The Lion Cub Can Grow Again: Season One Episode Three
Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
Hey friends! If you missed the last post in this series, be sure to check that out before you get into this one, as some of the stuff is going to cross over. But, aside from that, this episode is another emotionally heavy one, so let us get into it.
While episode two was still somewhat dark but chose to focus on looking at the bright side, episode three is decidedly not that, at least for the latter half.
The episode opens with Rei once again waking up in his apartment, eating the last of the fried chicken Akari gave him from his meal with the sisters previously. He notes that today he has a match against Harunobu Nikaido, the rival that had been introduced at the end of episode one and the beginning of episode two. Rei goes through his normal match day routine of taking a long walk over the bridge and looking out at the river and makes it to the Shogi hall in order to play his match. However, while on his way there, he recounts his times playing Nikaido at department store tournaments while they were kids, only to beat him and watch him cry.
Rei arrives at the play area only to find Nikaido sitting their already feeling invigorated. Still, Rei shakes it off, sits down, and begins to play Nikaido. The two play for a while, and it seems to be going in Rei’s favor. Quickly, though, the match begins to look like the matches they played as kids, with Nikaido sweating do to the extreme heat and looking sickly and pale. It is here that Rei again begins to have a feeling that he had already established he thought was somewhat arrogant, and as he gets up to go and see if the air conditioning is working, Nikaido tells him its fine, then makes a move that confuses Rei, causing him to panic.
One the one hand, I don’t necessarily think its arrogant to try and make sure your opponent is ok, but in the context of the episode and the arc of Rei’s character, it makes sense for him, and for his opponent, to see it as arrogant. For Nikaido, he looks up to Rei as a strong competitor and Rival, so Rei going out of his way to make sure he is okay is somewhat insulting. Similarly, Rei believes that by doing he is looking down on Nikaido and is not giving him his full respect.
The match continues until eventually Rei beats out Nikaido, but, despite not saying it out loud, the two acknowledge that the other has gotten better.
After finishing the match, Nikaido walks out only to find his personal servant outside waiting for him. Wondering he isn’t on his vacation, Nikaido asks why he is here. Hanaoka explains that he was became worried and decided to let Nikaido’s mom have the rest of the vacation. Quickly the two rush to the hospital. Along the way, being supportive of Nikaido, Hanaoka asks how the match went, with Nikaido responding. “I lost, I didn’t realize how much stronger he had gotten. But next time I won’t lose.”
The determination in beating Rei signals a lot of what we later find out about Nikaido as a character: that despite being deathly ill and unable to do anything about it, he is unwavering in his need to be a better Shogi player.
The show then cuts to Rei walking across the tiny bridge shown at the end of the first episode on his way to the Kawamoto sister’s house, remembering Akari’s invitation to join them for dinner after the match. Rei arrives and gets ready to eat. However, it is interrupted when Akari reminds her grandpa that he can’t go to sleep until they light the final sticks for Obon, a gesture that symbolizes the dead returning to their life after death.
It is here that the show brings the focus back onto the loss of their mother and grandmother, something the previous described as a pain that had not yet gone away.
After the sticks fully burn, Hina says that she is going to the convenience store. Likely knowing something is wrong, their grandpa tells Rei to go after her to make sure she is ok. The two walk a long distance and end up near the side of the river, where Hina burst into tears.
After noting the strength she had for keeping her feelings in check earlier, Rei approaches, telling Hina that its alright to stay a little longer.
Rei’s often emotionless personality plays a large roll in this scene, as he notes that he thought that crying at the loss of family members was pointless, so he just stopped. Hina meanwhile, feels comfortable crying in Rei’s presence, but not in her families presence. As the episode ends Rei starts questioning why it is he abandoned his feelings in the first place.
The picture of Rei’s personal life becomes a little more obvious at this juncture, knowing that Rei’s adopted father was adamant about him going pro. Rei likely suppressed his emotion as a survival tactic, knowing that if he didn’t show results his adopted dad would stop caring about him, and considering the rest of his adopted family already resented him, for Rei, there was only ever one choice.
It seems like these few opening episodes have been great at providing large contrasting ideas between its two halves. For this episode, the contrast lies between Nikaido’s sense of determination after his loss in his game to Rei, and Hina’s grief over the loss of her mother and grandmother.
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