Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
Another powerful episode for 3-gatsu no Lion, and the second this week, after Episode 11 of Girlish Number, that managed to deliver some top-notch writing. The story was clearly focused on Rei and Yasui-san, his latest shogi opponent.
Japanese Title: 贈られたもの① / 贈られたもの②
Something Given Part 1:
Most anime lie. Like modern renditions of rewritten fairytales, they emphasize the ‘desirable’ instead of the ‘realistic’. Friends are always there for you and the good always wins and morally grey areas only exist so that the spotlight doesn’t fall too hard on the utopic nature of the protagonist. But Rei is neither utopic nor a hero, and 3-gatsu no Lion is not afraid to paint him in colors that don’t really flatter him. Rei is deeply troubled. He just stands there as his toxic step-sister (with whom he is clearly in love) spits venom like a snake-shaped gatling gun. No matter how hard she tried to convince him, Rei not only didn’t lose to Matsunaga-san but he managed to help him find his long-lost passion about the game. Good was done, but that good was meant to last for only that episode. Kyoko seems to know everything about Rei’s matches. When they are, who they are against, and most notably, a reason why Rei should lose the match. Yasui-san, Rei’s next opponent, is a drunkard whose wife is divorcing him. Kyoko tells Rei that Yasui-san’s daughter would be happier on Christmas’s day with a sober father who won, that with a drunk father who lost. For some reason, for Kyoko it is all Rei’s fault. Everything is Rei’s fault. After all, children don’t choose their parents, expect when they do. And when they do, it’s usually someone else’s parents. You could feel the resentment in her words. That sadistic desire to make her step-brother suffer because their father chose to favor the ‘stranger’ instead of his own children. In a much-needed and non-intrusive flashback, we go back to one of the first (probably) Christmases of Rei with his new foster family. We have to stress once again the fact that we are talking about a family that places shogi pride above all. In that family, the elder daughter gets a teddy bear, the boy who eventually loses himself in videogames out of shame gets a portable game player (not so much an irony, but possibly the reason he found escape in video games) and Rei, the stranger, gets the most sought after present, shogi pieces. Rei fell victim of an extreme case of bad parenting, and while it wasn’t his fault, he was the easiest target. The teacher-Rei comedic break was just a stepping stone to comparing Christmas to a school report card: ‘How much love did I receive from the people in my life? How did they express their love for me?’
And just like that, the first part ends. But unlike previous episodes, the second part delays to show its title card. Instead it plays with time. The action goes straight to the game with Yasui-san, and, in a segment filled with the staccato sound of piano and with no dialogue, shows its whole duration up to the point of Rei’s victory.
Something Given Part 2:
During the post-match review we get to see Rei’s feelings during the match. We get to see his frustration at Yasui’s sudden surrender. His anger towards his weakness. His opponent’s figure was reduced to a mere caricature and the faint smell of alcohol reminded him of Kyoko’s words about his alcoholic problem. But Rei was still the Rei we saw in the last episode. The Rei that helped Matsunaga-san. But, as we said earlier, this is not a story of heroes, but a story of real people. When Rei runs behind Yasui-san to return the Christmas present for his daughter that he forgot in the shogi hall, he doesn’t get the reception he probably expected. Yasui-san is angry. He is disappointed and defeated and frustrated. He grabs the bag and leaves in a scene filled with bitterness. He is going to drink. Rei knows that. He knows that he can’t help everyone. He can’t even help himself. Slowly, the scene builds up to one of the most emotionally strong moments of the anime so far. Rei erupts, like a sleeping volcano of feelings, in the only way that bottled up people like him can: he runs and he runs until he can’t run anymore and then he shouts. He shouts at the world, at himself, he shouts in his words that he is just a boy. How is everything his fault? What should he have done?
I have nothing else. Nothing but shogi.
He said that he had no reason to fight, but he realizes that he has the one reason that all beings on this planet share: survival.
Shogi Match: It wasn’t a whole match (because pro games can take hours) but it was the longest we’ve seen. I paused the shogi scenes to explore the board and see the way they move the pawns. I have been playing a lot the past two weeks, and I must say that shogi feels more difficult than chess.
Game Bomb: The black game console that Rei’s step brother got for Christmas was a perfect replica of the Nintendo GameBoy. It’s common for anime to change the brand names for copyright reasons.
Shogi Etiquette: I think I am pretty familiar with the rules of the game, but I haven’t had the chance to read anything on proper game etiquette. Since I am playing online, there is no one to show me, and I still haven’t researched on any local shogi clubs I could join.
If only I could jump inside the screen and give Rei a hug. Where are the Kawamoto sisters when you need them? The next episode is on Christmas Eve, so I guess that we will get a more festive story, and hopefully, a smiling Rei.
Did you like the episode? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check the rest of our Fall 2016 anime episodic reviews. We also have the list of the anime we will cover during the Winter 2017 season.
Broadcasting from October 8 at 23:00 via NHK General TV