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:Unevaluated
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
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Unevaluated 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, and it might still flesh out and become interesting, but not yet. I was neither bored nor excited, which was why the episode felt so indecisive. Rei seems to have 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 apparently that isn't the case. Apparently the makers either expect us to guess a good deal or assumed that things which weren't obvious would be. If episode one is any indicator, the Shogi matches themselves will play a small part and the focus will be on Rei's private life (which might be good). So, I still don't know if this show will be worth watching or not.

Episode two did a pretty good job of fleshing the characters out and giving them backgrounds. Apparently 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 by the loss of his parents 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 Monday, April 24 2017. Created Monday, October 17 2016.

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