Now in his second year of high school, Rei Kiriyama continues pushing through his struggles in the professional shogi world as well as his personal life. Surrounded by vibrant personalities at the shogi hall, the school club, and in the local community, his solitary shell slowly begins to crack. Among them are the three Kawamoto sisters—Akari, Hinata, and Momo—who forge an affectionate and familial bond with Rei. Through these ties, he realizes that everyone is burdened by their own emotional hardships and begins learning how to rely on others while supporting them in return.
Nonetheless, the life of a professional is not easy. Between tournaments, championships, and title matches, the pressure mounts as Rei advances through the ranks and encounters incredibly skilled opponents. As he manages his relationships with those who have grown close to him, the shogi player continues to search for the reason he plays the game that defines his career.
A strong display of emotional resonance; the second season of 3-gatsu no Lion manages to go above and beyond expectations to provide something of overwhelming beauty.
It’s a show of many acts; the first season—while boasting many heavy themes—is an elegant watch, which reels the viewer in with a soft mood, realistic characters and delightful interactions, but never hits you with strong emotions. The second season—filled with melancholic tones, depressing themes and powerful messages—gives the show raw emotional power to invest the viewer at full force.
Shifting from the focus of Rei’s depression, this season brings more focus to the different mentalities of the supporting cast, both
in the real world and the back-drop of shogi.
The season starts off with a focus on Hinata, and the daunting problem of bullying. Bringing forth an insight into the mass hysteria it brings and the draining effects on the victims, and those caught up in the drama. This arc is nothing short of impactful, and although it’s heavy, it never becomes painful to watch, something many other drama-oriented series fail to accomplish.
What makes this so powerful is down to the commonly relatable topic of bullying, the powerful visual presentation and the amazing characterisation found in the antagonist Megumi Takagi.
Megumi’s construct as a bully sets her apart from other archetypical antagonists—in the sense that, there are reasons to her actions—she clearly suffers problems in her mentality, leading her to torment others as a form of escapism, giving her somewhat an ability to be emphasised with for the wrong reason. It’s even easier to empathise with Hina, due to her characteristics, with her helping Rei with his struggles and inspiring him to escape his depression. Rei feels the same on the topic of helping her, creating a close bond between the two, something that plays importance throughout the rest of this season.
Although the first arc is definitely in the lime-light of this season, the series continues to impress in its focuses on different characters. The character study of Souya Touji is a breath-taking display of a mind disturbed solely by the life-style of shogi, with stunning direction to show his inability to hear those around him. The shogi match between Shimada and Yanagiharai uses profound visual imagery to show the determination of both characters and the weight Yanagihara carries. And the pleasant moments with Hina give the show a relaxing and charming escapism from the heavier themes.
I don’t consider the cast to be merely characters, they feel human. From Rei to Nikaidou to Yanagihara; each one has strong human characteristics that allow for relatability and empathy for these personalities as we see into their differing lives.
Even though Rei has less focus this season, his role as the lead character is as strong as ever as he seeks a way to help those around him. It’s inspiring to watch, as Rei’s empathy drives him to assist in fighting the varying problems that arise for everyone close to him. His outlook and narration provide a strong connection from the viewer as he continues to improve his life which was once locked in place by his haunting past. As the main character, his journey is an impeccable experience and he is character of relatability and complexity.
This season exposes elements of characters unbeknownst from the first season, such as the extent of Nikadou’s illness, the pressure Akari feels being unable to help Hina and the different psychological and emotional effects each character experiences in accordance to their surroundings. Each revelation is equally as tense and creates stronger connection to the characters once their situations are understood.
Studio SHAFT empowers storytelling through visual motifs and stunning presentation, bringing everything to life with powerful imagery to reflect the mood each scene portrays. Every visual element is a sight to behold, with gorgeous backgrounds, varying styles and ability to speak many words through its delivery that bring out many emotions from the viewer.
