March comes in like a lion
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 35 of
March comes in like a lion (TV 2) ?
At last, two weeks into the winter season, we finally arrived at the end of Hina's school bullying arc. March comes in like a lion has been both compassionate and unflinching in its portrait of bullying, acknowledging the humanity of all its players while refusing to embrace convenient solutions or easy emotional shifts. This episode served as a fine culmination of all that work, offering a satisfying mix of anger and long-awaited release. But before Hina could escape this arc, we first had to check in with her tormentor, the unrepentant Takagi.
The first segment of this episode was likely its strongest, succeeding through a combination of strong aesthetic choices and pointed character analysis. I loved the almost greyscale look of Takagi's interrogation, as well as the show's choice to cut out all music and emphasize the natural noises of the faculty office. The scene truly felt like an interrogation, perfectly matching the relationship between the teacher Kokubu and Takagi. Takagi had no interest in being chastised by Kokubu; staring halfway toward the window, she rattled off a list of convenient excuses for her behavior, from “it's all society's fault” to “you couldn't understand how I feel.” Kokubu stood firm, smartly shutting down her evasions and directly asking her to explain her feelings. This scene underlined the difficult reality of bullying; sometimes bullies don't have immediate emotional problems that can be solved to “fix” their personalities, and sometimes all bullies learn from intervention is “whoops, I got in trouble.”
The frustration of that anti-catharsis was clear in Hina's own response to her “victory,” when she quietly asked Kokubu if it was okay if she doesn't forgive them. Hina is an incredibly strong and emotionally generous person, but even she has limits to her charity. Even in defeat, Takagi still got away by refusing to learn from her actions and treat people more kindly the next time. Kokubu echoed Hina's frustrations in his musing on the difficulty of not teaching, but raising students. You can teach a kid multiplication and grade them on how well they remember those times tables, but you can't teach someone to care about the feelings of others. Expecting your tormentors to offer you the emotional catharsis you seek will always end in frustration.
Fortunately, this segment's last act offered a deeply rewarding victory for Hina. While Kokubu sparred with Takagi after school, Hina received a letter from Chiho that detailed her rewarding new life at a development facility. Chiho's letter represented the silver lining of March's grounded confirmation that bullies will never give you the catharsis you seek. We can't look for approval of our good deeds from the people who've hurt us; instead, we must find it from the people who actually care about us and genuinely appreciate how our actions impact their lives. Chiho's letter and Hina's subsequent date with her school friends underlined the true value of her actions, which made life in her class better for everyone.
The episode's second half was a much slower segment focused on Rei and Hina tidying up this arc's loose ends. I really enjoyed this segment's tonal evocation of a bright summer day, but its narrative content felt a little laborious to me. Rei needed to be told that him “not doing anything” wasn't true, but at this point Hina's bullying narrative has drawn on for long enough that I'm eager to see where we go next. Both Rei and Hina have become significantly stronger people over the course of this last arc, and I can only guess what comes next for this lovely little family.
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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