I had to do this. Eventually. Otherwise the more I procrastinate, the more I will forget. Yeah… And hence for today’s versus blog will pit against 2 shogi themed anime series: 3-gatsu No Lion and Ryuuou No Oshigoto. You saw that coming, right? When you heard the name shogi, right? They’re the only shogi animes around (because nobody remembers Shion No Ou. At least not the new younger generation). Although the former came out earlier, its second season ended up being aired in the same season as the latter. It’s like a shogi challenge-cum-battle on a different level. But if you have watched both series, despite the ‘lion versus dragon’ designation, you would know which the outright better one is. Unless you have really screwed up taste in anime. But anyway, here is the comparison between both series:

Official English title:
3-gatsu No Lion: March Comes In Like A Lion.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: The Ryuuou’s Work Is Never Done.

Main shogi character:
3-gatsu No Lion: Rei Kiriyama.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Yaichi Kuzuryuu.

His shogi rank:
3-gatsu No Lion: 5th-dan.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: 8th-dan.

Biggest shogi title won:
3-gatsu No Lion: Newcomer King title.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Ryuuou title.

His age:
3-gatsu No Lion: 19 years old (towards end of anime).
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: 16 years old.

High school:
3-gatsu No Lion: Still in high school although had a 1 year delay.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Quit high school to focus on his professional shogi career.

His real family:
3-gatsu No Lion: All died in an accident.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Unknown.
On a side note, Ai Yashajin’s parents died in an accident.

His foster family:
3-gatsu No Lion: Adopted by professional shogi player, Masachika Kouda after his family’s death. Hence has adopted siblings, Kyouko and Ayumu despite not being blood related.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Considers his shogi master, Kousuke Kiyotaki as family. Hence as adopted sisters, Keika and Ginko Sora despite not being blood related.

Self-proclaimed rival:
3-gatsu No Lion: Harunobu Nikaidou.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Ayumu Kannabe.

The Grandmaster:
3-gatsu No Lion: Souya Touji.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: The eponymously named Meijin.

Results of the match against the grandmaster:
3-gatsu No Lion: With only 1 match, Rei eventually lost the commemoration match.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Best out of 7 matches, Yaichi loses the first 3 before making a comeback to win the remaining 4 and keep his title! So unbelievable.

Other shogi tournament:
That doesn’t involve our main character.
3-gatsu No Lion: Kishou Championship.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Mynavi Women’s Open.

3-gatsu No Lion: Rei becomes a disciple under Kai Shimada who runs a small shogi focus group that consists of Harunobu Nikaidou and Morio Shigeta.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Yaichi takes in and becomes the shogi master for Ai Hinatsuru and Ai Yashajin.

Gender of shogi players:
Refers to the majority of the characters in shogi in the anime.
3-gatsu No Lion: Males. Every single one of them.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Predominantly females.

Other notable shogi players:
3-gatsu No Lion: Kai Shimada, Kishou Yanagihara, Masamune Gotou, Kengo Kuwamoto and Gakuto Sakurai.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Seiichi Tsukimitsu, Jin Natagiri, Mitsuru Oishi, Yoshitsune Kurono, Ginko Sora and Rina Shakando.

3-gatsu No Lion: Momo Kawamoto.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Oh boy… There is a bunch of them. It’s going to take a while. Ai Hinatsuru, Ai Yashajin, Mio Mizukoshi, Ayano Sadatou and Charlotte Izoard. Phew. Not so bad, huh?

The big sister:
3-gatsu No Lion: Akari Kawamoto.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Keika Kiyotaki.

Violent girl:
3-gatsu No Lion: Kyouko Kouda.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Ginko Sora.

Stalker girl:
3-gatsu No Lion: Kyouko Kouda.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Ika Sainokami.

Rich kid:
3-gatsu No Lion: Harunobu Nikaidou.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Ai Yashajin.

3-gatsu No Lion: Takeshi Tsujii – lame puns.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Ayumu Kannabe – chuunibyou.

3-gatsu No Lion: Akari Kawamoto.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Tamayo Rokuroba.

Pedo risk:
3-gatsu No Lion: When Kyouko asks Rei if among the Kawamoto sisters, he likes Momo.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Basically the entire series.

Good things come in 3’s:
3-gatsu No Lion: The Kawamoto sisters: Akari, Hinata and Momo.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Ai’s shogi friends: Mio, Ayano and Charlotte.

3-gatsu No Lion: Yanagihara defeats Shimada to attain the Eternal Kishou title after also winning its 9 previous additions.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: The Meijin would have gotten the Eternal status for all 7 major titles as well as broken all sorts of other records had he defeat Yaichi in this Ryuuou title match. He did not.

Fastest shogi match:
3-gatsu No Lion: Rei beating Hinata in a handicapped practice match in just 5 minutes.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Ginko owning Ryo Tsukiyomizaka in an official match in just 2 minutes! Twice!

Collapsing match:
The loser collapses after the loss of the match.
3-gatsu No Lion: Harunobu was pushing the limits of his health against his opponent, Junkei Yamazaki until he could go no further and collapses, giving his opponent a free walkover to the finals.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Because Yaichi was being a dick too focused on his match to even pay attention to Ai, she cannot concentrate on her match with Tsukiyomizaka and collapses after losing.

Losing streak:
The risk of losing one’s rank and title. Everything is at stake if they don’t buck up!
3-gatsu No Lion
: Rei has been on a losing streak at the end of the first season. Thankfully he recovers.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Yaichi has been on a losing streak from the start and for the rest of the season! Only the miracle in the end prevented the worst possible outcome.

Running away from home:
3-gatsu No Lion: Kyouko – first to Rei’s place and then to Gotou.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Ai – first from her own family and then to Keika (after a quarrel with Yaichi).

Most stressful/tension part of the series:
3-gatsu No Lion: Rei’s traumatic past of loneliness and bullying, Hinata’s bullying, the struggles of all other veteran shogi players. Heck, basically almost the entire anime!
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Yaichi facing off with the Meijin and being cornered. Yes, this.

Back from the ‘dead’:
3-gatsu No Lion: Somehow Harunobu recovered from his collapse and is back laughing and playing shogi like he was never sick before.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Somehow Keika who has been on a downward spiral and losing streak, manages to win a few important matches that matter to allow her to become a professional female player.

Bully victim:
3-gatsu No Lion: Chiho Sakura was Megumi Takagi and co’s plaything before she moved away and Hinata became her ‘replacement’.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Yaichi is often and still is Ginko’s punching bag because those misinterpreted pedo moments sure look like an excuse and great opportunity to vent out all she’s got.

Love interest:
3-gatsu No Lion: Hinata has a crush on Yuusuke Takahashi.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: I’m confused. Yaichi likes Keika but she doesn’t believe him. Later she even invites him to be his wife. Then there is this ‘agreement’ of Yaichi becoming Ai’s bride and him proclaiming to be Charlotte’s bride too. Ginko is a tsundere and Ai is a yandere. Seeing Yaichi is popular among girls his age too…

Overall feel of the series:
3-gatsu No Lion: Melancholic, depressing, slow paced.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Light-hearted, casual, everything so happy! Well, almost.

Anime art style:
3-gatsu No Lion: Simple, sketchy and sometimes like water colour.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Basically oozing cute, kawaii and moe style.

Number of episodes:
3-gatsu No Lion: 44 episodes (22 episodes per season).
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: 12 episodes.

Studio production:
3-gatsu No Lion: Shaft.
Ryuuou No Oshigoto: Project No. 9.

Without a doubt, 3-gatsu No Lion comes out tops in almost every department as it is superior in the story and characters compared to Ryuuou No Oshigoto who is only there for some free and easy, cheap loli fanservice. Both series feel like they are on the opposite far end of the pole and that shogi is the only theme they have in common. The former may be draggy and depressing but the way it also displays its creative visuals to depict loneliness and depression is quite interesting. The latter is all just cute and looking nice but lacks the necessary substance for it to be appealing. Unless you are totally into lolis than that’s another story. Because oddly adding females especially lolis into shogi only seem to devalue the game. Maybe that is why men and women are segregated in shogi tournaments. Women checkmating men in shogi is one thing. But when they checkmate you in real life… That’s when sh*t really hits the fan.

3-gatsu No Lion S2

July 6, 2018

Time to settle the unfinished business in the shogi world. At least that’s what I thought for 3-gatsu No Lion to have another season. Another season for our young talented by troubled prodigy main character to hone his skills to realize his dream of climbing the professional shogi ladder as well as coming to terms with the ghost of his past. Shogi is already complicated but having life and drama surrounding it makes it even more complicated.

Episode 23
Rei teaches his science club members, Eisaku Noguchi and Oota how to play shogi. It’s a really hard and frustrating game for people from the science division. Not sure if Rei is trying to scare them with the truth or it should serve as motivation as he says the more they play, the more frustration they will feel. And when they ask if one should just play for fun, wow it’s like some complicated scientific formula for Rei trying to figure out what that means! Today is also the day where there is a meijin match between Souya and Kengo Kumakura and the match is broadcasted live. During the intense match, we see the Kumakura chowing down all the cakes while Souya dumps all the sugar cubes into his tea. The much needed sugar rush for glucose nourishment. This prompts Noguchi to ask Rei if he knows how ramune is made. And so with this brief section, this series turns into a little science experiment corner as the scientists let Rei experiment and make homemade ramune. With Rei amazed at how easy and delicious it is, they move on to teach him how to make baking soda. Time to take a break from shogi and appreciate the power of science! Rei goes home happy as he gives Hinata and Momo some of the ramune he made.

Episode 24
Oh no. Harunobu is b*tching about the next tournament’s line-up. Rei is on the opposite side of the block and the only way they can meet is at the finals. Rei trying to cover his ears… They’re so noisy when they arrive at the guest room watching the meijin match, they almost get thrown out! Anyway some guys mock Shimada over his lost to Souya and he is like ‘dead’. Rei wanted to tell them off but then Gotou enters to do so that people like them can’t even get into the title match and should be worrying more about themselves instead of other player’s mental health. Rei still has bad memories of him. He tried to protect Kyouko but was punched and told off if he is God and decides what is good or bad. Gotou then leaves as Kyouko waits for him outside and walks home with him. In the final match between Souya and Kumakura, Souya makes an unusual move that has everyone stumped. Many feel like he wasted a move. But suddenly Kumakura resigns and admits defeat! The sleepy audience is now awakened and abuzz with this surprise development. Rei and the rest try to make sense of Souya’s move and no matter what tactics they tried, they realize Kumakura had no way out. Gotou ditches Kyouko to go visit his comatose wife at the hospital. When he returns home, he is shocked to see Kyouko waiting outside his place. Sneakily, she enters his room when he has his guard down. She thought she could get some naughty time with him when he tells her to get close. Too bad he ties her up and falls asleep! Not all is lost for Kyouko because tired Gotou uses Kyouko as his hugging pillow. Weird. She sees how he has not been sleeping well and now can’t get mad at him. So she wanted to get mad at him? Kumakura leaves town on the first train the next morning without much fanfare. He may have been gracious in defeat last night as he told the press how he will train harder and fight all those A-class demons again for this spot to face Souya again. But it looks like last night he vent out his frustration and went berserk in his hotel room and kicked a big hole in the wall! Looks like Jinguuji has to pay compensation…

Episode 25
Smith and Issa are examining Kumakura’s big shoe that kicked wall?! So infatuated?! WTF?! Harunobu is once again being noisy to Rei the things they need to do so they can have their fated official battle. He goes on ranting about his grand plans after becoming a meijin. Rei thinks he is having all that baseless confidence so when Harunobu hints about the matches he needs to play and win unlike Rei who is a prodigy and doesn’t need to go through all that, it took a while for Rei to realize all that and he instantly became clumsy and embarrassed. Someji is looking to Momo for inspiration for his new sweets. Weird little girl comes up with weird little ideas and weird old grandpa loves them! Akari notices something is wrong with Hinata but she is not saying. Rei makes his way to the shogi hall early one morning. He stops by the park to eat as he sees some ladybug bush that brings back memories of his childhood. Traumatic ones. Those include kids throwing a can with rocks in it at him. This prompts him to think more about his lonely years during elementary school. Instead of joining his classmates during recess, he reads shogi books as company. More woes in his adopted family. Despite adopted mom treated him kindly and he tried to do all that is told of him, he noticed she became sadder and sadder. Most probably Kyouko and Ayumu had always thrown the chore responsibilities to him since they think mom always thought he did it better. Then they accuse him of trying to score brownie points with mom? It could be very stressful on a kid like him. To take his mind off that, he turned to shogi and even has access to Kouda’s well preserved shogi match records since feudal times. He continued playing to where he is now. Rei faces his next opponent and easily defeats him. He goes over to Akari’s place for dinner. When Hinata comes home late, they know something is very wrong with her. From what we can see, looks like she is a bully victim! Doesn’t your heart just sink to see her cry like that?