This mood is only enhanced by the stunning soundtrack composition. Melancholic tracks reflecting the depressing yet elegant mood can easily bring you to tears, acting as peaceful additions to the stunning composition of visuals and story.
For a while now I’ve been pondering over the topic of depression, this in turn has affected the way I view anime titles, and what I get out of said titles. While Cardcaptor Sakura healed me from having negative thoughts, End of Evangelion’s existential elements blew my mind away so much that the thought of depression was no longer on my mind. But, I think the best form of escapism from a feeling like depression is facing it head on, and that’s exactly what 3-gatsu gave me; giving me personal affection to its elements.
To me, 3-gatsu no Lion is the epitome of human emotion, an experience rivalled by none. A show that has brought me to tears almost every episode, and something I hope many others can appreciate in the same way.
A shrill. As he stretches to fight the leftover sluggishness of a satisfying sleep, he decides to step out on the balcony. The warm wind of a mellow morning slowly brushes past his fragile frame as if greeting him friendly. The sunshine reflects from the river just beneath the railing; a lustrous shimmer signals the change of seasons. He leaves the apartment. A lot has changed over the past year: his listless demeanor is all but gone; he has made friends and acquaintances—he isn’t alone any more. His steps have become strong and determined. He has moved on.
This show is not about him. Just like
Rei, it has moved on from the times of subdued, somber sadness; there is another storm brewing in the distance. Unannounced, but with utter and immediate intensity, the current changes as the happy-go-lucky Hinata gets home one evening: her face is pale, her expression pained; tears start a sinister stream. There is bullying going on in Hinata’s class. After fighting for and protecting the previous victim Chiho who has since left the school, the bullies shifted targets towards her. She knows she did nothing wrong, that what she did was in fact right—but it doesn’t stop her stomach from aching nor her heart from breaking. During a crucial time in Hinata’s life, she is left alone, being ignored by former friends and classmates, utterly isolated. With bullying, there is no easy way out; just one obstacle in the form of a weak-willed teacher is enough to create rips and ripples, all of which reflect, add, and cancel each other out—resulting in complete chaos.
In face of a problem near impossible for an outsider to resolve, her family and Rei do their best to help: Rei tries to repay the debt of Hinata and her sisters saving his life from dreariness and depression in a misled attempt to rack up money; Akari on the other hand views Hinata’s well-being as a responsibility relayed to her by her late mother—a responsibility too big for her to carry. Both of them fail to accomplish their goals and experience what to them seems like an indisputable defeat. However, this assessment based on the self-centered and self-serving assumption that one can do anything if one tries couldn’t be further off; their so-called failures led to them spending time with Hinata, listening to her. When she ran away, Rei ran after her; in times of sorrow, she found solace in a soothing and supportive home that let her smile again. Was it not for these small everyday gestures, for friends and family supporting her no matter how ferocious or frantic her feelings, she could not have persevered. They didn’t fail. They did well.
The ripples may wane but they never vanish, Hinata and Chiho might never fully recover—but in the end, these blemishes are part of what makes a human: they add another layer to their characters, dreams, ambitions and passions, to their relationship with family, friend and foe and add context to their everyday actions. As these values accumulate, they give form not to a character, but something greater. All of these people have their own stories to tell, some of which we may never hear of; their stories intermingle and paths cross, branching off and meeting up again—sometimes. Some days, the torrents may grow harsh, but other times may bring with them a friendly flux; some of the tributaries may meet a dead end earlier than expected, others may follow along the river of life and flow until they are released into the deep, dark ocean.
