March Comes in Like a Lion is now one of my favorite anime, meaning if I end up making a 3×3, this show will be on there. Honestly, I didn’t expect this episode to bring an instantaneous emotional reaction out of me. I mean, I toughed out the previous ones- which had much more lengthy emotionally riveting moments. But this one’s one particular scene did, thanks to those piano chords (read till the end for reference, or not) and, of course, the visuals.

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The opening voice belongs to Hayashida, as he finally snaps and shifts stance from an understanding perspective towards the homeroom teacher to a frustrated one. Rei tries to calm him down and admits that he, too, wanted to confront the homeroom teacher but he then realized that he doesn’t have the knowledge. As much as he sympathizes with Hina’s situation, he didn’t deal with his bullying the same way Hina is (call back to Hayashida mentioning that no one case of bullying is same as the  other). Rei also shares his epiphany that the Kawamoto family most likely won’t accept his money from his winnings. It is good to see that Rei is finally looking at things from another perspective and find that balance between rational and passionate in his way of thinking.

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Ah yes, just wanted to bring back that iconic shot from season one

So Rei asks Hayashida to help him with his experience as a teacher and he adds that he will treat Hayashida to yakiniku or something for that. Hayashida corrects Rei way of asking by loosening up the tension and giving Rei a light hit (“Don’t talk to me like a salaryman!”). At this point, though, Hayashida has calmed down and he starts hashing out strategical advice on what Hina should do with her situation. Hayashida asks about Hina’s father, and that made me sit up- According to my memory, the anime never talked about the Kawamoto sisters’ father nor that a thought about that crossed my mind.

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The show takes a narrative detour to explore the reason why Hina’s father is absent fromt the show, he left his kids for another woman. Akari reveals this in a matter of fact voice, showing that it has been quite a while since their father left the family. Rei reacts in an understandable (and recurring) way- festering frustration.

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Apparently, this gives all the more reason to Hayashida to lapse back to his initial ‘rearing to go’ behavior. This time, the show decides to take the tonal detour all the way, evolving into a short comedic skit and with Hayashida turning into a red demon by the end of the skit. The visual accentuation were well presented, as always- with that hyper-masculine JoJo pose (not really, but that’s the only thing that popped in my head) and the static during the fire-breathing scene to, again, accentuate the theatricality of the whole scene. Anyway, things calm down and Hayashida, remaining red (and in demonic form) with rage, compliments Rei on being rational about the whole thing and not knocking on the Kawamotos’ door with the bank checks. But, of course, Rei was actually thinking of doing the same thing all along.

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Hayashida and Rei share a couple of juice boxes and meat buns(?), and Hayashida consoles Rei and the lines under his eyes seem to be more emphasized than it already was in the previous part of the episode- indicating that Rei had been crying and he is under a lot of stress. Hayashida tells Rei to keep doing what he is doing, and take one step at a time, rather than looking too far ahead because there are just too many variables to consider in real life. The setting changes to the shogi building (I forgot the name of the building, my bad).

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It is revealed that Nikaidou failed to reach the finals of the Newcomers’ Tournament. It is also revealed that Nikaidou fell ill during his match and has been transferred to a hospital. Understandably, Rei becomes concerned and confronts Shimada to get more information. Shimada eventually agrees and takes him to a cafe for a flashback.

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The flashback shows how Shimada met Nikaidou and how Nikaidou stood out from the others when Nikaidou was in elementary school. Initially, Shimada, being from a not-so-wealthy background, had a contemptuous view on Nikaidou’s wealthy and prim-and-proper disposition; he thought Nikaidou was going to quit shogi because he seemed like a rich kid who just played shogi to satiate his boredom. But his views change when he learns about Nikaidou’s illness and his unnatural tendency (especially for an elementary kid) for playing lengthy, strategized games. This sudden discovery was visually cast really well- with the shadows streaking off Shimada’s figure, indicating that a new door of possibility opened before him. The black and white ripples seemed like an antithetical, or rather contrasting, representation of the ‘rich kid’ childhood that Nikaidou seems to have, but never actually had. Shimada goes onto detail Nikaidou’s unaesthetic circumstances and conjoins that statement with one time Nikaidou begging Shimada not to go easy on him during shogi matches- “If I am treated as ‘weakling’ even when I am playing shogi, where am I supposed to live?”

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Rei looks at the game records and tears up- for a friend and a reason he mentions at the end of the episode. Again, it is quite clever of the writer to link other character stories to Rei’s own character narrative- although this moment isn’t much of a feat, but during Shimada’s arc in the first season- it was. Anyway, I digress.

I initially had one criticism to make on the decision of the writer for not getting into the specifics of Nikaidou’s disease because I feel like that would make the whole situation more tangible and relatable to people who have it. But then I realized that, it doesn’t really matter- because the ‘anime disease’ trope has been used and annoyed me because they were solely used as a contrived and redundant plot device. And this argument doesn’t really apply to this anime because Nikaidou’s situation has been highlighted before in season one, when Rei remembers playing against Nikaidou when they were at a festival or something; so the whole introduction of the disease is warranted- ultimately. And this, incidentally, increased my appreciation for the craftiness and care in narrative foundation that the anime lays throughout its run time. Just clarifying:  just using a plot device doesn’t degrade an anime in any way, I don’t think shows that use plot devices have inherently contrived narrative because that’s what plot devices are, ironically, for.

Anyway (what are with these tangents?), the final scene of the episode is, so far, one of the most hard hitting scenes from the anime for me, even though it is pretty visually simple and relatively shorter than the other powerful scenes. Rei and Shimada call an end to their meeting and as they get out of the cafe, rain starts to pour. As Rei runs through the curtain of ‘silver threads’ (as he calls it)- he has a flashback.

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The show brings back the shady, pencil outlined, pastelly art back- this time with a paler tone; indicating the somberness of Nikaidou’s health, and a single violin plays somberly and softly in the background. But when Rei says that “so he aimed for the ‘promised land’… and raced toward it like a fireball” a piano breaks in with a daring chord and the violin takes louder and longer strides- conglomerating to an adventurous tone.

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With the drop of a shogi piece, the screen erupts with a tangy, vibrant tone, shedding its pale scales; and soon enough, we see Nikaidou sailing through the clouds and this is where the music matched the visuals perfectly (also, sly (or is it?) One Piece reference there). This is a short scene, but the sound design and the backstory accompanying it really helped to make this one a monster of such. Even now, that I have finished describing this scene, I feel like I failed to describe it to the marvel I remember it to be- words fail sometimes, I guess.

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And as Rei finishes the episode with “Those two pages (the game records) read like an adventure novel”, I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes got heavy.