March comes in like a lion
Episode 28

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 28 of
March comes in like a lion (TV 2) ?

March comes in like a lion continued its phenomenal streak this week, expanding on Hina's story with its signature combination of visual experimentation and thoughtful character writing. While I doubt we'll get another episode like the animation spectacle of two weeks ago, this week's visual tricks were just as striking in their own way, and the episode's articulation of Hina's headspace brought us closer than ever before to the reality of her unhappy school life. Hina's arc is turning out to be as much of a highlight as Shimada's was back in the first season.

We opened at the Kawamoto residence, where the family plus Rei were enjoying some fresh cherries. After all these episodes of heavy emotional drama, it was nice to get a brief tonal breather and let characters like Momo and the cats keep things light. I felt this scene and the following Rei-Hina shogi scene both demonstrated how well March can lean into a goofy slice of life space when the dramatic positioning is right. March occasionally stumbles when trying to shift between heavy drama and comedy, but by partitioning this segment right at the beginning of the episode and keeping the visual comedy snappy, it was able to provide a necessary break from the bullying drama.

After that, the rest of the episode dove right back into Hina's middle school troubles. Though the drowning motif used to articulate Hina's reflections on school felt a little less well-placed here than when applied to Rei, lines like “your ranking in the class hierarchy dictates how loud you can laugh” were still sharp enough to make Hina's feelings clear. There were some terrific alternate art styles for Hina's exaggerated expressions, mixed with glimpses into Hina's headspace that felt just as poignant and specific as Shimada's material. Though earlier episodes conveyed Hina's struggle in narrative terms, this episode's careful explication of her daily abuse brought it all home in an emotional sense.

This episode's precise articulation of Hina's feelings also felt like a smart reflection of Rei's own changing nature. When Hina first cried before Rei in the first season, Rei had no idea how to respond and simply fell on the lame “I don't understand women.” Now having spent all this time living with Hina and trying to help her, he can finally see her as a full-fledged human being and not just an inscrutable savior. This episode's diverse mix of Hina expressions felt like a natural result of Rei's own growth, as the newly wide-eyed Rei was able to see Hina's sarcasm, bitterness, and rage. Of course, all that expression work brought us that much closer to Hina as well, visually conveying her vivid human complexity.

The episode's most visually striking moment was undoubtedly the scene where Hina finally embraced her rage, bitterly detailing how she wanted to get back at Chiho's oppressors. Her sharp and relatable words were bolstered by a dramatic style shift, where the show's general line and color work were replaced by violent-looking splashes of color over vibrating white outlines. The scene was a perfect illustration of internal rage and also just a beautiful sequence, with shots like Hina's hand reaching out toward the bullies demonstrating not just creative execution, but sturdy storyboarding.

Ultimately, Hina's anger and strength prevented her from going along with the bullies' actions. After being bolstered emotionally by the support of her friends and family, Hina was able to avoid feeling ashamed of her status, letting her teacher see the full extent of what her classmates were doing. It may well be that Hina's teacher is too much of a coward to actually help her students. But even though this episode dealt with heavy material, both the support of Hina's friends and her own fierce strength made it feel like an almost empowering journey. Demonstrating many different sides of Hina while simultaneously progressing its sharp take on bullying, this episode kept up the pace on one of March comes in like a lion's strongest arcs so far.

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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