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 thing that always bothered me about American series is that they tend, depending on their popularity, to over-serialize. Season upon season, arc upon arc, on a never-ending story that seems like it’s never going to end.
I prefer short series. Series like 3-Gatsu-no-Lion where every word is important, every scene is essential to the plot, and every minute spent is a beautiful moment that you will carry with you long after the anime is over.
Japanese Title: 契約 / カッコーの巣の上で
I don’t read manga. I used to and it’s not that I don’t like them, but I’m too busy reading articles and books that I spend all my leisure time watching anime and playing Jrpgs. But there are shows like 3-gatsu no Lion that remind me that I’m losing on some really impressive stories. I am glad this was turned into an anime.
Chapter 9: Contract and Chapter 10: Over the Cuckoo’s nest
These two chapters are more about the past than they are about the present. Rei is a troubled soul, there is no doubt about that, but the why and how were not known yet. We knew that he devoted his life to shogi as means to cope with his trauma of losing his family in a tragic accident, but we were spared the details, until now.
Rei’s life recap (At least of what we know until now): His father was a shogi player. Rei learned to play shogi because he wanted to spend more time with him. He was bullied in school because his introverted nature made it difficult to make any friends. The only person he could communicate with outside of his family was his father’s best friend, a fellow shogi player. His parents and little sister were killed in a traffic accident. The rest of his family are just self-centered pricks who didn’t care about Rei. His grandfather cared only for his legacy and his daughter, clearly an image of her father, was just clad that her husband would inherit their hospital and wanted to get rid of Rei by sending him to an orphanage. The way the series portrayed his introverted character in that scene was amazing. Rei couldn’t survive in an orphanage. Introverts need time alone to recharge. The only time they feel safe is when they are with themselves. How can such a kid live in a place where you have to be with someone else 24/7? Scary. In the end, he told the greatest lie of his life so he could be taken as an apprentice under the roof of his father’s friend. He said that he loved shogi. And right there, shogi and Rei became one. His adopted, shogi-centered family had two children: the tough and selfish Kyouko and the kind but weak Ayumu. The only way they could remain in their father’s radar was to be professional shogi players. But Rei was better. Way better. And neither of the children could stand that. Kyouko took out her anger and jealousy on little Rei, while Ayumu immersed himself in videogames to cope with his failure. Like a cuckoo’s offspring, he imposed himself on the nest of another bird and thrown the rest of the eggs away. He was the only one that continued to climb the ladder to be a professional shogi player. And that was something he couldn’t live with. He is living on his own because he didn’t want to impose on his ‘father’ and ‘siblings’. And just like that, every scene that we saw in the previous four episodes makes absolute sense.
Animals: It’s funny how we are able to hear the animals speak. It feels both strange and familiar, especially in an anime that is as serious as this. But what doesn’t intrude is welcome, and our little furry friends want to express themselves. Who are we to stop them?
Flashbacks: A great way to do a flashback is to tie it with a few scenes on the present, mingle it with a few words, and give the flashback purpose. Flashbacks for the sake of flashback are most of the times silly and serve a different way to explain something that could have been said, or shown in a completely different way. In 3-gatsu no Lion, every flashback is there because it has to be. Because without it the scene would be incomplete. Because it builds to the tension. Try to remember the moment when Rei touched Momo’s hand. The way the scene broke to another little hand, this one paler than normal. How the snowflakes covered the screen and we weren’t allowed to know anything else, not until Rei’s monologue went there and we could see the whole picture.
Manga: Last review, I made the assumption that the first chapter of each episode focuses on a character while the latter has something to do with the theme. After searching for the manga online I came to realize that the chapters’ numbers and names are exactly the same as those in the manga.
Bullying: It’s not easy to talk about bullying. Especially in a review. But Rei’s situation is very common and difficult to ignore. Many introverted kids that find it difficult to communicate properly with their classmates are usually marginalized and bullied. In a world where everybody is encouraged to be the same, those who can’t be anything but different are punished, either directly or indirectly. Rei felt exactly the way most kids in his situation do: they feel like their classmates are talking in a language they can’t understand, a tribe ticket they don’t know how to get.
There is a live-action movie of 3-gatsu no Lion coming next year, and I couldn’t be more excited. I love this kind of stories, a little bitter and a little sweet, more real than most, and devoid of any superfluous information. Chapter through chapter, we get to know a little more about Rei’s story through flashbacks that are tightly connected to the present. Every one of them was triggered by something that happened that day.
If anime is truly an art form, then 3-Gatsu no Lion is one of its more adequate ambassadors. Rei’s story has both beauty and despair in its narrative. I want to see how the most important match of his life, the one he is playing with himself, is going to unfold. I want to have been able to reach every Rei and learn how all their stories are going to unfold.
Did you like the episode? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to read all our latest reviews in our Fall 2016 category.
To be broadcast on October 8 at 23:00 via NHK General TV