'March Comes in Like a Lion' Marches Into My Heart (Review)

Monday, June 26, 2017

3-gatsu no Lion (March Comes in Like a Lion)

Studio: Shaft
Producer: AniplexDentsuNHK,HakusenshaAsmik Ace Entertainment,Toy's Factory
Genre: Slice of Life, Drama, Seinen, Game
Episodes: 22
Episode Length: 25 minutes

Having reached professional status in middle school, Rei Kiriyama is one of the few elite in the world of shogi. Due to this, he faces an enormous amount of pressure, both from the shogi community and his adoptive family. Seeking independence from his tense home life, he moves into an apartment in Tokyo. As a 17-year-old living on his own, Rei tends to take poor care of himself, and his reclusive personality ostracizes him from his peers in school and at the shogi hall.

However, not long after his arrival in Tokyo, Rei meets Akari, Hinata, and Momo Kawamoto, a trio of sisters living with their grandfather who owns a traditional wagashi shop. Akari, the oldest of the three girls, is determined to combat Rei's loneliness and poorly sustained lifestyle with motherly hospitality. The Kawamoto sisters, coping with past tragedies, also share with Rei a unique familial bond that he has lacked for most of his life. As he struggles to maintain himself physically and mentally through his shogi career, Rei must learn how to interact with others and understand his own complex emotions.


NOTE: To be taken to the original picture, click on the picture. Credit goes to the original creator(s).

March Comes in Like a Lion was an anime that took me by surprise. I watched the first episode when I had time but couldn't watch another. So, months later, I finally got to finish this anime. The animation and the darkness of the first episode made me love this anime, but, as I watched the show progress, the darkness faded away to light, and the animation just got better and better. Even though the original reasons why I loved this anime might not have remained, this anime is still quite amazing.

The one thing I can say about this anime is that it is character focused. And animes should be. Without good characters, even the best plot can't save that anime. 
But I adored each and every character I met. With the exception of Masamune Gotou, but that's because he's an abusive little -insert expletive here-. I even loved Kyouko Kouda, and she was a little bossy and annoying. 

The main character Rei Kiriyama was broken and sad. He had lost his parents and sister a long time ago, but their deaths still haunted him. He played shogi for his father, not necessarily for himself until recently. Furthermore, he experienced terrible suffering because of his skills in shogi and what that did to his adopted brother Ayumu Kouda and sister Kyouko. I related to his loneliness and isolation. The last episode showcases his isolation in a flashback to his childhood. Rei reminisced about having an empty seat next to him (Implying a lack of friendship and even the presence of hatred) when he was on a school trip. He had to find a place to eat lunch alone. While I don't eat lunch alone, I don't necessarily have the same close friendships as one may think. 
I understand his loneliness. After all, two lonely souls only have each other.

While he didn't change dramatically, (He even says that he didn't change in the last episode) I could tell that something had changed. The first half of the series is spent in his head. I swear most of the dialogue I heard was monolog. It was depressing but put things in perspective. Rei was alone. He had no one to talk to but himself. And that fact forced him into this fortress of solitude (Haha.) This made the scenes with the Kawamoto family brighter. 
But the second half highlighted a change. He had people to talk to. He had friends and rivals. He no longer spent time monologuing in his head. He talked to people.

AH. I loved the Kawamoto family. They were so adorable. Momo Kawamoto was an adorable fluffball. I just wanted to hug her. Hina Kawamoto was bright and loveable as well. But Akari Kawamoto might be my favorite. She was a family person, someone who loved helping her sisters out. She could have left them; she was an adult after all, but she stayed and helped. I'm a sucker for family stories because they're sometimes better than cliche romance stories. And Akari understood things. She was wise. 
I just wish we saw more of them. They were definitely a major part of why I loved this anime, but they faded away in the second half. I can't explain why except because of the emphasis on the Lion King Tournament. 
Plus, the cats could talk. Their food-obsessed commentary kept my spirits up.

My favorite character, next to the entire Kawamoto family, was Kai Shimada. Most of the second half of the anime was spent with him and Kiriyama's burgeoning friendship. I loved seeing this high-ranked player in his natural element, talking to his family and friends. Something I noticed about Kai was that he loved shogi and his family. He was a strong character. Even in the face of defeat, even when struggling through pain, he smiled. I respected that. 

The art was gorgeous. I adored this one scene in the first episode. It was meaningful and symbolic. I loved it. This anime is full of scenes like that. There is also the recurring theme of water. Just amazing. And the background art was gorgeous as well. 

My only complaint is a major one: there was a dire lack of plot. Sure, the anime started out with Rei's tournaments, but the anime didn't really come off as a competition anime. It was more of a development anime, and, even so, it wasn't that much of a development anime either. You could take it episode by episode, but then Rei's little character development is lost. You could say it was all for the Lion King Tournament, but that is only half of the anime. I'm still confused as to how I should explain this anime. Is it episodic in nature? Or does it have an overarching arc?

But I have high hopes. The last episode is full of hints about a season two. There is the shogi-science club and Rei joining his friends at a shogi table. There is Shimada's determination to win a Master title in episode 21. There is Rei and Souya's possibly similar personalities. There are many hints to a plot in a season two, and I would watch that because I would be able to see Rei grow more as a person.

Have you seen this anime? What are your thoughts? Comment below!

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