3-gatsu no Lion returns with a superb uninterrupted twenty-four minutes of… Rei talking.
This leaves us with little to discuss, provided we don’t want this to turn into an in-depth summary. As such, let’s start with the ending, for this is where we’ll understand the episode’s point. There we see the young Hina being treated to some drink by Rei. Sitting in front of him, she senses his misty mood, and invites him home (almost forcefully, it must be said). Realizing the girl’s ability to pay such attention to her surroundings despite having so many responsibilities and emotional burdens to carry at her age, Rei feels himself pathetic for his sheer self-centeredness.
And here’s the episode’s entire purpose: Rei realizing his egocentricity. It’s undeniably an important lesson, perhaps even a true step forward for our protagonist: but the road was far too long. Narration is good, but an anime should strive to find balance between the elements that make it. The problem here is that the text is given so much space it can claim prominence over SHAFT’s distinctive visual style. That’s an achievement, but certainly not a proud one.
To the problematic prominence of narration, we must add the issue of the content itself. Before the last part which centers on the realization, we have two portions: the first about Rei’s stagnation, and the second about his rapport to shogi’s current best player. The former is essentially an elaboration on things we know already – that Rei is stagnating now he’s reached a safe place as a shogi player. The big revelation is his two consecutive losses, which prompted the brutal stop of his advancement. The second part has him compare his situation to Master Souya’s, one of the few who, like Rei, became pros as middle school students. And of course, Rei is far from the same level of prestige, despite the huge expectations placed on his shoulders. The comparison makes the question of ambition surface: he says he doesn’t care… but he’s still frustrated at losing? What do these contradictory currents mean? That’s an answer he’ll have to find.
So, what do we have? He’s lost two consecutive matches in his second year as professional, and Souya is big. That’s about it; the rest merely reaffirms or expands on what we already knew of Rei’s character. Needless to say, we didn’t need a whole episode of inner monologue for such a slim payoff; the need to fill every moment with narration to the point of excess is surely testament to this. One may see the show’s slow progression as being a reflection of Rei’s inner troubles and stagnation – it moves as slow as he does –, but this episode took this to a level where it’s hard to feel engaged at all. This is a problem, and while one episode is never too much to fix, 3-gatsu needs to up the ante in coming episodes, whether with shogi or more direct tackling of issues.
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