March comes in like a lion
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 33 of
March comes in like a lion (TV 2) ?
This week's March comes in like a lion was a bit of an odds and ends episode, tidying up some of the loose emotional threads of this past arc while setting out pieces for a couple future conflicts. As is often the case, the show's strict adaptation format led to some awkward dramatic issues; in this case, the episode's first half was a very clear “conclusion,” while the second half would have made more sense as a new beginning. But also as usual, the material being covered was strong enough to succeed dramatically in spite of its somewhat odd presentation. You take the good with the bad in March comes in like a lion, and after an arc as powerful and well-executed as the Hina/Newcomer combo, it didn't feel too disappointing to return to March's usual standard.
The episode began with Rei's superiors at the shogi club proposing he participate in a commemoration match with Meijin Souya. This segment's Meijin-focused material felt a little out of the blue, but the real dramatic point was that the club leadership were finally including Rei as an active participant in their plans. Hearing Rei's teachers bicker about the promotional issues of their upcoming matches felt like another clear sign of Rei getting outside of his own head and reaching a point where he can meaningfully contribute to the lives of the people around him. Being told “we're counting on you” is exactly what Rei has longed to hear, and March ably articulated Rei's joy at this shift through his beautifully painted walk home.
Rei continued to be emotionally paid off for this past arc in the following scene, where the Science-Shogi club celebrated his Newcomer Tournament victory. Overwhelmed by suddenly having friends to celebrate with, Rei was forced to retreat to the bathroom, his tears concealed by the rushing of the sink. The bubbling water that had for so long represented Rei's depression was thus dramatically redeemed, tethered now to the happy tears of having people to celebrate with. In the light of the bathroom, Rei came to a key resolution: that even if this happiness was fleeting, he couldn't help but be overjoyed at having once been so happy at all.
While the episode's first half at least represented a somewhat clear denouement to the Newcomer Tournament arc, the second half was mostly just disparate scenes setting up future pieces. The big setpiece of this half was Shimada's battle against Gakuto, a gallant young mountain-climbing shogi player with a face made for dramatic posters. Gakuto's character felt like a one-note gag at first, but I thought the show effectively sold the comedy of his and Shimada's contrasting auras. Anthemic horns and dramatic freeze frames for Gakuto's moves were swiftly undercut by Shimada's methodical play, a contrast that also echoed each of their relationships with mountain climbing. As far as March comedy sequences go, this was a creatively conceived and snappily executed one that also set the stage for an exciting upcoming match.
The episode ended with the transition of the shogi-science club into the just-plain-shogi club, as Rei's third-year companions all retired as one. In an immediate dramatic sense, this felt like a weird way to conclude an episode that opened by underlying the importance of this club; it did create a sort of “dramatic bookend,” but mostly felt abrupt and heightened the sense that this episode was stranded between the end of one arc and the beginning of another. In a character sense, this felt slightly more appropriate, as a sort of final push for Rei now that he's arrived at steadier footing. And in an overarching sense, I couldn't help but feel happy at this shift simply because the shogi-science club tended to offer March's weakest material. I understand what Rei got out of this club, but his bond with these comic relief scientists was never really sold in such a way that his joy there felt as palpable as his moments with the Kawamotos.
On the whole, this wasn't a particularly graceful or dramatically resonant episode, but it got us where we needed to go. Rei received some well-earned rewards for his recent trials, and Shimada made a welcome return. In this occasionally creaky adaptation, some episodes don't need to be much more than functional.
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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