Most of my readers are already familiar with my deep love for this series so I probably don’t need to tell you that this anime review is not going to be objective. In fact, let’s just accept that this is my love letter to season 2 of March Comes in Like a Lion. It will save any need for a disclaimer later in the ‘review’.
The first season of March Comes in Like a Lion took awhile to grow on me. While from episode one I was interested in Rei’s emotional struggle, the slow pace and trickled introduction of the support cast meant it was not love at first sight. Still, some fantastic visual metaphors and ultimately a fairly powerful and emotional experience meant that it fast became one of my all time favourite series. And then season 2 came out.
It isn’t often that a sequel comes along that manages to completely capture what made the original season so amazing while improving on practically everything and yet season 2 of March Comes In Like a Lion does exactly that. There isn’t a single wasted episode in this second season with each one building on the last or transitioning the audience from one emotionally charged arc to the next. Even what should have been a fairly mundane shogi match between two supporting characters ended up being an incredibly memorable viewing experience that had me on the edge of my seat and not knowing who I even wanted to win. While there are still flaws in this show to be found, and while a lot of the enjoyment from watching comes from whether or not you’ve connected with the cast in season one, for me this was a near perfect viewing experience from start to finish.
So what made it so amazing?
Firstly, the visuals are well and truly still hitting their mark. Whether we are embroiled in someone’s emotional trauma or basking in the warmth of success, happiness or contentment, this anime consistently delivers visuals that capture the mood of the moment and perfectly convey it to the audience. The music isn’t quite as strong but it also does an excellent job of pairing with the visuals to carry these emotions and they leave their mark.
Whether it is Hina being bullied, the mood of the classroom, Rei reflecting on his actions or past, a desire to win, or even just experiencing the joy of eating food with others, this anime creates that mood and it really does invite the audience to experience it as well as watch what is happening. While the anime does not rely on the visuals alone to draw the audience along, every single image seems purposeful and well thought out making this a visual feast for the eyes.
When coupled with some incredibly strong narrative elements, the whole show moves from just being something you watch to something that seems to consume you. Part of what makes this narrative so striking is how real it becomes. They haven’t felt the need to use gross exaggeration for the bullying or anyone’s mental distress. It conveys a truth that is more powerful because it is so familiar. Even if you have not experienced the situation the characters find themselves in, you know someone who has or can very easily imagine it. The drama is in the delivery rather than hyperbole and that lifts this from being a slice of life drama to something that forces the audience to look long and hard at their own lives and choices. While the result isn’t always comfortable, there’s a genuine sense of catharsis while watching.
That sense of catharsis is aided through the incredibly adept pacing of this second season. Season one suffered from some early pacing issues and just feeling slow paced. Season two has no such problems. Every arc goes exactly as long as it needs to. Every conversation makes its point but doesn’t linger past its welcome. More importantly, this anime knows exactly what it is doing to its audience and after dragging us through the wake of Hina’s despair it finds the perfect moment to drag us out of the mire into a more relaxed and happy moment before we move once again into a more tense viewing experience. No emotion lingers on for too long but each one is felt, experienced, and then gently ushered aside for the next wave. It isn’t abrupt or jarring except when necessary, and it all feels very natural.
Still, the main reason I would recommend this anime a million times over is probably Rei and Hina themselves. The journey both of these characters have undertaken since season one has been intense and both characters have come out the other side showing growth and wisdom but no instant cures or fixes. They are carrying their scars but they are also carrying the strength they gained through facing their burdens.
In this, Hina was the leader. It is no exaggeration when Rei declares that Hina is his hero or like the sun. She goes through a hellish experience with bullying at her school but despite the tears and her own anger at her weakness, Hina never runs. Not once. She continues to face each challenge as it comes. Certainly she is supported in this by Rei and her family, but it is her decision to keep going.
The impact this has on Rei is enormous and while he experienced some character growth in season one, season two sees him blossom. His desire to help and protect Hina and to overcome his own weaknesses really propels him to new heights. One of the most rewarding sequences I watched last season was when Rei returned to the house he had grown up in and while it wasn’t a pleasant experience, it showed us exactly how far Rei had come in terms of overcoming the ghosts that have haunted him since the show began.
When looking back at this season, there really isn’t a single thing I would change. Not one moment that we could have done without. Ultimately I am left with only one request and that is if they ever make a third season, I hope that the same love and attention to detail is used because the worst thing that could happen now is a continuation that does not do these characters justice.
And I know that wasn’t really a review but I love this show so much. Really I’d love to look at each sequence and event again in detail but honestly, I think this is a show that is better experience individually as each person is going to take something a bit different from it. I really recommend giving it a go if you haven’t. If you have and it didn’t work for you, I understand that too. For me though, this was one of the most powerful viewing experiences I’ve had in a long time and it is not one I will soon forget.
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- March Comes in Like a Lion Season 1 Series Review
- March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 Series Review
- Friday’s Feature: Finding the Path Beyond Stagnation
- Tuesday’s Top 5: Visually Interesting Anime in 2017
- Friday’s Feature: There Are Many Ways To Appreciate Anime
- Friday’s Feature: Do You Like To Look In The Mirror?
- Friday’s Feature: Constructing Characters Through Visuals in Anime