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March 6th, 2017
Anime Relations: 3-gatsu no Lion

Recently, my close friend and future housemate Robin6128 introduced me to the wonderful game 'I am Setsuna'. After listening to the OST for hours on end, I get the feeling that the beautiful piano soundtracks would not be out of place in 3-gatsu. My beliefs were further reinforced, after I discovered 'Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna' translated to 'Setsuna of Sacrifice and Snow'. Linking the latest episode of 3-gatsu to my personal discoveries in real life, it felt like Shimada had become the sacrifice to Souya's relentless onslaught. Honestly, I would go as far as saying 'Ikenie to Yuki no Shimada', which would translate to ‘Shimada of Sacrifice and Snow’.

The little anecdote aside, every scene Souya is in never fails to captivate me. Going back to the analogy of a snow storm that is slowly increasing in intensity, his presence can be described as such, silently burying those that he encounters. Beautiful, soft, cold, and silent come to mind, but also a deceptively powerful force of the natural world that threatens to overwhelm those amidst its terrifying wake.


What I love is the subtle implication that Souya is far more a mortal than being god that others revere. The fact he no longer simultaneously holds the seven titles despite having previously done so serves as testimony to this fact. Raidou having the dragon is one proof of that. Nevertheless, everyone else sees Souya as this unparalleled deity, which further translates into reality immediately following the fourth game. Talented people or skilled people are looked up to as some sort of unobtainable goal to justify lack of effort. On the other hand, seeing raw talent crush the best efforts of a humble individual is thoroughly disappointing. Unfortunately, Shimada became utterly overwhelmed, in spite of all the effort he had put in. Everyone wants to see hard work prevail, so seeing it lose out in such a miserable fashion is extremely disheartening, and for all intents and purposes Souya may as well be an unparalleled deity.


Previously, I suggested that Rei had been influenced by the characters throughout this series. Aside from the negative self-esteem issues arising from Kyouko, we can also see that Akari’s altruism and Shimada’s tenacity have positively influenced Rei. Although it has probably been present for a while, this episode finally gave a chance for Rei to exhibit the influence Nikaidou has had upon him. At the end of the day, both Rei and Nikaidou had too much faith in Shimada. Then again, who didn’t? Nikaidou’s words are what we want to believe, that Shimada would continue to fight until the end – instead, he conceded.


Shimada conceding the match was heartbreaking. This could be mainly put down to his previous gut-wrenching setbacks and the reputation preceding Souya, preventing him from realising that an escape from his predicament existed. Then both Rei and Souya demonstrated the true fragility of the fourth game, that Shimada could have turned around the stars chosen to line up in his favour. Hence the aftermath was truly bittersweet because there existed a light at the end of Shimada's ordeal that slowly faded away right before his eyes.


Going back to the analogy of Souya being a storm of snow, shogi itself can be further explored on a deeper level as being symbolised through snowflakes. Every snowflake is unique, not to mention the fact they are exceedingly fragile and complex. I think this sentiment accurately reflect shogi’s nature as being a complex game full of limitless possibilities, although surprisingly fragile too considering how fleeting advantages gained can be.


To surmise, I have nothing but love and adoration for 3-gatsu. There is an agonising beauty in the struggles of these Shogi professionals in living their day to day lives, and their acceptance of Souya being the master as status quo. Furthermore, there is also an agonising beauty in how Rei desperately clings onto shogi as well as his life after the death of his family, which we can clearly see in the instance where he refuses to accept Shimada’s loss. What an exceptional episode as usual I suppose, full of catharsis as we approach the end of our journey. The dreaded premonition is also beginning to build up that March while march has come in like a lion, it will soon go out like a lamb.
Posted by Zaiden | Mar 6, 2017 8:41 AM | 2 comments
February 28th, 2017
Anime Relations: 3-gatsu no Lion
Something I really appreciate about 3-gatsu is how it simultaneously is and isn’t about shogi. It’s about people and their connections to others through shogi. We can see Akari’s direct influence upon Rei’s development, where his attempt to care for Shimada reflects how some of Akari’s caring nature has been imparted onto Rei himself. Shimada is also starting to play an older brother figure, in addition to being a mentor, and serves as a platform for which Rei can grow as a character.

Looking after both himself and Shimada has allowed Rei to learn more about what he wants in terms of the direction he’s taking in life, something he was desperately lacking prior to this point. I don’t quite think that Rei aspires to be like Shimada, though evidently he does admire Shimada’s tenacity in the form of his disciplined work ethic.

When they first introduced Shimada, there was something underwhelming about him that I couldn’t quite put my fingers on. This episode, I finally realized what it was when the Chairman himself uttered it so bluntly: Shimada doesn’t stand out. But Umino sensei has done a great job fleshing out his character, despite various traits suggesting he would be uninteresting and plain. Perhaps it’s his lack of emotional words and tendency for introspection, but he has always come across as a stoic and passive character. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Actions are mightier than words. The lengths to which Shimada will go in spite of all his pains leaves no room for doubting his love towards shogi, be it taking up part time work requiring intense physical labour, or waiving his medical conditions to continue competing against Souya. Oh yeah, this is Souya we’re talking about, the genius whose talents overshadows Shimada’s dedication and commitment to improving. Not giving up, despite having to contend with such an adversary, epitomises Shimada’s character. From humble beginnings, to a place in the world of shogi that he crafted out with his own efforts, it’s really difficult not to cheer on Shimada and wish for his success.

The proactivity he shows in pursuing what he wants is a source of admiration for those who dabble in shogi and respect him like Rei and Nikaidou, as well as the viewers. These traits alone are enough for the viewers to relate to and like his character.

