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.
One of 3-gatsu no Lion’s lesser charms is that it feels like it’s happening in parallel to our own world. The season is the same and the New Year episode was broadcast one day before Christmas, just in time to celebrate the festive season and safely go on to a two week hiatus. Episode 12 on January 7, 2017 marks the beginning of the second back-to-back cour for the shogi-themed anime.
The title of the episode is indicative of its mood. It’s time to leave the old year behind and see how the New Year plans to treat us. Let’s see what happened in Episode 11 of 3-gatsu no Lion.
Japanese Title: ゆく年・くる年
Chapter 22: The Old Year
Rei’s world revolves around shogi. He practices shogi, reads shogi magazines, talks to people who are related one way or another to the game. He has little else going on in his life, to the point that when he goes down with a fever, he has no-one to take care of him but himself. In a beautiful allegory, Rei wants to sleep his fever away. Just sleep and wake up feverless, like the cold had never existed in the first place, a distant dream, a faded memory. If only the same could happen to his miserable life. Just sleep all the pain away. And then maybe… But the problem is not that he is alone. Rei is not alone. He thinks he is alone because he is too busy thinking about himself. His recurring dream of a one-way life path that has no way back is interrupted by the doorbell: The Kawamoto sisters came to the rescue!
This chapter is about the kindness that people are capable of showing. A kindness that is fueled not by personal interest or greed, but instead by a mutual concern: the benefit comes indirectly. Rei though is so self-centered that fails to acknowledge that there are indeed people who care about him. Like his stepfather who has called numerous time to Rei’s battery-drained phone. Akari makes an accurate observation:
You don’t get to say ‘I’m on my own’ when you have people worried about you so much.
The chapter is an ode to the past. Rei dreams of his dead mother and sister. He observes that the Kawamoto family never talks about the father (I sense plot twist in the future). Akari confesses to Rei that while her concern about him was genuine, her care had another purpose. Knowing that the rest of the family would fall asleep before midnight, she wanted to avoid staying alone, because that would mean that she would once more spend the night cleaning… and crying. In the end, they both saved each other. Rei needed Akari’s confession. He needed Akari’s demonstration of how emotions are not a weakness that should be hidden from plain sight, but instead they are the medium with which we are able to feel empathy and understand each other. Rei was so lost in his own troubles that he failed to understand and recognize the troubles of others.
And so this year came to a pathetic end, vanishing into the sky.
Chapter 23: The New Year
The New Year on the other hand is full of optimism and hope. It’s this kind of contrast that makes 3-gatsu no Lion a great story. Each chapter remains true to the overarching story, but with a basic knowledge of the plot it could stand on its own as ‘a day in the life on Rei Kiriyama.’
The dream he has as the chapter starts sets the mood for its duration. Rei dreams of his mother scolding him and his sister for putting stickers on a cabinet. Rei has no clue why he saw that dream and is quick to dismiss it. But nothing happens without a reason. The chapter makes sure that we forget about the dream as it goes on in a series of happy festive scenes and comedic bits: the Kawamoto family gets their New Year’s postcards. Hina-chan brings Rei’s postcards from his home to his own astonishment, since he was under the impression that he wouldn’t get any. But, like in the previous chapter, he just fails to recognize that there are two other parties that care about him as much as the Kawamoto sisters: his best friend slash rival, Nikaidou, and the shogi association. The chapter introduces a new character, aunt Misaki, who is the owner of the club where Akari works. The heartwarming family moments give us a few insights in the Kawamoto family, but the true theme is summed up in this quote by Rei:
How can I sleep like it is normal at the house of a family I’ve only known for a little bit?
He finds his answer in the cabinet of his host room: stickers. Nostalgia. Family. Love. Rei smiles and falls in one of the most deep and peaceful sleeps of his life.
Aunt Misaki: I think that the aunt’s visit was not a one-shot cameo and we’ll have the chance to see her again in the coming episodes. She is the balance that keeps Akari on her feminine feet as she tries to tackle a motherless family and at the same time be an independent woman.
Momo’s Postcards: Even Momo got her very own New Year’s postcards from the nursery school and the pediatrician. I think that this is the first time I’ve ever sent a New Year’s card, but I think I’m going to make it a habit.
Recurring Dreams: Rei has a dream that repeats from his childhood. Recurring dreams are a very common phenomenon. Many people have the same or a similar dream many times, over either a short period of time or during their lifetime. Recurring dreams are usually caused by personal trauma. There is something in the dreamer’s life that she hasn’t acknowledged and that is causing stress of some sort. The dream repeats because the dreamer has not yet corrected the problem. The second theory is closer to Rei’s situation: Recurring dreams may also occur if the dreamer has some sort of trauma in the past that they are trying to deal with. In this case, the dreams tend to lessen with time, but that doesn’t mean that they will disappear completely after a certain period of time.
Flu Vs Cold: Akari takes Rei to the doctor to get a diagnosis if he has the flu or it’s just a cold. They are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by very different viruses. Since they share symptoms, it’s difficult to say which is which and that’s why a doctor’s diagnosis is usually recommended before the patient comes to contact with elderly people and small children. In general, the flu is more intense than the cold and it could result in serious health problem like pneumonia and bacterial infections.
Enka: I have never seen a Japanese New Year’s program. If I’m not gravely mistaken, the traditional singer who’s on the television in the background is an Enka singer (maybe someone in particular, if you know please share in the comments below.) Enka (演歌) is a popular Japanese music genre that resembles traditional Japanese music. Some very famous enka singers are Hachiro Kasuga, Michiya Mihashi, and Hideo Murata.
New Year’s Traditional Japanese Food: Osechi Ryori (おせち料理) is the name of the assortment of foods that go into the colorful box (called jubako) that you saw in the episode. Every dish inside the box has a special meaning in welcoming the New Year!
The manga is already in its 126th chapter and the way the anime is going it will probably end somewhere around the 50th chapter. I have held back from reading the chapters because I want to experience the story in the anime for the first time, so I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I am not very pleased that we will have the chance to experience just a small segment of the whole story. I know: ‘read the manga’. I will. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t prefer my stories to stand on their own whatever the medium. I just hope that the anime adaptation will end in a way that Rei’s story will do a full circle and provide closure to the viewers. We will just have to wait for the second cour and see.
The Fall 2016 anime season is over. Keep an eye on the website for all our latest last episode and cumulative series reviews, and don’t forget to check out our list for Winter 2017!
Broadcasting from October 8 at 23:00 via NHK General TV