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.
From the moody piano pieces and melodic fingerpicking guitar to the constant visual metaphors, 3-gatsu no Lion provides quality storytelling in a medium that desperately needs it. Chica Umino is an intelligent author who has no trouble identifying and then putting on (manga) paper the little behavioral details that make us human.
Episode 15 brings two more chapters to Rei’s story.
Japanese Title: (月光 / 自我のカタマリ)
Chapter 30: Moonlight
Don’t touch me, but don’t move away from me
Humans are flawed. The adults in which we so gracefully turn once we assume the responsibilities that society expect us to take are nothing more than an amalgam of traumas we accumulated as children. Our desires, our hopes and fears, and what we perceive as ‘character’ are just a projection of the stimuli that shaped our brain neurons during childhood and early adolescence. Like Kyoko, we are all glasses with cracks; thirsty for something that we keep on pouring, but is never enough to ever satisfy us. And those cracks, those personal scars we all carry with us, are our personal kaleidoscope that distorts everything we see. Was Kyoko’s father telling the truth when he patted her head and reassured her that there are more things in life besides shogi? Probably. But Kyoko’s point of view was molted in a family that held shogi above everything. A family that considered an outsider, a stranger, a better successor to her father’s shogi. A family that pushed her and her brother into the sidelines in favor of a child with whom they didn’t share the same blood. Her inferiority complex is something that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. In the end, it was a considerate (or frightened Rei) that left the house instead of his troubled step-sister.
In all things, the path should have a teacher or a guide
After the first match between Gotou and Shimada, Kyoko goes behind the only man that can provide her with the comfort she desperately needs, even if that comfort can only full her glass for just a little while. After all, it was Rei who left when she needed him the most:
Are you running away from me?
Does it matter anymore that he left to become strong enough to protect her? I guess not.
Chapter 31: Lump of Ego
At last we got to see a few scenes of the Kawamoto family as a reminder that there are people who care about Rei even if when they are not in the spotlight. The scene was far more than superfluous though, since grandpa shared his wisdom with the sisters, and indirectly with the viewers:
Failing means he challenged something. That’s a lot better than a life of doing nothing and laughing at other people
The second part was another reminder, this time of the reason why Nikaidou is so keen on helping Rei improve. It’s not just because of friendship of kindness. For Nikaidou, Rei is his savior. I don’t know how your self-esteem holds, but there are people who sometimes need a dose of humility by failing hard at what they think they do best. Rei indirectly gave that lesson to Nikaidou by ‘cracking his head in half.’ Great moment.
Opening Theme: I have conflicting opinions about the use of opening and ending themes in anime, to the point that I highly praised the lack of both in Episode 3 of the second season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. 3-gatsu no Lion usually has a few scenes preceding the OP theme, and having Episode 16 jumping right to the tune surprised me. Strangely, I found myself humming to the tune of Yuki’s Sayonara Bystander.
Lion King Tournament: The ‘Out of Three’ format was a sneaky development. The winner of the match will have the chance to go meet the champion (that white-haired Rei look-alike) and challenge him for the Lion King title. Shimada ‘just can’t wait to be king…’
Online Shogi Match: Live coverage of any kind of sport is now standard, but it’s still awe-inspiring when you think about it. Through the internet, we have instant access to live games of virtually every sport imaginable, even e-sports.
Godou Vs Shimada: Their rivalry has me on the edge of my seat. I frequently make parallels between everything I see and two of my favorite sci-fi franchises, Star Trek and Star Wars. Shimada and Gotou are like the Light and the Dark side. I know I’m overreacting and ‘Geez Thanasis, it’s a shogi match’ and all that, but I want Gotou to lose, and I want him to FEEL IT IN HIS BONES. And I was not the only one glued to my screen. Nikaidou, Smith, and Rei (our favorite players) were feeling the saw awe-inspiring awesomeness I felt. The animation was sure to make it clear: shogi moves clapped like thunder and lightning struck onto the board. This was a clash of titans. 3-gatsu no Lion made sure to bring a philosophical aspect to this scene, as it does with most of its scenes. Why do we feel such amazement in professional matches? Why do we shiver at every masterful kick foul, every sideways tennis point, and every impressive slam dunk? Why do we rise from our seats and start screaming when our favorite League of Legends team scores a kill against a powerful opponent? Why do we cry when our favorite character in a sports anime makes it to the final along with his friends?
All three are true, but we are usually unaware that these are the reasons we admire the people who climb to the top of their craft. Most of the times we just envy the top without seeing the mountain below.
Bonus moment: Their name calling before their second match.
Godou: You look older than me
Shimada: Narcissists have it hard
Shimada: He is the master that Rei deserves. He is an amazing person and an inspiring shogi player. I hope that he beats the crap out of Godou in the next match, and even if he doesn’t, I will keep on cheering for him.
Metaphors: 3-gatsu no Lion’s monologues are usually accompanied with a handful of visual metaphors. From the cracked glass to the menacing forest, each emotion is paralleled to suiting imagery. It is the role of metaphors to compare the abstract to the concrete and create an association that will make us understand what Rei and the rest of the characters are feeling.
The success of the 3-gatsu no Lion chapters lies in their ability to contain an individual theme while incorporating the necessary scenes to advance the main story forward. And all that while keeping shogi an important element that is neither neglected nor pussyfooted. Rei is always the focus of the story, the sun round which all the other characters orbit, but that’s just because the author has decided that focus from the beginning. Told from their perspective, each one of the characters could have been their own sun. 3-gatsu no Lion makes an effort of giving each personality the necessary weight to stand on their own and gives us enough information to care for them all, except Gotou; he is a jerk.
…towards the last game between Shimada and Gotou; between the future master and the main antagonist. Between light and darkness. Jedi Vs Sith. Samurai Vs Ninja. Mustard Vs Mayo. I could go on forever. If you are supporting Gotou then you need to sit on the opposite seats of the stadium because I’m going to call you names way worse than the ones Shimada used on their little confrontation outside the Shogi Hall. SHIMADA! SHIMADA! SHIMADA! (Anime God… I hope he wins.)
Did you like Episode 16 of 3-gatsu no Lion? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to check the rest of our episodic reviews for Winter 2017. We also have the results of our recent Anime Poll! Care for some anime recommendations? Check it out:
Broadcasting from October 8 at 23:00 via NHK General TV