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

You can sometimes hate your enemy so much that you become them.

The current arc of March Comes in Like a Lion covers the issue of bullying. The protagonist, Rei Kiriyama, has learned that his young friend, and person he feels greatly indebted to, Hinata Kawamoto, is currently being bullied at school. However, in the latest episode, we see just how easy it can be to be a bully sometimes.

March Comes in Like a Lion Shows the Complexities of Dealing with Bullying

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

Currently, the issue of the bullying of Hinata at school is gradually becoming a quagmire. Hinata’s teacher has essentially tossed aside any and all responsibility she may have had in possibly preventing the bullying that led to a childhood friend of Hinata’s leaving the school. When pressed by her teacher as to the latest incidents going on in her classroom, the conversation quickly turned into an accusation against Hinata that she was a troublemaker who doesn’t try to fit in.

Upon hearing about this, Rei is overcome with rage. He vows to help the Kawamoto family in any way he can.

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

Rei is a professional Shogi player. As a high school student, Rei believes that the best way he can help the Kawamoto family is financially. By continuously winning in Shogi matches, he can save up to help ease the burden in case Hinata may transfer to another school or seek private tutoring. With that in mind, he prepares for his next match. And it’s then that we are introduced to Rei’s latest opponent, Subaru Hachiya.

Subaru Hachiya is a festering ball of hostility. He’s irritable, impatient, and rude. He shifts in his seat, taps his fingers annoyingly, and clicks his tongue at anything and everything. Straight away, we see that Rei does not enjoy playing against him.

To the viewer, we can see that in a way Subaru Hachiya is the manifestation of the concept of bullying that Rei is facing. His every move seems to project his attitude of superiority against Rei. He seems to be being mean to Rei without any sort of provocation. It’s like he’s just mean to be mean.

Through their match, we see Rei’s patience gradually wearing thin. He begins to wonder how anyone can be like that. If such a hostile attitude is really necessary to play Shogi. How nice it must be not to be considerate of others.

In the end, Rei defeats Subaru in a moment that feels practically righteous. The boisterous beast, forced to admit defeat, storms off out of the room, leaving Rei to breathe a sigh of relief… Only to immediately be yelled at by his elder colleagues who were playing next to him. According to them, Rei has been provoking Subaru the entire match. We then see Subaru return, having gone off to cry from his loss.

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

It’s then that we see the truth. The real bully here has been Rei the whole time. Subaru Hachiya is someone who is just naturally irritable, but never really hostile unless provoked. He’s just one of those guys who naturally always seems to be in a bad mood. Rei’s impulsive feelings of distaste for Subaru had manifested in how Rei had been playing the game, constantly prodding and poking Subaru before dealing a devastating and humiliating final blow that left him in tears.

It’s really an eye-opening moment that is subtly and masterfully set up. We realize that because Rei had entered the match in a way that already made it personal. And when it got personal, it got ugly. Subaru had done nothing to Rei, and yet Rei treated him like crap because “he had a bad attitude.” It was the most mundane of reasons, and Rei turned it into a crusade against him. After resolving to help his friends against bullying, Rei inadvertently became a bully himself.

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

In the end, Rei is casually given one of the best pieces of life advice he’s ever been given by his colleagues. To live a little more openly and honestly like Subaru does, since they’re pretty much the same inside anyways. However, seeing Rei’s unsatisfied expression, it’s a lesson that probably fell on deaf ears.

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

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