March comes in like a lion
Episode 22

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 22 of
March comes in like a lion ?

This week's March comes in like a lion had a somewhat tricky task - creating a satisfying conclusion for a story that isn't close to finished and isn't even at a particularly graceful chapter break. It accomplished this by hinging on the theme of renewal present in the episode's first chapter, then dedicating the second half to a touching recap of Rei's overall emotional journey. It wasn't a perfect season ending, but it was very March comes in like a lion.

The first half of this episode proceeded like any other, as the anime adapted one last chapter of the source material into a relatively faithful animated version. This sequence was largely dedicated to Rei returning to school for the start of his new year and dealing with all the old anxieties of social contact once again. Upon seeing his teacher Hayashida talking with new students, Rei began to somberly reflect on how growing up would mean leaving his friend behind - but of course, Hayashida would have none of that.

Rushing after Rei, Hayashida once again demonstrated why he's one of the most positive figures in our poor boy's life. Not only did Hayashida refuse to let their friendship be dampened by their new distance, he actually proposed the creation of a school shogi club. As they shared food on the stairs once again, Hayashida directly asked Rei “why did you want to take another shot at being a high school student? Was it to eat lunch alone on the stairs like this?”

With Hayashida's help, Rei ended up merging with the After School Burners to form a combined Science-Shogi club. Reflecting back on Shimada's trip home, Rei wondered for possibly the first time if he could ever fit in like that, and how happy it would make him. This may not have been one of the manga's dramatic highlights, but it was still a key emotional development for Rei. In the depths of depression, it's impossible to even imagine the possibility of future happiness. Through the many friends he's made over this series, Rei is finally reaching a point where he can foresee a future that's happier than his current state.

The episode's second half abandoned the traditional chapter structure, instead presenting a short vignette titled “Fighter.” Diving back into Rei's childhood, we were treated to a quietly crushing story of a class field trip, where Rei struggled with the fear of not just being hated and isolated (which he'd come to terms with), but being singled out for his isolation by the teacher. As someone who still struggles with social anxiety, Rei's analysis of how he could avoid interacting with the other students without drawing attention to himself hit close to home. Both the internal monologue and direction of this sequence were strong by March standards, making me once again lament the fact that the show has been so slavishly loyal to its source material overall.

Rei's sad childhood story ultimately resolved in a single question: “Will the seat next to me be empty for the rest of my life?” And so Rei's attachment to shogi was put in one more stark context, as he described his professional career as a “golden ticket” that would always ensure he'd have at least one person sitting beside him. Shogi has been a lifeline for Rei, but as this season has progressed, he's encountered many other people willing to sit beside him just because they enjoy his company. The episode's conclusion was an affirmation of that growth, as he woke from his memory to see his fellow players urging him to the table.

This episode didn't offer a true conclusion to Rei's story. There's clearly more to tell regarding his relationship with his sister, his professional aspirations, and his time with the Kawamoto family. But it did offer strong examples of some of March's most noteworthy features - its sobering understanding of anxiety and depression, and its underlying belief in the absolution we can reach through human connection. It was a poignant and personal conclusion to a poignant and personal season, an “until next time” that leaves me eager for Rei and his friends' eventual return.

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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