Episode 26
I hope Momo won’t get traumatized seeing her cry like that. Because the cats are even scared! So the story goes that there has been bullying going on for some time. However it was towards a girl named Chiho Sakura whom Hinata has been friends since elementary school. Ever since rumours about her flirting and sucking up teachers circulated, she was being ostracized. Only Hinata continued to be her friend. She knew the problem and wanted to tell the teacher but Chiho refused in fear the bullying will get worse. In fact it did. So bad that she stopped coming to school. When Hinata tried to talk to the teacher, she brushed it off as a prank. Even her classmates turn a blind eye in fear of being targeted. Eventually Chiho transferred to another school and it was an emotional goodbye for them. Because those bullies continue to badmouth Chiho, this riled up Hinata as she got physical with them. That is when she became their next target. Now Hinata is sad because she couldn’t do anything to help Chiho who even feared her new school in fear of being bullied again. As Momo is also starting to cry, Hinata runs out of the house. Rei goes after her. All he could do is hear her out while she cries. He remembers she saved him from loneliness and it’s time to return the favour. He vows to always be by her side. Next morning, he brings her to the local library that she has never been for years. Brought back some nostalgic memories with Chiho. More tears. He shows her some books on traditional sweets and…. Ladybugs? They go to the park to find one so that he could explain why it is called tentoumushi because it flies into the sun? Oh dear, Hinata cries some more. This is going to take a while. When they go home, Someji talks to her. He is very proud of her for trying to help her friend in such risky situation. She has done nothing wrong and should be proud of herself. Oh no. More tears. But at least this one feels much better.

Episode 27
Rei is asking Hayashida for advice about anti-bullying measures. Don’t panic. It’s not him getting bullied. Besides, Rei admits his is a ‘pro’ at being a loner. Hayashida shows him a website among many about bullying from all sides. But there is no one effective solution as each case is different. In a nutshell, it is important to ask Hinata about the kind of conclusion she wants to reach. Hayashida then asks Rei to describe about her more. He starts having the wrong idea he likes her as a girl when we all know there isn’t anything romantic but more of gratitude. Rei losses his next shogi match and becomes very frustrated. Because this means loss of income that should have been some emergency funds for Hinata. So he calls Harunobu for some Spartan practice and it’s like music to his ears. Yeah, finally this best friend thingy is looking up for fatty. Rei helps Akari carry lots of stuffs she bought from a cheap sale. She gets ‘mad’ learning he weighs less than her! All that work must be making him lose weight. Back home, Akari blames herself for not being able to do anything for Hinata. After that night’s talk, Someji talked to Akari about praising Hinata was the best thing to do even though it put herself in danger. She is already suffering and it will not be wise to add to her misery. Akari also points out her role as her surrogate mom ever since their real mom died. Rei corrects her that what she felt is normal. No one wants to see a family member suffer. After all, Akari is the one who has been watching over Hinata the most unlike him who has always been alone. Asking help from others was terrifying until the sisters saved him. So for Akari to have raised Hinata to be a strong girl, she too is his saviour.

Episode 28
Before we forget this show is about shogi, Rei plays shogi with Hinata to ease her mind. Rei wins this handicapped match with only 3 pieces! In 5 minutes! Oh no. It makes her more depressed! He feels bad about it and when Hinata cheers him up, it’s his turn to feel worse because he is supposed to do the consoling but got consoled instead. Hinata opens up and shares how her group of friends now feel like a funeral wake. Solemn and gloomy. She feels like there is this invisible hierarchy and some sort of direct correlation that the higher you are, the louder you can laugh or do anything you want. One school day, Hinata gets the biggest shocker when Takahashi invites her to play some catch ball. He heard it from Rei who was at his home to teach shogi. He hopes she would invite him over again for curry. Although this made her feel better, the bullying didn’t stop. It just notched up with the bullies now writing on her desk the flirt b*tch she is. Takahashi could sense something amiss when Hinata didn’t show up for their usual catch ball and gave excuses. Noticing the bullies murmuring some light profanity directed towards at her, Takahashi confronts them and invites them to play catch ball. They are filled with excitement at first but Takahashi throws his hardest pitch. It didn’t hit them but the shockwave was enough to scare the sh*t out of them and made them run away. Hinata should feel relieved that at least she has an ally. Rei listens to Hinata blurting out her woes, this time on Chiho whom everyone now doesn’t even acknowledge she existed. Hinata wanted to avenge for her so bad but by that time she already transferred out. She wrote a letter to her but was never replied. Instead, Chiho’s mom wrote it in her stead that she didn’t even attend her new school and is in some rehab. Hinata’s bullies also notch up their bullying by writing it all over the blackboard the perverted b*tch she is. The teacher is shocked to see this and asks Hinata what this is all about but she plays cool and replies she doesn’t know anything. It was already there when she came in.

Episode 29
It must be the season. Hinata has nose bleeds at home and it is quite embarrassing for her. Later Akari talks to Rei about Hinata seeing the teacher after that incident. Apparently the teacher accused Hinata of not being cooperative or didn’t want to get along with others! Rei feels mad but he notices Akari very worried about her. Especially if parents or guardians of both side are forced to come and talk and everything goes south. Rei wants to assure her but does he have to yell out so loud that he is here for them and let the whole world know? Okay. Whatever. I guess it is time to finally see Rei in a proper shogi match. In this newcomer tournament semi-finals, he will be facing Subaru Hachiya. This guy is one to get on your nerves. Noisy and irritating. Clicks his mouth, taps his fingers and the bad etiquettes that you wouldn’t want to see. Rei doesn’t want to let this get to him but the annoyance is just goddamn too strong. So he starts sizing up this guy who always plays his moves fast. He must be so carefree to not be mindful of others and one who thinks the world revolves around him. In the end, Rei defeats him and sends him into shock. Yeah, he leaves noisily. Good riddance? Apparently Smith and Jinguuji were playing their own important seeding match nearby as they accuse Rei of further stirring the hornet’s nest (Smith lost anyway). They view him the same as Hachiya because they think the world revolves around themselves! Then they leave him with Hachiya who bugs Rei for a post mortem review of the match. Must Rei treat him? Look at how many desserts he just finished… Rei will not accept he is the same as him!

Episode 30
Rei talks to Hayashida about Hinata’s case and he gets mad wanting to go tell off that teacher! Rei has to restrain him. He too wants to give that teacher an earful but still feel helpless as usual. Hayashida learns that Hinata’s mom has passed away and dad ran off with another younger woman. He left his daughters behind and married that woman and now they have a child together. Still, Hayashida is willing to become a monster teacher for justice! Rei wins his semi-final match to storm into the finals. However his opponent will be Junkei Yamazaki. He beat Harunobu. At first Rei was mad thinking Harunobu kept pestering him to reach the finals so they could meet and create a legend but he himself lost. Till he heard from Shimada that Harunobu is now hospitalized from the strain on his semi-final match and will be out of action for a while. Rei pesters Shimada for reasons despite he knew Harunobu’s medical condition for a long time but feared asking. Shimada relates how his mentor took in another disciple. Shimada was shocked to see a young and budding Harunobu becoming his shogi’s little brother. He remembered seeing him from the children’s shogi tournament. Like many others, Shimada didn’t have a high opinion of him who is a rich kid and didn’t think he would last. He lost in the semi-finals but what shocked Shimada was his game record. Then he saw him collapsed in the arms of his butler who is handling this very well. It shows he has been fighting his illness for a long time. Shimada often visited Harunobu’s mansion and played shogi with him. As Harunobu always lost, Shimada went easy on him once and Harunobu became hurt and snapped back he has nowhere else to live if he is treated as a weakling. After Shimada passes Rei the game record of Harunobu’s match, we see Harunobu talking to Shimada not wanting him to tell Rei of his illness. He fears that kind kid would lose heart and his touch. In turn, he wouldn’t get any better. The record shows Harunobu toughing it all out throughout the game until he collapses. Shimada asks Rei if he can be merciless to Harunobu. After shedding a few tears, Rei is now motivated to win the finals.

Episode 31
Akari makes Rei katsudon so he can be victorious for tomorrow’s final. However Hinata isn’t feeling very well with her stomach and she has a school trip tomorrow. She feels the need to go as she doesn’t want to have regrets as an adult. Rei gives her hope that he will win for her. And so here Rei is at the shogi hall. At first he didn’t think this bald yakuza guy is Yamazaki but it is him. As the match begins, he kept wondering about Yamazaki’s game records that kept repeating moves that force a draw. He had no winning moves. When others start thinking this is just some game etiquette and fighting style, Rei doesn’t buy this crap. So lots of reminiscence about Harunobu and the sisters before Rei wins the game. This time he doesn’t think about his victory. He finds out from his colleague about the best medicine for relieving the stomach and then rushes down all the way to Hinata’s school trip. I know he remembers the schedule but does he even know where to find her? Don’t worry, he will. And so he does. She is sitting all alone by the river bank. She throws a very surprised look to see him next to her. After he passes her the medicine, she hugs him and cries her heart out. I suppose next time he has to bring a medicine to relieve the tears. Sorry, my bad.

Episode 32
We hear from Yamazaki’s perspective of his belief that if you work harder than his rivals, your dream will come true. We also hear his love for shogi and pigeon racing thanks to his grandpa. He has been in this business so long that he feels he has been stagnating. To a point where he feels there is no progress. So when he sees Rei and Harunobu throwing themselves to the challenges he once did, it makes him feel scared. All that fear has made him tired. Therefore when he faced Harunobu, he knew of his medical condition and his will that was much stronger than his. He knew he was one who would go further than him and felt he wanted to go back to the world they were in again. Despite his loss, he has hope to do his best tomorrow. We now shift to Rei and the sisters. Despite winning the title, he is treating them as promise. So order up. Oh no. The girls are literally ordering everything in the menu! OMG! They’re going to bankrupt him! Even the waitress ran out of space to write! Oh sh*t! Women can be so scary. Yeah, now they are so full and they blame the guys for ordering sweet and salty dishes?! Now Momo wants to go home to go to toilet so they all have to rush back… Hell after heaven… During the rush back, we see clips of Rei’s surprise meeting of Hinata after his win. He talked and treated her nicely and it made her feel like home.

