12 Days of Anime Characters – Shimada

12 Days of Anime Title Image

Continuing with the 12 Days of Anime I am moving on from Siluca Meletes in Record of Grancrest War, to a character who takes a lot longer to really show his strength. However, once he does, he becomes quite the force to be reckoned with. 

Day 2 has us turning our attention to Shimada from March Comes in Like a Lion.

March Comes in Like a Lion

It is amazing that a character introduced like Shimada ended up having quite the impact that he has had. The one thing I must put it down to is the incredibly solid writing that is consistently delivered in March Comes in Like a Lion. Originally, Shimada is a character Rei is facing off against in a Shogi match and Rei utterly underestimates him, expecting to advance to the next round and take on the next opponent. What we see during the match is that Shimada, though he is quiet, unassuming, and has an undramatic approach to the game, is every bit as hungry for victory and with far more experience and patience, he’s able to more or less crush Rei under-heel with almost no effort.

It is quite the humbling experience for the protagonist and promotes some very real growth in him. However, in and of itself, this moment doesn’t really help Shimada register. He’s just another opponent Rei has faced and someone we assume he’ll play again and maybe beat once he is stronger. 

How wrong this assumption is. Shimada is not so simple a character and the relationship he ends up forming with Rei really defies a single classification. 

And that is because, it is a dynamic relationship. It is one that evolves naturally over time. At first he is the guy who beat Rei, who seems ordinary but is strong, and then you realise he’s incredibly physically weak as stress takes a more or less continuous toll on him. The more you learn about Shimada and how ill he gets with the stress of matches, the more I admire him for continuing to throw himself into the game again and again and never walking away and taking an easier path.

But what really helps is that Shimada becomes something of a teacher and mentor to Rei. Rei joins the workshop Shimada runs and over time we see that Shimada relies on Rei to a point as he prepares for a crucial match. Rei’s insight and talent is valued even if he’s still forming as a player. Rei also accompanies Shimada and helps him before and after the match, building a strong friendship and respect between the pair. So while Shimada remains the mentor figure, there’s a lot of give and take in the relationship.

March Comes in Like a Lion Shimada

Season two though gives Shimada the moments he deserves. Shimada’s story is one of the quiet hard-worker who can’t compete with those who have flair, the gift of gab, powerful presence or the like. He isn’t a draw card to the Shogi world and is seen as an ordinary man. But he is an ordinary man who never learned how to quit, who carries the weight and expectations of those he treasures with him (even if they do not wish him to feel burdened), and who has also learned how to reach out to others in need.

March Comes in Like a Lion Shimada

Shimada is a powerful character who’s journey was almost as moving as Hina’s and yet he is an almost unsung hero. 

Here is to Shimada.

A character who is essential to Rei’s progress both in Shogi and as a person, and a character who has real goals and ambitions all of his own and will work to achieve them.

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Karandi James
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March Comes in Like a Lion Movie Original Soundtrack
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Visually Interesting Anime from 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

Continuing my lists of anime from 2018, I am now looking at the most visually interesting anime. Notice it does not claim the best visuals or animation. To be honest, as long as something is watchable I generally don’t pay a huge amount of attention other than to decide something looks pretty or not. For instance, Angolmois managed to have me complaining about how ugly it looked almost every episode so I knew it had to be pretty bad for me to pay that much attention to it (that and Devils’ Line – what was it with weird filters this year). 

Still, there are some requirements for an anime to be on my radar for visuals. I need to like the look it is going for. It needs to feel slightly different from the other shows I’ve been watching. Some good choices in direction usually help. And, let’s be honest, the animation needs to be pretty smooth. Now, some of my choices on the list won’t have all of those things, but that’s kind of what I’m going for. And that term ‘interesting’ is in the title for a reason. I need to have found the visuals interesting, as in I thought they were worth mentioning and discussing on more than one occasion because they grabbed my interest.

Which is kind of how 18if made it onto the top of the list for 2017 and March Comes in Like a Lion took out second place in 2017 and top place in 2016. These anime demanded that I pay attention to their visuals and gave me imagery that stayed with me well after the episodes had ended. So what made my list in 2018? 

