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.
In his enlightening guide to the joys and pains of writing, Stephen King recounts the failures he had to endure before he eventually reached his own peak. Peculiarly enough, I am not talking about his failure as a writer, but as a husband and father. Why am I bringing King in a review about an anime? Because Episode 19 of 3-gatsu no Lion reminded me something that he mentioned in his musings, On Writing: Life is not a support system for [shogi]. It’s the other way around.
Japanese Title: 夜を往く / 京都①
Chapter 39 – Passing the Night
3-gatsu no Lion is a collection of personal stories. I have repeatedly argued that when it came down to it, Rei is the undeniable protagonists, the sun this system is circling, but there are a few planets that are more important than others. Sorry Pluto. One of these planets is Rei’s mentor, teacher, and as it seems friend, Shimada-sensei. We had many reasons to like Shimada, from the way he treated Rei and Nikaidou to his encouraging words during the workshops, but we couldn’t really relate to him until this episode. We needed more, a bit of background that went back to his origins, to the reasons he started playing shogi and to the reasons he still is.
We already knew that one his primary motivations for bringing the final matches to the sixth game was Shimada’s desire to play at his hometown in Yamagata. In a town where there weren’t enough children to play any sports, little Shimada found solace in videogames and manga. But just consuming content wasn’t enough for him.
In videogames, manga, or novels, the end always came quickly. With shogi there never was an end
When I recently started playing shogi, a friend of mine told me that I could now join the old men who are frequently playing the game across her house. If they are as nice as the old men that introduced little Shimada to shogi, then I wouldn’t have had a problem. He was fascinated, and very quickly he became good enough to beat everyone in the village. And soon he was someone who could become ‘a master from our village.’ If you had the chance to grow up in a small village, you may know the pride that comes with being part of a small community. And Shimada wanted to give back to the people who took care of him. He wanted to make them proud. And thus he worked odd jobs, took the all-night bus, and destroyed his stomach, all to become a shogi master and make those old men who stood by his side proud. Too sentimental? Maybe. Most people would just let go and forget. Foolish? Not at all. At least in my eyes, Shimada is a person who deserves to serve as a role model, not for his shogi skills, but for the strength of his character.
That strength is what prompted Rei to accept his own defeat at the tournament quarter-finals. The same strength is what also gave Rei the courage to ask Shimada-san to take part in his workshop. And eventually, it was that strength and an unrivaled persistence to fulfill his goal that convinced Rei to accompany his mentor to Kyoto for the last match of the Lion King tournament. I found the little bits that referred to Souya interesting, but not as interesting as Rei’s change from a depressive wreck to a caring student.
Chapter 40 – Kyoto Part 1
The second chapter was dominated by the Kyoto shots, and all the much-needed comical scenes with the chairman and Smith-san. The only thing that remains is to see if Shimada will win the fourth match.
Kyoto: All those amazing pillow shots made me feel like I was on a tour around Kyoto! The Kyoto Tower, the bridge, the Ginkaku-ji! You can learn more about these places in our Kyoto Travel articles, written by your favorite otaku writer here on MANGA.TOKYO, Ayumi! She is a Kyoto local and she went to all the places that you see in this episode, and also to the scenes that are featured in another Winter 2017 anime, the Kyoto Saga of the Blue Exorcist! Check them out:
Manga and Videogames: I couldn’t help but notice that this was the second time that the author is referring to popular geek pastimes as a hurdle that forbids people from realizing their full potential. The first time was a few episodes ago when Hayashida-sensei blames his mediocrity to videogames and manga, and this time it was Shimada-san who said that both videogames and manga were inadequate and couldn’t possibly compete with shogi. I wonder if Umino-sensei wants to pass a message to young people through 3-gatsu no Lion. Maybe something along the lines of ‘consuming is good, but please go out and create something as well.’
Chika Umino: Since we were talking about the original author, here is some trivia about her. Chika Umino is actually the pen name of an anonymous Japanese female mangaka. I’ve always admired people who created under a pen name and had decided to stay under the radar, because in my eyes that meant either they had something that they needed to protect, or that they cared shit about fame. Or both. She is the creator of the Honey and Clover series for which she received the 27th Kodansha Manga Award in 2003. 3-gatsu no Lion is her most recent work. Her pen name comes from her favorite location, ‘umi no chikaku no yuuenchi’ which is also the title of her doujin works.
The Tortoise and the Hare: The fable of the Tortoise and the Hare is one of the most famous stories attributed to Aesop, the storyteller who lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE. The story is an account of a race between two uneven opponents in which the less skillful contestant uses ingenuity and trickery to overcome the strength of his opponent. Shimada, though, compared Souya not to a hare that he could trick, but to a crane who is too far high and too fast to ever reach. That only leaves him with doggedness, and a desire to always become better even if he will never be able to defeat him.
He reminds me of a bird; quiet, white, and gentle.
Even though Rei is not the protagonist of this episode, it’s his advancement that makes the biggest impact. Shimada’s backstory cemented the integrity of the man who took the role of his mentor, but that integrity is only important in our story because of the influence it has on Rei’s development. He slowly turns from a person who constantly needed others to a person others can rely on. He even thinks of the Kawamoto sisters and what kind of omiyage he should bring them from Kyoto. How sweet.
This wasn’t the episode that we got to learn more about the King of Shogi, but I am guessing that the moment is not that far away. After all, we only have three episodes until the end of the series.
Did you like Episode 19 of 3-gatsu no Lion? Don’t forget to check the rest of our episodic anime reviews for Winter 2017. You can also learn all the latest news about the upcoming 3-gatsu no Lion live action adaptation by bookmarking the anime tag!
Broadcasting from October 8 at 23:00 via NHK General TV