The first thing when I saw “March Comes in Like a Lion” is a game anime about Shogi. But, it’s not really about the Japanese chess game. Instead, this anime is like a poetic. It describes the emotions of the main character and the perspective of other characters. The main protagonist, Rei Kiriyama, is a very complex character. On the way he is trying to get past various obstacles, this anime changed the slice of life genre into a unique story. Unlike such a genre in general, this show represented how dilemma mixes with feelings, experiences, and suffering. The same is true in the first minute of the first episode. This anime doesn’t require its narrative between characters but Rei’s content head describes every feeling of all characters.
Rei Kiriyama is not the MC from a game or video game genre in general where they were always portrayed strong without any complexity mixed up. Rei is a young man and a Shogi talent professional besides having a successful life from the outside, it’s not really the case. He has to deal with all kinds of depression, deep internal problems, and many personal issues. We see his life and how he looks at others from his perspective. Using his glasses, he invited us to explore a variety of obstacles from his relationships, past, people he meets, his job, and people who influence himself. Discussing Rei Kiriyama itself is one of the main keys to why this anime could be very interesting.
Sinking into the deepest sea, trying to swim but the deeper he sank, the darker and emptier the sea was. Rei feels isolated both in society, his family and friends. Not that he doesn’t have anyone but he has people who help him when he drowns. After the death of his family in an accident, Rei has nothing but to accept an offer whether he likes Shogi or not. He accepts it so he has a new family thanks to his adoptive father. However, he still drowned and felt that he was an outsider. Somehow, he finally chose to live alone so that there were no more people who felt hurt because of him.
His meeting with Akari, Momo, and Hina has changed his life. He feels warmed differently when he always sank into his apartment where he lived. These three sisters caring for poor Rei with all their heart and even taking an abandoned cat have described how kind they were. Every time Rei feels empty, he has a place to hang so that his heart is filled again. Unfortunately, his expectations suddenly become unexpected after meeting with Kyouko Kouda, his adopted sister. She is like a queen regardless she is beautiful but every time she shows herself, Rei suddenly becomes silent. Even so, Kyouko is a complex character as well after what happens when they are still with their father.
For Rei, he felt that he was always dependent on someone. Every time he felt alone, for some reason there would be someone who pulled him again. Fill his empty heart so that he doesn’t feel alone again. I like and hate Rei’s character at the same time. I like and sympathize with him because there are so many things he must go through at his young age. But I hated him because he never always took steps for himself. Often, he always thinks about the outcomes so he doesn’t repeat his mistakes again. Like a bird who stabbed his father. After stabbed him, he looked for a place to depend again. Therefore, Shogi is a dedication and reflection of his life. If there is no Shogi, Rei is nothing. He certainly had no purpose in his life other than continuing to move forward.
“March Comes in Like a Lion” deals with someone’s solitude and depression. I really like this anime from the first episode and continue to like it to the end. The pace is different from the slice of life anime I’ve watched because this is a very, very different anime. It’s not really about Shogi, apart from you are non-Japanese viewers, you will be confused. There is also a cute cartoon segment explains the basic rules of the game. But, I didn’t really see this as a Shogi anime but instead, it really focused on its narrative and storyline of the main character. Shogi is just a reflection of Rei’s life because being a professional player is the only thing he has. In addition to having to be able to go forward along the dark road, he finally realized there was still light in his straight path.
The most influential characters are the Kawamoto sisters. It was they who made Rei grow even more so that they would go forward. To continue to support what Rei really wanted to find. They not only exist as colorful cast or even sub-plots but they are there so that Rei can go and move forward. Because of them, Rei can trust all of his friends, the people he met at Shogi, and not for his ego anymore. He even saw Kyoko as broken glass but still stood firm. But what’s most important about his life is how much he influences others and what the true meaning of his influence was. And one important thing that teaches Rei the true meaning is Harunobu Nikadou.
Nikadou shows as comic relief at first glance besides he always recognizes Rei as his best friend and archrival. However, he has things what Rei doesn’t have so they influence each other where Rei doesn’t realize it. At the hot sun besides fighting his disease, it turns out there are still people who care about Rei and one of the biggest influences when talking about Shogi. There is Kai Shimada as the most influential person later on. Masamune Goto as his adoptive father and other supporting characters who have their own narration for Rei himself too.
While the plot doesn’t focus much on Shogi itself, it doesn’t try to focus more on such a game itself than the plot. So, you don’t need to worry about watching this. You don’t have to learn Shogi first. Shogi is a part of this game mind like chess where there are strategies and formations on it. The show is so sticking with it and doesn’t really focus on tropes about “from zero to hero”. Because it’s not about Rei who must be the top Shogi player.
Shaft studio really did well in this show making “March Comes in Like a Lion” has its own unique style. In contrast to the Shaft direction in general, which is not infrequently there was also a head tilt, the art is well-drawn and so amazing spectacular. It’s like a superior animation while trying to be audiovisual with a realist narrative. There are so many metaphors when it comes to it and that’s being said, the character designs are also unique.
The soundtrack is just really well-composed. It’s so melancholic and very suitable in describing the dilemma and feelings of the main and other characters. The opening theme songs really bought its visual into a poetic that illustrates the whole feeling of the character. This is not a comedy show but the show really sticks with it. The author and other staff didn’t forget to pay attention to the smallest details including the cats. Kengo Kawanishi as Rei Kiriyama is just powerful and amazing voice actor. Not all voice actors are able to express all kinds of feelings through their characters, but Kengo Kawanishi is one of them. Kana Hanazawa, Ai Kayano, and Misaki Kuno are also very cute in carrying their characters. One of them is Misaki Kuno as Momo.
“March Comes in Like a Lion” speaking through its narrative, through its feeling, deals with psychology, so that it becomes a unique slice of life show. I love everything about this anime regardless of the pacing was a bit slow and dull in some segments. The relationship between characters is well-development, realism, and the Shogi scene is really interesting to follow. It’s not really a slice of life show even for the manga readers or anime watchers, you would find it hard. There are many complexities of each character. However, it’s a show that presents it with such a breathtaking direction.
5 out of 5 stars.