Honourable Mentions:

This year I’m giving an honourable mention to Run With The Wind and Darling in the Franxx. Franxx’s animation was gorgeous and the character designs were really cute. Even if I’m not a big fan of Trigger in general, it is hard to argue with those visuals. Run With The Wind has moments of spectacular direction and aesthetics and then large stretches where it feels pretty ordinary. If it could harness those moments where visually it just nails the scene, it would definitely have made it on the official list.

Number 5: Cardcaptor Sakura – Clear Card

While there were many parts of this reboot/sequel that didn’t quite work out as well as I would have liked, visually this was everything I could have ever wanted. Cardcaptor had always been beautiful but the update to the look of the show was spectacular. The magical moments sparkled and did everything they needed to, but it was the attention to detail on the everyday aspects, trees, leaves, flowers, cooking, background characters, that really sold me on the visuals of this one. While the story ended up being kind of meh, there is no denying how pretty this anime turned out.

Number 4: Tsurune

I will admit, this one has some wavering quality with some sequences being outstandingly pretty and others being more ordinary, but it never looks bad. The archery has so far been beautifully animated, the characters are lovely to look at and differentiated enough that you don’t get confused, and there’s just a general care and attention to detail here that is truly pleasurable to watch. I accept that some of what makes this work is how the visuals and sounds are paired together, but ultimately this is one very pretty sports anime.

Number 3: My Hero Academia Season 3

Right, it would have been just plain wrong to leave this one off of the list. For all that I didn’t find season three as enticing as seasons one and two, this season really did bring some spectacular animation to the mix of the already fairly amazing character designs and general distinct look of the show. For all that My Hero Academia is pretty classic shounen, everything about the look of the show has managed to make itself feel unique and the ongoing impressive quality of the action sequences where it never feels like lazy or reused imagery means this anime remains one that should be praised for just how good it manages to look.

Number 2: March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2

So, yeah, this one is on the list for the third year in a row (because it is awesome). I’m kind of sad that once again it has lost out on first place given it is still a truly amazingly beautiful anime to watch. Even in its most mundane moments, March Comes in Like a Lion manages to use an impressive combination of visual symbolism and interesting direction to draw the viewer’s eye to whatever they wish us to focus on. They are crafting an amazing character journey and the reason it works so well is very much because of how they present each stage. However, what really impressed in 2018 was the scene where Rei returned to his foster parents’ house. The awkwardness of that scene and the emotions both characters were feeling came through beautifully. It was something really simple and yet it worked spectacularly well. Wait, why didn’t I put this at number one again?

Number 1: Bloom Into You

Oh right, March Comes in Like a Lion couldn’t quite beat this one for direction in its second half of season two (which is all that aired in 2018). Now, if you want to see something that feels like it has been carefully constructed with love and attention to detail in every single frame, Bloom Into You is the anime for you. I love the direction, the use of colour and contrasts, the character designs, quite literally everything about this anime is beautiful and it works to construct a story that emotionally takes the audience on a ride. It is a truly amazing thing to see in action and there isn’t a single sequence that isn’t worth rewatching just to think about how it has been put together and why it is so amazing.


And that brings us to the end of my list of visually interesting anime for 2018. However, as always, I am dying to know what the rest of you thought this year. Please share your favourites in the comments below.

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Karandi James
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Ending Themes in 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

Continuing on with our Top 5 lists for the year that is 2018, this week I am turning my attention to the ending themes. Now, this list was a little harder to make because there are plenty of ED’s I don’t listen to after the first episode, which is why in previous years I haven’t even tried to do this list. Then again, if the ED is interesting it will make me hang around and so I’m going to roll out my list.

(If you missed the previous list you can check out my top 5 favourite openings here.)

Now what makes a good ending? I have no idea. I like endings that are fun to listen to or capture a theme in the story, but I also like character focused ED’s or ones that just play with their cast and characters. Really it could be one of a dozen things that grabs my interest, though I can guarantee still images and panning aren’t high on my list of priorities to watch each week.

