We've had series about edgy card games where everything is on the line, mechas to save the planet, battles of magic and technology for the sake of domination or peace....and then, we get the lighthearted series where the japanese "chess" game known as shogi means everything in the world in this story. And yes, I know, it's lolicon bait, but honestly, that's not what's really important here. It's a shame that people are probably sleeping on this series, cause it's quite enjoyable in its own right.
STORY: It's a fairly good setting where shogi means everything like Duel Monsters are with all the yugioh series. I found it very interesting how even a modest looking game of shogi can actually be full of tension, and how it can be relatable to real-life situations. Something I did find a bit offputting is how the main character is not really focused on academic goals anymore and is basically already having a job as a pro player, but then again, there are many people out there in real life who have taken a similar route when school never worked out for them or when they found an interest stronger than pursuing academic education. The "loli bait" setup is real when it came to the shogi schools, but other than that, I personally didn't feel that bothered by it. The chance meeting with the self-taught prodigy Ai (who is still not even in middle school, mind you) is also kinda cliche, but important, nonetheless.
ART: The art is clean and doesn't try to emphasize so much. I do especially like when the "cow lick" hair of Ai moves on its own like some sort of muscle or antennae, and it really adds to how adorable looking she is...cause physical appeal is always a plus, imo, as long as it's not forced. I also do like when the character show priceless expressions, be it scared to death, shocked beyond belief, or angry enough to scare the shit out of people.
SOUND: The soundtracks are not really that great, honestly, but I DO like the soundtracks during the actual shogi matches, where the music can really fit in with the tension of each player's moves or expressions...it can really get you glued to the screen even if you're the guy who prefers more violent sci-fi or supernatural action.
CHARACTER: I personally thought the characters were well thought out in terms of complexity, backstory, and appeal. Also, it's hard not to make a yugioh reference when it turned out there were TWO Ais in this series....the main one, Ai Hinatsuru, who plays well with strategies and is basically the "closer" in the end game, and the alt one, Ai Yashajin, who plays the basics to perfection. Both young girls have their strengths and weaknesses, as well as backstories and personalities, that are almost perfect opposites of each other. To have that kind of setup for these characters is awesome and really sets the tables for the development and maturity of those two. A similar theme applies to Yaichi, the main protagonist, and Sora, the other main heroine; they are basically the "other me" of each other, displaying the same level and strength of shogi play, but having contrasting play styles. Now, what I thought could've been done better would be to elaborate a tad bit more on the supporting cast, especially the three other young shogi students Mio, Ayano, and Charlotte.
ENJOYMENT: I was more into this series than I hoped for. Was it because of the loli service? Maybe, but I wouldn't view that in a negative light at all, even if I was more critical of this series. The laughs are WELL worth it, too, especially when it involves the "main" Ai or Sora(otherwise known as the Snow Queen and a "GOD" shogi player) getting hella pissed off at poor Yaichi. In addition to the laughs, the shogi matches are actually very engaging to watch, as one anxiously waits for a winner. It's something you'd kinda recognize in most sports anime series.
OVERALL: If you're "loli-phobic", I can understand why you wouldn't want to watch it. The thing is, if you don't let the lolicon bait material get to you, the series is actually pretty good. Granted, it's not for everybody, considering how lighthearted overall the story is. However, I think the journey and the development matter the most, as long as the other things are not too much of an eyesore.