Image source: TVアニメ「3月のライオン」公式 on Twitter

The door slides open. There stands a girl in tears. On one foot she’s wearing an indoor shoe, on the other, a dirty slipper. Cue the powerfully mixed emotions I haven’t felt in years.

[Note: This article contains spoilers up to the third episode of the second season of March Comes in Like a Lion.]

March Comes in Like a Lion is a series not about shogi (Japanese chess), but a series about a young man who happens to be a professional shogi player. The series is a character piece about the protagonist, Rei Kiriyama’s life, and his slow growth from a withdrawn, pessimistic boy into a… well… a less withdrawn and less pessimistic boy.

March comes in like a lion Is More about People Than Shogi

In the first season, we were shown many of the ingredients that made Rei into who he was at the beginning. As a child, he lost both of his parents and his little sister in an accident. The sole remaining survivor, he was almost immediately exposed to the sickening family politics that he had been shielded from by his father as his aunt-in-law began vying to have her husband succeed Rei’s father in taking on the family hospital business at Rei’s family’s wake. Instead of being sent to an orphanage or taken in by a blood relative, Rei was adopted as a student by a friend of his father’s, Masachika Kouda, under one condition: That he play shogi—and not just play shogi, but be good at it. Rei had already shown promise as a shogi player and quickly rose to become a professional shogi player at 15 years of age.

However, Rei’s skills came at a cost. Rei’s talent created a rift between himself and the other children of his new family. Soon after becoming a professional, he moved out and began living in an apartment alone.

Through the first season, we have been shown Rei’s life after moving into his own apartment. His meeting with the Kawamoto sisters who welcomed him into their midst and made him feel at home in ways he had never experienced in the Kouda household. Now, for the first time in his life, he feels welcomed for who he is and not what he can do.

Image source: TVアニメ「3月のライオン」公式 on Twitter

Now, we have come upon the first major arc of the second season, and in it, we have been shown a part of Rei’s life that was often hinted at, but never shown in full. In school and at home, Rei was a victim of bullying. In episode three we see that as a child in school, the other children purposefully avoided associating with him, treating him like a freak. Classmates sitting next to him on a bus would ask to be assigned to a different seat, a little more loudly than necessary. There would be ridiculing graffiti written on the chalkboard about him by no one in particular. No one would seem to actively try to harm him, but no one was willing to defend him either.

At home, Rei’s life was even harder. He was an outsider, and his foster sister and brother would not let him forget it. He would try to be a good son and help out, but anything he did would only make them resent him even more. It’s a familiar situation for anyone who has been the target of bullying. Once you are a target, there is nothing you can do to make it stop.

I myself went through this when I was younger. Born and raised in the United States, I moved to Japan when I was 10, and we all know how kind and caring young teens are. While an interesting anomaly at first, I was soon regarded as “the freak.” The kid who looks Japanese, but isn’t. I won’t go into detail, but needless to say, bullies and bullying are a bit of a trigger for me. So, seeing Rei’s past and the subtle ways in which those around him would inflict cruelty on him brought a lot of old emotions bubbling to the surface.

Earlier in the episode, Akari, the eldest Kawamoto sister remarks that Hinata, the second youngest sister, didn’t eat much of her dinner. Akari wonders aloud if something happened at school. And then, after the end credits, we see the final scene of the episode. Rei is visiting the Kawamoto home bringing some doughnuts. Hinata hasn’t returned home yet. As Rei is sitting with Akari and the youngest sister, Momo, they hear Hinata returning outside. But she doesn’t enter. Akari opens the door and they see Hinata, tears in her eyes, and Rei immediately understands what’s going on. What I found fascinating is that I also understood too. The question now is whether Rei knows what to do about it.

Image source: TVアニメ「3月のライオン」公式 on Twitter

March Comes in Like a Lion is a character story with interesting and well-developed characters. The new arc has only just begun, but already I feel the series’ dealing with the topic of bullying to be captivating. I’m left wondering if Rei will know how to help Hinata, or if his own emotional scars will keep him from being able to, or if, through what happens to Hinata, he’ll be able to face his own past and heal. Either way, I get the feeling that, much like the rest of the series, it will be emotional, entertaining, and ultimately therapeutic to watch.

March Comes in Like a Lion can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

Comments (1)
  1. […] from the Kawamoto family only sealed the deal for a fantastic finish that was well earned. Right off the Bat, the Second Season of March Comes in Like a Lion Is Hitting a Personal Note for Me…KINO NO TABI Episodes like this demonstrate how solid Kino’s Journey can be with tighter […]

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