March Comes in Like a Lion Series Review

Overview:

March Comes in Like a Lion follows Rei Kiriyama a professional Shogi player despite being in highschool. Rei struggles with social interactions and sometimes just facing the day is an overwhelming challenge, however an encounter with three sisters will see some small changes in his life. You can find my episode reviews here.

Review:

There is no denying that I have absolutely loved watching March Comes in Like a Lion. For me there was an instant connection with Rei (not that I’ve gone through the same challenges or anything but I think we’ve all had those moments where we’ve wanted to run away from everything and hide). Rei’s really at the centre of everything in this show and whether you love it or not will depend entirely on how you take to him. Whether you enjoy watching him struggle and want to get behind him, whether you feel it cuts too close to home and feel uncomfortable, or whether you just don’t connect and find the proceedings fairly dull, it all comes down to that central character.

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That isn’t to say there aren’t some other very strong points to the show but with a plot that is almost non-existent this show heavily relies on the character journey to carry the story forward. Outside of Rei’s emotional journey you really just have  boy drifting through life and encountering others, occasionally getting caught up in their drama, and then drifting on to the next thing. Some of those encounters are amazing, but it doesn’t make for much of a plot.

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So what do I like about Rei?

He is at times represented quite pathetically, which isn’t the same as being a pathetic character. There are times when he gives up, when he loses his temper, when he surrenders a battle before he begins fighting. At all of those moments, everything about the show paints Rei as being pathetic. However, as a character he is magnificent to watch. This show gave me one of the best representations of a character going through depression and dealing with social anxieties that I have ever seen. Early in the series I worried that the sisters were going to be like some mystic fairy godmother and wave a wand and ‘cure’ Rei (a feat we’ve seen in so many other shows where getting a friend or a girlfriend/boyfriend suddenly changes everything). However, while they certainly give Rei an anchor to the world at times and a bright point within the darkness that surrounds him, they alone are not enough to transform him. They merely provide a catalyst for Rei realising he wants to change.

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And that is probably the strongest part of his character. Rei remains the agent of change regardless of the other characters who may support that change, provide a means for that change, or provide guidance on how to change. Rei is the one who chooses to move from where he is. Because of that his journey is not linear. He moves forward and back, stepping into more positive spaces before falling back down. Each time he learns and gains from the experience but it feels incredibly genuine and more importantly, if you’ve connected with him, it is heart wrenching watching him fall. You just want to reach out to him and grab his hand but you know you can’t fight the battle for him anymore than his teacher at school can or the sisters.

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The sisters themselves remain fairly nebulous to me. While they are that shining ray of hope that Rei needs, and at times they certainly kick things into gear (dragging Rei out when he’s sick to nurse him, running into him in town and bringing Nikaido over) as characters they get very little time and almost no development. The middle sister probably has the best moments when going through her first love and again when mourning her parents, but really the sisters seem more like a plot device than characters at times. That doesn’t really detract from the show but given their impact on the main character it would be nice to know more about them other than that they are nice. The cats are a nice touch though.

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Later in the series an older shogi player becomes fairly significant in Rei’s life. Shimada is probably the best developed character outside of Rei and his influence on Rei is enormous in the second half of the series. Shimada is a great character to watch and his story plays out very well and is thoroughly engaging. At first it seemed odd that he was getting so much focus, particularly as it seemed like Rei, the main character, was being sidelined, however the choice was well made and when the focus shifts back to Rei you realise just how essential seeing Shimada’s story was.

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The only other character I want to address in detail is Kyouko, Rei’s sister in the family that adopted him. She is set up as an antagonist and to be honest she is quite antagonistic, however that doesn’t appear to be her main role. Her relationship with Rei is more complicated than it first appeared and while at no point do I actually feel sorry for her, she is a horrible person, you begin to understand her actions a bit more when you realise that the father essentially forced his children to turn against each other in order to be the best. Losing out to Rei, and in so doing losing her father’s affection, seems to be the cornerstone of Kyouko’s entire character so her actions are understandable. What is less clear are Rei’s feelings for her given he clearly hates and fears her, but also seems drawn to her like a moth straight to a flame. If there was any relationship I’d like to see more of, it would be this one, because there’s a lot of unanswered questions about how Rei feels about the situation.

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Outside of the characters what makes this show an amazing watch are the visuals  and the music. Both have been chosen very well throughout to really convey the emotions on screen. While at times the visuals get a little over crowded as they hit you with a plethora of colours and symbols, for the most part they perfectly convey the feeling of the moment and really give a concrete substance to the emotions of the character.