Speaking of actions being more powerful than words, the moment of silence when Rei was talking about his father by blood rather than his father by adoption was something I found to be very subtle and deeply moving. Another small thing to note that made the scene all the more poignant is the single chime we hear following said silence when Shidama registers his mistake. Truly excellent production and directing by the people over at Shaft – their extraordinary attention to detail deserves much credit.

Then Shimada brings up Souya. What can I say? Every scene Souya is in never fails to captivate me. Using the analogy of a snow storm that is slowly increasing in intensity, his presence can be described as such. Beautiful, soft, cold, and silent come to mind, but also a deceptively powerful force of the natural world that threatens to overwhelm.

However, I have to disagree with Shimada’s assessment on how Souya and Rei are similar. Perhaps aesthetically they look similar, and that they both think about shogi in similar ways in terms of how they intuitively feel the game instead of thinking about it. Nonetheless, I can’t help but see Souya as this graceful, ethereal parallel to Rei. We are exposed to Rei’s awkwardness amongst other shortcomings that bring him down to earth and make him relatable. On the other hand, Souya’s disconnect from people, and the world beyond shogi, makes him seem so above people to the extent of being divine. Whereas Souya was never able to interact with the world around him, Rei is already embarking upon a markedly different path full of people who will influence, affect and change him. The two already live worlds apart.

Once Rei learns how to be depended on by others, he can finally understand what the Kawamoto sisters can do for him, and what he can finally do for them in return to the love and support they have given him. He had previously been afraid of bothering them, without considering the possible quandaries of give and take in the relationship. This is even mentioned by Akari in a previous episode, that Rei cannot truly help the Kawamoto sisters until he understands this. You can see he is finally coming to terms with this idea through his relationship and interactions with Shimada. Once fully grasped, it will really allow him to close the distance that had developed between himself and the Kawamoto sisters, in addition to taking their family reminiscent relationship further.
Posted by Zaiden | Feb 28, 2017 6:41 AM | 0 comments
January 31st, 2017
Anime Relations: 3-gatsu no Lion
As Kyouko's past is slowly revealed through her intermittent appearances, one can come to appreciate Umino Chika’s masterful writing. When Kyouko does appear, she fluctuates from a viciously manipulative behaviour to caring about Rei's well-being, whilst simultaneously attempting to crush his confidence. It becomes immediately clear that she's exceptionally torn between needing Rei in her life, and despising him for being the primary causation of the issues she had with her family in previous episodes. However, this episode finally outlines the subtle dynamics in their relationship, really showing that things are not as apparent as they previously seemed.

It's one of the first times we get a fuller picture of Kyouko, in how she views both herself and Rei. She possesses particularly complicated feelings towards Shogi, hating it for controlling her life, but franticly seeks out an attachment to it so that she can feel like she has a place to exist. The way 3-gatsu portrays Kyouko's obsession is absolutely amazing. Her dependence on Rei and Gotou is a symptom of the aforementioned desire in wanting to belong, and helps to rationally contextualise her erratic interactions whilst expressing a silent cry for help.

Clinging to a twisted person like Gotou because of her abject desperation for affectionate companionship epitomises Kyouko's tragedy. Before, it was Rei that she clung to so that she could compensate for the lack of attention from her parents, even though he was indirectly the source for most of her problems. She simply didn't have anyone else. With Rei’s departure, the wounds and misgivings of the Kouda household might have slowly started to heal, only Kyouko also came to realize that Rei was the person she depended on for emotional support, hence why she sought him out at his apartment in Episode 8. Kyouko is self-pitying and needy, desperately wanting to be loved in order to validate her existence. Such an existence, defined by an unfathomable emptiness ensuing from unreciprocated love, be it familial or romantic, is something I find to be extremely pitiful and heart-breaking. Especially so, when considering how little control she truly had over the consequences derived from events that directly shaped her character. In short, I find it difficult to personally blame Kyouko for turning out the way she did. As sadistic as it sounds, she is such a wonderful character to follow, owing to the complexity of her struggles and suffering.

On the other hand, we have Rei, and his perspective on Kyouko. Their relationship is remarkable to think about, considering their intricate backstory. Kyouko's visual depiction is extremely well-done as usual; half hidden by darkness at times, and we rarely get to see her full figure, especially from Rei's perspective - it's always obscured. From what we learned about Kyouko, her emotional fragility helps explain why Rei is so protective of her, to the point he will put up with her negativity and abuse. Despite his trepidation towards her, due to past incidents between them, he deeply cares for her. He's hurt by her words and actions, but still wants to protect her. It's likely because he blames himself for her current state, that he is willing to endure for her sake, despite how she treats him. It is also intriguing, that Rei realised he needed to independently resolve his own problems, before trying to help out Kyouko. His despair over his utter lack of power to help Kyouko will hopefully help to drive him forwards, rather than consume him entirely. I look forwards to the character development that this should generate on his part.

Despite what the exposition reveals, Kyouko still remains a mystery for the viewers. To surmise, she is cold and manipulative, yet beautiful and reserved about her frail side. Other series of lesser value would be content with hastily cramming the entire substance of a backstory into one episode or chapter, dispelling the possibility of creating mystery, and limiting the extent of any potential character development. In my opinion, this is what helps distinguish merely good storytelling from the amazing writing present in works like 3-gatsu. I've been saying from her very first introduction, that Kyouko is a character flawed by virtue of her human nature, and upon closer inspection, it is a lot more difficult to outright call her truly evil. I would even go as far as saying, that the evil attributed to her is a by-product of the psychological damage she sustained earlier in her life. That she continues to be an enthralling character, given what we have seen of her, serves to demonstrate the extraordinary quality of 3-gatsu’s storytelling.
Posted by Zaiden | Jan 31, 2017 9:00 AM | 1 comments