March Comes in Like a Lion has returned at last after its three week break and they have plunged us straight into the title match between Shimada and Yanagihara. While a lot of this series has focused on Rei, it is nice to see him take a back seat for these older characters as they each bring a different perspective to the life of a professional who has their pride, reputation and life on the line when they sit at the table.
While we’ve been with Shimada before as he has contested a champion, this time he is going for his first title, and as he repeats throughout the build-up to the match, he is determined to take it. Shimada isn’t a flashy player or a natural genius. He’s a hard worker and has literally done the grinding over and over again to hone his skills and finally he has a title within reach if only he can overcome Yanagihara. And given we’ve spent time with Shimada and like him as the mentor character to Rei you would think that the show would set him up as the one the audience should want to win. Particularly when Shimada’s support committee rock up to wish him well.
But March Comes in Like a Lion is never about simple black and white scenarios where one person should win or lose at the table. This episode devotes a lot of time to building up Yanagihara and providing him with a real motive for wanting to hold onto that title with everything that he has. And in the process, making the audience want him to keep it leaving us in the very confused mental state of wanting Shimada’s hard work to pay off for him but also not leave an old man devastated by the loss of the one thing he really has left to hold on to (that he worked equally hard to obtain and to hold onto for this long).
Naturally the match doesn’t end this episode and in honesty, I don’t know how this will play out and who will win. I don’t know which would be better as I think either one of these characters losing will be a little devastating. And that is where this show has once again shown off how well it can write its characters and move its audience. The show may have gone on break for three weeks but it has not lost its edge.
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