The highly anticipated 3-gatsu no Lion has finally come in – and it’s just as good as one could have hoped. Troubled as it is sweet, the spectacle is compelling, if not yet utterly spectacular.
We follow the adventures of the young Rei Kiriyama. He lives alone without going to school, and is without any family or close friends to speak of. The only thing supporting him? Shogi. He’s a professional in spite of his age, and has been called a prodigy by many. He may even be earning more than some of his teachers thanks to his ongoing winning streak.
And yet… one can hardly describe his life as “perfect”. His family situation remains shrouded in mystery, though it’s evidently problematic seeing as no relatives are anywhere near him throughout the episode. It clearly troubles him greatly as great guilt toward his father is made apparent, seemingly from having beaten him at shogi from a young age. The only place he could call “home” is the Kawamoto household: Akari, accompanied by her sisters Hinata and Momo, welcome him like their son. They cook for him, let him sleep, and even ask him for help with the shop Akari’s grandfather runs. They offer him the kind of warmth that he seems to be desperately missing, perhaps because they know of his woes.
Rei is at all times standing in the hazy frontier between joy and sorrow. For every moment of unfiltered filial warmth, there is a flashback painted in deep blue. He has a place where he can belong if he so decides, and yet is unable to take a step forward.
The first game of shogi expresses this troubled mindset best. He faces his teacher and wins, but there is none of the intensity most will expect of a sports anime. And yet, it is perhaps Rei’s apparent sadness that makes the scene so powerful. Exaggeration conveys a sense of fun which isn’t present here, and this is probably because Rei himself is taking very little pleasure from any of this. In fact, he almost seems sad, as if this occasion was comparable to a funeral.
It seems that his shogi business inevitably ties into his family issues. In fact, we learn he left the club without any prior notice, and witness how very thought of the place gives him a nauseous feeling.
In spite of Rei’s evidently troubled mind, no mistake about it: 3-gatsu no Lion is, at least so far, not a dark show at all. It depicts the emotional struggle of a young boy, much of which remains befogged, but at the center of his world rests a crystal clear source of warmth around which much of the cast gravitates. If Rei must confront his past, then he’ll have this place as a source of strength.
Having considered all of the above, 3-gatsu no Lion’s debuted very well. While one will want to confirm the proper use of shogi in coming episodes, the bases it has posed for the forthcoming character drama are most solid. To this we must SHAFT’s talent (Shinbou using his usual style with a moderation that will please his detractors) to make us visualize Rei’s every emotion through every means available (from colors to character acting). It may not tread the most unique path, but at least will surely walk it with grace.
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