands, he loses the “battery” to do things as essential as eat. Between the favored shot of water circling the drain, sinking, and the heavy use of dark shades as the damning words of his step sister dig under the skin, not much else is needed to deliver the point (as we have seen). The analogy, however, manages to take what should be overkill and translate it into an impactful dive into the human condition. Couple it with character development in Hina finally piecing together what her sister meant in Rei going through a rough time, and you have a well executed conclusion to another steady week. It may be lost on a growing impatient audience, but it is impossible to resist the special vibe coming from March.
In One Line: Speaking over lunch with his teacher, Rei ponders his intentions for studying in high school and the expectations of being a prodigy.
March Comes Like a Lion is produced by Aniplex and NHK. In addition, the series is made by Studio SHAFT and is directed by Shinbou Akiyuki (The Monogatari series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and has art direction fromAsano Naoyuki (Osomatsu-san, Saint Oniisan)