The next episode of March comes in like a Lion is a particularly powerful one, exceeding my expectations in just about every category. From a bunch of new, interesting characters being introduced, insightful small moments, backstories being further explored, to Rei’s Shogi world — this episode has it all. We’re even treated to some of the trademark eye close-ups Shaft loves to use ever so much.
It’s something I have come to expect and grown used to from watching the studio’s earlier works.
Chapter 3 begins with the smug character at the ending of episode one, Nikaido, a 4-dan Shogi player who proclaims himself a friend and genius rival to Rei. It’s a delusion Nikaido entertains that has no grounding in reality. He even admits to being a late bloomer in the Shogi world. It’s also apparent that’s he’s a wealthy spoiled brat (this guy even has his own servant) who intrudes on Rei whenever he feels the need to. To say he’s pushy would be an understatement. This character is down-right rude and obnoxious, inviting himself over to Rei’s home without invitation. His pushiness continues. Nikaido was issued an official match with Rei and he plans to have Rei help him practice for their own match. Thankfully, in all the new characters introduced, Nikaido had the least screen-time for the episode.
Afterwards, we learn that today marks Rei’s qualifier matches for the NHK Cup (a tournament that will be broadcasted nationwide) as we follow Rei through the city again, but this time the show doesn’t linger on the small details. As a small aside, Rei mentions how much the river reminds him of back home, making me recall the juxtaposition of the opening song where he’s drowning. To me, it shows that while he’s in pain about his past, he can’t help but think about it. That idea alone made me respect Rei just a little more.
Rei arrives at a shrine where we meet a fellow Shogi player of his by the name of Issa. Issa is a young passionate man wishing to the shrine to win the whole tournament so that he can be displayed on national television. Things get a little silly for Rei as he overhears the Issa’s wishes to destroy him during the tournament. It sounds more dramatic than it actually is. Issa is just a straight-forward type of guy. He comes off as somewhat self-absorbed for a moment, but it doesn’t take long for the show to establish just how chummy he is with Rei.
It’s then that we learn about another Shogi professional by the name of Smith as a battle between Rei and Issa takes place back in their Shogi practice room. Unfortunately for Issa, like the others, he is no match for Rei in a Shogi battle. Issa is quickly out-witted and defeated in humiliating fashion. It doesn’t help that Issa was trying to win so his sickly grandfather could watch his televised matches.
Smith decides to cheer him up by taking Issa out to drink on Rei’s dime. Gee, what a considerate friend. It isn’t until Smith mentions who’s at the bar that Issa shoots up with joy. All it takes is one magic word to dispel Issa’s embarrassing defeat — Akari. As it turns out, Issa is madly in love with her. I highly enjoyed the addition of these characters to the cast so far. Similar to Hinata’s family, their energy adds more richness to the show. Watching Rei being dragged around by these two gung-ho characters helps show more dimensionality to his character.
At the Misaki Club, all the guys are taken aback with the sight of Akari in a dress. Even Rei couldn’t help but blush while acknowledging how different she seemed at the club. Akari and Rei converse. What unfolds is a hint at a closeness we had not seen before.
We learn of the time where they first met. Rei had been beaten and left in-front of the night-club where Akari just so happens to work. As she finishes her shift, she stumbles upon a disoriented and battered Rei. She comes to his aid, walking him to her home where she introduces him to her two other sisters, Hinata and Momo.
The next day, what Rei thought would be a quick trip to the grocery store ended with him bumping into the sisters yet again. Akari invites him over for dinner, where he recalls a time he showed his vulnerability to her. In his memory, a sickly Rei keels over the toilet as Akari tends to him. She realizes he’s having trouble vomiting and helps him, gently putting her fingers down his throat.
Who would’ve thought that my heart-strings would be tugged at a scene with a person forcefully vomiting. It is perhaps the most charming moment in the entire series just yet. Just when I thought Hinata was waifu material, Akari swoops in during this episode and steals all of the spotlight.
The rest of the episode was some cute moments with Rei and Akari’s family. Rei remembers the feeling he had once gotten from watching a fire with people.
Little Momo sits with her grandpa and he mentions how their family is one rooted in tradition: “But this is what we do. My grandma and my mom, all the way down the line, all did this. This is how it should be.” It was a rather insightful moment for the series, albeit a short one. I’m so glad March Comes in like a Lion sprinkles these snippets into their lives. They add so much dimension and substance to the other characters.
Rei talks to the grandfather where we learn of Rei’s parents being deceased and buried. I think by now the series has hinted enough for us to expect this, but what we didn’t know is that Akari’s parents were also deceased.
While Rei looks on at Akari’s family during dinner, he says something rather poignant.
“There’s no reminiscing or anything during dinner. The wounds are probably still too fresh, not even dry, and they’re in this house.”
What we begin to see is everyone in March Comes in like a Lion is struggling with their own personal demons as they try to understand and help one another. It hints that maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to heal and put the past behind them by seeking comfort from one another.
I loved this episode.