March comes in like a lion
Episode 19

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 19 of
March comes in like a lion ?

This week's episode of March comes in like a lion was made just for me. Focusing on Shimada, who's swiftly become my favorite character in the show, it chronologued his life story and philosophy on competition from childhood to the present day. Full of thoughtful reflections on growing up and centered by Shimada's soothing, self-effacing words, it was a thorough affirmation of everything March has been doing right these past few episodes.

As we'd learned before, Shimada grew up in a remote village, where shogi was one of the few pastimes available to him. With few peers his own age, Shimada was encouraged by the old men of his hometown, and ended up working throughout the year to afford visiting a Tokyo shogi workshop. The combination of pensive guitar music, Miki Shinichiro's reliably textured voice acting, and the blue-dominated color scheme created a strong impression of ambiguously positive but nonetheless treasured memories, as Shimada's words gave a sense of specific place and dramatic consequence to his current motivations. The chapter title “Passing the Night” referred to Shimada's restless night trips on the bus to Tokyo, and every element of this sequence worked to strongly convey the specific emotional tenor of treasured but restless trips marked by drifting in and out of sleep.

The overall atmosphere of Shimada's memories was great on its own, but this sequence also offered some individually compelling reflections on competition and growing up. Traveling to Tokyo forced Shimada to recognize a truth that eventually comes to all alleged prodigies - that “the brat who was a ‘genius’ back home was just one more brat in Tokyo.” No one experiences constant victories; our ability to shine is always reflective of our environment. It's our determination in spite of that that ultimately dictates how far we will go.

In the present day, Shimada's early realization of his own limitations was smartly echoed through his thoughts on his opponent Shouya. Shouya is graceful, brilliant, and dedicated - he's presented as the most naturally talented player in this show, but in Shimada's words, “even though he's labeled as a 'genius,' he doesn't slack off.” Shimada doesn't think he can beat Shouya, and that's not fatalism - it's just an honest assessment of the distance between their skills, a distance that hasn't decreased in spite of all of Shimada's efforts.

But just like how learning you're not the best as an adolescent is a necessary growing experience, so too is accepting that you'll never be the best, and that your efforts are still valuable in spite of that. It is our ability to find meaning in our work for our own reasons that defines us as adults, and for Shimada, meaning is found in the optimistic banner still adorning his hometown's train station. Shimada fights to make the people who supported him proud, and after this episode's beautiful articulation of his life story, his faceoff with Shouya feels that much more emotionally consequential.

While Shimada spent this episode reaffirming his dedication while suffering from vicious stomach pains, Rei spent it trying to keep Shimada from keeling over altogether. Though this was largely Shimada's story, his stomach ailment actually allowed for some strong progression in Rei's story as well. Just like how the sisters once cared for him, Rei was now able to care for another, pulling his life together in a practical/emotional sense even as Shimada sharpened his professional abilities. Rei and Shimada are both wonderful characters, and I'm glad this arc has allowed them to grow so much closer. Here's hoping March gives Shimada the win he needs.

Overall: A-

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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