This week’s episode of March Comes in like a Lion focuses on Rei’s renewed fascination with the world of shogi. With the help of his friends and loved ones, we’re beginning to see Rei loosen up. Shimada’s overwhelming victory over him has set the gears in motion for a burning desire to improve within himself. Rei idly sits in the classroom, yearning to watch the face-off between Shimada and Gotou. At this point, he’s not even paying attention to his classes anymore; He is deeply entrenched in the world of the pros. This is a completely different Rei from what we’ve grown used to watching. His humiliating defeat has freed him from the shackles of self-deception and he’s allowing himself to be swept away by the thrill of competition.
The episode begins by drawing a parallel to Rei and Kyouko in that they’re both deeply emotionally scarred individuals. An exploration of Kyouko’s past unveils that she may not be the venomous person she’s potrayed to be, but rather she’s just a deeply flawed individual trying to repair her own ego. Kyouko sneaks into Rei’s room in the middle of the night to sleep next to him. In this moment, we see how much Kyouko has come to depend on Rei. And yet, Kyouko shows how emotionally conflicted she truly is. While she lays next to him, she buries her face into him and asks him not to turn around. A flashback to Kyouko’s past reveals how her emotional state is far more complex than she lets on. A broken Kyouko in the midst of despair is in the middle of preparing to run away when a young Rei barges in on her.
Kyouko spews her guts out to him, allowing us to see just how tormented she feels. She hates that fact that people tip-toe around her in the house; that she was deemed a failure by her father in the 2nd year of middle school; that their father only acknowledges Rei, and what’s worse is that they lie to her, telling her shogi isn’t everything. She knows this is a lie. To everyone in the family, shogi is everything that they are. Their whole reason for existing. Kyouko hates herself for not being talented, so she figures running away would be the only way to help the family. This is when we see Rei’s misguided attempts at alleviating their situation. He takes it upon himself to fix the situation, thinking that if he were to leave the house everything would return to normal for them. He decides it’s for the best if he leaves instead of Kyouko.
Both Kyouko and Rei have formed strong mental walls that prevent them from being true to themselves. On some level, Kyouko wants to lean on Rei, but at the same time, she hates that she’s coming to rely on the person she holds accountable for making her feel so pathetic. However, the fact that she keeps seeking out Rei hints that she doesn’t completely blame him—she might actually come to sympathize with Rei’s situation—but she can’t easily forgive him. To her, forgiveness would undermine her sense of self-worth. In this situation, how should she feel? You can tell she loves Rei, but the pain of being in Rei’s shadow makes her resentful. Rei knows all of this far too well. He wants to do something—anything—to help her, but the answer he arrives at is not the solution to her problems. Instead, Rei mirrors Kyouko’s insecurities. He saw just how pained Kyouko was and he wanted to do something for her. He really does care for her, and it shows. She has it all — a family, good looks, and the ability to manipulate those around her, so why isn’t she happy? He compares her to a glass that’s broken, stating that nothing would fill her with any sense of fulfillment. Before his match with Shimada, he had a hard time accepting that his approach to amending his family situation was wrong. He truly felt that he was the root cause of the family’s problems and that by leaving, they’d be revert back to happier days. His doubts were always somewhere lurking in the back of his mind, but he wouldn’t allow himself to accept it. It is only now, through the efforts and constant support of his friends, that Rei can see how misguided his attempts are at fixing an issue much larger than himself.
Throughout the rest of the episode, we see just how much everyone truly cares for Rei. They help him in their own, unique ways to push him forward. The Kawamotos are all waiting for him to come to them by himself. Their grandfather put Rei’s situation in perspective for Hinata, who’s a bit too young to understand. She thinks it’s lame that Rei feels ashamed when he knows they won’t judge him. That no one is going to laugh at him for trying. Hinata can’t help but feel a little helpless because all she can do is wait for Rei. Rei’s teacher urged him to visit the shogi association to watch the battle between Shimada and Gotou. He noticed how intently Rei looked on at the game. Just from a few moves, Rei could see how much of a slugfest was. He was quite aware that Rei wanted nothing more than to go watch the game of two players that are currently beyond his level. Rei’s teacher tells him it’d be a much better learning experience from up close. This is when we start to see Rei indulging himself in the world of shogi more.
When he arrives at the shogi association, he’s practically out of breath from having ran the whole way there. Rei can’t help but feel entrenched by the heavy atmosphere of the match. With such a fierce battle right before his eyes, he can clear see the divide in their abilities, but he doesn’t know what makes the difference. The cogs are beginning to turn for Rei in the form of an insatiable desire to reach the top. After a long, drawn out battle well into the evening, Shimada ends up losing to Gotou. Nonetheless, Shimada voices his discontent at the match to Nikaido, saying he won’t lose in their next match. I’ve really grown to like Shimada as a character. He’s shown an immense amount of depth in this episode. Externally, he exudes a calm, calculated play, but the match revealed that there’s a wild beast hungry for the top hidden underneath it all while he went blow for blow with Gotou.
Eventually, the episode circles back to Rei and Kyouko. They both bump into Gotou when he leaves the shogi association after his victory over Shimada. Now, I think there’s something worth mentioning here about their relationship with Gotou. Oddly enough, they are both inextricably linked by their connection to him. If their mental walls are the cause of insecurities, then Gotou is the physical manifestation of these insecurities. For Rei, Gotou poses as an insurmountable player in the world of Shogi. However, he knows that if he wants to free Kyouko from her dependence on Gotou, then he needs to beat him. Kyouko’s dependence on Gotou is quite clear, but still rooted in mystery. We’re not sure if she truly loves him, but I’m willing to bet that her connection with Gotou is one of necessity than actual affection. The guy is practically running away from her to get into a taxi cab, after all.
There’s also another point I’d like to make about the closing scenes of this episode. If Kyouko was meant to mirror Rei’s insecurities, then Shimada is the opposite of that: He represents everything Rei aspires to be; a sleeping lion underneath a calm, methodical exterior. We see this when Shimada returns for a second match with Gotou, this time hellbent on defeating him. Everyone looks on, commenting on how evenly matched they seem. Eventually, Shimada defeats Gotou, doing what Rei could not.
Nonetheless, the momentum is beginning to pick up for March Comes in like a Lion. There were a lot of worthwhile and charming moments packaged in the thirty minutes of the episode. Rei is now at a point where he realizes the error of his ways and with everyone helping him, it’s only a matter of time before he goes back to the shogi board.
I’m excited to see what Rei’s future matches hold.
— Palpable ヽ(´▽`)/