Episode 33
Rei meets Kishou Yanagihara and Jinguuji. It seems they want to celebrate Rei’s new title by holding a commemoration match between him and Souya! Is he shocked? Is he scared? And they plan to make it extravagant. They talk about Souya and Shimada being the same age but the latter looks so much older. This leads to them talking about the Kishou Championship in which Yanagihara planned to have Gakuto Sakurai as the challenger but Shimada challenged him and won. He fears the championship will be cancelled and might lose sponsors. That is why he is leaving it to Rei? Rei returns to his science club as they celebrate his title. It makes Rei tear up knowing there is such a warm place he belongs to. He decides to get a diary to write down and remember such days. We have some narration about Gakuto who often takes his opponents to camp in the mountains. He also treats them so nice that you will be ‘brainwashed’ and taken over by the surroundings. Issa is a living proof of that and somewhat a fan of Gakuto. Gakuto once did invited Shimada too but he declined seeing his school life has lots of mountain climbing so he is sick of that. A new problem creeps up for Rei. As he is the only first year in the club, Noguchi and the rest are already seniors and it will be soon they have to retire and focus on their exams. This sends Rei into near panic mode as he tries to list down things he can do alone in this club. Hayashida then forces him to do posters to recruit members to join the club. Guess who are the new joiners? The principal and vice principal! OMG! They’re his fans too? And they sound like having plans to turn this shogi thing into something big. Isn’t odd for this now newly called shogi club to have Rei as the only students and the remaining members are teachers?

Episode 34
Somebody seems to be harassing the homeroom teacher like hiding her teaching tools and throwing an eraser. As she is an old lady, this spooks her a lot and the class doesn’t say anything. Hinata helps her out and knows the perpetrator is the bully, Megumi Takagi. She dares her and although it might look like Hinata is going to punch her, she just stood there in a confrontational pose. Oddly, the teacher tries to stop everything. A nervous breakdown soon follows. She is sick and tired there is always bullying every year. Different faces but same ol’ classic bullying. Her breakdown ends after she collapses. That was the last time she came to school as she became hospitalized from anxiety. Kokubu becomes the new homeroom teacher. He is well aware of the bullying and tells it off to them that this is the price they pay for being quiet. And it is all happening at a crucial time when they are studying for their entrance exams. You deserve it. Kokubu will hold a parent-teacher conference between Hinata and Megumi’s side. Akari hears this and is proud of Hinata and vows to always be by her side. Come that day, both sides are supposed to see Kokubu at different times. However Kokubu had to attend some minor mischief from his class. This leaves both sides on the verge of clashing. Megumi’s mom is under the impression that Hinata bullies her daughter. When Akari denies and says the truth, she is being told to show proof. She believes in her daughter. This shocks Akari as she falls silent and on the verge of blackout. Hinata takes control and has her rest in the nearby room. Akari feels pathetic but both sisters stay strong for each other. When Kokubu returns, he continues his talk with Megumi’s mom. Talking about proof, he agrees there isn’t any because the bully will never admit it. The only proof is if the victim speaks up. Is he accusing her daughter? Where is the proof? In that case, if she accuses of Hinata as lying, she must show proof too. Until so, he cannot accept her grievance. Kokubu sees Akari. He doesn’t want her to feel sorry for that and wants to discuss on their next course of action.

Episode 35
Despite Megumi and her bully groupie apologizing, Kokubu doesn’t feel the sincerity from their heart. Hence Megumi gets further detained by Kokubu as he tries to talk to her. As you can see, she’s acting like doesn’t care and trying to blame it all on society. In that case, Kokubu could tell his that goes back all the way to post-war Japan and everything doesn’t have anything to do with her. The school gets really serious in tackling the problem as Megumi and her bully groupie each get a teacher to privately talk. Kokubu then talks with the rest of the class who opens up on what they do. Another round of apology but still no sincerity. Then there is Hinata who thinks she doesn’t want to forgive. Because if they just apologize, they’ll be forgiven and get no punishment. This will not give Chiho any justice. Kokubu has a headache dealing with it all. You think he is a sincere man trying to help raise the kids right? Because he too notes if not for the raise, he wouldn’t want to get involved in this. But things are looking up to Hinata now. She gets a letter from Chiho detailing her farm life. Her friends are animals. I can see why. But it’s part of her guided steps to make friends. First with animals, then with adults and finally now with those her age. All she could think was Hinata. She really missed her and hopes she could come visit her at the farm come the next summer vacation. Before we forget that Rei has been ‘missing’ for 1.5 episodes, here he comes to visit. He finds Hinata sleeping so peacefully (like dead?) that he tries to be considerate and quiet. Not sure how, he too fell asleep at the doorstep! WTF?! Hinata wakes him up and he could see her shine better. She tells him what happened. Subsequently after that, the bully groupie (minus Megumi) came to sincerely apologize. They didn’t do so before for fear she would not forgive them. They invited her to their home to bake cookies. They had such a good time. Rei is glad Hinata is alright but is disappointed he didn’t do anything. Hinata tells him off that he listened and came all the way to her school trip so don’t say he didn’t do anything or she’ll bite off his finger! Yikes.

Episode 36
Shimada and Yanagihara freak out upon seeing the super good poster of Souya and Rei’s upcoming match. They complain to Jinguuji about it because theirs was so pathetic. Jinguuji snaps back that their first match was appalling to watch. Yanagihara was coughing and on the verge of getting sick while Shimada was on the verge of getting stomach ulcer! It’s like battle of the sick! And there was some unsightly psychological battle too. Yeah, the internet was having a field day with this. Rei talks to Hayashida about Hinata’s case. He knows things are looking up because of the effort he put in. He has always been listening to him so he knows. With this out of the way, Rei is able to focus on his match with Souya. Rei takes the train to the hotel of where the match is to be played. He is stunned at how big and spacious everything is that it makes him nervous (yeah, that poster too). Even more so when he goes through the reception programme for tonight. A player like him has to do lots of stuffs like Q&A and posing for photographs. Yeah, it’s so tiring. Looks at Souya. Despite looking frail, he is so used to it that he’s a pro. Rei could only think of Harunobu. Now he knows why he always had an idea of what’s going on in such event. Without his words, he wouldn’t be standing here today. During Souya’s interview, a waitress accidentally spills red wine over his suit. He acts like nothing happened and continues. Jinguuji had to take him away and make other preparations since this was the only suit he brought. At the end of the event, Rei could hear how people just felt relieved and some commented Souya is a shogi demon who is just barely holding on to his human form. Next morning, Souya arrives to face Rei in their first match. He is dressed in his traditional wear. Why does he look more power up than ever?!

Episode 37
As the game begins, viewers observe their play and believe they are like introducing each other as this is their first time facing off. Rei realizes he made a mistake. A mistake he realizes that would cost him the game. Although he does his best to fight back, he ultimately lost. On the way back, Rei analyses the kind of person Souya is. The kind of person who has always been alone and never interacted with others. Playing with him somehow turns the surrounding into nothing but white blankness. Rei could often trace his opponent’s thoughts after a while but he could not for Souya. Like as though his mind is completely blank. As there is a typhoon, the train suspends its service. Rei tries to wake Souya up but he wakes up reacting a little frightened. As Rei tries to explain the situation, he notices words aren’t getting through to him. With the crowded station, Rei needs to go get refund for their tickets and get a place to stay. However with Souya giving his ‘guiding stares’, Rei knows where to look and who to call. A walking distance to their hotel, they stop by a convenience store. Rei notices Souya’s food are like rations and cheaper than his. Extravagant by comparison? They continue walking and Rei can’t help feel that Souya is like a God following him quietly.

Episode 38
Before they retire to their room, Souya gives a soft thanks. Rei gets a call from Jinguuji who got worried about them. He talks about Souya’s case of ‘deafness’ that he had ever since 10 years ago. Doctors couldn’t figure out what it is and the best they could diagnose was ‘stress’. Souya was okay with it and lived with this silence. As it has been going on for so long, people let it slide despite him doing the same routine things every time. It hit Rei that he always noticed Souya was always alone and never around anyone. Jinguuji is thankful he has Rei look after him since he has another tournament coming up. Next morning when it is all sunny and bright, Rei is about to pay but finds Souya has paid for him. We take a detour now to the Kawamoto sisters. As Rei has declined dinner with them to focus on his next tournament, they feel ashamed for him because they have cooked their absolutely perfect braised pork and soft boiled egg. Yeah, it took them a lot of tries. Mmm! So delicious. Wait. Is this a cooking show? Yeah, maybe next time he can come since they can cook again. Rei is so engrossed reading shogi records, he almost got hit by a truck! Thankfully Shimada was there to save him. He tells him the good news that Harunobu is out of hospital and is able to play his next official ranking match. He though Rei should go see him to cheer him up. When he arrives at the shogi hall, he just sees Harunobu defeating his opponent with a newly discovered move! And this guy was the one who took care of him in Hanaoka’s absence. He is so fine and happy like that collapse never happened. So fine that Rei starts laughing as relief.

Episode 39
Shimada shows Rei and Harunobu the lame poster of the upcoming Kishou Championship between Yanagihara and himself. I guess that’s what you get if you want it cheap. The duo are to help provide some commentary on the match and he hopes they will do a lively one because with failing support from their sponsors, Jinguuji threatened to hold it in their shogi hall instead in some hotel next year. Shimada knows he will have a tough time against Yanagihara as this championship is basically like his home ground with the reporters and staffs his long-time friends. An old friend of Yanagihara talks to him about how he just got laid off from his reporting job. Early retirement and taking it easy sounds good but he is afraid because take his job away and what is there left of him? This has Yanagihara do a long ponder about his shogi path since young. He and his friends were eager and full of vigour then. But slowly one by one they dropped out and had to pursue other paths. He is the only one left. All that is left is his old body and all the hopes and dreams the rest placed on him. In fact he is the oldest active Class A player in shogi and there were questions asked if he would retire if he gets demoted. Beneath all that exterior, Yanagihara looks like a frail old man with so much medication to take and even patches for his back. It looks like he is going to kick the bucket soon. The match begins with the advantage going back and forth. Shimada then makes a breakthrough with a very advantageous move. This prompts Yanagihara to remember about his friend’s question about retirement. He still doesn’t have the answer.

Episode 40
Yanagihara makes a move that veterans could see would put Shimada in a pinch. Luckily Shimada makes a wise decision and a move that puts him back in an advantageous position. This has Yanagihara’s mind start to wander. Once more, thinking all the burden and weight of the people he knows being passed upon him. At one point he thought he was going to lose it but realizes he can’t. He must still hold on to it all and continue to deliver on behalf of all the people who tried their best to arrive at this place. Advantage back to Yanagihara as he stuns everyone advancing his king. As time draws on, we could see Yanagihara’s weary body taking its toll. Like as though he could drop dead at any moment. After long day, Shimada finally admits defeat. Yanagihara’s victory is much sweeter to savour this time since he has won this title 10 times and this entitles him to the official title of Eternal Kishou. All the weariness somewhat vanishes as Yanagihara becomes lively as he invites everyone including the kids and Shimada to take a commemorative photo.