Consequentially, the further one coasts along, the more colleagues and communities one will lose to such bifurcations. For a person such as Kishou Yanagihara, there are no more people to lose: all of his former friends and rivals have thrown in the towel, and as they pass on what is left of their hope and passion for the sport, they also pass on from the world of shogi. Struggling against sickness and fatigue, this burden weighs down heavy on the eldest active shogi player’s frame: their sashes seem suffocating, and like a farmer staring at the remnants of a burnt field, he has no one and nowhere left to turn to. However, just like the farmer he knows that this desolate and depressing wasteland will soon give rise to a new mellow-looking meadow, fertile and fruitful. He catches on fire: his burning passion paints the picture of a haunting human torch slowly burning to cinder and as his fiery fighting spirit overtakes his self-doubt, he finally comes to terms with the fact that life moves on… even if he won’t let go just yet.
The show moves on, its natural flow harboring both healing and heartbreak; their paths continue to cross and their stories to intermingle. And as the pieces fall into place, they give rise to an unparalleled display of life and humanity, poignant and personal. March comes in like a Lion sets a new standard not just for Slice-of-Life as a genre, but for storytelling itself.
One year after 3-gatsu no Lion’s first season, the second one has arrived. And it manged to be even more outstanding.
Seven months after the first season’s ending, we get to see the continuation of Rei’s journey; His journey to find happiness and a place where he belongs. Has he managed to overcome his emotional scars and find people he can call friends and family?
The second season starts in a truly heartwarming way that shows how much Rei has grown and how lucky he feels for finally finding friends he can have fun with at school, and a family in the Kawamoto household. When compared
to his former self, a boy with a reclusive personality and depression caused by his traumas and insecurities, Rei has grown as a person in an amazing way. While he is still a flawed being and is still searching, he has slowly overcome most of his personal issues, gained confidence, started trusting others and being more open to them while creating meaningful relationships with them. And most importantly, he is able to smile and laugh honestly, from the bottom of his heart. His pure laugh at the end of episode 16, even though it might sound like a simple thing, was one of the most powerful scenes of this season.
His growth throughout the whole anime, whether it’s done through his everyday life or the competitive shogi scene, is truly impressive and refreshing.
Of course, Rei isn’t the only character to get the spotlight and, even though he is the protagonist, there were quite a few episodes where he felt like he was a side character. But when it comes to 3-gatsu a situation like this is welcome. Umino Chica has the talent to create amazingly realistic and unique characters. It’s never uninteresting to follow an episode or a whole arc focused on a side character, slowly see him being fleshed out, to learn his background, his personal thoughts, problems and worries.
There are a lot of characters like this from the professional shogi scene, like Yanagihara and Souya, but even some that got less focus like the pigeon man (Yamazaki) and others. No matter how much focus they got, they were all memorable characters with interesting personalities and backgrounds.
Other characters that we know from the first season, like Nikaidou, Shimada and many others, keep appearing and receiving their fair share of focus and development.
The Kawamoto sisters are shown a lot in this season, mainly because of a certain arc: The arc about Hina becoming a victim of bullying.
This is one of the greatest arcs of the story so far for many reasons. It depicts bullying, the reasons behind it, its consequences and the damage it can cause in a very realistic way, without exaggerating it. The main bully, Takagi, is a really mean girl, but through her meetings with the homeroom teacher we get to understand the reason and thoughts that led to her actions. This doesn’t make what she did any better, but it’s great to see that even a character like her is getting a realistic personality.
The one who supported the Kawamoto family was Rei, even if he thought that he couldn’t do anything for them. The Kawamoto sisters were the ones who gave him affection and treated him like family, and now he’s the one helping them. It’s nice to see how much Rei has developed and come to love the Kawamoto family through this.
Of course, the one who got the most focus and development in this arc was Hina and her relationship with Rei. Her emotions and thoughts were fleshed out incredibly through the whole arc. She showed how great a character and brave girl she is, and Rei even felt like he was saved by her words.
The rest of the Kawamoto family, mainly Akari, got a bit of focus in this arc, as well.
The storytelling is still done in a poetic way, with a slow pace that makes the viewer immersed into the story as it gradually progresses.
