Anime Review: March Comes in Like a Lion Season 1 Part 1

By Drew Hurley 20.10.2018

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March Comes in Like a Lion: Season 1 Part 1 (UK Rating: 15)

March Comes in Like a Lion is an adaptation of a manga series that has been running for over 10 years in the Seinen manga magazine, Young Animal. The story centres around a young man named Rei Kiriyama, a 17-year-old high schooler / professional Shogi player who is struggling to deal with the realities of living alone. This slice of life may seem light-hearted at first, but there are some dark topics lurking beneath. Coming courtesy of Anime Limited, this first part and is available from 29th October.

This series originally debuted in 2016 and it's hard to imagine what viewers would have been thinking. Those unfamiliar with the anime who gave it a shot watching the first episode must have been thoroughly baffled. The tone is absolutely all over the place. In the first 10 minutes, there's a dark sense of foreboding and dread around Rei. He plays out a game of Shogi with a dark cloud hanging over him. A flashback seems to show him being bullied and ostracised. A few minutes later and he's in a house with a family of three girls, eating supper together, laughing and joking - it feels like a real slice of life. Then a news report comes on TV about someone beating their father to death and he remembers how he wanted to beat his father… things get dark again. He falls asleep and suddenly the tone shifts again into slapstick comedy as he and the middle school girl in the family - Hinata - rush through breakfast.

This schizophrenic style stays throughout. In a way, it seems the author is trying to convey the feelings of being a teenager. Beneath the happy moments and bright veneers, there's a darkness within, but for Rei that darkness is a little more than getting a gauged piercing to try and rebel. It can sometimes go numerous episodes without a hint of the darkness, and then suddenly the dark side of the story crashes back to the forefront.

In the light, happier part of the series, Rei's school life is lonely but not particularly hard. He's the new kid, and has yet to make any real friends there; he instead eats lunch with his teacher. Outside of school, Rei is a professional Shogi player and has built up a group of friends within his fellow players. He's even got a rival from when he was a little kid. Then there is the family who took him in.

The Kawamoto sisters, who seem to have become somewhat of a surrogate family for Rei, came into his life thanks to a little random chance and a little bullying. Since Rei had a considerable income coming in and was easily manipulated, one night he found himself forced to treat his fellow Shogi players. Worse yet, he was forced to drink with them. As he huddled on the street, drunk, penniless, and unable to walk, the eldest of the Kawamoto sisters, Akari, found him. Akari is a hostess in Ginza and took Rei back to their home to sleep it off. They lived just across the bridge from him and took him in like a stray cat - each of the girls finding a bond with him in a different way. Hinata is in middle school and sees him as something of a senpai (something of an older brother). The baby of the sisters, Momo, obsesses over him as only a baby sister can.

However, each of these relationships has a dark side, with the darkest of all being Rei himself. His surrogate family lost its core, with the mother and grandmother passing away. His rival has a devastating sickness and Rin… Rin has a reason for his gloomy nature. As the series develops, the truth of Rei's loneliness is revealed. His parents and young sister were tragically killed in a car accident. He even went to see their cold lifeless bodies. He was struggling with life already, being constantly bullied in school. His only salvation was his loving family he returned to each night. Then when the family passed, his horrible aunt planned to put him in an orphanage, and it was Rei's father's close friend, Masachika Koda, who took him in.

Rei thought he was saved. He played Shogi with Koga often, but he found what was a fun distraction to him was the focus of Koga's life. Shogi was an obsession in Koga's household. His children were forced to play and when a young prodigy entered their home and started showing them up, their hard life got harder. The young son Aiumu finally broke down and gave up, while the older daughter, Kyoko, took to bullying Rei. Little more to the history is shown in this first part, but it's enough to get its hooks into the viewer.

The series is animated by SHAFT, and the art is as all over the place as the story itself. It's generic fare for most of it, with the overly colourful bright art for comedic moments, all of it completely unremarkable. Then, suddenly, when the story hit serious tones, there is some beautiful looking moments and it uses water a great deal and covers the scenes in shades of grey, occasionally using manga style art, even with the screen tones. Also, in the production department, this release comes with both English and Japanese dubs. Industry veteran, Wendee Lee, is acting as ADR directory and has put out some real quality work here, on par with her superb work on Your Lie in April.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
This first part of the first season of March Comes in Like a Lion contains just the first eleven episodes of a 22-episode season and the anime has a second season of another 22 episodes, which has just finished in Japan this year and, considering the nature of the story, it seems hard to imagine 44 episodes of this. However, the final episode manages to make viewers desperate for what comes next. This simple little slice of life actually has a ton of heart and some captivating drama. It's hard not to be interested in finding out Rei's history, to seeing what happened to the Kawamoto family, and to find out if Rei ever comes out of his shell. Introspective and captivating, this is a great series to watch on a rainy Autumn night.

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