Episode 41
If you miss the Kawamoto sisters, well, it’s time to liven up after a long gloomy battle. We see them prepare and make various types of dango. In the meantime, Hinata narrates her summer vacation trip to Chiho’s farm. They chat and did things but she could still see the traumatic scars on Chiho’s face. Rei helps out the sisters selling the various dango as their shop is taking part in a local festival. It sold out like hot cakes and the money is making Akari selling yen signs! She even wants to sell their own curry! But they have run out of ingredients. Someji knows what to use as substitute and so business is saved. Yeah, though they raked in tons of money, too bad Akari was too generous with the offerings. They might have become loss leaders but they are happy to see the satisfied faces of their customers. Besides, the dango sales also helped sell their other sweets in the store so it’s not that all bad. Meanwhile Kokubu is going to hand over Hinata’s class to a new rookie teacher as he can’t be the homeroom teacher for 2 classes at this age. Too bad that panicky guy is being super pessimistic because of Megumi’s reputation. He can imagine the protests from her mom while Megumi herself doesn’t give a damn about anything. Uh huh. He is already thinking of putting down all the prejudices he has on her on her permanent record. Flashback to Kokubu’s last counselling session with Megumi. In regards to her question of why people put in effort, he tells her straight he doesn’t know no matter how much he thought about it. He leaves her with this advice that she might be anxious of her future as she isn’t sure of her own capability. She refused to make an effort for fear of her own learning capacity and being disappointed by it. It is okay to be disappointed. Once she learns about herself better, she’ll have a clearer understanding of what to do.

Episode 42
Hinata shows Rei the various sweets designs she wants to sell for the next summer. However she has got exams to focus on. Back to reality. Rei brings along the sisters to his science club to experience their flowing soumen. Behold the power of science! If Hayashida is taken in by Hinata’s cuteness, wait till he sees Akari. Is this the season of love? With Momo having trouble with her hand-eye coordination, they have to adjust the contraption to make it easier for her. The sisters notice Rei having fun and being happy. Hinata has this thought of enrolling in this school. But first she needs to study hard for the entrance exams. Thankfully Rei helps her. He gets happy to learn she wants to go to his school and now he becomes a super sensei supervising and guiding her studies. Akari serves them udon as reward as mom used to make one for her while she was studying. Hinata is counting the cost of a sweet. She wonders how much is left that goes to grandpa. This is because Rei’s high school is a private one and is expensive. Someji knows what she is thinking and tells her to enrol there. She earned it. Besides, he has built up a clientele base so there are customers who are waiting for his products. Although money is important, what is more important is she enjoying most of her life. While this looks like a heart touching moment, Someji brings up the next biggest obstacle: Getting into that high school is no easy feat as only the best could enter. Don’t lose heart now. Hinata continues to study but her heart is assured with Rei by her side.

Episode 43
Someji sees his doctor for his usual check-up. All good to go. He attributes his daughters as his strength to live and will not kick the bucket till all of them gets married. Only one problem, gramps. How old will you be when Momo is of legal marriage age even if she marries early? Oh sh*t. Yeah, his doctor is worried that he can’t live that long to take care of him! While rushing to study for her entrance exams, Rei accidentally lets it slip that Takahashi is going to a faraway school in Shikoku. The shock face on Hinata is so shockingly shock. Worse, she gets a mini fever. She starts thinking how everyone is going far away from her. Chiho is living far away too. Mom and grandma… Oh sh*t. That escalated quickly. Luckily she recovers and is able to take her exams. Oh, because it is snowing, no taboo word about slipping, okay? I guess tripping is okay. Thankfully she passes and the family celebrates with a mountain worth of fried chicken! Even Misaki is praising Rei. Previously she was worried about Hinata since Rei was with her all the while. Even more worried when Akari and Someji put their trust in Rei that nothing would happen. Now she is so thankful of him. Hinata is glad that even if there are some people going far away, there are those who are still around. Thinks are looking up for Rei too as he is on a winning streak and that will enable him to be promoted to the next level. Kouda talks to him and he managed to win and barely avoid demotion. With that, next year means both father and son will be in the same rank and he hopes they can pick up from where they left off last time.

Episode 44
Rei visits his adopted mother’s home after a long time. It brings a pleasant surprise (currently she is home alone as Ayumu is out in prep school while Kyouko doing random odd jobs) as well as her monologue of her troubled and estranged household. The irony of her husband putting more focus on Rei instead of his real family members. The irony of Rei being a good boy compared to her children and hence the eternal question of did she raise them right. The irony of how Rei felt his presence was tearing the family apart and left without saying a word complaining about this. After Rei left, she dreamt Rei was her real son. Another lazy bum? But she smiled because it felt like her normal family. Yeah, this family is sure strange. Rei, Hinata and Takahashi hang out to celebrate Rei’s promotion (something Hinata just found out). They also talk about Takahashi moving to another town soon and his dream to become a professional baseball player. Nevertheless, they will always be proud to be children of this town. It is a shame he has to miss this week’s festival since Hinata’s family will be serving tasty treats again. Akari’s eyes are flashing those yen signs after a container full of money! This big decision by Hinata to cut her hair short as a sign to leave her childhood behind. But is it a disaster?! Well, I’m not used to it. Not sure to cry or to laugh. Because she looks like a kokeshi doll or zashiki warashi! It’s havoc around the house! Is her family teasing her or can’t get enough of her cuteness? I wonder how Rei would react. Hmm… He finds her cute. Seriously? Not sure if he is stunned or not but Momo looks freaked out hearing him said that. He can’t stop complimenting her all the way to school that she’s going to die of embarrassment.

3-gatsu No Yuutsu
Hmm… The final episode felt a bit strange because it wasn’t anything shogi related. At least not in an obvious way. I was beginning to wonder if this was it for this series. As in, there won’t be any more sequels in the future because it looked like they really wind things down. Not wind things up. Wind things down. After all the drama we got during this season, the very easygoing and calming final episode felt like the best dessert you have eaten after a very heavy main course. It felt a bit hanging because some characters like Harunobu whom I thought would make a final cameo did not appear. None of Rei’s shogi associates even appeared. Not even Souya. Did they cut them out just for Hinata’s new revelation and new direction in life? They should’ve named this season after her somehow. For better or worse, I guess that’s it for this season. Since Rei is still young, he has got a long road ahead of him. Yeah, he might be the next Yanagihara carrying the burdens of all the failed shogi players of his generation. It’s like basically saying, life goes on. Which is very true for all these characters and for us.

Is it me or is this season even more depressing than the last? This is mainly because of Hinata’s bullying arc occupying about half of the second season. Sometimes I feel that this series might go off its tangent and focus entirely on another character other than Rei or his shogi colleagues and rivals. Then we have that short mysterious bout with Souya and that final Yanagihara drama in his long journey and bid to earn that eternal title. Yeah, it was indeed a majority depressing season. Of course there are some light-hearted and happy scenes in between to take your mind off the depression and the episodes toward the end felt fluffy and too feel good just because we had to or viewers would end up being influenced and become gloomy after being exposed to the melancholy for so long.

So much so I thought that shogi became a secondary theme for this season as Hinata’s depression and bully victim status takes the forefront. I thought it would lose its way but thankfully despite how depressing and gloomy that stretch was, there was this strange ‘attraction’ that had me wanting to stick around and see Hinata pull through. Of course I know she would but just how. And it was such sweet victory (if I should call it) when Hinata emerges victorious from this saga. She became stronger and did not lose her humanity. Because we certainly don’t need another Chiho clone. Poor girl never got over her trauma but who could blame he rafter being in such circumstances for so long and no one except her best friend to support her. It was truly tragic and a reminder what Hinata could have become had she not had the warm and never ending support from her dearest. She is a pretty lucky and blessed girl in that sense to overcome the trials and tribulations thrown in her way. It’s a good thing Hinata was calm and composed during her bullying period. I can’t imagine what would happen if she snapped and then got into a fistfight. That would be fearsome not only on the character level but the series as a whole.

As I have said, the shogi part feels lacking but then again, you don’t really watch this show to learn shogi. The first season may have introduced to us some of the basics and the few strategies, but this season is almost void of that. The dramatic thoughts of the characters may be dragging it out but somehow this is also the charm of the series. The slow paced viewpoints from the minds of the characters as they make their way through the game of shogi or life. It is fascinating and enlightening but unfortunately for a simpleton like me, they usually don’t stick once the episode ends. Yeah, I’m not really used to this kind of drama (and a depressing one) but hey, I made it! Time for me to celebrate for making it through!

Rei feels secondary too. With his commemoration match with Souya being the highlight of this series because I guess after learning about his past and circumstances last season, what is there left for our main character but to take on the most enigmatic shogi players in current time? Yeah, it was also Souya’s most prominent feature but still a lot is not known about him. Because he doesn’t act the way society usually does, he is viewed only as a genius because of his domination and peerless in shogi. Otherwise he would have been labelled as a lunatic by all layers of society. So much about my hopes of watching Rei taking on stronger (and weirder) opponents to live up to his prodigy status and then finally earning the elite status as one of the youngest meijin. Did not happen. I suppose to show that Rei is human, he too has to experience his ups and downs in the shogi battle.

I thought it was totally dramatized when they played up Harunobu’s health status. Yeah, I thought that kid was going to die and add to the gloomy outlook of it all. Fortunately unfortunately, he somehow make a miraculous recovery but it could be just the eye of the storm. You know, there are periods when the disease f*cks with you that you feel like dying but not enough to kill you. Then there are times when the disease ‘retreats’ for a moment, giving you reprieve and making you feel like on top of the world. Although Harunobu and Rei’s official face off will further be put on ice, at least they still have that chance. Won’t have any of that if he’s dead, right?

I also thought Kyouko and Gotou would play a more prominent role this season but it seems after the second episode, they went ‘missing’. Like as though the producers have totally forgotten about them when they put Hinata’s plight to the limelight. Because I am very sure Rei still has unfinished business with them no matter the circumstances. Or maybe he just learnt to let go because there are other more important issues (like Hinata’s bullying case) to deal with. So much about seeing any love triangle or that short Kyouko vs Hinata showdown last season. No wonder Rei’s life this season felt a little bit peaceful because no aggressive Kyouko to bug him. Not only these characters felt less prominent this season but a few like Smith and Issa who were just minor supporting ones in the last season continue to further fade with that role. Heh. What was I hoping from them anyway? Must be stemmed from my delusion of Rei beating all his shogi allies and rivals one by one.

Surprisingly, Megumi is given decent screen time and enough character. She could have been a nameless bully and classmate of Hinata but it seems they put a decent amount of focus on her too. Not to say she permeates throughout Hinata’s bully victim arc but you know that she isn’t going away even once this bully case is solved. For now. I suppose it is to show that there is a reason why Megumi targeted Chiho and then Hinata and hence we don’t hate this troubled kid too much. But still a character you will love to hate nevertheless.

Art and animation remains consistent like last season. That is, the very simplistic and light drawings that gives the series its unique feel. But this kind of style also serves like a double edged sword. Even though the simple artwork lessens the impact of the depression because you know how those that look close to real would do, but the animation of the lines and motives too are enough to cast a gloomy and depressing atmosphere. Creative, if I should say? And just like last season too, I still find it weird that the characters have this little gap at the edge of their mouths.

