With episode 9 of March Comes in like a Lion, the previously explored topic of shogi as a lifeline is pushed to the forefront of the anime. This time, however, the topic divulges into overwhelmingly tedious repetition as we’re introduced to a new, boring character whose flatness rivals that of a sheet of paper. This character is none other than Shouichi Matsunaga, a 65 year-old 7th dan professional shogi player facing demotion if he is to lose his match with Rei. He is quite possibly the most unappealing character to date.
The episode begins with Rei struggling through the guilt associated with pulling the trigger on this old man’s lifeline, shogi. It is a theme that has already been explored in prior episodes. It’s understood just how much shogi means to professional players as characters in the past have been brought to the brink of tears and despair after losing. We also just spent a significant portion establishing Rei’s connection to shogi and how it’s his metaphorical lifeline. This episode felt repetitive and unnecessary. Why does March Comes in like a Lion feel the need to continually force feed this? Worse yet, through a newly introduced character with little relevance towards the series.
The worst part is that the battle itself, albeit short, was a chore to get through. This is perhaps because the stakes established in the prior episode were somewhat erased by Shouichi’s apathy presented towards the result of the match. The scene where Rei meets Shouichi at the shrine was completely unnecessary, contradicting everything March Comes in like a Lion attempted to convey with Shouichi’s storyline. Quite simply, the weight of the match was simply just not felt. What resulted was a shogi battle that was rather unimaginative, lacking any real form of suspense or excitement.
Even with all this, the episode is still sprinkled with hints at the brilliance we had come to expect from earlier episodes. For every uninteresting moment, there’s a contrasting insightful look into just how much shogi is interlocked with a character’s identity. It’s these moments that leave you yearning for more.
Nevertheless, I continue to be hopeful with this series. While March Comes in like a Lion continues its tragic decline, there’s still a glimmer of hope present that it could all be turned around. What would it take? For starters, I understand that the series is more about the characters and their inner strife than shogi itself, but if shogi is to be seen as the suggested anchor to Rei’s life, the scenes involving shogi should be much more thought-provoking and engaging. Adding on to this, the cast of characters all need to be utilized in a way that actually moves the plot forward.
Mood: Palpable -_-