Please feel free to share your favourites in the comments below.

Please Note – There probably won’t be any spoilers in this list.

Honourable mentions this week go to: How To Keep a Mummy and Darling in the Franxx.

Number 5: Steins;Gate 0 – The Last Game by Zwei

There’s something incredibly plaintive about this ending, which is probably what it was going for and even as it becomes more energised later in the song that underlying sorrow never really fades. As much as I wasn’t the biggest fan of Steins;Gate 0, didn’t dislike it but just couldn’t help but compare it to the original, I really did love this song each week and I will admit I didn’t skip listening even once. Great song, solid visuals, and a really good effort at capturing the core emotion of the story.

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Number 4: Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi Episode 3 – Negai Hana by Katsuyuki Konishi

This is an odd one because it isn’t the ending the whole way through. Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi had some great music and I liked that at intervals various characters would get an ending focused on them, and in this case the Ogre Master’s voice actor performed the song, and in the process very nearly knocked Daisuke Ono off from being my favourite voice actor. The visuals aren’t much with this one, but I really loved this song.

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Number 3: Dakaichi – Chuntaka! by Junta Azumaya (Yuuki Ono), Takato Saijou (Hiroki Takahashi)

There’s genuinely no excuse. The song is generic as, the slow pan over the characters and the heavy use of the stereo is pretty lazy. The dance sequence is simple and incredibly twee. And yet, I genuinely love this ending. It make me smile and I genuinely feel like getting up and dancing with the characters by the end of it. So while I will accept this song is very much not a sensible choice, and if I were to rewrite this list in six months it probably wouldn’t be here, right now this song is so getting this spot.

DAKAICHI Episode 1 - Junta and Takato

Number 2: March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 – I am Standing by Ruann

You want an ending that captures a character journey over an entire series, sounds great, and is visually interesting, than March Comes in Like a Lion delivers. I love the song and the mood it sets. I love how it shows Rei over his life and the heavy link to the water and colour symbolism used throughout the whole series. Favourite moment though is when he runs toward the colours and the sisters appear, Hina the last of them at the very centre, Rei’s sun. Truly beautiful and perfect for the anime.

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Number 1: Banana Fish – Prayer X by King Gnu

Visually, this is perhaps the least impressive ED on the list, but the music is so incredibly distinctive and haunting and so perfectly suited to the character (as are the visuals) that I can’t help but get totally drawn into this. Just hearing the first few notes of the ED can suck me right in at this point and after listening to it the song will be stuck in my head for hours. I really love it and I feel it is the perfect song for the show so here it is at number 1.

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Alright, over to you. What would you pick for your favourite anime endings in 2018?


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Karandi James

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SWORD ART ONLINE MUSIC COLLECTION

Celebrating Megane Day

The amazing Mel has organised a small celebration for Megane Day which happens to be today. I’m going to admit, I love characters who wear glasses and so I was happy to take the excuse to revisit some of these amazing characters.

Previously I’ve given my top 5 list of male characters who wear glasses and the female list. And I stand by both lists of super cute glasses wearing characters.

That said, these lists were written in October 2016 and right after that my new glasses wearing love came along and he is super adorable.

Seriously, my only complaint is that he doesn’t wear his glasses often enough. Yep, Yuri Katsuki can go straight to the top of my favourite characters who wear glasses.

And of course in second place, from the same season of anime we were given Rei Kiriyama.

Way too much glasses cuteness in one season, and it totally made my top 5 list dated almost as soon as it was written. That said, I’m glad Mel organised today for us to celebrate because it gave me a chance to share the love.