For this season’s opening and ending themes, Yuki is the only one from the previous season to be featured in this sequel. This time singing the first opener, Flag Wo Tatero. Generic anime pop. Nothing attracts me. For the second opening theme, it is Haru Ga Kite Bokura by Unison Square Garden. Also sounds generic and is a far cry from their Kekkai Sensen jazzy themes that I pretty much prefer. For the first ending theme, Brian The Sun sings Kafune. It plays to a slower pace to add to the dramatic effects of the series. The same can be said for the second ending theme, I Am Standing by Ruann. Although this one has more powerful vocals compared to the former that just feels sleepy-like.

Overall, the sequel might be draggy and filled with melancholy but it makes better drama, coming of age and character development for the series as a whole. In this sense, 3-gatsu No Lion is much better than the light-hearted loli loving Ryuuou No Oshigoto. I suggest that if you cannot stomach all the depression and boring drama, go watch that series which is filled with all the bright and lively cuteness. Ironically that means lacking the touching human emotions that this series masterfully played up. It isn’t about whether shogi is life or shogi isn’t life. Life is just life being life itself. Except that in life unlike the game, continues after checkmate.

3-gatsu No Lion

August 13, 2017

Time to adapt another popular Japanese sport and put in all the human drama that comes with it. Because the focus of such is always the human factor and not really the sport. That just feels like a stepping stone. So after we have got karuta in Chihayafuru, we now have shogi. Okay, so this isn’t really the first shogi themed anime as there was Shion No Ou ages ago. I suppose it happened so long ago now is the time to remind us new generation about the sport. Plus, I didn’t see that anime. And thus we have 3-gatsu No Lion. I’m sure you can pretty much tell about the formula. Young kid who is a genius in the sport. Has his own personal issues. Trying to overcome obstacles on and off the game board. Lots of drama included. Yeah, we know the drill.

Episode 1
Rei Kiriyama makes his way to the shogi hall on a hot summer day. Rei has this looks like as though he has some sort of trauma while his opponent, a gentle and kind elderly man is being considerate about his past. Something to do with a children’s shogi championship a few years ago. Rei won but he didn’t look really happy. Rei eventually wins and then bums around town till he gets a message from Hinata Kawamoto inviting to dinner. The other Kawamoto sisters, eldest Akari and youngest Momo are happy to see him. I can’t help this house feels like a house of women because they have an altar for their dearly departed mother and grandma and both pet cats are females. Sure, there’s grandpa Someji around but he is usually at his sweets shop. It makes Rei like the guy of the house? Anyway on TV reports a son hammered his father to death. It has something to do with Rei’s trauma because he vaguely tells us he hit somebody and can still feel it today. After dinner, he just falls asleep right where he sleeps. The girls leave him be and when Hinata covers a blanket over him, she takes off his glasses to see tears in his eyes. Rei attends school the next day like normal. Because he has no friends, his teacher, Takashi Hayashida takes pity and eats with him. But when he realizes Rei’s earnings from shogi wins are more than his, he doesn’t want to be his friend anymore! WTF?! After school, Rei goes to help the sisters at the sweets store. When he goes home, the shogi match notification he is expecting for hasn’t arrived in his post. But it seems it did but was ‘hijacked’ by chubby Harunobu Nikaidou.

Episode 2
I know it is morally wrong but is it legal to open somebody else’s letter and read it? Harunobu did that and he is quite happy because eternal rival Rei is his opponent in the same block. Too bad Rei can’t stop this fatty from bragging. He even comes into his room to have some pizza party and asking the kind of strategies he’ll be using. WTF?! This guy even eat the cakes the sisters wrapped especially for Rei without asking. WTF. Rei goes to the shrine to pray for his next match. The NHK cup will be broadcast live and his supposed next opponent, Issa Matsumoto is already praying for Rei’s defeat. He didn’t want to meet him but Issa is already all over him like a leech. Rei easily beats him in shogi. Issa goes into ‘depression’ so his other friend, Tatsuyuki “Smith” Misumi cheers him up by saying Rei will treat them. Did he? Most probably why Issa is looking forward to it is because he has a crush on the hostess who is no other than Akari. Because Issa doesn’t want to lose face, eventually he twisted his own words that has him ended up treating them all instead. Rei remembers he never liked such outing because his friends made him drink till he passed out. Akari found him and brought him home where he met the sisters for the first time. Rei goes shopping for food when he bumps into the sisters. The sly sisters tease he loves cup noodles more than their cooking. I guess this means he has to join them for dinner. He also helps them prepare for the Obon festival. When done, Akari put leftovers in containers for his future meals. He heard her mumble something about having company over would be a good distraction.

Episode 3
Rei narrates his past rivalry with Harunobu. Talented shogi kids before joining the federation usually play at events. They were regulars. There was one time at a shopping centre roof, it was hot like hell and Rei could tell Harunobu was suffering from the heat. However he persevered and making it hotter was that Rei was much better than him. Each move was a desperate move to fend Rei off. At the end of the long battle, Rei won. Now in the shogi hall, Harunobu is quite delighted to face Rei. As the match progresses, Rei can feel this match is like the reminiscent of that time on the roof because the hall’s air-cond is broken. Harunobu might be uncomfortable but at least it wasn’t as bad as that time. Rei is taken by surprise when Harunobu makes a move he never expected. But Rei keeps calm and carries on playing till he wins. That losing face that Harunobu makes is still the same as always. His butler, Hanaoka brings him back. I believe Harunobu is really reeling in pain not because of the loss but from some illness. Or was it stress? As promised, Rei visits the sisters for the Obon festival after his match. A sombre event as they pray for their departed. Hinata wants to go to the convenience store so Rei is asked to follow her. He realizes she isn’t going in the right direction but keeps following. Then at the port, he shockingly sees her crying her heart out calling out to her mom. He stood there and couldn’t do anything. He had to approach her when a couple of guys approached her. Then he just stands next to her and let her continue crying to her heart’s content as he contemplates about his own family lost.

Episode 4
Rei is peeling chestnuts and has to witness the ‘drama’ between Akari and Hinata. There is a boy, Yuusuke Takahashi whom Hinata has a crush on since young. He is playing in a baseball match and wants to make a handmade lunch for him. So when Hinata hands in a list of things to buy, well, is she trying to feed an army?! No wonder Akari is freaked out! Even odder, Hinata is perplexed she is willing to spend money on food expenses for other kids (that’s you, Rei) instead. Anyway on that fateful day, it is Hell’s Kitchen for Hinata. You can see how chaotic and busy she is. It’s like time really flies. Worse, she spends more time trying to figure out what to wear! Rei watches Takahashi in action. He is good looking. A good player. He is every girl’s dream. See that awed face of Hinata? Yeah, makes you feel like a loser, Rei? Oh, there’s this trauma of his regarding ‘love’ too. At the end of the game, Hinata is unable to give it to him because all the girls and boys crowd around him. She is about to throw it away but Rei stops her. Don’t waste. Hinata is afraid Akari would scold her for going through all that trouble for nothing. But big sister is understanding. Hinata isn’t the only one who had her first homemade lunch rejected. She lets her cry as much as she wants. Harunobu is blabbing about some legendary move. Rei would have wanted to give him a piece of his mind had not his stomach growled loudly. As they go out to eat, Rei spots Momo alone. Lost? Momo is happy to see Harunobu and hugs him. This fatty is cute because he looks like Bodoro. You know that knockoff of that famous Totoro, right? When Akari sees him, she too likes him?! So she likes round and cute stuffs… She invites him for dinner and Harunobu couldn’t be happier. It’s going to be the start of an odd relationship… Akari is in a dilemma to make the right meal with the right nutrition for him. Hanaoka is here to pick him up and Rei can tell Harunobu is clearly being tracked 24/7 when he mentions something about the GPS…

Episode 5
Rei remembers he used to play shogi with his father’s friend and shogi rival, Masachika Kouda. He even beat him. Then Rei didn’t like shogi but played it as it was a time to spend with father. Because Rei is often bullied in school, he always looked up to Kouda who talked to him like an adult. Akari calls Rei to pick up Momo. Along the way home, she got chased by the dog and all the ‘excitement’ died out when she tripped and hurt herself. Rei brings her home and as he treats the wounds, this reminds him of his trauma. It is revealed when he was younger, after returning from a school trip, his parents and little sister were dead. Killed in an accident. The sister of Rei’s dad wasn’t shedding tears since she was more interested for grandpa to let her husband inherit his hospital business rather than her brother whom grandpa had wanted. This means she wasn’t interested in taking in Rei either and would send him to the orphanage. But that is when Kouda came up to Rei and asks if he liked shogi. Rei lied and said yes. That is how he became a child of a shogi family. Kouda had a daughter, Kyouko who 4 years older than Rei and a son, Ayumu who is the same as Rei. When Rei beat her at shogi, she beat him up! Kouda administered harsh punishment but this girl was so tough that she even continued beating up Rei while being reprimanded! As the family centres around shogi, they had to become stronger for Kouda’s sake. The first to break was Ayumu. After Rei surpassed him, he became depressed, locked himself in his room playing video games. He quitted shogi. Kouda didn’t do a thing as he believes one has to be strong enough to progress on his own. Next was Kyouko. Kouda had her quit the federation as it was pointless if she cannot best Rei. And thus Rei became Kouda’s prodigy. The media had a field day reporting how he upstaged his own kids to raise his rival’s kid. After Rei watches a documentary on how a cuckoo bird lives, he realizes he is one. That is when he decides to quite school and focus on shogi so that he could win tournaments, make money, become independent before he devours that family.

Episode 6
When asked where Rei would like to go to, he couldn’t answer. There isn’t a place where he wants to go. Rei manages to escape going to a study camp since he has a ranking tournament to play and Hayashida can pick up his relieved face. Rei narrates shogi players are like sportsmen too. So what do they do on their day offs? They train and hone their skills just like any other athlete. Rei’s depression seems to stem from 2 consecutive losses this year for the first time. This mean he lost his chance to advance to the next rank. So he got this mentality that as long as he stops thinking and accepts stagnation, he could reach his goal. Souya Touji is a shogi master whom the nation calls as a child of God. Hayashida is excited as he shows Rei his shogi problem being posted in the magazine. However Rei easily solves it. Then they talk about Souya who is on the front cover of the magazine. Despite being a successful champion with many titles, Rei has never faced him. He also hasn’t met him in person though he has seen him around. This has Rei remember how people pinned expectations on him to become the next master. Then Rei loses his next match. Although he has no reason to win, he still feels pain when he loses. He bumps into Hinata in the streets. He treats her to milkshake since she can’t take her eyes off the advertisement. When she invites him to come over for dinner, Rei realizes that Hinata is having it tough too. From taking care of her family and helping out with their work and house chores. And here he is concerned of his own problems. Suddenly Hinata’s face starts contorting like a cartoon. Takahashi is here. Rei wanted to leave but Hinata somehow wouldn’t let him and she ended up running away instead. It leaves Rei in an awkward company with this big guy. Those serious stares are killing him…

Episode 7
Takahashi is inspired by Rei who is already a pro shogi player at his age. In fact he wants to ask Rei for advice. Because Takahashi is not sure which high school to go to become a professional baseball player, Rei’s name was referred to by his dad as source of inspiration. Rei gives his sincere answer that he is only a pro in shogi but not socially. He liked studying but didn’t fit in school and didn’t regret the decision he made. Rei realizes his words are embarrassing but Takahashi understands them and this makes Rei happy. Rei and Hinata leave having a great impression on Takahashi. At home, Hinata’s face is as red as a red light. Because Takahashi is here for dinner! Akari had to work so she had Rei come over instead to accompany. Takahashi then brings out a tape to show a recent shogi game Rei was in. Hinata and Momo are in shock that he is on TV. Apparently Rei has been keeping this a secret. Oops. This was the match he lost and Harunobu is one of the commentators. He furiously mocks Rei’s bad moves so much so he ‘attacks’ the camera and admonishes him to play better than this. In turn Rei blows his top and becomes angry. However everyone especially Hinata is all smiles because it is the first time they see him get mad. Yeah, he sounds funny, right? Hinata expresses she wants to learn shogi from him. So here Rei is at the shop gathering materials to teach her. Then here comes Harunobu. He wants to help… Oh no… Hinata and Momo are glad Harunobu is here. He makes a disclaimer if they don’t understand, blame the teacher! Over to you, Rei. Too bad his explanations are stiff and so textbook. Hard to digest, Hinata? Rei is relegated to one side as Harunobu takes over. His explanation of shogi for beginners using a children’s picture book makes it so much easier and exciting to learn.

