March comes in like a lion
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 34 of
March comes in like a lion (TV 2) ?
The second half of March comes in like a lion's new season opened with a direct attack on the Hina drama that percolated all through the fall episodes. After many episodes of contrasting Hina's drama against Rei's newfound desire to help his close friends, Rei exited the stage entirely, leading into the outright breakdown of her long-suffering homeroom teacher. But Hina's teacher was never going to be much of an ally for her, and with an actual school official taking leave, the faculty finally moved to address her class's bullying issue. Things are changing at last, and Hina's new strength seems more than enough to carry her through.
The episode's first half is titled “Black Mist,” referring to the miasma that seems to swallow up Hina's homeroom teacher. After all the preceding episodes of this teacher throwing Hina under a bus, I felt little sympathy for her here, but I appreciated how her downfall gave Hina even more chances to grow up and seize her own strength. Watching her teacher get harassed in the same way as her old friend seemed to trigger one more breakthrough for Hina, as she learned that not only are adults not infallible, but they can even be weak. Having been propped up by the support of her friends and family, Hina demonstrated her own emotional strength in turn, confronting her tormentor Takagi directly on her bullying.
I enjoyed Hina's turn in a narrative sense, but I felt her teacher's subsequent breakdown was pretty oversold. March comes in like a lion has always had a flair for melodrama, exemplified through its often over-the-top visual articulation of emotional shifts, but her teacher's rant felt clumsy in a way the show's embellishments rarely do. This partially came down to the fact that the teacher's breakdown wasn't really seeded by the narrative but was more a result of the show's in-the-moment aesthetic choices; shifts like the screen's turn to all red and black felt less like a natural evocation of the scene's existing emotions and more like a blunt hammer attempting to infuse the moment with drama it didn't naturally possess. This issue of heavy-handed visual embellishment contrasted against a character rant unfortunately reappeared in the second half as well, where Akari's confrontation with Takagi's mother was somewhat undercut by its clumsy execution.
That said, if both halves of this episode were a little creaky in execution, they were also both satisfying in terms of narrative content. I wasn't impressed with Takagi's mom's rant, but I did appreciate the sequence of Hina subsequently flashing through all the “proof” of bullying, all the horrible things Takagi had done that she couldn't throw in her mother's face. That sequence felt like a sharp snapshot of one of the quintessential experiences of bullying—having the proof be so achingly clear that you can taste it, but knowing you can't substantiate that proof, and knowing that your tormentor knows this too. March comes in like a lion expands on and humanizes virtually all of its characters, but I'm frankly happy it hasn't extended that generosity to Takagi. Bullies often have their reasons, but they just as often act out simply because they can, because their actions are fun and they're not getting in trouble. The lesson we take from that can't really be “we just have to try harder to reach out”—it must be Hina's firm “I don't have a single reason to waste my life on people like that.”
That declaration served as the centerpiece to a speech that exemplified Hina's growth through this arc. Though Akari thought she'd be the one saving her sister, it turned out that just like for Rei, sometimes we have to let the people we love help themselves. Hina being the one to rescue Akari worked as a perfect turn for both their arcs, as Hina accepted a place as an equal supporter of the family while Akari learned that she doesn't have to carry all the weight alone.
On the whole, this episode's issues of dramatic execution kept it from being a show highlight, but the narrative turns being illustrated were all very welcome. I suppose it's fitting that March starts the new year with a slow and steady episode, reassuring us that it'll remain just as humbly consistent as ever. I'm very ready to spend some more time with this lovable crew.
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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