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Okay, a few criticisms because I can’t leave this all shiny and happy. This show is slow. At times in the first half it is really, really slow. And the shogi cat song needs to disappear from existence and never be heard again. Plus, the first opening theme is significantly stronger than the second in terms of matching the tone of the show (though both ending themes are brilliant). And that’s really all I’ve got as overall criticisms.

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All and all though, if you didn’t watch this or try it while it was airing I am definitely recommending it. It won’t grab everyone but it is worth trying as if you can get into it the character journey is well worth watching. I know it is only the Winter season that has aired so far in 2017, but I know it is going to be hard for another anime to have as much impact on me this year as this one did so this is definitely a contender for my anime of the year.


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The Laughing Salesman Episode 2

Review:

I’m not sure if the recurring theme in this story is alcoholism or ego. Regardless, this week we are introduced to another two customers (victims) of the salesman. The first is taken to the hot springs where he proceeds to get drunk and then more or less consents to cheating on his wife. The second involves an employee who quit because of his boss who then becomes a tyrant in his own right.

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The opening theme remains the strongest part of this show but the episode and the two stories are both perfectly watchable if not overly exciting.

The Laughing Salesman is available on Crunchyroll.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 2

Review:

This is a really odd show. It isn’t good. That much is fairly clear at this point. A good three quarters of this episode is spent watching various characters talk at other characters (they can’t really be said to be talking to other characters). We also have emotional extortion in the form of threats of self-harm which are carried out and I don’t think that knowing he’s planning a reset makes wrist slashing any more acceptable (though if he had to surely he could have chosen a better weapon than a broken bottle). But they wrap up the whole Mari isn’t a real girl story and everyone is happy. We used our powers somewhat unethically to emotionally blackmail both the bureau and a parent and of course now everything will be fine.

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Let me just say, if that had been the end of the episode I was pretty much done with this. Then they did something actually interesting.

Note: Spoiler.

We have a reset where they don’t change the events but something changes. And because they’ve reset, they can’t go back and fix it. So the question the audience now has is who else is aware of the reset and able to change things.

Though, if I thought they might go into that straight away I guess I was mistaken because we then get a 2 year time skip and bureau guy is now looking after the club he pretty much told our two main characters they had to join. End episode.

So yeah, odd.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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The Eccentric Family Season 2 Episode 1

Overview:

The Eccentric Family followed Yasaburo in his daily life as a Tanuki trying to live an entertaining life (even while dealing with Tanuki and Tengu politics and trying not to get eaten). Season 2 picks up with Yasaburo still doing much the same though he seems to be finding all new troubles to stick his nose into.

Review:

With this you either watched the first season and loved it so a second season was really appealing or you’ve never heard of it and season 2 is offering you no reason to jump on board. It’s a risky move all things considered that they don’t bother providing any kind of real lead in for new viewers considering that the first season was fairly obscure (despite being great fun to watch).

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Despite that, these characters have all continued on after the events of season 1. The older brother is still determined to become a leader, the second brother is still being a frog in the well (though I guess technically he isn’t stuck that way and is now choosing that lifestyle), Yasaburo still talks himself in and out of trouble as he interacts with everyone and sticks his nose into trouble unnecessarily, and the youngest brother is still a bit of a wimp. Benten seems to be absent for the time, which is a shame given I loved her in season 1, but the introduction of Nidaime could be fun because so far he’s proving to be fairly entertaining to watch interact with Yasaburo.

No central story has really emerged yet, but that isn’t really a surprise. Though season 1 had a basic plot with the Tanuki election upcoming, a lot of what happened really had very little to do with that. Hopefully this season can be as fun as the first.

The Eccentric Family Season 2 is available on Crunchyroll.


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Eromanga Sensei Episode 1

Overview:

Izumi writes novels and takes care of his shut in sister (as well as apparently attending school though that seems like a minor point at the moment). His sister turns out to be the illustrator for his novels which he uncovers while watching a live stream.

Review:

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Okay, this one should not be appealing to me at all. So far the characters are pretty stock standard (with the younger sister even insulting her brother by calling him a light novel protagonist) and the plot is pretty basic. That said, as generic as a lot of this is, it was kind of charming in a strange way. I want to know what happened to their parents, why she was brought into the family, how they work together now that they know each other’s pen names, etc. So for a first episode it got me interested enough to continue. Whether I last a season will really depend on whether the charm wears thin.

Eromanga Sensei is available on AnimeLab.


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Sagrada Reset Episode 1

Overview:

In a town where a lot of people have strange abilities one girl is able to reset the world up to three days. This is fairly pointless until she meets the boy who can perfectly recall memory.

