Alternative titles: 3-gatsu no Lion
Manga Adaptation by Shaft
Streaming on Crunchyroll
At 17 years old, Rei Kiriyama is already living alone, funded by his winnings as a renowned shogi prodigy. Outside of his professional life however, things are much tougher as Rei struggles in his relationship with family and friends.
Euri’s verdict: Shaft Make Anime?
Gosh, it’s been a while hasn’t it? This is the first TV anime we’ve had from Shaft in over a year. Before I watched this with colons we had a brief discussion about what the last Shaft TV anime to come out was, and our best guess was Mekakucity Actors. I think this says a lot about their recent offerings, given we completely forgot about Gourmet Girl Graffiti and the second season of Nisekoi!. I do love Shaft, but it’s not unfair to say that their work has been shaky at best since the successes of Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the various incarnations of Monogatari.
Fortunately, we might finally see Shaft step out of that rut. The first episode of March Comes in like a Lion was fantastic, and to be completely honest with you, it doesn’t particularly deserve to be. On paper, not a lot happens. We meet a lot of characters, spend a fair chunk of time in flashbacks, and our protagonist speaks less than a page of dialogue. But the episode, somehow, comes together.
One of my favourite scenes in the episode is how Kiriyama reacts to a news report of a brutal murder. His reaction shows that he finds familiarity in the incident, and he seems legitimately shaken up by the memories it’s bringing up. He’s not a murderer of course, but he is a genius shogi player, and a player who crushed the dreams of his father. The victim in the news report was beaten with a hammer, over and over. That our protagonist likens this to how he won against his father speaks volumes of their relationship, and without the need for three episodes of flashbacks and sulking. Whether this is taken from the source material or something Shaft has done, I don’t know, but it’s an incredible piece of storytelling nonetheless.
What stands out from the beginning is just how gorgeous this anime is. Watching it makes me wonder if Shaft hadn’t locked its animators in a room for a year, so that when they started work on March Comes in like a Lion they were absolutely craving being able to make art again. This is one of a few shows that I believe demonstrates clearly just how deeply the animators care for the show, and if this keeps up throughout the whole series, I think we’ll have something quite memorable on our hands.
Zigg’s verdict: One Move Behind
It’s difficult to deny March Comes in Like a Lion has a huge amount going for it. Shaft’s reputation may have taken some hits in recent years, but they still know how to make an amazing looking television show and March bears all the hallmarks of their gorgeous, heavily symbolic style, albeit rooted in a slightly more realistic world. There’s some great, powerful scenes here, like Rei waking up in his empty apartment, bare but for the very basic essentials and his shogi table. In fact, the entire, near wordless, first half of the show is masterful in its presentation, emphasising our protagonist’s loneliness and isolation from those around him. It’s powerful, resonant stuff from a genre which often relies on breakneck exposition and slapstick to hold viewers.
It’s incredibly bizarre the that that’s basically what the second half of this episode devolves into. I appreciate it’s important to recognise Rei has human contacts in some way, but devolving into crazed chibi antics completely upsets the balance of the poignant first half. The result is a show that already feels like it’s in identity crisis, lurching back and forth between painful drama and ludicrous super deformed sketches (which are admittedly astonishingly well animated). In my case at least I’m considerably less invested in the latter than the former. The sky-high production values and intriguing atmospheric sections definitely mean that this deserves more than one episode but I hope it can find itself sooner rather than later.
Artemis’ verdict: Fetch Me My Fainting Couch
A Shaft anime I actually like? Wonders never cease. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a Shaft production or two in the past. Like that really recent one, Madoka Magica… wait, that was five years ago you say? Well then, I also quite liked Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and then before that was… uh. Okay, I’m all out of titles, but the point is I had no expectations for March to be good, so the fact that I had such an overwhelmingly positive response to most of it came as a very pleasant surprise. Granted, that probably has far more to do with the source material than the studio adapting it, but the fact remains I really liked what I saw. The premise has a ton of potential, the warm, familial touches of comedy keeps the drama from becoming overbearing, the background artwork is delightful, and the character designs are immediately reminiscent of Honey and Clover. Actually, the cinematography deserves a mention all on its own here, because there are some truly breathtaking shots and fantastic camerawork going on that negates any need for exposition, in much the same way as this season’s Yuri!!! On Ice does. Out of the two shows I know which one I’m more fired up for, but that I’m comparing them at all is a huge compliment to March. I’m ecstatic to be getting not one but two exceptionally well-crafted and heartfelt dramas this season.