Can We Trust Rei?
Rei Kiriyama from March Comes in Like a Lion has largely been defined by his inability to take action rather than anything significant he has done. He is passive, Indecisive, and has only recently in the show discovered that he wants to be good at Shogi, something that has alluded him for most of the show. However, Rei is also angry. He hates losing just as much as anyone else, he hates seeing the people he cares about hurt in any way, but he often times lets himself get consumed by that anger.
When Rei gets angry, much of the world around him becomes a blur. Time and Space become foreign concepts, as he only focuses on the things in front of him, be that Shogi or the Kawamoto sisters. He knows not a steadfastness nor calmness and has become prone to letting his emotions cloud his judgment.
During the show’s first season, this happened rarely if ever, and most of the time it was justified, like after his match in episode 11, where all of his frustrations came out and he roared on screen for a solid two minutes. He yelled into the sky about not knowing where to go, and what he should really be doing, and it was ok because it made sense.
However, with the advent of March Comes in Like a Lion’s second season came a transformed Rei Kiriyama, one who exhibits those fits of emotional rage much more often, and as we have learned from of the show’s minor characters, are not always justified.
Goto, the man dating his adopted sister, as the audience see’s through Rei’s eyes, is an asshole, in every sense of the word. He’s manipulative, does not care about anyone else, and is only using his sister for his twisted, selfish gain. At least, that is what Rei’s portrayal would have you think.
As was shown in episode 24, Goto is not exactly having the easiest time. Yes, he is married, but his wife has a terrible illness and has been in a hospital for a while. Goto has spent all that time alone, worrying if that day will be her last. He does date Kyoko, but it is not as if he’s being manipulative. In fact, it is Kyoko who is actively trying to date him, possibly to escape her own feelings of loneliness.
That same episode shows that Goto rarely gets any sleep, and when Kyoko insists on staying at his apartment, she feels bad because she knows that he’s having a hard time, to the point where she starts crying while sleeping next to him.
A similar situation happened in episode nine with a character named Junkei. During a previous episode, Junkei had beaten Nikaidou during the Newcomers Tournament by default because Nikaidou passed out due to his illness. Part of this was attributed to Junkei’s more defensive Shogi playstyle. Enraged by his friend’s illness, Rei vowed to win the Newcomer’s Tournament.
However, It seems like Rei decided to unfairly take out some of that anger on Junkei, describing him as a monster waiting inside a cave. Junkei was just following one of his passions, Shogi and Pidgeon racing, and as a is shown in the following episode which depicts his backstory, not only is he just pursuing his passion, Rei and Nikaidou are two people Junkei admires for their ability to keep going no matter how hard it gets, something he admits he has struggled with.
None of this is to say that Rei is a bad person. It is apparent based on how much he does to try and help his friends that that is not the case. What is clear though is that, like all humans, Rei is flawed. He is prone to the same reactions that everyone is, and because he always took the path of least resistance, he has never learned how to deal with strong emotions. What needs to be questioned is not his character, but rather the perception of the world that Rei has, as a black and white world where everything can be easily defined.