The Lion Cub Can Grow Again: Season One Episode Nine

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

I am back once again with another addition to my March Comes in Like a Lion re-watch/analysis. This week’s episode was another one that I would argue is particularly important in the realm of adding to the show’s overall story and development of Rei as a character, and once again involves Kyoko’s looming influence over Rei as a person.

Both parts of the episode focus on Rei and his match with Mr. Matsunaga, a veteran Shogi player on the verge of retirement, who the show reveals in the closing moments of the last episode. The first part show’s Rei’s feelings going into and during the match, where Mr. Matsunaga’s behavior confuses him a lot. The veteran player made a lot of what Rei describes as seemingly random moves, even trying to bait Rei into a bad mood with fairly poor acting. After the match, Matsunaga even seemed to be incredibly mean-spirited about their game. As the two tried to leave, he tripped down the stairs and essentially bullied Rei into buying him food.

However, Rei, while annoyed with the situation, still felt bad. Matsunaga was someone who dedicated his life to the game, playing it for over 40 years, and yet never got much farther than where Rei is now. Before the match even begins, Rei pontificates a lot on the career of someone who spent forty years playing shogi, and is frankly unable to fathom someone playing shogi for that long.

Still, even though Rei says that he cannot fathom it, It seems that he sees a version of himself in Mr. Matsunaga. He sees the version of him that is stuck, unable to move forward, but also unable to let go. He knows that if his feelings are left unresolved, he could very much end up in a similar state. But, Rei also does not want to let go of Shogi, and neither does Mr. Matsunaga.

The second half of the episode sees Rei and Matsunaga going out to eat at an expensive restaurant that, of course, Rei is paying for. The Veteran player gets drunk, rambles on about a Japanese Feudal lord who was apparently responsible for most of modern infrastructure, and then almost passes out as the two are walking home. After he sobers up a bit while walking alongside the river with Rei, Mr. Matsunaga tells Rei that he knows a lot about him, and that despite initially hating him for being so much better, he regrets those feelings, and tells him that if anyone was going to take him out in Shogi, he’s glad that it was Rei.

It is here again that Rei finds himself in Matsunaga, a man who’s been playing Shogi for so long and yet can’t even vocalize whether or not he actually likes the game. He lacks the word that describes the incredible highs of winning and the terrible lows of losing. Rei, having come off of a terrible season, understands this feeling well.

In the end, Mr. Matsunaga decides not to stop playing Shogi. At the end of the episode, Rei calls Kyoko, letting her know his decision, leaving her in confusion after he hangs up. What’s most important about this is that it is an act of defiance, by letting Kyoko know that Matsunaga is not giving up on Shogi, Rei is also telling her that he is not either, and that she will not prey on his stagnation. Rei is not alone.

The episode is a fitting response to the last one. Rei regains a bit of his confidence while helping someone who had lost their way, just as he has. Still, Rei’s journey out of stagnation isn’t over yet, and their are many more important moments to come.

Should I unironically make a tier list of every episode after I’m done watching all of them? Let me know down in the comments.

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