Don’t miss an episode! You can watch March comes in like a lion on Crunchyroll!
Be sure to check out the write-ups for prior episodes!
CJ Hitchcock (@cjhitchcock)
“It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this heartbroken watching an anime.”
I’ve talked before about how I’m not a fan of the horror genre. This mostly has to do with the fact that I don’t find killer clowns from outer space, masked psycho killers or ghost all that scary. What truly scares me more than anything else is the concept of death’s effect on the living and being alone. Not being alone in a romantic sense, but not having anybody to talk to or share experiences with. I can only speak for myself, but I find being alone leads one to be self-destructive. When you lose that voice from another person you hold dear, you start to forget that you matter and lose empathy for your fellow human beings. You turn into this shell of yourself. It’s those emotions of emptiness and dread that I fear most.
That’s why this episode of lion is one of the scariest things I’ve seen this year. I identify with Rei. He loses everyone he’s ever known in a cruel twist of fate, he’s socially inept, his blood relatives want nothing to do with him, the family he’s adopted into hates the new competition for their father’s attention, and he gets no enjoyment from his talent of being a skilled shoji player. I find Rei’s situation to be extremely believable, and worse, I can see myself in his place. I’m absolutely terrible at making friends, and my family is my entire world. I can’t imagine what kind of shell of myself I would become if I lost one of my family members, let alone all of them at once. Watching Rei build a wall around reality with Shogi makes sense now, because I feel like I would end up doing the same, but with animation instead is Shogi.
A lot of these feelings rushed through my head during a flashback scene with Rei in the hospital. After Momo, the youngest sister, hurts herself from a fall, Rei is reminded of holding the hand of his little sister’s dead body. The image of seeing the two tall adult figures laying next to a third figure that’s so small she fits onto the same bed as one of the adults made my heart sink. It’s been awhile sense I watched an anime that’s made me this heartbroken. I don’t just feel bad for Rei or his family, I see myself in this scenario and that scares me.
But to change topics, it appears I was right about the physical abuse I had mentioned in last week’s episode. The woman from the flashback is Rei’s adopted older sister, Kyouko, who is very head strong and aggressive. Kyouko would repeatedly beat Rei whenever she lost a match. Rei tells the audience her anger seems to come from a place of feeling threatened. You see, Kyuouko was the favorite child in Rei’s adopted family, but once Rei showed up with his superior Shoji skills, he dethroned her. Not that this excuses her from being a manipulative monster, but it’s nice to see there’s a logical explanation for her anger towards him.
Josh Dunham (@Josh_Dunham)
“It’s the cinematic elements we need to be aware of. ”
I feel like too often I am quoted as saying the visuals are more important than the plot. While I do hold that stance, it is much more preferable to have both working together, each advancing the narrative, one making up for the weaknesses of the other. A cutting example of this would be March come sin like a lion episode 5. The account of Rei’s childhood requires that we be allowed to feel certain moments for them to fully take effect, while others need to be explained to us, pushing us along to prevent us from drowning in Rei’s sorrow.
Pacing this episode was much more even, (despite continuing the standard rate of two manga chapters per episode) giving important emotional moments the time breathe. One of the most realistic aspects of the show has been the mix of happy and zany moments that occur alongside the less happy memories. Giving these joyous moments their due deepens the emotional profundity of the melancholy. The blissful walk home with little Momo serves as a sharp juxtaposition to the loss of Rei’s family. The visual of holding such frail and innocent hands ties the feelings together in a manner where the peaks define the valleys and vice versa. It is sadness defined by the knowledge that happiness exists, yet eludes us.
Storytelling through camera movement was also a predominate feature this episode. The feeling of abandonment was flawlessly portrayed as Rei sat alone in the funeral scene. Surrounded by empty chairs (cinematic shorthand for missing people), the camera dollys out from Rei’s head space into a medium-wide shot to capture the extensional sorrow of the room. The negative emotion is expanded outward with a simple camera movement. In visual language, he goes from being the center, and sole proprietor of his existence, to being small and insignificant, absolutely helpless in another.
It’s the cinematic elements we need to be aware of. Story and visual.
Jimmy Gnome (@jimmygnome9)
“In some ways the anime gets in the way of its message.”
As we reach the ending of the first volume in this adaptation of March comes in like a lion I’d like to speak about ‘delicacy’. One aspect that I find most compelling about the source material is how tastefully it examines the sorrows and regrets of its main cast, especially Rei. Most of what we’ve learned about his past has been conveyed through flashbacks during common, everyday occurrences: he remembers his little sister from the look and feel of Momo’s arm, he think about his surrogate father while sewing a sweater that he had given him. The series is far less in-your-face with the trauma than similar shows like Your Lie in April, and the setup manages to uniquely characterize how horrible events can be recalled so easily day by day. March comes in like a lion is supposed to feel like a story of real, hurt people, not a cliché melodrama.
In some ways the anime gets in the way of its message. Part of it is mostly unavoidable since much of the manga’s genius is reliant on its form, something that doesn’t transition well into another medium. The flashback segments are more fleeting in the manga, short does of five-to-seven pages that are made distinct from the present due to the blackened boarders around each page. Inner reflections are sometimes placed between panels and a more minimalist, poetic style is favored to the grounded realism of the mundane. In becoming an episode of anime these brief glimpses into Rei’s past begin overwhelm, becoming the center of all attention. Five pages transforms into five minutes, and those five minutes completely absorb the viewer to the point where they’ve likely forgotten that this is but a daydream trance, a hurtful memory of a lonely boy.
In other ways SHAFT misses the point, though. Their trademark stylizations are evenly spread throughout the episode, and there’s an even amount of reality as well. Rei sitting in alone at his family’s funeral seems as immediate as his riverside apartment, and embellishments are added on top of scenes that should be down to earth like when he pricks his finger on his sewing needle. It has been an issue since the beginning for this show, the directors continue to do what they’d like without putting much thought into it, and while I do encourage adaptation creators to spin the work to their own vision the application here is often gimmicky at best.
That said, there is still a lot to like about this episode, particularly when it comes to shogi. While character interactions often feel stiff from stilted direction and unconvincing animation, the careful movements of hands and pieces in games of shogi are thoughtful and true to life, lending a sense of character to the game that wasn’t present in the manga. Hopefully this strength is magnified as we shift our focus from Rei’s backstory to his current struggles as a professional shogi player.