March comes in like a lion
Episode 29

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 29 of
March comes in like a lion (TV 2) ?

After several weeks of one emotionally devastating episode after another, March comes in like a lion finally returned to something approaching its neutral mode this week. Hina's school issues continued, but our perspective on them was slightly more distant and less all-consuming. Rei returned to his house, chatted with Nikaidou, and even participated in a shogi match. March's emotional peaks are great, but I was happy to experience a less draining storyline, and this episode's own strengths demonstrated that March's execution may actually be better this season than in the first.

We opened with another visit to the Kawamoto residence, as Hina suffered from a nosebleed in the wake of an infuriating conversation with her teacher. After the last few episodes brought them closer together, Rei and Hina's conversations felt like a natural payoff, with the two of them coming across as far more emotionally intimate than before. Hina's cloth cover felt like a natural counterpoint to the scene's emotional tenor - Hina may still be embarrassed to seem “gross” around Rei, but she trusts him as much as anyone, and even that embarrassment comes from a clear concern for his opinions.

The Kawamoto material culminated in a final conversation between Rei and Akari, where Rei announced his determination to help them in the loudest possible terms. This scene's comedy felt a little stretched out, but its thematic importance was resoundingly clear. In March's first season, Hayashida specifically told Rei that “unless you're willing to rely on others, they'll never be willing to rely on you.” Having accepted the Kawamotos' charity and come to stand as a true part of their family, Rei was able to make good on the second half of that lesson. From a point of utter dependence and despondency, Rei has become someone the Kawamotos can actually rely on. Beyond that, Rei has become someone who wants to be relied on, who can see beyond his own suffering and think “I want to be needed.” Though wanting to win purely to financially support the Kawamotos may not be the healthiest of goals, it's still something that drives him forward and keeps him looking to tomorrow.

The impact of Rei's new resolution was cleverly made clear in the episode's second half, where Rei faced off against the “Irritated Prince of the East,” Subaru Hachiya. As Rei marched toward his match, music was replaced by the natural sounds of the river and the repeated tapping of his own footsteps, with Akari's final words echoing in his head. Smart sound design can often steer us into a character's headspace in a more subtle and effective way than direct visual storytelling - we might not actively recognize what sounds a show is emphasizing while we're watching, so choices like the focus on Rei's footsteps help us inhabit his space without even realizing it.

The sound design continued to be a highlight throughout Rei's battle with Hachiya. Hachiya earned his nickname due to his forever-frustrated temperament; while playing, he continuously clicks his tongue, taps his fingers, and snaps his folding fan. March emphasized the annoyance and distraction of those qualities through consistent sound cues and abrasive jump cuts, the camera cutting to Hachiya's teeth every time he let off another irritated noise. There was little music here, but the sound of the folding fan continued to snap all through the match, emphasizing and justifying Rei's growing annoyance and distraction. Most people who've competed in some kind of sit-down game like this have likely run into Hachiya's type: the person who seems annoyed by every action their opponent takes. Through its consistently purposeful sound design, this episode perfectly captured the precise frustration of that particular challenge, finding satisfying drama in an extremely specific conflict.

Overall, this was less of a standout than a generally sturdy episode, but both its visual and aural choices felt smartly executed. March has been an inconsistent show at times, but between the terrific last several episodes and the strength of this more conventional one, it seems like the show may be reaching a higher baseline of execution. I am very happy to watch that happen.

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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