Episode 8
Harunobu continues his colourful explanation of the pieces’ movements. Jealous Rei finds the book easy to learn and wonders who the publisher is. Harunobu himself?! Yes, that guy can actually draw and he wanted to contribute something to the game he loves so he made a book about it. He even had the printing company print it out like a real book. Just short of selling it on shelves. You girls falling in love with chubby now? Rei walks home and he wonders why Harunobu is following him. Then he sees those mover guys at his place. No, Harunobu isn’t moving in. The bed and other furniture are his house warming gift. At least he can sleep decently. When Rei hangs out with Issa and Smith, they can’t stop teasing him when they saw that video of Harunobu’s passionate commenting. They hope his message reaches his heart. Rei narrates how consecutive losses gets you demoted. And if you get demoted twice, you drop a class. Trying to overcome a loss is more exhausting than to battle to move forward. Rei thinks about his father’s pose when he played shogi and noting his habits. It made him realize he is already standing in the shogi stage that dad longed for. When Rei returns home, Kyouko is waiting outside his door. She hints of wanting to come in but he won’t let her. It gets to a stand offish point till she had to spell it out she needs to use the toilet. Then she bums around and touches his things like as though it’s hers. He tells her to go home since it is late but she asks if he would like to return to that house. Father would be most happy. She seems to caress his face but it is to find scars. None. Something about how her boyfriend, Masamune Gotou beat him up. Thankfully he never touched Kyouko because she would kill him in his sleep. Because that is how she loves him. Yandere?! She stays at his place and next morning, she reminds him of his next opponent. An old guy, Shouichi Matsunaga who has been a pro shogi player for 40 years. However he has always been mediocre like as though he is holding on for dear life. She heard he will retire if he gets demoted. She mocks that is why they let Rei play him. Nobody wants to do it. Maybe Rei is such a nice guy to throw away his match.

Episode 9
Rei thinks about how Matsunaga would be. Then he sees this feeble old guy praying for his luck at the shrine and fumbles! Oh sh*t! Better get out now. Then he turns up late at the shogi hall and when they begin to play, Rei cannot understand his strategy. Is he defending or attacking. Seeing his panicking face during certain moves, could it be this guy has no plan at all? In the end Rei wins and Matsunaga behaves poorly as a loser. So Rei thought of avoiding him by leaving later and taking the stairs. Apparently he had the same idea! Matsunaga tries to ‘escape’ but slips. Don’t worry. Just light injuries. While the old man berates him to go away, his stomach grumbles and now he wants Rei to treat him. Make up your mind! And so Rei has to experience what it is like to be with a drunk. Uh huh. Matsunaga is telling tales about how scary women are, his wife, wine, history (feudal history, that is) and then back to his grandson. After they leave, Matsunaga explains he knew he would lose today and thought how to bow out respectably. Rei was like the grim reaper. He felt jealous facing Rei because he had accolades while he himself had none to boot for 40 years. He felt disgusted feeling like that. But when he saw Rei sitting nicely in the hall, he felt glad to be taken out by a beautiful grim reaper. As he played, he realizes he didn’t want to lose and struggled with that feeling. Rei asks if he likes shogi. He doesn’t know. Kyouko calls to check up on Rei and he tells her Matsunaga is not retiring. Rei is willing to go with him to convince his wife and daughter he will still play shogi. It seems Matsunaga’s reason for doing it is because he doesn’t want to do chores! All the while he gave excuses to focus on his shogi and if he resigns, they’ll dump the chores on him! He’ll never do that! Will never lift a finger! NEVER!!!

Episode 10
Rei gets a call from Kyouko to meet. He isn’t appreciative claiming he has lots of matches coming up. However she notes he has only a match on Christmas Eve with Manabu Yasui. She goes on ranting about Yasui’s wife finally getting a divorce thanks to his violent sore loser behaviour, his gambling habits and how his poor lonely daughter would be affected. Rei doesn’t like this talk because her words are always like poison. Rei also hates this time of the year because Kouda gave him a pretty shogi set for Christmas and his own children normal presents. That speaks volumes. Rei plays his match with Yasui and eventually wins. He narrates how he noticed Yasui giving up halfway after he realized making a mistake. He could see him losing motivation and prayed so hard for him not to give up so easily. After Yasui leaves, Rei notices he forgot his Christmas present. He chases him down to hand it but he is very unappreciative. He snatches it from his hand with that scornful look. Could it be he left it there intentional? Rei is left in shock so he runs to some park and starts screaming his heart out in tears all he wanted to have said to that guy. Is everything his own fault? It’s your fault for being weak. He only has shogi and puts everything on the line. If he can’t even practice then just quit. He has no use for weak players. So dramatic his contempt that he collapses flat on his face? Rei only knows inside himself is a beast that would devour anything in its way to survive.

Episode 11
Thanks to that, Rei has been sick till the end of the year. He has been falling in and out of sleep in his bed, dreaming about riding an endless escalator. He wakes up when somebody is constantly ringing his doorbell. Turns out to be the sisters. They know he is sick and ‘kidnap’ him back to their place where they take good care of him. Rei thought he has been doing a decent job taking care of himself but Akari disagrees. His handphone has been dead and after charging it, he finds many missed calls from Kouda. Rei calls him and hears the relief in his voice. It makes Rei realize he has been selfish. As Rei starts to get better, he feels indebted for Akari to take care of him even though he isn’t family. However Akari is the one who wants him here as she is grateful he saved her. Otherwise it would be another lonely New Year where she would be cleaning up and crying herself. Strangely this makes Rei cry. The sisters get lots of New Year cards. Hinata is excited to go to Rei’s place to get his. When she returns, she is devastated there are only 2. Rei is happy as he expected none! One of them is from Harunobu and the other from Takanori Jinguuji who is the chairman of Japan’s shogi association. Aunt Misaki comes by to visit. She gives everyone New Year’s money. Including Rei. Including the departed. Someji is still against Misaki having Akari work at her bar and thinks it is a dangerous place. Misaki argues Akari sometimes need to go out as she is beautiful. Is grandpa going to keep her at home doing chores? Before you know it, she’ll be past marriageable age. Don’t worry. Misaki will not let guys touch her and is just using her to milk money out of guys! After they have traditional New Year food, Misaki leaves. It is time for the girls to take their baths so Akari has Rei go upstairs. Because the bath is right next to the living room. Originally the place had not bath so their parents re-renovate it and used part of the yard. It has no changing room so you can see why. Rei goes upstairs to sleep and finds it funny this place is peaceful. Then he remembers he had spent time here with everybody else had that warm embrace. He has never had such a peaceful deep sleep for a long time.

Episode 12
After New Year, Rei feels much better. However something more than the cold breeze is making him irritated. Something to do with shogi. His next shogi tournament is the Lion King Tournament. It is the biggest tournament sponsored by the biggest media in Japan. This means bigger prize money and bigger media coverage. Smith is also participating in this one. Rei faces off with Takeshi Tsujii who has a penchant of making lame puns. No wonder it’s so cold! You better not lose to him! Eventually Rei wins but he still continues to make lame puns. Oh well, Rei lost this one. However before the semi-final match begins, Rei’s blood boils because he comes face to face with Gotou. He is Smith’s next opponent. Gotou is arrogant and badmouths Kyouko as a stalker. Rei loses it and wants to punch him but is restrained by Smith. It took him a while to calm down. Maybe all that dispersed when Jinguuji waltzes in to give Rei a huge catch of his fish. His many thanks for Akari. So Rei has to carry bags load of fish so much so it stinks all around and people literally smelling something fishy. But Akari couldn’t be happier because this means more dishes to cook and saving up on food expenses. Rei would love to join and stay overnight at the sisters’ place but he can’t. Because the semi-final match is tomorrow. I am guessing who will be facing off in the final. Or not.

Episode 13
We see Smith’s daily morning life as a sexy jazz piece is played in the background! So when it gets serious, Smith thinks Rei is ignoring him since he is concentrating on records of his opponent and Gotou. As though he would lose to him. Smith plays his match with Gotou. This is his second time playing him. The first time ended in a crushing defeat. He thought he has learnt from his heavy defence and single strike move but before he knows it, he fell into the same tactic again and lost. Gotou even advises Smith at the end to not hesitate. Rei knows Gotou was trying to provoke him when he badmouthed Kyouko. However he has to concentrate on his opponent, Kai Shimada. He can’t find any distinctive playing styles on him. So as he begins his match, Rei was supposed to go on an all-out attack but he soon realizes he has been playing defence. Did he make any mistakes? Did he go wrong somewhere? It took a move from Shimada to break him out of his despair thinking. It seems Shimada and Harunobu know each other and the latter calling him as big brother. Harunobu earlier had a favour of him and wants him to split Rei’s head in half. He means in shogi, right?

Episode 14
By the time Rei is back to reality, he realizes he is in deep sh*t. He laments about his personal grudge on Gotou while treating his opponent like a side character. So while we hear his monologue to recover from his disadvantageous position, I’m not sure if this is really allowed in tournaments because Shimada suggests replaying a bit from certain positions. But whatever moves Rei makes, he is cornered. There is no way out. In the end, Rei loses. So what does a kid like him do? He runs all the way home! Poor kid. The loss must be devastating. All because he misjudged his opponents level and now like as though he’s lost everything. Now he is like in depression. Bumming in his room. Heck, he is even vomiting like as though he has morning sickness! Is he pregnant?! Loss in shogi = pregnant symptoms… Rei also tries to ponder about his future. Looking through the classifieds? Well, there is a chance he might not be playing shogi forever. He thought of having a change in pace but playing basketball? Clearly he is not the physical type. Owned. So depressing that Hayashida is even at a loss to make rebukes. So he tries to comfort and advice Rei of joining a workshop that Shimada organizes for younger players. Rei doesn’t think so but Hayashida thinks it would be good to give a try since Harunobu is a member. Rei is so negative that he gets scolded for making excuses.

