THIS REVIEW (kind of) CONTAINS SPOILERS
I feel very conflicted about this series. Because I think what it does, it does well. Really well, even. But I often found myself very irritated while reading it. Why? One thing: the way this manga changes direction very abruptly, going into long arcs on new topics. (I will go into what those topics are here, if you consider that spoilers, but I won't give any spoiler-y details about what exactly happens.)
It starts off mainly about three things: shogi, Kiriyama's family/past, and the sisters he meets and builds bonds with. So far so good. I think it gives you a
little of each, never too much on one thing. Felt like a good ol' slice of life showing Kiriyama's day, his life both current and past, and going into his emotions/mind. (And on that note, I REALLY like how deep this series gets into his feelings and mental state.)
All of a sudden, the manga is about school bullying for an extended arc. Now, look - I'm not saying this segment isn't well done, because it absolutely is. But to me, it felt like a very abrupt and lengthy change of direction. It could have been a totally different series - but it sort of works, since it ties in Kiriyama's past and current events. Okay, we'll give it a pass. But at this point, I'm a little bothered. I definitely like this segment on its own, but I'm not so sure I like it as part of the whole.
So we're back to shogi now! Cool, I'm one of the people that really like the shogi parts. Get a bit further along though, and suddenly (and here is what I think is the biggest shift) - this becomes a romance manga. And I know the community was a fairly divided on whether or not they wanted the romance direction. I did not want it, but I don't hate it or anything. But my point is - suddenly, for a lengthy number of chapters, the manga is about romance. Once again, kind of felt like I could have been reading a different series. But also once again, it sort of works; it's showing more emotional development. But I'm even more bothered at this point.
Then BAM - from romance to shogi again! I saw people's reactions online at this particular shift and saw two sentiments: "At least these chapters go fast because I just skip all the shogi" and "I would much rather it focus on shogi and drop the romance crap". And it absolutely makes sense to me that you'd end up with people feeling strongly in both of these directions, given how the manga is written with these sudden shifts.
Certainly, there are a number of people, perhaps even the majority, that enjoy every aspect of this manga fully, and don't mind the direction changes. Maybe, they even like them - I mean, this series is rated at an 8.64 at the time of my review. But for me, when trying to figure out how I felt about this series on the whole, I ultimately decided that I feel like it's trying to do too much.
I do like this series. Enough to keep reading new chapters and to see where it continues in the future, enough to watch more of the anime adaptation when/if it comes out. But I can't bring myself to give it higher than a 7/10. If I take bits and pieces of the manga on their own, it would probably be a 9. But as a whole, it just doesn't quite work for me.