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.
Episode 13 of 3-gatsu no Lion didn’t have that psychological roar that we were used to, and instead slowed things down, giving us a breath of fresh cold air and a different perspective through the eyes of Tatsuyuki-san. There is a clash of (shogi) titans coming in the following episodes, but first one of the two contestants must overcome the obstacle of ‘pride.’
Japanese Title: 黒い河② / 扉の向こう
Chapter 26: Black River Part 2
I’m going to skip all the silly imagery for the Highlights section and go straight to the purpose of the chapter. It’s quite natural that the prime event that we are all waiting for is the final match between Rei and Gotou. After all, what is the hero’s journey without the final confrontation against his arch-enemy? The show made sure to slowly build our hatred and that provocation in Episode 12 was the cherry on top of the hate cake. But our desire to see the final match acts like a blinder: we disregard the rest of the players. Both Rei and Gotou need to go through their semi-finals to have the chance to compete against each other.
Changing the focus to Tatsuyuki-san, we get a perspective we unknowingly rejected. He voices every second-class actor who is shoved off at the dark corners of the spotlight. He is pissed off that Rei is ignoring the possibility that he may actually win by making copies of the matches of his current opponent and the opponent he is sure that he will confront during the next match. This whole segment built on what would eventually be the last scene of the episode.
Still, this was a good chance to learn more about Tatsuyuki-san, shogi, and Gotou (I refuse to add an honorific to that piece of s**t.) I don’t care that he offered his advice after his win. He is a jerk.
Alone in the park after his defeat, Tatsuyaki-san lets a lucky empty can shot determine how he will drown his loneliness: in alcohol or in tears. What he didn’t expect was the ‘Course C’, finding a stray cat and taking it home. Caring for others (humans or animals) is therapeutic.
Chapter 27: Beyond the Door
Chapter 27, on the other hand, was more straightforward. Not able to find a pattern in his opponent’s strategies, he goes to the game with an unprecedented boost in confidence. He may have analyzed the game in his mind, but his determination to win the game was unwavering, to the point that loss wasn’t even an option. But as Chapter 26 made sure to remind us, there is never a predefined match outcome between professionals. After a request from Nikaidou, Shimada-san (whom our chubby friend calls big brother) makes Rei shiver with astonishment as he is forced to change his play and risk losing the match.
Weather talk: Nice in-between scene that served no real purpose but to transition smoothly to the next segment. After all, people always talk about the weather, don’t they?
Recap: At first I found the repeat of the last segment of Episode 12 strange. I even went back to check if it was the same scene. A few cuts here and there and the addition of the upper and lower black lines, but it was mostly the same. And then I realized that this was probably one of the most important moments in Rei’s growth as a person. The moment he opened his heart to the Kawamoto sisters and offered not an excuse but a reason.
Nikaidou: The little chubby shogi teacher. The bestestest friend a guy can have. He made sure that the semi-final would carve a lesson in Rei’s mind. Because when you care about someone, you don’t want the road to be full or petals. Thorns are also important.
Shogi Strategies: I’ve recently bought my first shogi board, but to be honest, I am still learning the pieces. Yet, this episode probably had more shogi that the rest of them combined. We got to learn the names of a few strategies and see how players anticipate moves. Most professionals are also able to commit the game to memory and reenact it in their minds after the match has ended.
The Final Showdown: I was pleasantly surprised with how the series reminded us that Rei and Gotou are not the center of the shogi universe. Every player has his own fears and strengths, their own routine and their unique perspective when it comes to the game and to life. I am still rooting for Rei, but knowing that this isn’t the only possible outcome was refreshing.
This was not the best episode of 3-gatsu no Lion. Yet, its serene snow scenes, the calming pillow shots, and the appropriate piano pieces, made it another enjoyable 24-minutes. The shogi scenes are not that interesting unless you have a knack for the game or the desire to learn about it, and that may be a little off-putting for a lot of people. Also, the repetition of a few scenes might seems a bit redundant since we had a recap episode a few weeks ago, but they were hardly a deal breaker.
I will certainly have my glow sticks ready for the next episode so that I can cheer for Rei. Call me old-fashioned, but I want to see Rei go to the final match and kick the hell out of Godou.
Did you like Episode 13 of 3-gatsu no Lion? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to check the rest of MANGA.TOKYO’s episodic anime reviews for Winter 2017!
Broadcasting from October 8 at 23:00 via NHK General TV