Episode 15
Rei tells us Kyouko is like a glass with cracks. No matter how much water is poured, she is never filled up. Flashback to a time she wanted to pack her bags and leave home for Gotou. Rei told her not to because that guy is married. Kyouko doesn’t care since his wife is always in hospital. But dad won’t forgive her. Too hell with him. She won’t forgive him. Rei suggests he will move out because nobody would care. Kyouko is different even if she thinks otherwise. In the finals of Lion King Tournament, it is best out of 3. Hayashida even gives him permission to go there and watch despite he has been absent too much and risk repeating a year. The first match ended with Gotou winning. The next day, the second match continues and you can just feel the tension between them. Rei can’t go watch because Hayashida miscalculated his absentee days… He can’t even get sick! Plus, he needs to do well in his exams otherwise it is see you again next year. The second match went on for 8 hours?! To a point where they even move their kings to the battlefield! After another 3 hours, Shimada wins. Hard fought victory. Was it worth it? Shimada asks Harunobu about his obsession with Rei. He was the one who broke his head in half and pulled him from the mud. As he was sick all the time, he envied other children playing outside. When he got better at shogi, the weaker ones become cowards who didn’t bother to make the effort. It was frustrating. Till he met Rei. Somebody who is stronger than him. Someone who works harder than him. It made him realize he wasn’t alone. Shimada sees Kyouko chasing after Gotou. He doesn’t give a damn and leaves her stranded. Shimada is shocked at the sight of this younger woman. He can’t help have a sense of defeat. Meanwhile Rei continues to be piled up with work while Hayashida could only lament his miscalculation…

Episode 16
Hayashida is frantically trying to get him to do some lab experiments as required by the curriculum. Desperate, he seeks the help from a bunch of crazy weirdoes of the burner’s club. Seeing Rei’s fine interaction with them, he suggests he should join the club. Hayashida gives him an advice that opens up his eyes. He should rely on others when needed. Otherwise no one will rely on him. This truth hits him and the first thing Rei could think of is the sisters. He relied on their kindness but they never once relied on him. Rei then makes haste to the shogi hall for the final match. By the time he reaches, it is over. At first you might think Gotou had won since he is being interviewed with a confident smile while Shimada is slumped at the board. Rei has seen such scenes before and knows Shimada had won. The defeated would often think about his final words and sort out his feelings during the match while the winner is exhausted from the strain. He manages to be interviewed although he looks more like a zombie. Once over, Rei asks Shimada if he could join his workshop. And so this is first time Rei attends his shogi workshop in his house. Along with Harunobu, there is also Morio Shigeta. Why does he look angry like as though he wants to fight? The quartet play shogi for an hour and after that they will analyse and discuss their play. Harunobu and Morio are already at each other’s throat thinking their own tactic is manlier. And when Rei gives his own opinion, they snarl at him. Yeah, it is so intense between the trio that Shimada can’t even cut any slack between them. Yeah, an all-out war almost broke out over shogi tactics. Even after the workshop, Rei and Harunobu continue to argue what moves are appropriate. They are distracted when they see a duck dive into the river but never resurface. They become worried the fish might have eaten it (?!) so they run to a nearby bookstore to find out more about the duck and return to try and save it. I think by that time they took the duck would already be dead.

Episode 17
As the winner of the Lion King’s Tournament, Shimada earns the right to face off with the reigning shogi champion, Souya. Harunobu invites Rei to the hotel where they are having a fan meet event before the match. They are there to support Shimada who will be overwhelmed with the interviews so a familiar face would calm him down. Rei also meets Kouda there who notes he still deposits money into his account as thanks for taking care of him. He agrees to hold on to the money till he comes of age. While Rei ponders about it, he is shocked to see Souya standing next to him. He never noticed since his presence is ‘soundless’. When Souya is found by a guy to be taken to main event, Rei sees how everyone becomes silent and paves a path for him. Rei narrates his achievements since young and the records he has broken ever since his reign. Yet his appearance never changed. He would have been compared to God but as they said, a devil’s face never changes. Later Rei is confronted by Kyouko who thinks he ratted on her since father has stopped her credit card and bombarding her with questions. Rei asserts he didn’t say anything and if anything happened it was because she brought it upon herself. The quarrel could have escalated had not the Kawamoto sisters pass by. Momo is scared of this ‘witch’! Akari takes her sisters to go home but Hinata won’t end it like this. She hands over the bento they make for him and a short starring showdown with Kyouko. Kyouko bums in Rei’s place. She has the guts to eat the bento and then complain. Yeah, she ate it all! Then she changes into his clothes and sleeps. Yeah, treating it like her own home. That night she calls her father just out of courtesy and you know it won’t go well. Anyway it is too late for her to go back now so she sleeps over. Kyouko asks Rei about which of the sister he likes despite she doesn’t care. What bothers her is Momo calling her a witch because if she was one, she wouldn’t be in this deep sh*t. She remembers her dad told her if she has a boyfriend, bring him home so he can meet him. How can she bring a married man who was once his disciple to see him? She doesn’t even know why she picked him. She is scared and asks Rei on what to do. Like hell he knows.

Episode 18
Shimada’s workshop continues. Harunobu and Morio are still at each other’s throat over their different strategy so much so we have to see some cat version of Star Wars spoof to visualize the intense rivalry they have! They are shut up when Rei presents his winning strategy. As Rei previously studied alone, he is trying his best to articulate his thoughts about his strategy. Shimada requests Rei to come back tomorrow for additional lessons. He talks about his matches with Souya. He already lost both matches straight. This third one would be the decisive one. As all matches are played in different towns, he needs to win matches so that a match can be played in his hometown. As they start playing, Rei felt overwhelmed by his play. For the first time he was subjected to a Rank A player’s thoughts for several hours that it is exhausting. By the time he wanted to ask more questions, he has already left for his next match. Rei passed his exams. Barely. Now he is able to move up a grade. Though, Rei feels he didn’t do anything. However Hayashida chastises him for such thinking. Don’t say he didn’t do anything. He is trying his best to come to school while working and paying off rents, etc. At his age, Hayashida was just dreaming big and didn’t have to worry about paying rent or housework. So don’t ever say you didn’t do anything. Rei is brought to tears. Later he is surprised Hinata and Momo visit to take back the empty bento boxes. Of course they eventually have to ask about Kyouko. Because they see him arguing and are worried if he is alright. You could have guessed from their nervous and twitchy behaviour from the start. Rei explains Kyouko is his sister so sibling arguing is quite normal. So the duo return happy and relieved about this but not Akari. She thought it is worse off. Because when the sisters saw them together, they didn’t look like siblings. She starts to understand this is why Rei left home. By evening, Rei receives word that Shimada has conceded defeat.

Episode 19
Shimada narrates how he got into shogi. From a snowy side of the country, a bunch of old men taught him how to play till he became real good. They continued supporting him and when he joined a Tokyo association, Shimada started working jobs to fund his transport to the capital. Therefore he always has this problem of stomach pains from the burden he is shouldering and the long bus ride. Now he is sick with that as Rei visits and helps him do some chores. Of course they also practice shogi while Rei ponders if he should get more rest before the next match at Kyoto. Shimada notices how similar Rei is to Souya because they said the same words. They might be the all-rounder type who can switch between offense and defence. As Shimada is still weak, Rei accompanies and helps him around in Kyoto. Heh, even Shimada can ‘joke’ that he sounds like his mother. But he is more thankful for his help than anything. The best ‘joke’ comes from tactless Jinguuji who thinks Shimada should get a stomach transplant or else he can’t win titles! Then there is the ceremony for the pre-match the night before. Rei’s heart aches each time he sees the camera flashes, knowing Shimada is in pain inside. Souya was kind enough to let all the cameras focus on him so as to let Shimada quietly leave and turn in for the night early. And Jinguuji had to quip Shimada didn’t really stand out much to begin with since the press is really here for Souya. Right in the heart… And his guts too. Rei has to bunk with Smith as he is here as a substitute observer. But Rei has to hear him on the phone distraught over his cheating partner. It’s his cat… Morning comes as the 4th match begins. Rei is still in a dilemma whether he should have refused practice and let him rest.

Episode 20
Shimada dreams he is back in his hometown doing farming and married his girlfriend who left him. This is what he might be doing had he not get past a certain rank in the league. The old guys also told him to find happiness wherever he is and shogi wasn’t just everything. Shimada wakes up still having those stomach pains. He knows if he loses this fourth match, he will not be able to play in the next match which is his hometown. Because a judge came down with a flu (he hid it because he wanted to be on TV!), Jinguuji forcefully removed him and promotes Smith to take his place. He then also has Rei go up on stage for the board commentary with an experienced shogi player, Fujimoto. Since Rei is quite meek, Fujimoto then explodes in his tirade on his manliness of how he became a master. Either you are awed or respect him like veterans or in shock or fear for first timers. Which means Rei is totally scared of this dude! The match begins and Shimada’s stomach pain is still bugging him. But he fights on knowing it is good to be alive. Fujimoto can tell Shimada will lose and that the gap between them is too great. Rei tries to voice otherwise but is quickly told to shut up or else he would ruin Shimada’s reputation as his disciple. With everyone in the hall thinking Shimada is already lost, Rei continues to hang on to that thin belief that Shimada’s pieces are still alive despite in a pinch. By the time he wants to say something, Shimada has already conceded defeat. That night Shimada and Rei leave Kyoto for home.

Episode 21
Rei accompanies Shimada back to his hometown. Shimada feels ashamed thinking what to say to his people. He knows they are too kind to scold him but wishes they would. Well, he got his wish because they’re blaming him for the rain! You see, the town is having a human shogi festival. Although it is held indoors, I guess the heavy rain spoils the mood. Harunobu is one of the players. He beats his opponent when the latter made a mistake. Then there is another shogi programme in which a few shogi masters like Shimada will play with many other people simultaneously. Jinguuji is also one of the masters but he tries to weasel his way out of not participating. He is afraid of those old folks who are just as dangerous in shogi. Rei talks to a reporter who is doing an article on Shimada and learns more about him and his hometown. Rei could see Shimada smiling and happy. Next day, the old guys give Shimada some gifts before he leaves. They tell him not to rush and this makes Shimada realize he was lost while rushing. He is confident now to start over again and work hard. We take a detour as Akari and Hinata help Someji think of a new filling for his Japanese sweet. To draw inspiration, they visit a sweets shop. However they end up order a mix of everything. Then they are filled with regret of getting fat and spending more than they should! Time to look to Momo for answers… What will it be? Gum?! Back to the drawing board. They think harder and harder but the girls find that with all the delicious choices, they can’t narrow it down. Hinata then gets an idea to do some daruma pattern mix with a few flavours. Hinata gets this idea to call Rei over for dinner. Guess what? He is just right outside their doorstep! He accepts her invitation. Happy Hinata wishes she could make Japanese sweets forever.

Episode 22
A new school term. A new class. This means Hayashida is no longer Rei’s homeroom teacher and with a new set of classmates, Rei is going to find himself the same loner again. However Hayashida is kind enough to still eat lunch with him. Poor guys, right? Hayashida has an idea. He wants Rei to form a shogi club and he’ll be the advisor. Easier said than done. If Rei had the guts to ask others it would have been done. Plus, you need 5 members to form a club. Rei realizes that he blended easily with the shogi members so maybe. Just maybe. Hayashida is happy Rei agrees to his idea. Because now he can get free shogi lessons and beat this jerk he dislikes! But still, nobody wants to join the club! Back to square one? Another idea strikes Hayashida. Those burner’s club guys! Because many of their seniors have graduated leaving 4 of them left, what a brilliant idea for them to combine and be a club. And so it becomes known as the shogi science club. Time for Rei’s flashback. His sad and lonely past during a school field trip has him narrate how nobody wants to sit next to him. He eats alone and ponders about his shogi puzzle. On the way back, he starts thinking if nobody ever wants to sit next to him. Thus he holds this magic ticket (the ticket to the shogi world) as an important one he will never let go. It means he belongs somewhere. Despite nobody might want to sit next to him, as long as he is fighting, there are people who will sit across him and he is glad to have met different kinds of people. Rei returns to his shogi gang and realizes that there are others too on the same train heading towards that same shining light. And today, someone seems to be sitting across him. Is it his dream that it is Souya? Oh, cue for all other shogi masters to make their mug cameo too.