While the anime is dramatic for the most part, the lighthearted comedy is still here. The subtle comedy of 3-gatsu no Lion is pretty funny and it can bring a smile to the viewers’ face or laughter. It doesn’t feel forced and the balance between the dramatic and funny moments is perfect.
In the second season, too, shogi has an important role in the anime. The psychology during the matches is portrayed excellently. The great description of the characters’ thoughts and emotions during the matches, helps the audience that can’t understand shogi know what’s going on the board. During the matches, the characters also find the chance to get fleshed out and developed, which leads to the story’s progression.
Like in the first season, studio Shaft has followed every single scene and line of the source material faithfully. They have only mixed up a few chapters at the end of the anime to make a more suitable ending episode, but this doesn't really pose a problem.
The story and character sections of the review have gotten a bit mixed up already, but when it comes to a character-driven story like this one, it’s hard to talk about the plot without mentioning the characters. But rather than a plot with a clear beginning and ending, 3-gatsu no Lion mostly consists of pieces of different characters’ lives presented in a realistic and human way.
3-gatsu no Lion does an exceptional work at presenting complex, deep, realistic characters and fleshing them out. Their personalities, backstories, flaws, thoughts, worries and emotions feel human and even relatable. The anime never forgets any of them, it keeps showing them to the audience and developing them, while they all have a part in Rei’s life, even if it is as an obstacle.
The relationships and interactions between the characters also feel very human and the chemistry between them is really nice.
Moving on the art and animation, it’s quite easy to notice that studio Shaft has put an even greater effort to the already awesome visuals of the first season. Umino Chica’s artstyle combined with Shaft’s powerful direction, fluid animation and unique touches is a delight to the eyes. The artwork seems experimental at times, but there is also a feel of realism in it.
The color palette is really nice and the colors are used correctly according to what each scene wants to convey. Dark colors show up in the dramatic scenes and brighter ones for the more lighthearted ones. The shift of the colors really adds to the mood and atmosphere and makes the audience understand better how the characters feel at that moment, especially when it comes to the serious and dramatic scenes and the shogi matches.
The use of metaphorical scenes with symbolism is truly masterful, and depicts the characters' thoughts and emotions in a very creative way.
The character designs are still good and unique and the characters’ expressions are drawn in a great way.
The backgrounds are beautifully drawn and detailed.
The music of the show is truly captivating, the soundtrack has an active role in creating the appropriate mood for each scene and allows them to convey their feeling better.
The OPs and EDs, just like in the first season, are very good and memorable. It’s also a nice detail that the songs keep getting a bit cheerier and have brighter art as Rei gradually grows and becomes happier by overcoming some of his troubles. They are all nicely directed with great animation and the use of watercolor-like colors in some of them is beautiful.
The voice actors did an awesome job once again and managed to convey the characters’ feelings perfectly.
Even the animals’ little dialogues in their cute voices are pretty funny.
The sound effects are also used well.
3-gatsu no Lion is an anime with a unique take on the slice of life genre. It doesn’t just follow everyday adventures of characters’, but it also gives them a mature and human touch. The anime’s storytelling is truly intriguing with its heavy characterization and greatly used psychology. Its life lessons regarding different issues one can come across in life and growth of the characters can even influence the viewers. It’s a series that makes simple everyday things feel powerful and offers compelling drama. Along with the beautiful artwork and music, it can stir up the viewers’ emotions and tug at their heartstrings through both the dramatic and lighthearted scenes. Watching 3-gatsu no Lion is a breathtaking experience, a true masterpiece that keeps surpassing the viewers' expectations and capturing their hearts.
There is no anime that I am more confident in calling a masterpiece than 3-gatsu no Lion. What it is able to do is so powerful and I find it unparalleled by any other show that I have watched. Every single aspect of the show is masterful and is able to shine and enhance the show even more.