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Karandi James

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A Comparison of the Portrayal of Bullying in Anime

Friday's Feature Banner Image

I’ve really come to hate the word bullying. It isn’t just that acts described as bullying are morally repugnant, it is more that the term gets thrown around to cover everything from excluding someone, minor pranks, staring at them, talking behind their back, openly harassing them, directly sabotaging their person, profession or possessions, to full on violence and acts that most definitely should be classified as criminal assault and never be given the cop out title of ‘bullying’. Bullying has become a catch all phrase to cover all those things we dislike about societal living where we realise that while humans do like to herd together we don’t really like to herd with everyone and while teaching tolerance and acceptance are lovely ideals the evidence strongly suggests they haven’t gone that far in reversing this culture. It has also become the excuse as people try to excuse these vicious and horrendous acts as misguided rather than malicious.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 31

But that’s all just my personal view on bullying and it is one of those major social issues that most societies need to take a long hard look at the causes and why on earth we allow people to get away with it and tolerate it as ‘a part of growing up’ or part of ‘workplace culture’. And that’s not really within my blog’s scope so instead I want to look at how bullying has been portrayed in anime.

This kind of got inspired by a recent episode of The Master of Ragnarok, of all things, as in this very ancient world our out of time protagonist has decided to develop a school system to educate his population and build skills for the next generation. Such an admirable goal and yet from opening we instantly have a situation where a slave girl is being excluded by the other girls in the class. The reason: the patriarch of the clan, our protagonist himself, took her to school on the first day and dared to pay attention to her. I mean, how dare he. Such an unforgivable act being taken to school by someone who cares about you.

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 8

This episode moved me to title the episode review Create School, Create School Bullying and I realised after writing the episode review how I genuinely believe that these days bullying is ingrained in pretty much every institution despite decades of anti-bullying policies and ‘education’. There are a huge number of societal factors at work that drive this but anyone who has been to a school or workplace knows full well that bullying, in one form or another is prevalent there.

Then I started thinking about how this episode portrayed bullying. Effie, the slave girl, has so far been portrayed as a victim. At no point has she been seen in any other light. We met her when Yuuto, our wonderfully kind protagonist, came across Effie and her mother in the market place being sold as slaves. While creating sweeping social reform like universal education is easily enough done off-screen in the space of an episode, apparently ending institutional slavery isn’t and so rather than address the issue of the people suffering, he buys them and gives them jobs at the palace. At least I assume that’s where the mother is working because we never see her again.

Instead we see Effie getting dragged into the harem even though she does not fit there. They dragged her to the hot springs which sounds nice but then she was subjected to watching all the other girls flaunt their superior relationship with their ‘father’ while she was isolated and fairly uncomfortable with the situation. While she’s invited to eat with them, it is only after she’s delivered the food and after Yuuto has personally requested it. Effie remains on the outside of this harem at every turn separated by a class divide that no amount of ‘kindness’ is going to bridge.

The Master of Ragnarok Episode 8

So by the time we see Effie feeling pretty miserable about being ignored at school we as an audience already have it in our heads that Effie is a victim. And while at first I thought she was being ignored because of her class, it turned out she was being ignored because of Yuuto’s attention and petty jealousy, which was just as bad really. By the time a third party intervened, Albertina, it was obvious that Effie was not going to take any action to resolve the situation, that the other students were happily observing a status quo they themselves had assisted in creating, and the teacher never even got screen time so who knows if they were even aware of the situation.

While it might seem cathartic that in this case Effie’s bullying issue is resolved, this representation of bullying is all kinds of problematic. It almost trivialises the problem. My main issue with it includes the fact that the victim is seen as utterly blameless but without agency. Effie did nothing to deserve being picked on, did not retaliate in any way or do anything to draw attention to herself.  She doesn’t even report the situation or mention being upset and it is only through Yuuto’s super sensitivity that anyone realises something is wrong.

But I also take issue with the very quick and easy resolution Albertina comes up with and how easily she reverses the situation. More importantly, solving one case of bullying through isolation by creating another doesn’t seem like much of an improvement. Maybe there will be some in the audience thinking ‘serve you right’ as the bully gets a taste of being ignored but switching the target from one character we like (or at least are supposed to) to another character isn’t really solving the problem so much as sweeping it under the rug. Then of course Effie does the sickly sweet thing and reaches out her hand to the former bully bringing her back into the group. Effie has just been victimised and hasn’t solved the problem on her own but has had someone else intervene on her behalf. There is no way she’s in a state to reach out to someone else.

