March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 24: Showing the Frustration and Complications of Living

Review:

This week returns us to the world of Shogi and to Rei’s complicated relationship with Kyouko (and I was really happy to see her this episode as she was the character I most wanted to learn more about this season). Also Nikaido returns and is as annoying and yet sweet as ever.

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We see the final title match between Souya and Kurakuma which ends in an incredibly frustrating manner for Kurakuma (leading to the amusing scene at the end after they discover despite his calm exit from the match he later kicked a hole in the wall). But more than the match we learn about Shimada’s current mental state after losing his match in the previous season and we see more about Gouto, who previously has been seen simply as a villain but now becomes a more nuanced character (still a jerk though).

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Still, it is definitely Kyouko’s return that really made this episode for me. So far we’ve seen her almost exclusively through Rei’s lens and this episode allows us to see her interacting with Gouto free of any Rei filter and what we see is still questionable but less ominous than previous perceptions might have led us to believe.

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I hope we continue to learn more about these characters as well follow along with Rei’s journey. The more I know them, the more I want to know, and I’m just going to have to admit I’m still completely in love with this show.


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March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 Episode 23: I Missed This

Overview:

March Comes in Like a Lion is back and we are resuming Rei’s journey as he figures out how to live and what he wants. If you missed my review of season 1 be sure to check it out.

Review:

The second season has started and initially we find ourselves with a more upbeat Rei. He’s engaged with the science/shogi club and actually opening his window and not dreading the outside world. We quickly see however that as much as things are going well for him, there is no instant fix for the deep and complex emotional issues that have plagued Rei from the beginning.

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Still, there’s a more upbeat tone to the opening song and far more interaction from Rei with others than the first season ever gave us. He’s also proactive  in deciding to visit the sisters and to share his story with them. Emotionally this was a joy to watch as was the realisation that they aren’t sweeping any of the issues under the rug. The opening might be more upbeat but it isn’t all sunshine and roses and the visuals are still brilliant at depicting emotional states. All and all, an excellent start to a second season and hopefully I continue to love being on this journey with Rei.

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One criticism, just so it doesn’t look like I’m giving this show a free pass because of emotional connections, they hit us with the shogi cats in the first episode this season (just thankful they didn’t sing the song).

Anyway, loved this. Can’t wait for more.


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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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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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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 20

Review:

The previous episodes all seemed to be pushing Shimada as a mentor or father figure onto Rei. Someone to give him guidance and help him move forward professionally after the sisters had managed to make him move forward a little bit socially. Or at the very least they got him out of his apartment. This episode strips away that guise as we see that even Rei realises he can’t simply look to someone else and he has to find the answer in himself. For the first time we see Rei actually determined to find that answer rather than hide from himself and his own feelings. It kind of blew me away. Certainly nothing has changed for Rei outwardly. This episode really didn’t do much other than play the much awaited fourth match of this tournament and had Shimada lose (with some fairly petty commentary from the onlookers – the guy qualified to play, leave him alone).

This is what I have liked about this story from the beginning. It isn’t so concerned about following a narrative trope that it misses its own focus and forces actions on characters due to narrative convenience. This story is entirely focussed on the characters, specifically Rei, and it ensures that all of his actions are directly linked to his emotional state which is affected continuously by outside stimulus and his own self-doubt. Of course, the question after this episode becomes one of whether Rei can actually maintain the feeling he has right now and try to find his own answer or whether he’ll back away again and beat a hasty retreat to the comfort of the familiar (even if the familiar is pretty miserable).

March Comes in Like a Lion 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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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 18

Review:

This is different. I’m actually going to complain about the visuals in this episode. On the surface this episode looks much the same as any other with visual metaphors being used as characters interact or to show how characters are feeling and individually these are all fine and fit with the show so far. However, what makes episode 18 different is that instead of the feeling of purpose and drive that I’ve had with the other visuals, this week’s offering just feels like they are desperately trying to create a sense of tension or rising action as we get closer to the end of the series. It all seems very messy and haphazard. The star-wars parody cats in particular and the flames, followed by the steam-bun head joke early in the episode all just felt very thrown together.

While there are some touching emotional moments in this episode which are mostly allowed to play out, the frequency and the truly jarring nature of some of these insertions really detracted from this week’s episode (at least for me).

From a story and character point of view things are still going really well, but it was definitely the visuals taking my attention this week.

March Comes in Like a Lion is available on Crunchyroll.


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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 17

Review:

This episode is split into 3 parts with each lending its own weight to Rei’s ongoing journey.We see the start of the title match for Shimada but it is Rei’s meetings with various characters and his reflections that sell this section. Particularly his meeting with his adoptive father because that leads us firmly into the second part of the episode.

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Kyouko is back and she is definitely a character I have come to love to hate. She is a master manipulator (at least of Rei’s fragile emotional state) and she continues to inject some much needed venom into the story. More importantly though, this is probably the calmest Rei has been when dealing with her which kind of shows that he is slowly but surely moving forward.

Lastly we see Rei back at the workshop where we learn Nikaido has managed to rise up to his level at Shogi and the two of them will not get to play each other at matches.

This episode is full of small encounters and each one helps us to see where Rei is now sitting emotionally and in his relationships.It also kind of feels like a calm before a storm but maybe things are just becoming more positive for Rei. Optimism, have to love it.

March Comes in Like a Lion is available  on Crunchyroll.


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March Comes in Like a Lion Episode 16

Review:

We start this episode with some school drama, following up on Rei not having enough attendance or credit to move to the next year. This section is fairly pointless except that the teacher uses the opportunity to give Rei some advice and it is a light bulb moment for Rei.

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He sees the connection between what the teacher is saying and a number of situations in his life. What is even better is he works at acting on that advice leading to him joining the workshop.

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Admittedly, Rei doesn’t contact the sisters yet but I think that’s because its an emotional hurdle he just isn’t ready to face but at least he is taking small steps.

Anyway, Shimada beat Gotou and is now going to the next round of the tournament and while this storyline continues it is definitely background to Rei’s progress in this episode.

March Comes in Like a Lion is available on Crunchyroll.


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