March comes in like a lion
Episode 11

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 11 of
March comes in like a lion ?

After two stressful matches in a row, both Rei and March itself needed some cooldown time. Unfortunately for Rei, that down time doesn't end up being entirely voluntary. With all of his matches for the year concluded, Rei comes down with a serious fever, leaving him bedridden as the new year approaches. That's where this episode starts us, stuck in bed as Rei floats through feverish dreams and old memories.

This episode's opening fever-focused segment was easily its most aesthetically compelling sequence, yet another strong example of March's terrific ability to draw the viewer into Rei's headspace. The show's overall palette stuck to cool blues and grays, echoing both Rei's overt preoccupation with drinking water and the sensation of sinking beneath the waves of a heavy fever. Beautiful shots of Rei's lonely room envisioned waves crashing across his bed, and scattered, pensive guitar strings kept the mood melancholy yet somehow calming as well. The overall effect strongly evoked how a fever can actually be kind of comforting in its own way, like another weight softly pressing your body into the blankets. In the end, the idea of Rei floundering in his isolated room was given a clear visual touchstone: Rei's recurring memory of going up an escalator only to find himself alone, with no way to return.

Of course, the Kawamoto siblings have no interest in letting Rei die of a fever, so they soon bustle in to rescue him from his own neglect. After that first moody sequence, the rest of this episode stayed in firm slice of life mode, as Rei enjoyed the end of the year at the Kawamoto household. All of the Kawamoto siblings have been well-established at this point, so it was charming enough just to enjoy the warm relationships between all of these pleasant characters. While March's sense of humor can get overbearing when it leans too hard into a simplistic joke, sequences like Rei being mothered to death by a bunch of concerned sisters combine natural humor with existing character affection to arrive at something fundamentally warm and soothing.

There were some sorrowful notes even at the Kawamoto house, though. Early on, Rei notices how their father often seems specifically left out of discussions regarding their lost family, and when her sisters fell asleep, Akari was finally willing to admit that having Rei over was partially intended to alleviate her own loneliness as well. But overall, this episode's second half was sunny and charming, a necessary counterbalance for the show's regular gloom.

Having been successfully pampered into oblivion by the Kawamotos, Rei ultimately found himself wondering exactly why he felt so comfortable in this place. The difference between his lonely apartment and this cozy home was established through two contrasting dreams: that sad image of riding an elevator to nowhere and a happier memory of getting scolded by his birth mother at his original home. Those dreams point to a topic March has been consistently addressing throughout its run, whose significance has only become more clear the more we learn about Rei.

The nature of family, whether chosen or forced upon us, is clearly one of the show's overarching themes. Rei's depression stems from both the loss of his birth family and his unhappy relationship with his adopted one, while his happiness generally comes from finding solace in either shogi companions or the Kawamoto siblings. March's character writing is sharp enough not to offer any easy “solutions” for how we construct our family - Rei's comfort with the Kawamotos is valid, but so is Kyouko's bitterness over Rei “stealing” her father. March's evenhanded approach matches the complexity of this topic, but its overall belief in the importance of found families may ultimately save not just Rei, but Kyouko as well. Kyouko may not have chosen her adopted brother, but hopefully she can one day choose not to let her father's feelings poison the time they've shared.

Overall: B

March comes in like a lion is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.

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