March comes in like a lion
Episode 21

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 21 of
March comes in like a lion ?

Shimada's Lion King challenge has been one of March comes in like a lion's peaks so far. Offering a close look at one of the show's most engaging characters and smartly dramatizing his attempt at the shogi throne, it's been a touching and consistently riveting experience. It's also been one of the show's most stressful arcs yet, and given that this show is centered on a depressed teenager who has to compete professionally to feed himself, that's a pretty high bar. So it was a great relief to watch through this latest episode, where nearly all of March comes in like a lion's stars got to enjoy some much-needed happiness and relaxation.

The opening scene set the tone for this episode, as the Kawamoto siblings enjoyed homemade meals in the shade of the blooming cherry blossoms. After a sequence of gloomy episodes lasting just as long as our actual winter, March has emerged into radiant spring, celebrating the season with bright colors and newly beautified backgrounds. The color work all through this episode was gorgeous, whether depicting sunlit spring afternoons, evocative night skies, or even just the thoughts of the main shogi players. Even without much fluid animation, March is still a regular visual treat.

Sunny days were replaced by stark clouds as the episode continued, and Shimada made his long-awaited trip home. Instead of arriving to grapple with Souya for the title, he instead came home to participate in an annual shogi festival, so he was anxious about how he'd apologize to his loyal supporters. But Shimada's worries were swept aside by a series of endearing competition events, including a sequence of Nikaidou directing human shogi pieces and Shimada himself competing with many of his old friends. Accented by buoyant string music and commentated by Rei, Shimada's happiness at reuniting with the old folks of his town was an absolute joy to watch. Both Shimada and Rei have earned a share of happiness, and seeing them rewarded for their efforts made this a supremely rewarding episode.

We also got to learn the full extent of what Shimada has done for this town, courtesy of Shimada's dedicated reporter. Concerned about the isolated elderly locals surviving their long winters, Shimada apparently organized a local shogi club, which sent vans out to gather the local residents twice a week. This shogi club didn't just offer warmth and company, but also non-perishable cooking and other essentials for the graying population. Even without a title, it's clear that Shimada has given back a great deal to this community. After being told there was “no rush” by his fans, Shimada was able to leave home with a rare smile on his face.

The episode's second chapter was just as endearing, as we got to see the whole Kawamoto family collaborate on designing a new delicacy for grandpa's sweets shop. This half of the episode was pure slice of life fuzziness, as we witnessed all the members of the family bounce off each other without Rei there to act as an emotional focus. Both Akari and Hina gained clear texture through Rei's absence - when he's around, they tend to partition into their age brackets, but without him, they act more like equal and comfortable sisters.

The episode's conclusion was another highlight, as the show pulled off one of its rare animation setpieces to reintroduce Rei to the family. There was a roughly one-minute sequence that was magnificently elevated through small slices of character acting, as actions like Hina calling Rei on the phone or Momo being delighted at Rei's arrival were given personality through terrific expression work and body language. March isn't generally a fluidly animated show, but it certainly knows when to go for broke.

Overall, this was likely the happiest episode of March comes in like a lion yet. After a dramatically satisfying but consistently stressful Shimada arc, it was an absolute treat to see all of March's stars happy and healthy for once. I'm sure more dark days will come, but I'm happy to see these charming characters enjoying some much-deserved peace.

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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