March comes in like a lion
Episode 37

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 37 of
March comes in like a lion (TV 2) ?

Well, that was unexpected. After half an episode of building up Rei's match with Souya, I'd figured this whole episode would be consumed by their exhibition match, getting us formally introduced to Souya's imposing play style. As it turns out, the match only took about eight minutes, and most of the rest of this episode was consumed by Rei leading Souya by the hand around an underground mall complex. This was certainly not an episode I saw coming, and also not the aesthetic stunner I was hoping for, but it was pretty fascinating in its own way. The closer we get to Souya, the stranger he seems to be.

The actual match segment was definitely the episode highlight for me. March comes in like a lion has done a terrific job of building Souya up as an otherworldly, mythical figure, who seems to live only to play shogi. As the match arrived, the whole production was consumed by Souya's presence, and distractions faded in the wake of soft rain and a beautiful piano melody. Rei's memories of a great white bird underlined the sequence's sense of mystical importance, while Rei marveled at how “he's supposed to be like a character in a book, but here he is before me.” Souya himself has never felt quite real, and this episode did an excellent job of making sure this match felt somewhat unreal as well.

And yet, while the tone leading into the exhibition match was one of dreamlike unreality, the actual execution of that match turned out to be one of the most straightforward and tactically focused battles so far. This made sense as well; given that Rei had no chance of winning and there was no emotional narrative attached to this match, it felt right to focus on the tactical interplay between them, letting the match feel satisfying in a traditionally competitive manner. The focus on play and counterplay made the match feel like an ongoing conversation, undercutting Rei's claim that Souya was the one opponent he “couldn't read at all.” In spite of seeing Souya as some unreachable figure, when it came time for the post-match review, the two didn't need words to conduct both a critical assessment of Rei's play and a back-and-forth on the unique tenor of this professional stage level. It has become abundantly clear that shogi is actually Souya's first language, seemingly the only language he truly understands.

The lopsided nature of Souya's talent was illustrated in a much lighter way through this episode's second half, as the ongoing typhoon forced Rei to chaperone him in an unfamiliar city. Rei described Souya's single-mindedness as sound “not existing for him,” which I assumed meant less that he was deaf and more that he'd become such a pure instrument of shogi that concerns like human conversation could no longer reach him. But whether his disability was physical or metaphorical didn't really matter to Rei; either way, watching the two of them collaborate to get ticket refunds and hotel rooms was weirdly charming, with Souya's blank-faced competency acting as a natural counterpoint to Rei's fussy anxiety.

On the whole, this episode was much like the last one: a little structurally unfocused but vindicated by its interesting material. Though it wasn't an animation highlight, the show did an excellent job of securing us in Souya's dreamlike world through color work, slight narrative digressions, and beautiful sound design. Additionally, the rapport between Rei and Souya already feels oddly natural, all without undercutting Souya's mythically unreachable aura. If they're truly building up Souya to be a rival for Rei, this was a very fine start.

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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