Honestly, I was disappointed by Ryuuou no Oshigoto, or The Ryou's work is Never Done.
Perhaps it was because Joey The Anime Man interviewed the creator a while back? At the time, I found both Joey's views and the Author's expression of his story to be particularly fascinating, not to mention how high it made in the Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi contest a year or so ago.
Bottom line, I heard a lot of things about it and I was excited, and even when the first two episodes aired, I was convinced that there had to be at least something that made it popular enough for those high conjectures to be made.
Alas, here I am at episode 4 and I am now thoroughly convinced that the author has no idea what he is doing.
-Half-assing plot points
-Reliance on misunderstandings and coincidences to drive forward its plot
-Exposition that doesn't really add anything to the viewing experience (for anybody)
-Lack of substance (Doesn't follow up on promises its set in any meaningful way)
-Hasn't shown any attempt to take advantage of the premise it has set up for itself (i.e. shogi) nor has it used its premise in a way that makes it distinct in comparison to others of its ilk
-Over-dependence on (loli) fanservice as a plot device
I must admit however before bashing on it further that the production values, animation, and art are actually very good on their own. Along with the visual metaphors the anime sometimes employs, if anything, are enough to create intrigue in the viewer and keep them coming back each week. In fact, no matter how much I think this show needs to learn before being something truly notable, I am still intrigued as to where it goes next, so it is entirely possible I am making this review prematurely and the show gets really good by the end... I highly doubt it.
First of all, where Ryuuou no Oshigoto goes wrong is in its over-reliance of misunderstandings, coincidences and other cliches that are typical for romantic comedies and harem anime-
In other words, this show has a lot of light novel bullshit that we are all tired of, and the only way it differentiates itself from the others of its kind is by not dwelling on it for too long by heading directly to the shogi elements on the plot.
In normal circumstances, this would be okay, after all, we all have a few of our favorite shows rely on cliches a little at the start before evolving into a fully fleshed out narrative with complicated themes.
That said, the shows that are able to evolve complex and relatable narratives from seemingly cliche endeavors, are the ones that were using those standard archetypes as building blocks to form their own story, instead of falling back on them whenever it doesn't know what to do.
One of my favorite examples of this is The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, and anime that nearly everyone loves by the end, yet many will call the first few episodes (cliche) average or expected of romantic comedy anime. The difference is, when rewatching those first few episodes, you really start to notice that Sakurasou was never really cliche or typical in the way it was presented- it had consistent logic and from there, the series was free to grow into an anime that consistently inspired others to move forward in life and face its struggles.
The problem with Ryou no Oshigoto in this aspect is that the anime doesn't have consistent logic, so it can't properly build off of it's preestablished premise without falling all over itself. In the future, if it wishes to inspire people, or give some sort of deep message, then it will have to make even larger leaps in logic than it has already done.
Let's move onto the leaps of logic themselves- the first of which would be its overuse and general misplacement of loli fanservice.
Fanservice in general is a pretty device topic, however, fanservice can be used in appropriate and meaningful ways, especially when two characters have a sexual attraction towards each other. We can see this pretty clearly in fanservice-heavy shows like Monogatari and Citrus and heck, even Karakai Juzo no Takagi-san does it better than Ryuuou no Oshigoto. The Main Character (The titular "Ryou"), isn't sexually interested in children as far as we know, however, the show has a way of contriving to get Ai and Ryou together. First, it was Ai walking out of the shower while the Ryou's Best Friend/ Sister was coming in. Ryou freaked out and tried to shut out his sister without telling her what was going on, and Ai basically is giving him jealous death threats while naked and holding him.
Actually, this scene isn't all that bad on its own, but the way that this type of forceful fanservice is used later in the episodes is what kind of irks me, however, I do give it credit for not doing a panty shot or something. Instead, the show goes out of its way to forcibly engage the two, while simultaneously going back on all of its promises it previously established.
If Ai doesn't win against three professionals, her parents will decide to take her home. She doesn't win against all three. With the characterization of Ai's Mother, it was almost guaranteed that nothing would change her mind, but just because the Ryou bowed his head, and the Father was kind of wishy-washy, she decided to back down on a condition- if Ryou is unable to make her a female professional, he will have to MARRY AI AND WORK FOR HER FAMILY.
