March Comes in like a Lion switches things up this episode, taking us through Smith’s point of view as he prepares for his match against Gotou. His cool, rough voice narrates his morning routine, revealing an unexpected diligence beneath his playful exterior. His mind is always on the world of Shogi, whether he’s sleeping, eating, walking, or anything in between. Smith’s resolve is handled with quite the delicate hand. His internal monologue is insightful, showing that he too has something he aims for, just like every professional in the shogi world. He knows that there is a small chance in defeating Gotou, and he clings onto it with dear life. Smith is realistic about his chances, but it doesn’t break him.
As he travels to the Shogi association, we’re treated to the perplexing state of his mindset. An upbeat, funky tune plays interchanging with bitter silence in the background of his narration, highlighting the conflicting nature of his mentality. In many ways, Smith’s mental state paralleled that of Rei’s. Their fears had manifested in their play, causing roadblocks that they couldn’t get past because they never acknowledged they were there in the first place. By acknowledging the problem exists, they can both take the first steps to becoming the players they need to be.
Smith is painfully aware of this truth, quoting his insecurity as the deciding factor in his loss against Gotou in the past. This will be his second time facing Gotou, so he’s familiar with his playstyle. The first time, he had suffered a humiliating defeat. It was his insecurity towards his trademark style that did him in. This take on Smith’s insecurities felt pleasantly natural. We learn that Smith’s playstyle is one that focuses on offense, quoting his nimbleness as the strongest asset of his game. For him, someone calculative with a heavy defense like Gotou may be his strongest natural enemy. However, he knows that in order to beat Gotou, he must his play his own game.
The battle at the Shogi Hall between Smith and Gotou was explained far more deeply than prior Shogi matches. The slow, dreadful tension of the match was executed quite well. Ominous piano music loomed in the background as the match became heavy. It was a long fought battle into the evening — A great match, to say the least.
The latter half of the episode focused on Rei as he continued plowing ahead with unwavering conviction. However, his match with Shimada proves to be far more difficult than he anticipated. There were no distinct weaknesses in Shimada’s game. At least, not anything that pokes out to Rei when analyzing Shimada’s past games. As the game went on, it became apparent Rei is lacking in something. That something lurked in the back of his mind, haunting his every move. Whatever it is, Nikaido had caught on to his weakness and instructed Shimada to play to make him aware of it.
All together, the episode’s strength came through its use of internal monologue to explore the painful truths associated with giving your all to something you love. It felt raw and powerful, making me like Smith as a character a lot more. It wasn’t the best episode so far, but it still kept the plot moving with purpose.
— Palpable (´･ω･`)