Emotionally it just smacks of a desire for the show to finish off with this side show and move on. Which made me wonder why even address the issue at all – only that is all too easy to understand. Bullying is a universal and in Japan particularly it is something that is understood by pretty much anyone. If you ever want your isekai, military, harem story to ‘relate’ to your audience, throwing in a bullying subplot is one way to do it. Does it give this dire social issue the development it probably deserves? No. But it isn’t the main point of the story. So maybe this shallow dive approach is fine, only I just found it a little annoying.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 27

I couldn’t help when watching this to compare it to Hina’s arc in March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 from the beginning of the year. While watching that arc I felt it was such a great representation of bullying, and I still believe it is one of the best anime bullying arcs I’ve ever seen. There Hina is given agency as she actively takes steps to minimise the damage to first her friend and then herself. She eventually reaches out for help and while others certainly do play a part, Hina continues to have to stand on her own and fight (not physically).

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 34

We also see a teacher who has been destroyed by the weight of so many instances of bullying where there are no simple solutions that she ultimately has a full emotional collapse, and then we get the comparison to two other teachers. One takes over the class but has experience and a level head and addresses the problem head on. Even then it doesn’t instantly mend the damage but his actions create a space where the students can start to turn things around and at least he holds people accountable for their actions. The other is Rei’s teacher who listens to Rei as he vents about Hina’s situation and outlines the complexities even while feeling frustrated that there is little that he can practically do for either Rei or Hina. I do slightly object to the fact that the female teacher is portrayed as emotionally fragile and breaks under the pressure becoming hysterical where the two male teachers are more level headed about it, though realistically with only three teachers in play it is just nice that there was a mix of approaches to the issue and each one felt real in its own way. As in the audience might remember the teacher who was like A, B or C.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 35

Bullying in March Comes in Like a Lion is treated with a great deal of respect and the ripples created by it in Hina’s life are observed as every character connected to her is impacted in some way by her situation. This arc is given an enormous amount of screen time and at times you could almost forget that this is Rei’s story as Hina and this situation takes centre stage, but it allows the situation to really be brought to life.

However, on reflection, I have to say that at least at the beginning Hina has the same issue Effie does. Hina is portrayed as the girl who did nothing wrong and just became the target. At all points throughout the arc Hina’s innocence and the unfairness of her situation are made clear to the audience. Where Hina becomes more palatable as a character is that she is given agency (even becoming the victim was a result of her standing up for another student) and that she doesn’t quietly accept it. She gets angry and she gets upset, even if she tries to hold those emotions in there are times when they explode.

March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 36

Honestly, I’d love to see more series deal with bullying giving it the time and attention it needed to actually make it feel meaningful. I’d love to see more like March Comes in Like a Lion. I would really love to see bullying tackled by adult characters and more insidious forms of bullying on display rather than the overt cases on display here. Though more than anything, I’d love for societies to actually do something about this problem. What are your thoughts on bullying in anime?

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Karandi James
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March Comes in Like a Lion Akari Kawamoto
March Comes in Like a Lion Akari Kawamoto

OWLS Blog Tour: The Small Words That Make All The Difference

It’s another OWLS post and this time I am exploring the theme of Mentors. OWLS  are a group of otaku bloggers who promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. OWLS emphasise the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being. Each month, OWLS will look at a specific theme. If you want to know more, please do click on the logo in the side bar. And if you missed any of the great posts in July, the links to all the contributors this month are below.

The theme for July: Mentors

Throughout our lives, we might have encountered someone that we admired as a role model or has guided us in some life dilemma. This mentor could be a teacher at school, a coach, a boss or team leader at work, or a family friend. Whoever it is that person impacted your life in a positive manner. For this month’s OWLS topic, we will be writing about mentors or mentorships in anime and other pop culture media. Some topics we will be exploring include how a mentorship impacted a main character’s life, the types of mentor relationships a person could have, and/or personal stories about mentors or mentorships.