Toothless Lion
Oh… Guess what? Another season… I suppose with ‘unfinished business’ and more room to grow for everyone, I believe this series needs to have another season. And maybe because not enough people are taking interests in shogi. Not even simple online shogi games… Yeah, there are better entertainments out there. Anyway, personally I felt that this entire series is just one draggy drama about a kid having some problems in real life and only having shogi as his guide to navigate through. I know I shouldn’t be complaining about this since I already anticipated about this way before I started watching and when I was reading the synopsis of the show when it first came out and deciding if I should watch it. But I just need to point out that it fell within that expectation. So if you aren’t into this kind of genre, you’re not likely going to enjoy the series and find all the monologues and thought provoking figure of speeches to be entertaining.

Something makes me feel that this anime was somewhat related or it could even be a spiritual successor to Shigatsu Wa Kimi No Uso. First, the titles are curiously almost similar and both the main protagonist is a young prodigy who has a tragic past and struggling to cope with their current depression. Heck, don’t they even look similar? But as I ‘extensively’ try to find out, it could be just very much coincidence. Both are written by different authors and both series have nothing to do with each other. I guess it is one of those things in life about coincidences.

I had also come to expect that this series isn’t meant to teach you about shogi. Thanks to Harunobu’s colourful and children friendly illustrations, the basics are mentioned. But that is very much about it. If you plan to learn about advanced strategies, you would be better off taking real shogi lessons instead of learning it from anime. Therefore I am guessing that unless you are decently well versed in shogi, there are some moves, tactics and strategies mentioned during the matches here will feel like they are very alien. You will not know what they are talking, what they mean or what the implication of this strategy is. Because I was like so blur and confused when they were talking about the piece movements itself. I was already lost by then. I don’t see who is winning or the advantage received from suggesting those moves. Just, “Oh. Well. Whatever”.

One thing I noticed is that the shogi players are mostly predominantly males. Are there no females taking up the sport? Because shogi like karuta is one of the few sports in which the classes and categories aren’t separated by gender. Well, as I found out, there is a separate association for women but the main one also takes in both genders. As I also discovered, maybe it is also because no females have attained such high rankings before. A separate league may be to attract more females to the sport but that’s a different story. Unless of course there are clear rules that really segregate the genders in tournaments. Having not noticing any females playing here, therefore it really made me wonder if shogi is only a male dominated sport and usually played by old men. Because all the great masters are so. Duh.

For a drama heavy show like this, it relies on the characters to drive the story as well as the development of the characters. However, although it is not that bad, I still find it a bit boring and draggy. Because what else could there be if it is not playing shogi? Sure, they do insert spontaneous jokes (some are smart and some are just plain silly) in between to break the ice but there is still this big cloud of depression hanging over the series. It could have been like Evangelion but without all the mechas and aliens.

When the series begins, Rei is seen and expected to be a kid with some sort of problem. Perhaps he had some sort of tragic life and a price to pay for being a young genius shogi prodigy. Of course it is tragic when his family is wiped out in an unfortunate accident and being the favourite child of a shogi family despite being an outsider might look like big traumatic and life changing/regretting events in a kid’s life. But as you can see that Rei isn’t the only one who has problems of his own. So when you get to learn the problems faced by other characters, Rei’s personal problem pales in comparison. A bit tame if I should say. Over the series, he is just one confused and lost kid trying to straighten out his empty life. Trying to find meaning of his existence via shogi. Yeah, you can hear a lot of his monologues and thoughts about it once he realized or opened his eyes. And yeah, Rei isn’t such a top shogi player seeing how many players are still better than him. Shogi might be a big part of his life and the only thing he is competent but that does not define his life in its entirety.

Like the Kawamoto sisters who look so out of place in this series. They do not have anything to do with shogi but can be said as Rei’s lifeline and saviour. Sometimes it feels that without them being a distraction, the entire series could have been one big bore. Because nothing but shogi would be just a drab. Rei and others alike would have been just another shogi piece in the board called life. Therefore with Akari’s helpfulness and resourcefulness as the big sister, Hinata’s cheerfulness and Momo’s cuteness, oh don’t forget about their cute cats too, it brings about the variety and colour that the series needs instead of the doom and gloom in Rei’s pathetic outlook in life. Despite the sisters’ cheerful outlook, they seem to be hiding and holding it well their whatever tragic past. A bit can be said about Hayashida because oddly this teacher seems to be Rei’s only ‘friend’ at school. Never seen a teacher being so dedicated and supportive of a student, right? I’m sure he is there not because of Rei’s status as a shogi prodigy. Imagine Hayashida’s reputation if a student under him fails… Ah… Hope this isn’t viewed as favouritism because he seems to go out of his way to look out for Rei.

Then there is Harunobu who is the self-proclaimed rival and best friend. At least when it comes to shogi. Chubby kid too has his own problems and something hints about his health condition. Although, it is not fleshed out very much in this season but at least he seems more amusing than Rei since he is able to channel his thoughts and feelings out honestly unlike Rei who keeps it all in. No doubt it makes Harunobu looking like a passionate fat kid but better than being all gloom and doom, right? As the final arc shifts its focus from Rei to Shimada, it is also a reason why Shimada seems more interesting, his life and climb in the shogi world compared to our protagonist. With Rei’s gloom and doom being dragged out the entire season, Shimada’s past seems to be a more refreshing take and diversion. Maybe Rei could learn something here?

Souya is presented as a very enigmatic character. Because of his character shrouded in mystery and his very odd looking exterior (creepy too if I should say), it is also a reason why he seems more interesting than Rei. Because as you know by now, he is just such a depressed kid. Despite Souya looking like the calm god of shogi, my guts tell me that he too hides a very sad and tragic past that only time (and hopefully the next season) would reveal. So if you’re saying shogi players are all a bunch of boring nerds, cast away that stereotype (at least in anime world) since you have Gotou who acts cocky like a bad guy, the manly Fujimoto, the aloofness of Smith and the expressive Issa. It goes without saying when you have a crazy person but sporting like Jinguuji at the top of the association, how not to have oddballs at the other levels below? Despite their eccentric behaviour, I can safely say that they all have one thing in common: Their love for shogi. No doubts about that.

Lastly I want to mention about Kyouko being the yin to the Kawamoto sisters’ yang. While the latter provides all the happiness and cheerfulness of a great warm family (despite not being perfect), we have the former who comes from a broken family. There are a lot of contrasting and clashing ironies between both sides and unfortunately Rei is caught in between like a tug of war. Kyouko seems like she is acting like a bad girl and delinquent to spite her father over his ‘choice’ and undergoing that rebellious phase of a teenager having raging hormones. Despite all that, she is just as confused and lost as Rei and all she ever wanted was just her father’s love and attention. And I mean that kind of love and attention a father should give. It’s hard to see any kind of romance brewing but I won’t be surprised if it does. But then again I would be since Rei and Kyouko are so different like night and day but you know what they say about opposites attract. And since they seem to hang out from time to time (and Kyouko looking like she is ‘relying’ on him), that crazy little thing called love may just spark the unreasonable. Because so far there aren’t any hot shogi girls Rei has come across yet… Can you imagine Rei x Akari? Nah! Rei x Hinata? She’s got Takahashi. Don’t even think about Rei x Momo! Ever!

One of the surprising things I discovered was that this anime was animated by SHAFT. Yes, the studio that has its trademark animations in all its animated series like that neck tilt and eye pupil zoom-ins. Because this series has very simple and sometimes sketchy art style, it never really occurred to me that SHAFT Was behind it because after seeing their works in the Monogatari series, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei series, the ef series, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Maria+Holic, Mekaku City Actors, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (still remember this one?) and even Nisekoi, it never really crossed my mind it was them. There are a few SHAFT trademarks scattered but I never thought so until it happened a handful more times. Then it hit me and then I found out it was them. Because of all the drama, there are those special effects when the drawing gets really messy with all the explosion of lines and sketches like as though it is incomplete or just abstract. Is this an art show?

Although the characters look simple and plain, there is one thing that bugs me about their design. You see, the edges of their mouth have this little gap like as though it can’t really close properly. So it feels odd looking at them like that. Looks a bit unreal… I believe this series takes place in a real town and thus there is some importance given to the background and sceneries. Not to say they are breath taking or a masterpiece but at least they are decent to look at. Even more so in the next episode preview, a few live action clips of the sceneries of the local places featured in the anime. Not sure why it is blurry and has a bit mosaic effect. Also an added bonus, different illustrations from different people at the end of each episode.

A few recognizable seiyuus such as Shinichiro Miki as Shimada, Tomokazu Sugita as Smith, Marina Inoue as Kyouko, Yuichi Nakamura as Tsujii, Kenjiro Tsuda as Morio, Takahiro Sakurai as Hayashida and Kana Hanazawa as Hinata being the best because there is this sort of sparkle of liveliness and innocence as the young lass instead of being a retard character that I once stereotyped her as. Harunobu sounded familiar at first but it took me a while to realize it was Nobuhiko Okamoto behind it. I didn’t realize it was Akira Ishida behind Souya’s voice because of his limited dialogue and very soft spoken ways. The rest of the casts are Kengo Kwanishi as Rei (Akira in Monster Strike), Ai Kayano as Akari (Kanade in Chihayafuru), Misaki Kuno as Momo (Hawk in Nanatsu No Taizai), Hirouki Touchi as Gotou (Lily in Fairy Tail), Toru Ookawa as Kouda (Roy in Fullmetal Alchemist), Tesshou Genda as Jinguuji (Kaido in One Piece) and Subaru Kimura as Issa (Gian in Doraemon series).

The first opening theme is Answer by Bump Of Chicken and it feels quite similar to their music style as heard in other animes that they have been featured in such as the opening themes of Kekkai Sensen and Tales Of The Abyss. This means you can expect more or less the same for the first ending theme, Fighter as they too sing this one. For the second opening theme, Sayonara Bystander, I thought Nano Ripe sang it but she sounded somewhat a little different. It was sung by Yuki. Now that I remember, that’s the same person who sang the opening theme for Honey And Clover. A change of pace for the second ending theme because Orion by Kenshi Yonezu feels a bit like R&B funk style and groovy. The insert song Nyaa Shogi Ondo sung by the Kawamoto sisters is cute as well as entertaining and educative in introducing the basics of shogi.

Overall, this series is a make or break depending on your tastes on dramas dealing with depression and stress. Either you find the problems relatable (who doesn’t have problems) or this is just one big snooze fest. Even a more turn off if you are not into shogi and it might be unappealing if you are not used to the shogi pieces that might seem confusing for those who are not familiar with the game. I mean, you identify the pieces with the fancy writing on it instead of different shapes and there is no colour to differentiate between the opposing sides, just the direction you are facing. Therefore the board can be one big messy monotonous battlefield if you really want to enjoy the shogi aspects. Just like life itself, right? Thus this series isn’t being checkmated yet and even if it is looking like it is heading for a stalemate, perhaps a miracle move that could turn the board around for the better? Get it? Turn the board around? Literally. Okay, okay. Only shogi fans can understand that joke.

%d bloggers like this: