Review and Synopsis by Anime Girl

3-gatsu no Lion: March Comes in Like a Lion Review by

March Comes in Like a Lion is a dramatic animated series that follows the life of Rei Kiriyama in the shogi world. Rei Kiriyama is one of the few elite students in the world of shogi, and this gives him a cool status in middle school. But because of this, he faces an enormous amount of pressure, both from the shogi community and his adoptive family. Rei Kiriyama decides to leave his family and moves in to an apartment in the middle of Tokyo. As a teenager living on his own, Rei Kiriyama does not know how to take care of himself. His shy personality makes him distant from his peers in school and at the shogi hall.

After Rei Kiriyama arrives in Tokyo, he meets three sisters named Akari, Hinata, and Momo Kawamoto. The trio of sisters is living with their grandfather, who owns a traditional wagashi shop. Akari is the oldest of the three girls and she is determined to help Rei Kiriyama overcome his loneliness. The Kawamoto sisters bond with Rei Kiriyama, and he begins to feel like he has a. new home. As Rei struggles to understand his shogi career, he learns how to interact with others and understand his own feelings.

Although Rei lives alone in this series, his real parents and sister died when he was still very young, and he was forced to live in a foster home with his adoptive sister Kyoko and their little brother (who doesn’t make much of an appearance in the anime), all under the gaze of their strict father. A day in Rei’s life feels like being shackled, imprisoned by forces out of his control. And given how his father and sister treat him, it’s hard to blame him!

The central narrative voice of this anime is inside the head of Rei Kiriyama, his inner voice. The story of his past and his present, the way he describes the pressure he is under, or the depression he may be feeling is made more intimate for the audience by having it told to the viewer by the protagonist himself. We begin to see the world from his perspective. We become immersed in his emotions and experience the changes he experiences. This, combined with stellar character development, leads towards a certain catharsis for the viewer that may help them reflect on their own life and what they are going through.

Shogi became an integral part of his life, just as it had become for his elusive adopting father. Every time Rei sits and analyzes an opponent, he is calculating their demise as if he’s the one in control of the game, treating his rivals as subhuman. He figures that’s how everyone plays in order to win.

This is a beautiful anime. It tells a compelling story that goes in all kinds of directions, it makes good use of colors and scene design, it’s got a great cast of characters, its tone parallels a game of Shogi, it takes a very honest approach about the nature of depression, and it’s got talking animals and cute voice-overs for every onomatopoeia that pops up!

Akari Kawamoto might be my favorite. She was a family person, someone who loved helping her sisters out. She could have left them; she was an adult after all, but she stayed and helped. I’m a sucker for family stories because they’re sometimes better than cliche romance stories. And Akari understood things. She was wise.  I just wish we saw more of them. They were definitely a major part of why I loved this anime, but they faded away in the second half.

Honestly, March Comes in like a Lion still plays out like a comedy, but not in the way you might expect it. In a classical sense, it still ends on a high note that is very uplifting. But before we can get to that, the series will play with your emotions like the tides that turn in a single game of Shogi.

Rei Kiriyama

Rei Kiriyama is the main protagonist of March Comes in Like a Lion. He is a teenager and a professional shogi player. By the time the story begins, Rei is a frequent visitor of the Kawamoto home, where the family treats him as one of their own. Rei does not want to grow close with them at first, but the Kawamoto sisters win him over.

Rei Kiriyama is one of the most relatable characters I have come across recently in anime. The experiences he has with depression and feeling so alone are experiences that I have had, and regretfully, his distrust in his own family are experiences that I have also had. I may not have lived on my own yet, but there are times when I felt it necessary to run away and take a proverbial break from them. But even so, I have also come to recognize that I’m not alone in my thoughts, and that there are people who share this journey called “life” with me.

Rei had to face a lot of trauma in his childhood. He is very meek and shy, and he always seems unordinary. He seems to have a lot of behavior that relates to depression and autism because he has poor social skills and limited expression. Rei’s complicated childhood has made him feel out of place with his adoptive family. He is anti-social and does not understand adulthood, he’s not truly ready for it. As he comes to interact with the world, he comes to realize a lot of his negative thoughts and slowly changes how he looks at his past and at his life.

Rei is actually very intelligent and he is a genius when it comes to shogi. The rest of the world sees him as awkward because he is shy. Sometimes he just does not understand social cues or does not have any common sense. At one point, Rei goes on the internet to figure out how to register getting engaged with the government. When he discovers the government doesn’t keep track of such things, he gets mad. What is even more confusing is the fact that he was looking this up to marry Hina, one of the girls at his high school. Rei also later fails to understand why people are shocked by his proposal – but he never showed an interest in Hina before.

As March comes, Rei is acquainted with plenty of new crossroads in his life, whether it is finding joy in Shogi, going back to school, or feeling the kindness of the Kawamotos and yes, to a certain degree, his sister as well. But where all of these instances would have given him more anxiety before, he looks up with greater anticipation to face these new challenges with more confidence.

A not-so-obvious source of love for Rei, to me, actually comes from his adoptive sister Kyoko. Although she is mysterious and has physically abused Rei in the past, I couldn’t help but think that she is suffering as well. She simply copes with it differently from Rei.

While Rei does feel a strong sense of hostility toward Kyoko, I feel as though there is some very close understanding between them. He recognizes that she is also in pain, and can’t help but spread that pain to others, especially him. She too is adopted, and when Rei left, their father had left her to take responsibility for them both. Rei may think Kyoko had hurt him, but in another way, he had also hurt her! In that regard, Rei and Kyoko seem to have a very complicated, dysfunctional relationship, that would be toxic had they stuck with each other. Yet even then, that’s not how their interactions go.

Rei is my favorite character because he is so lost and does not understand the world. In the end, all he really needs is kindness and love. Akari and her sisters help him overcome his shyness and learn about the world.

While the first season did include the other characters who surround our protagonist, Rei Kiriyama, he and his loneliness were the main focus. Season two takes a different turn, and one that I think suits the series much better. It’s still very much a drama, but now it’s more about how the other people around Rei help him, and how he in turn helps them. Rei’s involvement with the Kawamoto family increases during this season, as do his relationships with just about every other character. Interestingly, despite what I originally expected, his adoptive family played even less of a role, however.

One rule that sticks out to me is that for every piece you capture, you may add that piece to the board any time during your turn as you see fit, with a few exceptions involving advances. With that rule in mind, every piece on the board counts, including the pawns. As you can imagine, the addition of any one piece to the board can change the advantage from player to player, thus “turning the tide” on multiple occasions.

Rei had been so focused on all that he had lost, and holds dearly to his confidence in Shogi. But what he doesn’t stop to realize is that there are people out there who love him for who he is. And sometimes, the people who care about him the most aren’t exactly our obvious choices, nor for obvious reasons.

I know this sounds like kind of a stretch, but this is exactly how I picture the mood of March Comes in like a Lion. Any given scene can feel somber and melancholy, only to be interrupted by a rude awakening of super cute and otherwise misappropriated humor, as if the very mood of the show is torrential!


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