The Small Words That Make All The Difference

Rukia

Previously I’ve made a very definitive statement about mentors in stories: Mentors die. There are very clear reasons why they do in so many stories and particularly in action or fantasy stories, this is the assigned role of the mentor archetype. Train the next generation, pass on your wisdom, die tragically both inspiring your protege, teaching one final lesson, and also ensuring the audience doesn’t wonder why you aren’t actually the hero of the story. But these stories are very far removed from the everyday lives most of us live and so while these mentors are brilliant and memorable for their wondrous moments before their candle gets blown out, they aren’t exactly the kind of people we’re going to walk down the street and run into.

More importantly, for most of us there isn’t one single person with a single view of the world who is going to help us through everything and set us on our path. For the vast majority of us, it is the culmination of many small words and actions that slowly turn our path and shape who we are or who we want to be. While we may not always recognise the input of these people, on reflection there are probably many people we have to thank for making it through a particularly trying time in our lives.

So rather than choosing to focus on any one of those shows that I have loved over the years with classic mentors such as Star Wars, I’m choosing in this post to focus on a character who I really connected with when watching the series and I’m looking at the characters who have had an impact on his life for the better.

Of course that means I’m going for another March Comes in Like a Lion Post.

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For me there are several characters who have acted as a mentor and adviser to Rei over the first two seasons of March Comes in Like a Lion. They aren’t the only characters who have had an input, but they are all characters that he has turned to for advice or has drawn on their words at critical junctures. As a result, I haven’t included Hina in the list despite her being awesome. She’s definitely a catalyst for change, but she doesn’t really fulfil the role of mentor. Due to the length of the post I’ve focused on just a couple of characters and their performance as a mentor.

Akari:

Akari Kawamoto is the oldest of the three sisters who kind of take Rei under their wing at the beginning of the show and really do act as Rei’s bridge back to the world. As the oldest, Akari is the voice of calm and reason, the one who nurses Rei when he is unwell, and she is the one who slowly drags him back into the world and won’t accept excuses. She’s a gentle but persistent presence and someone who exerts a natural warmth that Rei is drawn to. He finds himself unable to refuse her when she asks him to join them for dinner and seemingly against his own desires he is drawn more and more into the family by her.

Akari-March

However, Akari as a mentor is flawed because she is also very young and in over her head. With two young sisters to raise and care for she’s forced to act older than her years and put on a front, but there is a fantastic moment in the second season when it crumbles. At this stage we see how far Rei has come in his emotional journey when he surpasses his mentor and returns to her some of the emotional strength she has given him and he works to allay her fears.

It is very safe to say that without Akari, Rei would never have been able to consider the situation as clearly, would never have had the empathy or emotional understanding to comprehend it, and certainly wouldn’t have had the words to comfort another. Far from the fantastic mentors who beat their knowledge into their students with showy and dramatic performances, Akari is a character who works quietly and consistently from the sidelines. She watches over Rei and lends a gentle guiding hand when needed, acts more forcefully only when necessary, and ultimately waits for him to come to her though she leaves the door wide open and the space she has created for him is warm and inviting.

Akari is the kind of mentor we all wish we had in our lives because even when we stuff everything up, she would be there for us and would probably give us a hug or a warm meal and let us cry until we had let it all out.

Shimada:

I could hardly write about mentors in March Comes in Like a Lion without touching on Shimada. We first come across him when Rei is facing him in a match. Rei has put very little thought into his match against Shimada because his eyes are focused on the next competition, and this is something that ultimately costs Rei deeply and shames him horrendously. However, it is this defeat that opens the door for Rei to learn and to grow as a Shogi player. Where Akari is the warmth of human connections, Shimada is the one who will allow Rei to develop as a professional.

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That said, like Akari, Shimada is a flawed mentor in that his own relationship with Shogi isn’t exactly a smooth ride. Plagued by health ailments due to the stress of his life, having never one a title match, feeling the pressure (not deliberate but well-meaning) of those who have supported him, Shimada has had a difficult road to walk and he’s still very much fighting every single day. Despite that, Shimada has not lost his focus or his goal and continues to quietly work towards it.