With 3-gatsu no Lion looks to be about Shogi, shogi is only one thing in a sea of ideas and themes that the show covers. depression as well is a main theme of the show, but I wouldn't say it's the only theme. Rather, I'd say the theme
of the show is how everyone is struggling. The ways that the show is able to show this theme is absolutely magical.
Everyone has a story. Too often shows forget this. But 3-gatsu no Lion knows this so very well. Nuance is something sorely missing from many shows that 3-gatsu has in spades. Each character that comes up is fleshed out and even flaws as well as strengths/. There is no such thing as the hateable villain that is built up just to be hated. Every single character is shown the good and bad parts of them. Whether it be a bully or the opponent to a shogi match, each character is treated like someone real who has their own issues and things that they have to deal with. And while they may do things that aren't nice. and in any other show would get them labelled as an unlikeable villain, 3-gatsu is able to show that there are other aspects of their life that make them this way. Everyone is explored in this way and it makes the show feel so real. In the end, there is no such thing as a truly bad person, and 3gatsu gets it.
Whats even more amazing is not just that it's able to flesh out these side characters, but the extent to which it's doing so. 3-gatsu has the powerful ability to make a character cast them in a negative light, but then show you their own story and change the audiences view so that they now want to root for them as well. It's magical how the show is continually able to showcase different situations and different issues that are relatable and lead one to want to support the one that they are watching. Even if they were the opponent just a few minutes ago, the depth and feeling that goes into exploring these characters brings me around to them, and makes it so it's hard to decide, who do I want to see win?
Added to this is 3-gatsu's powerful imagery. 3-gatsu uses images in the best way that I've seen in animation. While I'm fine with a more realistic approach and like what most anime do, there is something extremely powerful about 3-gatsu's art and animation. Metaphors and symbols are brought up. But they aren't just flashed onto the screen. They are explored and shown in the person that they are digging into. If someone feels tied up and forced into something, it's not just something that they say, it's something shown with multiple sashes building them in place and making it hard for them to move at all. Creative and powerful visuals are something that 3-gatsu does so well. Even in the lighthearted happy scenes 3-gatsu is able to make them feel so rich. Bright happy colors and smiles litter the scenes and make them so infectiously happy. They're sugary sweet and are even able to make those happy feelings feel so rich.
After all that leads into another aspect of 3-gatsu's power. The duality of life. While the show may be focused on struggles and depression, the show also knows that there are happy parts of life. Life isn't just a series of unfortunate events. While many other shows would focus on the negative to show that 3-gatsu shows everything. It shows the dark and sad moments and the art and animation to go along with it. But it also shows the moments of family, fun, friends, and all of the things that they do that brings light into their world. 3-gatsu even gets to the point of having cats talk to showcase the happy atmosphere that they're going for. And these scenes are so powerful because they show what bonds can do even through struggles. While everyone is struggling and have their issues, they're still able to come together and have a fun time. To support each other. And those moments feel so rich with that in mind. 3-gatsu really gets life it's not just good or bad things. It's good and bad things. And no show comes close to detailing them both with as much power as 3-gatsu no Lion does.
And that's what makes it so magical. It's not only able to make one feel strong feels, but it's also able to make one feel happy, to make one invested in a character they only just met, and make me at least feel this greater appreciation of the world around me. Nuance is the word that so many anime lack but 3-gatsu has. And in the end, every element of this show is masterfully done. The story is engaging and well written. The characters are filled with flaws and depth. The art is filled with rich symbolism and power, and the music to go with it fits very well and only increases the power of this show. Not only is this one of the best shows that I've ever watched, but I feel like it has something really important to say. Everyone is struggling. Everyone is good and bad. While one may be an enemy or someone seen unfavourably there is probably a reason they are that way and there is more to them than just that. And if the world was able to understand it I think it'd be much better off. This show isn't just masterful at all of its elements, it also gives a greater understanding of the world which I think would benefit everyone. If there was any show that I'd recommend to anyone it'd be this one. This is the best that animation has to offer, and I love it.