When browsing through Crunchyroll, March Comes in Like a Lion immediately caught my attention. Slice-of-life genre with a familiar anime style? Count me in!
March Comes in Like a Lion is the anime adaptation of the manga written by none other than Chica Umino -the genius behind one of my favorite series, Honey and Clover. While others might find the art style out-dated, it certainly has a unique mark making it stand out from other series. Having sat through the entirety of Umino’s previous work, March Comes in Like a Lion brought back nostalgia from what I consider to be the golden age of anime storytelling.
The plot follows seventeen year old Rei Kiriyama, a professional shogi player with a melancholy demeanor. After his family dies in a traffic accident, he is taken in by his father’s acquaintance who happens to be a professional shogi player. For those who are unfamiliar with shogi, shogi is the Japanese version of Chess. Rei’s shogi skills outshine his adoptive siblings, straining the atmosphere of his new home. To become independent, Rei moves out of the house and lives in an empty apartment, alone. When I started the series I expected the show to heavily follow shogi but I was relieved to learn that series did not heavily focus on the “action” of shogi, but rather the internal struggle of Rei and what shogi means to him. You can still enjoy the show without really knowing what shogi is.
Atmosphere is the series’ strong point. There’s a contrast between the vibrant blues and dingy browns of the shogi parlors. The colors help emphasize Rei’s state of mind. The outside world is always changing whereas the shogi parlor is dated and unchanging -it’s a place where Rei still clings to the past. Even the Kawamoto household is filled with warm colors to emphasize the inviting atmosphere. A prevalent theme throughout the series is water. The water symbolism is a constant, reminding the viewer of Rei’s emotional state. Despite his amazing talent, he is still formless within his life. Like flowing water, Rei presses forward to become a master shogi player, but he is not entirely shaped by his profession. In fact, he struggles with it because it holds not only precious memories for him, but torment as well. Despite his struggle, he will continue down the path of shogi player (at least that’s my guess). The presence of water helps the viewer feel what Rei feels and I think it’s a wonderful stylistic touch. Aside from water imagery and color, there are also many scenes of reflection where the style goes jagged and dark -these added effects make the watching the story (versus reading it) much more rewarding.
Umino has a talent for the slice-of-life genre. Rei is more complex than we initially think, as well as the characters that surround him. The Kawamoto family seems bright and cheery enough, but they are also more complex than they initially appear. The way the Kawamoto family copes with the death of their mother and grandmother exposes Rei’s lack of coping and his inability properly express his emotions regarding the death of his parents, life in his adopted home, and his present. Umino does a wonderful job using side characters as a way for Rei to reflect, learn, and grow and because of that Rei is an ever-growing character. Unlike your basic shoujo/shounen series, the answers are never quite that simple and problems are not easily solved. Again, reflecting back to Honey and Clover, I am certain the story will continue to be an emotional roller coaster!
You can find this series on Crunchyroll now! From my understanding, the anime is not the complete story; if you want to follow it until the end, you’ll have to buy the manga. Have you had a chance to watch this series? What do you think? Are you a fan of Chica Umino? Any other stand out conventions you’ve noticed within the series? Let me know in the comments!