March Comes in like a Lion’s episode this week comes to a head on Shimada’s match, but not before establishing the sacrifices he took to get there. While Shimada has long since decided the path he’d take at his proverbial fork in the road, the crushing weight of his past decision looms over him as residual feelings of regret. The exploration of these feelings through his dreams serve to enhance Shimada’s characterization while contextualizing his pain in a way that hits home for most people—a very simple, yet deeply humane fear of making the wrong decisions explored through the infinite world of ‘what if’ scenarios.
Through the introducing dream sequence of the episode, Shimada explores the ‘what if’ of the path he didn’t choose. As his ex-girlfriend beckons him over with a child in hand, Shimada comes to the startling realization he is in fact dreaming. That his hometown, his friends and family, his ex-girlfriend and any possible future with her, were all thrown to the wayside for the sake of an uncertain future. Everything about his dream—the hauntingly beautiful sunset, the bittersweet guitar melody, and Shimada’s sad monologue—evokes a sense of the harrowing death of a world unexplored.
“The me who couldn’t become a professional, and moved back to the countryside. The me who risked everything to make it this far, and now faces four losses in a row. Which one is a nightmare? I’ll find out by seeing it through to the end!”
-Shimada, March Comes in like a Lion, Episode 20
Shimada’s dreams convey the weight of his sacrifices with gripping clarity while his words reveal how he plows forward, resigned to his fate. Whether he’s right or wrong, the horrifying reality of decisions is (more often than not) once they’re done, you effectively close off an entire world of possibilities. Shimada has no choice but to believe in the path he’s taken, because otherwise all his sacrifices would’ve been all for naught.
While Shimada’s dream sequence shows us the sacrifices Shimada has made, the subsequent scenes emphasize his fortitude by showing us how unlikely a victory is. On the day of the match at the hotel, Rei finds himself as a speculator to an environment filled with the hushed tones of gossip. All the spectators believe Shimada is panicking and playing too rash. Rei believes otherwise, thinking that Shimada is playing like his usual self.
Rei’s contrasting beliefs highlight an important thematic element the series explores: resilience in the face of adversity. While everyone has Shimada pegged for his fourth consecutive lost against Souya, Rei clings onto the belief that he can pull a win. Rei, through his emotional growth in recent episodes, has realized very well that the weight of your sacrifices do matter, and in spite of the overwhelming odds, Shimada has given up just about every part of himself to relentlessly pursue his dream. While others mistake Shimada’s bold moves as the blunders of a man under pressure, Rei sees them with utmost clarity as proof of his resolute tenacity.
Though Shimada ultimately loses the battle against Souya, he too arrives at the same conclusion as Rei after seeing the fruit of his labor. Just when he was giving in to the despair of Souya’s overwhelming strength, there was a small glimmer of hope in a play that he missed which could’ve turned the tides of the match completely. Nevertheless, the fact that there was a path to victory that he missed hints at a promising future. In the end, his sacrifices did amount to something, proving even gods can bleed. Both Rei and Shimada have come to learn while we cannot change the events of the past, they may certainly be used as invaluable learning experiences to shape our future.