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First Impressions: March comes in like a lion episodes 1-3

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Game of Life

It's been almost a decade since the first time I watched the anime adaptation of Chika Umino's Honey and Clover. I was hooked right from the first episode; from its beautiful art and animation to the memorable characters, it was a lot of fun when the show is comedic. It also had a diverse and touching soundtrack that just greatly added to the emotional parts of the show. It was the first time I ever watched an anime drama and boy, it was good.

I was incredibly happy when I heard about a new show based from one of my favorite authors was in the works. I was even more overwhelmed with all the emotions when I found out one of my favorite studios was bringing it to life.

I'm gonna be comparing this show a lot to Honey and Clover, which is one of my all time favorite anime, so if you've never seen it just go do so right now. You can find it on Hulu and Yahoo View, and it still holds up.

March comes in like a lion introduces us to Rei Kiriyama, a teenage professional Shogi player who happens to be really good at it. Though that setup sounds like he has it good but he has no real family and very few friends. The show starts out pretty quiet and a bit dreary when we first meet Rei. He lives by himself in a new town where he just moved to and lives a rather lonely existence in his apartment with a nice view of the river. The first episode begins as we follow him as he starts his day and he goes to a shogi match.

As we get to know more of Rei, we find that his life isn't all bad but not exactly perfect. Rei is in that self-discovery part of his life (like most teens his age), trying to find his place in the world and figuring things out. These things are explored as Rei plays shogi, the one thing Rei is good at, which makes Rei feel conflicted with each win he makes takes something away from someone else.

The second half of the first episode has a dramatic shift in tone that really came out of nowhere. Everything did feel dreary and sad but once that shift in tone happnes, I felt like I was getting hit with a train. Except that train was made of rainbows and happiness. This very much sets up the show, there will be plenty of quiet and sad moments punctuated by some happy and funny moments to break it up. It's much like real life, where even if everything isn't going well, people will try to find something to break that up with something happy to keep their sanity intact.

We get to meet more characters in the first few episodes and we find that Rei isn't exactly alone. There are people around him, he has a bit of a problem with connecting with others because of his past, which we learn more and more. The characters we meet are an interesting bunch, providing a lot of comedy and contrast to Rei's more reserved nature. The secondary characters are given some development early on and most of them probably will much like in Honey and Clover.

Shogi plays a minor part in the show, with Rei being a professional Shogi player but the viewer doesn't need to know the game at all to enjoy. The Shogi playing is a backdrop and more a plot device used more to show off the nature of the characters playing Shogi. I really want to talk about everything in the show but it would spoil all the good stuff that can surprise viewers.

Visually, SHAFT does an excellent job in bringing Chika Umino's art to life and I honestly thought I was watching more of the author's previous work with Honey and Clover, which was made by J.C. Staff, an entirely different studio. While SHAFT made this show, the first episode was much more subtle than their usual work and their trademark motifs and touches are only noticeable to those very familiar with their work. SHAFT faithfully recreates Umino's pretty character designs and even her watercolor pastel art style from her artwork very well. 

SHAFT's fingerprints do show up more often with each episode. The very SHAFT moments do make things better in this show, as it perfectly lends itself to the comedy while adding more to the dramatic moments. This is all due to the director, Akiyuki Shinbou, who worked on popular SHAFT productions such as Hidamari Sketch and the Monogatari series, and March comes in like a lion is full of those elements from those shows. Those worried that SHAFT might screw this up or take it too far should be rest assured that SHAFT has had experience with slower paced slice-of-life anime.

The songs they chose to start and end the show are by Bump of Chicken and they are just superb. Not quite as diverse as Honey and Clover's soundtrack, but the songs that bookend the show and insert songs go really well with the show and set up the mood just right.

Fans of Chika Umino's work will find familiar themes from her previous work, a slice-of-life story with drama that can get heavy at times. It's a coming-of-age story in trying to find a place in the world and not knowing how things will turn out. No actual romance in yet this early in the show, but there might be some down the line. The first episode is a good example of what to expect, and the following two prove that there is more to the show with comedy and not just gloomy teenager stuff all the time.

I highly recommend this show for people to watch if they want a grounded and solid slice-of-life drama to balance out all the action and waifu/husbando shows from this season.

[Catch March comes in like a lion on Crunchyroll and Daisuki.]

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Red Veron
Red VeronContributor   gamer profile

Red likes a lot of things from Japan and wants to share more about it with the world. He even likes the bad anime. Sometimes. As long as it doesn't have big boobs. Maybe. more + disclosures


 


 


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