There’s probably a reason both Akari and Shimada are quiet and fairly unassuming mentors. With Rei’s mental state, someone more forceful or erratic would certainly just cause Rei to shut down and not engage. It is their quiet and persistent approach, the waiting for Rei to open to them, that allows these two characters to be successful in their interactions with him.

Through Shimada, Rei joins the Shogi workshop which opens him up to discussions with others about Shogi. We no longer see him practising and studying in solitude with Shogi being the thing Rei hides behind to avoid others or interactions. Instead, it becomes something that forces him into professional and spirited conversations and interactions with others. This really marks a turning point for Rei and one that is really pushed through Shimada’s arc where Rei accompanies him to his match and helps him through a fairly gruelling defeat.

Again, we see Rei stepping up and using what he has been shown by his mentor to ultimately assist the mentor. It is a really important step for Rei as a character as he dislikes owing others and so a mentorship that was strictly one-way would only leave him guilt ridden. These small moments where he is able to give back actually allow the relationship to continue and to grow.

Hayashida:

The last character I’m going to touch on is Rei’s teacher at the high school, Hayashida. Unlike Akari and Shimada, Hayashida is an intrusive and brash character. He forces himself into the solitude of Rei’s lunch breaks, he pushes conversation, he drags Rei through what he must do not to have to repeat a year at school, and organises for Rei to join a school club. He is well meaning but the kind of person who initially exhausts Rei.

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However, through his persistence and his earnest desire to be there for his student, Hayashida slowly chips away at the walls Rei has build around himself. In large part this is because of the other characters, such as the Kawamoto sisters, who have already breached a lot of Rei’s automatic defences, but by the second season, Hayashida is someone Rei trusts to listen when he wants to talk about Hina’s predicament.

While it would have been easy to write Hayashida’s character off as the comic relief, or the brash friend who no one cares about, what we see is that he takes his role of teacher very seriously and he has very carefully forcefully kept the door to communication with Rei open without barging through it and causing Rei to run. That careful balancing act in season 1 of being there without crossing too many lines pays off when Rei is finally needing someone and ready to open up as Hayashida is already there for him and made that very clear.

Small Moments, Small Words, Big Difference

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All three of these characters have made a world of difference to Rei and the future that awaits him. If even one of these people hadn’t been in his life, the journey he is on would have been infinitely more thorny and difficult. They aren’t walking his path for him, they don’t hand him all the answers on a silver platter, but they are most definitely a large part of the reason he is managing to find his way.

Thanks for reading this far and remember, there are probably people in your life you have offered you those small words just when you needed them. Remember to say thank-you.

Thank you those who read my blog and offer your kind words of support. You have no idea how much you have helped me over the past two years and motivated me to keep going. Thank you. 

The Schedule for July:

If you’ve missed any posts on the tour or want to know who is up next, the schedule is below. Be sure to check out some of the great bloggers and their posts this month.

3: Matthew Castillo (Matt-in-the-Hat)

4: Lita (Lita Anime Corner)

7: Shay (Anime Reviewer Girl)

8: Rai (Rai’s Anime Blog)

10: Lyn (Just Something About LynLyn)

12: Dale (That Baka Blog)

13: Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews)

14: Jack (The Aniwriter)

15: Marth (Marth’s Anime Blog)

16: Miandro (Miandro’s Side)

17: Naja B. (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero)

18: Shoka (Shokamoka’s Blog of Wonders)

19: Mel (Mel in Anime Land)

20: Z (Let’s Talk Anime)

21: Dylan (DynamicDylan)

22: Marina (Anime B&B)

23: Gloria (The Nerdy Girl News)

24: Takuto (Takuto’s Anime Cafe)

25: Zel (Archi-Anime)

26: Carla (PopCultureLiterary)

27: Mistress of Yaoi (Yaoi Playground)


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 Series Review: An Emotional And Moving Experience

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’.

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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