Review:

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Really hoping this isn’t forewarning that there is no story here.

I’m not certain where this is going or if there is an overall plot, but for a first episode this was intriguing. Definitely slow, and really quiet. That was one thing I continually noticed throughout the episode was the absence of sound which made the few moments of background noise (whether it be wind or cicadas) really stand out.  The characters are a little robotic in their mannerisms (though it seems like a deliberate choice) but so far this has managed to make me very curious. Possibly that will turn to boredom but I’m kind of hoping this can remain interesting as there’s certainly enough possibilities floating about and the discussions about choices and morality, while heavy handed, are so far pretty interesting.

Sagrada Reset is available on AnimeLab.


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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 22

Review:

Rei’s journey has been a fairly fantastic ride to follow and I love that in this final episode we get the analogy of his life playing shogi compared to being on a train, continuing onward without a definite destination. The imagery in this show has almost always worked well (with a handful of exceptions) and this final episode of season 1, really nails it.

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The early part of this episode is interesting because we return to Rei’s school which is probably the place he has made the least progress. While he’s opened up to the sisters and reunited with them last episode, finally made actual friends amongst the other Shogi players, and really started to think about what he wants, school remains a place that Rei seems to want to be but spends most of his time there finding ways to escape dealing with anyone. This really helps us to see that Rei is still the same character we met in the beginning and while some small changes have occurred for the better, his essential character remains unchanged, and it brings a cohesion to this season that a full character transition couldn’t have delivered. It also makes me respect it far more because that kind of social anxiety is not going to vanish overnight no matter how shiny the sisters are.

Anyway, I’ll do a full review of this show sometime in the next month or two and I’m really excited that a season 2 has been announced. I’d love to see more of Rei’s travels.

March Comes in Like a Lion is available on Crunchyroll.


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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 21

Review:

21 episodes and finally we have this:

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Rei felt connected and was happy. And you know what? This was an incredibly quiet moment buried in an episode but right there was the moment I felt absolutely satisfied having watched this show. Rei hasn’t done a complete 180 as a character. He isn’t completely set up now and ready to face the world. But he’s made the vital change that’s been needed and because we’ve watched him agonising as he’s worked toward it and every step of the way his emotions have been put front and centre, this one breakthrough actually beat out watching any shonen protagonist take down a final boss.

I am glad however that there is another episode to go as I’d like to know more about how Rei is planning to move forward from this point. On the brightest side though, he returned to the sisters’ house at the end of the episode which really did feel like a step forward. Speaking of the sisters, they managed to make a large chunk of the episode about food again and reminded us just how adorable they can all be sometimes.

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Anyway, I’ve loved this series and the ending is not disappointing so far. Looking forward to the final episode.

March Comes in Like a Lion is available on Crunchryoll.


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ACCA Episode 8

Review:

ACCA continues to know when it is time to make a reveal and this week the focus is entirely on what happened with the Princess and how Nino ended up watching over Jean and Lotta. Normally I’m not big on flashback episodes where we’re told what happened back when, usually because we’ve already made the logical assumptions and it feels like we’re treading over old ground while the main story stagnates. ACCA doesn’t have that feeling. Yes, we’d kind of put the pieces together during the previous episode but due to the ambiguous nature of so many statements seeing the reality of what happened and seeing a lot of it from Nino’s view has really consolidated the plot up until now. Its satisfying in that it confirms most of what we’ve suspected but at the same time it doesn’t feel like we already had all the answers.

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Though probably the biggest surprise is the age difference between Nino and Jean. Earlier in the episode I wondered how Nino had met Jean in high school given how much older he was supposed to be and ACCA didn’t just ignore that point. It addressed it head on (though I’m still not convinced people won’t guess your age just because you wear glasses).

All and all, this was another solid episode. The last few minutes where Jean returns home leave me feeling uncertain about what is going to happen next. He is always hard to read but in this case it kind of feels like even he doesn’t know what is next.

ACCA is available on Crunchyroll.


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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 19

Review:

March Comes in Like a Lion continues to be a slow yet quietly impressive character journey. Our focus is still on Shimada as he prepares for the upcoming tournament aided by a fairly conflicted Rei (I know, Rei being conflicted is at this point kind of a given). Still, we see some genuine interactions between Rei and Shimada and in the process learn more about both of them.

Last week I criticised some of the over the top visual metaphors in episode 18 and the clashing nature of them. This week returns to a more cohesive look and tone and the effect is far greater than the frantic images of last week.

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Really loving this series still.

March Comes in Like a Lion is available on Crunchyroll.


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