Sangatsu no Lion

Title:Sangatsu no Lion
3-gatsu no Lion
3月のライオン
March comes in like a Lion
Overall:Buy
Keywords: , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Shaft
KAWANISHI Kengo
KAYANO Ai
17-year old Rei Kiriyama is already making a decent living for himself as a professional Shogi player. He is considered a genius at the game and wins considerable prize money at competitions. His personal life, however, is anything but promising as he lives alone with few friends.

22 episodes plus recap episode 11.5. See series sequel, Sangatsu no Lion 2.
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Buy 7 7 7 7 9 9 Ggultra2764 [series:3265#1552]
March Comes In Like a Lion may have you draw some parallels to Your Lie in April in that both focus on teenage boys gifted in particular talents who suffer some sort of mental trauma due to facing strong familial pressure to engage in their talents and getting out of whatever trauma that is negatively affecting them. In the case of March Comes In Like a Lion, this involves Rei and his interest in shogi as he is under pressure to use the winnings from his victories in the game to maintain living independently from his estranged adoptive family. However unlike Your Lie in April, this series offers some major improvements in how it explores its somewhat similar premise.

Whereas Your Lie in April resorts to melodrama in exploring the issues surrounding Kousei and Kaori, March Comes In Like a Lion is more grounded in the exploration of Rei's situation. While Rei is cynical and isolated to engage with others, the series does not overdramatize these elements to his character and the growth he undergoes to improve himself is more gradual instead of in large spurts as Your Lie in April does with Kousei. Also while Kaori serves as the sole trigger for Kousei's growth in Your Lie in April, Rei's growth is undergone by gradually bonding with others in and out of the game of shogi that he is part of.

Another strength that March Comes In Like a Lion has over Your Lie in April is the exploration of its supporting characters. Whereas the majority of characters in Your Lie in April were mostly irrelevant in the series, many of the characters in March Comes In Like a Lion have their roles to fulfill in the gradual growth of Rei's character and a number of them even get fleshing out to give them more depth and not feel like mere archetypes as much of Your Lie in April's cast.

And finally, the last major element that March Comes In Like a Lion is more polished in than Your Lie in April is the execution of its comedy. This was a major issue for my viewing of Your Lie in April because of the style and timing meshing poorly with the anime's more serious developments. With this series, its comedic timing is better executed to not be as abrupt in presence during more serious scenes and is more diverse in style depending on the situation that plays out for a comical moment, being either subtle or over-the-top without taking away from ongoing developments occurring within said scenes. While my mileage did vary on when I chuckled during March Comes In Like a Lion's comical moments, I did appreciate the anime's better timing and diversity of comedy compared to Your Lie in April.

Still, this isn't to say that Your Lie in April edges over March Comes In Like a Lion in some areas. The visual presentation in Your Lie in April is far superior in detail and animation, as March Comes In Like a Lion utilizes a pastel-like animation style similar to Honey and Clover. While the character designs look decent with this drawing style, scenic shots looked washed out in comparison to Your Lie in April and the animation is noticeably not as fluid in comparison. Also whereas Your Lie in April had a conclusive ending, March Comes In Like a Lion ends inconclusively as its manga source material is still ongoing as of this review and a second anime season of the series is expected to continue the anime's plot when it starts airing during the Fall 2016 anime season.

Still in spite of these minor issues with the comparisons, March Comes In Like a Lion is a series that can still stand on its own feet with the quality storytelling that it offers in exploring the developments of Rei's character and others who interact with him throughout this series. A definite recommendation if you have interest in character-driven comedy/ dramas.

Last updated Wednesday, June 21 2017. Created Wednesday, June 21 2017.
Rent Stretch [series:3265#628]
(All episodes watched):

Well, the one thing that most struck me about this show was how little idea I had after episode one of whether it would be worth watching or not. I was left with no strong feelings either way; the episode seemed to do a very good job of telling us the least it possibly could about Rei and what the basic conflict of the series would be, but managed to do so without seriously irritating me. A rudimentary framework of a premise is established. I was neither bored nor excited, which was why the episode felt so indecisive. Rei has some sort of emotional issue, which might be nothing more than loneliness or might be something more serious. I had guessed that the girls he visited were his sisters, but that wasn't the case. Apparently the makers either expect us to guess a good deal or assumed that things which weren't obvious would be. The Shogi matches themselves play a relatively small part and the thankfully focus of the show will be on Rei's private life. So, after episode one I still didn't know if this show would be worth watching or not.

Episode two did a pretty good job of fleshing the characters out and giving them backgrounds. Rei's parents were killed in a traumatic auto accident and he still grieves for them. We meet a couple of odd Shogi opponents of his as well. The girls are unrelated to him, they just took pity on him while he was in his darkest hour, perhaps because they seem to have lost their parents somehow as well. Exactly what course this show will take is still unclear, but the characters have been made interesting enough that pretty much any course would be OK. One thing that is obvious is that this is an anime for fairly mature people, and it won't rely on just action or magic or fanservice.

This is actually a fairly deep show, as we learn more and more about Rei and the life he leads. "I say I have no reason to win" he remarks at one point, "but why is it so painful when I lose"? He's living what seems like a meaningless life, still traumatized and unable to make many friends. He's reluctant even to visit the three girls, perhaps because he doesn't want the way he's really feeling to be revealed to anyone. Something has got to change, and we the viewers become fairly intrigued as we wonder what that change might be. In episode nine he meets a Shogi professional who is nearing the end of his career, and has feelings a lot like Rei does. The episode is both sad and funny; in some ways we can feel sorry for this guy, in others he's not exactly perfect. I never know exactly what to expect while watching this show, since a good deal of it is about psychological issues that never get a mention in most anime.

Speaking of not knowing what to expect, I thought that episode twelve would conclude the series, but when it had a different OP sequence than previous episodes, I realized that this was in fact just the first episode of the second season of this show (now the 'recap' episode 11.5 makes sense). I have mixed feelings about this; Lion is a good show, but I'm not sure if it will be good enough to justify a second season (and I had been hoping to wrap things up as the Spring season rapidly approaches). Watching most anime is like watching TV--you do it purely for entertainment and can't boast about what you've done. But watching Lion is like reading a book--you can be proud of yourself afterwards. But, likewise, it's more difficult and demanding. A scene in which Rei has to get up and walk because if he sits still some sort of attack of loneliness/depression/anxiety/whatever will overcome him was kind of chilling.

But ultimately the story sort of peters out with what can only be an arc conclusion at best. What about Rei's sister, and the guy he hates that she was having an affair with? What about the silver-haired fantastic Shogi player who Rei has yet to take on? What about the three sisters? What about Rei's own problems? At the end of the final episode there was no mention of additional seasons being in the works, just a thank you for watching. If this is as far as the anime will ever go, I'm not sure if it was a good idea to watch.

Last updated Thursday, June 22 2017. Created Monday, October 17 2016.

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