March comes in like a lion
Episodes 43-44

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 43 of
March comes in like a lion (TV 2) ?

How would you rate episode 44 of
March comes in like a lion (TV 2) ?

Growing up is rarely a dramatically satisfying endeavor. There are few of the clear narrative arcs that tend to give fiction such punch and finality, few clean resolutions that tell us when we've succeeded or arrived. Some people seem to grow up much faster than others, while others arrive at adulthood only to realize they're still just muddling through. We strive to find purpose and meaning in the continuous passage of days, but ultimately the lessons we take from our victories and failures are the lessons we find in them for ourselves.

Throughout its runtime, March has scrupulously respected the winding, inconstant nature of emotional recovery and growth. Rei's journey never begins and never ends; we open near the final pages of one chapter, and we close having skimmed through the first few sentences of another. In keeping with the show's own defiant formlessness, its two-part finale offered no definitive conclusion, but wandered loosely from one dangling thread to another, managing to stay true to itself while still satisfying as a genuine ending. Nothing ever truly concludes, but this was a terrific “goodbye for now.”

Hina spent much of these episodes preoccupied with her new understanding of time's passage. After learning that her crush Takahashi would be attending a high school far away, Hina realized for the first time how fragile and temporary her current moment was. As a child, she could “take it for granted that tomorrow will always come, and that I'll always be able to see everybody.” Until we've lived through momentous life changes, we have the privilege of imagining there is a solidity in the world we occupy - that grandpa will always make sweets and your crush will always be just so far away and your own dreams will remain at this certain distance. As long shots and snowy backgrounds emphasized Hina's new understanding of the scale of her world, March offered a natural argument for how its own segmented storytelling evokes the nature of time's passage as it is actually experienced.

After offering us a beautiful medley of more shots of March Town, Hina's anxieties resolved themselves with a simple but important realization, that not everyone was actually leaving her, and that her new understanding of time's passage meant she must cherish the people she loved all the more. That naturally led into Hina triumphing over her entrance exams, which in turn prompted a celebratory dinner that highlighted Rei's own growth.

Having been coached by Rei all through her exam prep period, Hina took the time at dinner to thank him profusely and express regret for keeping him away from his own studies. In response, Rei reflected back on his recent matches and thought to himself “I knew she'd blame herself if I lost, so I played every match incredibly carefully. It was a different way of playing than I'd done before.” For me, that admission felt like one of the most crucial single moments of March altogether.

When March comes in like a lion began, Rei was playing shogi purely to survive. Having grown up in a house where shogi skill was the only thing of value, and having eventually left that house due to the resentment of his siblings, Rei opened this series with shogi not just dictating his financial stability, but genuinely being the only thing in his life that he felt made him worth anything. After losing his birth family, Rei never got to experience unconditional love - all he knew was validation directly tied to his shogi fortunes. But here at March's conclusion, shogi has ceased to be its own reward or the only source of validation in Rei's life. Rei knows he has value now and that he is loved. Shogi no longer needs to provide that for him, because he has found a much happier motivation: working to succeed because there are people he loves supporting him, and he wants to do the best he can for their sake too. Having finally experienced the joy of unconditional love, Rei can at last turn his eyes outward and live his life to share that love with others in turn.

Hina specifically has been the engine of Rei's last happy turn, so it made sense to return once more to that evening when she came home in tears. Recalling once more her strength and conviction on that day, Rei reflected that “she was made a part of me.” Through his love for Hina, Rei has lost his unhappy rootlessness and found himself blessed with moral responsibilities he's happy to embrace. Rei is a far greater person for loving Hina and her family so much.

After articulating just how far Rei has come from the first episode, March followed up with an unexpected look back at where he began, as a meeting with Rei's adoptive father led into a sequence framed from his adoptive mother's perspective. I got some satisfaction from Rei's mother reflecting on his initial innocence and how much he'd grown, but I frankly felt this segment labored for too long over familial resentments that had at this point already been covered. That said, this segment was also a nice demonstration of this two-parter's visual appeal; there wasn't a huge amount of fluid animation, but there were a terrific array of beautiful backgrounds, striking character portraits, and sprinklings of alternate art styles. I appreciate that even forty-four episodes in, March is still finding new ways to be visually inventive.

In the end, March comes in like a lion concluded on a totally innocuous conflict: Hina gets a high school haircut and feels self-conscious about it. After an episode that had already offered far more narrative conclusiveness than March generally provides, I was happy to see it finish on a conflict that demonstrated how our life stories can end up being such messy, unfocused things. Rei and Hina have grown a great deal over this season, but their adventures are far from over, and I'll be happy to see them again whenever they stop by. There will be more bad haircuts, more successes and failures, more moments of pure grief and more joys worth living for. Through its rambling progression of episodes, March has celebrated all of these half-stories, offering few clear answers but copious sympathy for the struggles we all endure. I am sad to see March leave us, but I'm grateful we got so much time together, and happy to see it finish strong. March has been a very special show, and I'll cherish its characters just as much as they've learned to cherish each other.

Overall: A-

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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