I don't even understand the purpose of doing this in the first place, however, if you take a closer look at that scene it becomes more infuriating. Not only is this sensitive family matter taking place in public, with everybody staring at them instead of taking it to closed doors, and that it is taking place in front of Ai, but it's also everything else. The Mother did something out of character but is so deadpan that it doesn't even come off as character development, which makes it wholly contradictory. The Father was okay with marrying Ai off to a sixteen-year-old but (even if it would take place a few years in the future) this just isn't something parents should be considering at Ai's age (she's nine). The bigger problem with the Father here is that not only is he used for exposition dump (which technically makes him the surrogate audience character), but that he doesn't find this scenario wrong in any way, not even after all of the arguing, he did with the Mother up to this point. This is bad because having him be the surrogate audience character in the scenes leading up to the revelation, makes his stance all the more convincing from a structural standpoint- as I previously explained how this scene is already incompetent, it is a blatant attempt at getting us to agree with something we should have our own opinions on. It doesn't end there, however, because the crowd that forms there at the dojo also doesn't see anything wrong with it and is more or less cheerful the entire time.
Also Ai's Mother asks him if he has siblings, and the Ryou answers "yes" to a younger sibling, which you would think would be used by the Mother in an attempt to marry Ai off to the alluded younger sibling, instead of the Main Character (Why else would she ask at that moment?), but it doesn't come up again and it remains insignificant I guess. If I had to predict why the author put in that question, it was to allude to the younger brother and I guess he'll come in and have feelings for Ai or something and stick around, but that's just speculation.
Then we get to Episode 4, assumedly the first episode in the second light novel, and I see that this problem is actually getting worse. Episode 4 gives the Ryou another apprentice named Ai (we'll call her Ai Prime) and decides to make Ryou even more stupid. He proposes to another nine-year-old (and the author tries to pass it off as a joke by putting him making him say it in a seemingly contrived scenario, even though it was another case where even a nine-year-old would know the proper response), Ai gets jealous (why?), and he hides the fact he has another disciple from both Ai and Ai Prime for no discernable reason. Earlier in the episode, Ryou was thinking about giving Ai a proper rival, and you would think that he would immediately jump to the idea that the two would be great rivals, but instead he hides it from both of them, and Ai walks in on their study session (that took place in a completely random location) by the end of the episode, and it is treated like Ryou is cheating on her by doing that. Did I mention that Ai Prime is a tsundere? It was cute at first, but with considering how the show has already failed pretty badly at building off of archetypes to add depth to characters, I predict the next episode will have both Ais fighting each/ feeling betrayed and Ryou will finally get the idea of them being rivals!
There's also the fact that he blatantly tells Ai Prime that she is better than Ai, but I won't go into detail on that.
Ultimately, while the experience thus far was intriguing at a surface level, when you look deeper into the crevices of the story, you realize that this show is as hollow as a plastic shogi piece. It's a step above the average, but Ryuuou no Oshigoto itself is nothing special.
It isn't unsalvagable, however, I see no indication that it would salvage itself later in the future, and even when the intensity gets cranked up in the later episodes, I still have a feeling that it will still be a hollow experience, with an ending that emphasizes how important friends are or how fun shogi is or something. But that's just speculation.
It doesn't excel in any area, even with the ones its supposed to draw from (i.e. shogi/ sports). March comes in like a Lion is getting a lot of traction for how it emphasizes personal/emotional development using shogi as a thematic underpinning- I can't say that the show uses the rules of the game to create an engaging narrative, but the game itself makes a place for itself in the thematic undercurrent of the series, and if it weren't there it wouldn't be the same show- which I cannot say the same for shogi in Ryou no Oshigoto. It really doesn't have many legs to stand on at this point.
Well, I suppose I'm bashing this show enough. I will update my review after watching all 12 episodes, but I think this is enough of my conjecture for now.
In the end, this show tries to be smart, and every time it does, it is shackled by some other dumb thing it decides to do. (It's basically only here for the lolicons, that said, it doesn't excel in that area either.)
Welp. This was 3-gatsu no Loli. If you like it, whatever, just don't say it's smart or great because it really isn't.