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.
I’m not the type who spends his time on the internet reading tweets and comments on my favorite series, but I’ve read a few reviews of 3-Gatsu No Lion just to see what other people think. As it seems, opinions vary and they are usually colored by the critic’s (I don’t really like that word) attitude, much like how our Shogi players’ style is determined by their character.
My review of the first episode was almost dithyrambic. My attitude towards the series (or life) hasn’t changed since.
Japanese Title: あかり / 橋の向こう
The episode hurries to resolve the cliffhanger from the last episode in its pre-opening theme scenes. Chapter 2: The Town Along the River was not over yet. The fiery character in front of Rei’s house was Nikaida-san, a fellow shogi player that sees Rei as his arch-enemy, but in the shounen manga way: Their rivalry is just a means for them to try their best. They are competitors who respect each other, thus springing an unshakeable friendship between them. Or that’s what Nikaida-san believes at least. His enthusiastic demeanor is in direct contrast to Rei’s hypotonic reaction.
The next two chapters begin in the same way: the tone of the chapter is set by a monologue by Rei, who tries to express his feelings in the only way that seems plausible. This is the beauty of anime, movies, and books. We have the chance to glimpse into a person’s soul and listen to his deeper thoughts. If only we could properly listen, we could use these insights to recognize certain behaviors in our everyday life and in people we care about or just need our help (or our ear).
Chapter 03: Akari and Chapter 04: Beyond the Bridge are essentially about the same thing: The direct contrast between Rei’s lonely life and the one he has when he spends time with his fellow players and the three sisters.
The moment I met people it felt like the other side of the bridge lit up in full color
We learn a few things about shogi and we even get to see part of a match (more in highlights) but the most important part of meeting Issa Matsumoto and Smith is realizing that Rei doesn’t have to be alone. There are people around him. People who respect him not out of obligation but because they share a common interest, be it shougi or the loss of a loved one.
His senpai are not the same people as those that left him drunk outside Akari’s club the first time Akari and Rei met. They are thoughtful and kind and would never impose themselves on the weak. How many times have we seen people forcing others to alcohol consumption in our binge-drinking culture?
Akari is also thoughtful and kind. They are people with their own concerns and their own problems who actually help each other. Rei’s presence in Akari’s home is a distraction. Rei’s presence in his fellow player’s life is an inspiration. By the time the episode ends, we have learned a few things about Rei as well: his depression problem stems from the greatest loss of his life. He was but a boy when his parents died in a traffic accident. I felt some tears kissing my left chick as Rei tried to explain the reasons he turned to shogi for protection. In the end, it’s not what we go through, but the way we deal with it that tells something about us, isn’t it?
Shogi Match: I still haven’t had the time to go through the rule of shogi. I do want though and you should expect an article from me that describes the game and its rules. It looks like a complicated version of chess where you can use the defeated pieces. Interesting. The game between Matsumoto and Kiriyama (at least the part we got to see) was… exciting. I don’t think many people will share my view, but the way they animated the scene made me feel like this is a game that needs some serious skills. Plus, the upbeat music was funny. Not the kind of music you would expect this scene to have.
Akari: Omg. If I have a thing for waifus, Akari could easily make the cut. She is not only kind and thoughtful, she is also a stunning beauty that knows how to use her charms and words to manipulate people in a way that doesn’t seem malicious or evil. The way she made Issan pay the bill was adorable. And the way she condemns people who force others to drink was both indirect and powerful.
Parallel Displacement: When Matsumoto-san rejoiced at the sound of Akari’s name, there was a scene where it said ‘Parallel Displacement – 5cm per second’. I guess that’s a reference to the popular Makoto Shinkai film, which unfortunately I haven’t seen yet. If you got the reference, please let us know in the comments!
Ginza: Ginza is for Tokyo what Gangnam is for Seoul, I guess. It’s a district of Chūō, located south of Yaesu and Kyōbashi, west of Tsukiji, east of Yūrakuchō and Uchisaiwaichō, and north of Shinbashi. Did you get that? Well, here is a Google Maps for you. It’s a popular shopping area, with most of the central stores of internationally renowned brands being there. There are also expensive boutiques, restaurants and coffeehouses. Ginza is recognized by many as one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world.
Obon Festival: It’s not a coincidence that the episode contained many Obon Festival imagery such as the herp twigs. Part of the episode had to do with the loss of loved ones, a theme that the Obon Festival is based on. Obon is one of the most important Japanese traditions. In Japan there is the belief that the spirit will revisit their homes during the Obon Festival to be reunited with their family. It’s a time when households pray for their ancestors. It’s an important family-gathering time and many people return to their hometowns for the festival.
3-Gatsu No Lion is not an easy anime, but it’s one of the less-tiring of this season. Like the shogi players, my attitude towards the medium usually pre-dictates the kind of series I will probably like, and this is one of those shows: slow but not too slow, funny but not too funny, serious but not black-hearted to the core.
What lies beyond the bridge? Warmth, love, despair, need, food, smiles, tears. If you focus on the shogi aspect then you might lose the most important theme of this anime: how to deal with struggle. Shogi is just a theme, the medium through which the creator wants to convey her message. It’s certainly for a more mature audience, one that can relate with the characters.
What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
To be broadcast on October 8 at 23:00 via NHK General TV