Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
This time around I am doing a bit of a double feature for our *almost* weekly re-watch of March Comes in Like a Lion. The reason for this is that episode 11.5 is largely just a recap, with a few new lines thrown in certain parts. However the reason I wanted to talk about it is because of the way the recap is structured, and the element of March’s Story that it focuses on. With that being said, lets get started.
11.5 and a Story of Survival
The real story of eleven 11.5 begins where episode 10 ends, with Rei angry and confused, and guilty because of his sister Kyoko, but not too guilty. After returning his opponent Yasui’s gift after he purposely leaves it there, Rei seemingly comes to terms with this guilt, rationalizing it as weakness on the part of Yasui. This is because, for Rei, Shogi is literally his means of survival and the way he was able to escape his abusive family. Shogi for Rei never felt like a choice, and so he feels a sort of hatred for those who can just walk away.
Afterward, the episode goes through each of the major events of the first eleven episodes. However, the emphasis of the episode remains on the story of Rei’s survival. It goes from his first encounter with Akari, where she more or less saves him from spending the night alone on a sidewalk. From there it goes through Rei’s rehabilitation, his stagnation, and his realization about where he wants to go.
The episode ends on a revisiting of episode eleven, showing Rei’s resolve to not only return to Shogi seriously, but to move forward.
12 and New Resolve
As the episode opens we are introduced to a new opening scene and song, one that is significantly more upbeat and hopeful than the first in terms of its tone. Not only is the music slightly faster paced but the visuals are overall brighter. In the first few seconds of the opening it shows Rei still somewhat dimmed in color but the world around him looking much better, likely symbolic of his determination to be better at Shogi.
Another important battle that Rei is having internally, as this episode shows quite well, is his struggle with recognizing the Kawamoto sisters as his new family. It seems that, while not explicitly stated, that Rei has a some trust issues, which is understandable given what he has gone through already. Near the end of the opening, he is walking towards a light, which looks to be like his family, but when he opens his eyes turns out to be Momo, Hina, and Akari, symbolic of Rei’s current struggle, and a pretty obvious hint as to where that struggle will lead him.
The last important thing worth noting about this new opening is that the song is called “Sayonara, Bystander” by YUKI, and it talks about seeing a bystander in the streets and leaving them behind to walk forward. As it relates to March, this seems to be talking about Rei leaving behind one version of himself in order to grow as a person, which, given the context of the previous eleven episodes, makes a lot of sense. Rei is tired of feelings sorry for himself and is now motivated to move forward in the world of Shogi.
The episode itself begins in a similar way, with Rei studying Shogi while making himself dinner. He boils water, puts in the noodles, and finishes making them. He then sits down near his Shogi board, over a cardboard box turned dinner table. Rei seems to be enjoying his food, when all of sudden he notices something:
Except, it is not just the air conditioner. The clock sitting near his bed also feels louder. He soon realizes that being surrounded by noise while at the Kawamoto home has made him feel his loneliness that much harder. Having people to be around everyday felt good, but his apartment does not have those people. After reminiscing for a minute, he soon gets an ominous feeling, one so scary he feels like he has to get up and go for a walk, otherwise he will be consumed by it.
At first it is not super clear what Rei is talking about. In fact, the entire sequence kind of comes out of nowhere, with Rei suddenly leaving and pacing around the river in the middle of the city. However, as he tries to distract himself with Shogi moves, it starts to becoming clear that the feeling Rei is so desperately trying to avoid is complex. It is a mixture of both loneliness due to being away from the Kawamoto sisters, but also a realization about just how warm and inviting their home is.
This is scary to Rei for a number of reasons. The first, as he says in the show, is that the sisters’ house feels like a warm kotatsu, and that if he stays to long he might never want to leave. In other words, Rei fears that his attachment to them might cause him to become distracted from his goal of rising through the Shogi ranks.
The other main reason is less obvious. As I said before, Rei appears to have some trust issues, and so he also fears, on a more subconscious level, getting attached to a new family. He knows that it is real and that the sisters appreciate and care for him, but Rei just is not sure how to respond.
Still, after sitting alone near the river for a bit, Rei beocomes even more resolved in his quest to become better at Shogi.
The next part of the episode focuses on setting up the stakes for the Lion King tournament, and how it, along with the Master’s Tournament, are the two biggest Shogi events of the year. While walking into the Shogi hall to play his match the next day, Rei runs into Smith, who is excited about the high stakes of the Lion King Tournament. The two then go to play their matches.
Rei plays against Takeshi Tsuji, someone ranked a lot higher than him. Still, despite it being a long game, Rei manages to narrowly beat Tsuji and keep his place in the tournament. The first half of the episode, titled “What Lies on the Opposite Shore,” ends when Rei and Smith leave the play room only to meet Gotou, a strong player and Kyoko’s boyfriend.
At the start of the second half, Rei is reminded of the time Gotou beat him up in front of Kyoko. At this point, Gotou starts being antagonistic, calling Kyoko a “stalker,” telling Rei to have his adopted father “do something about her.” However, despite the relationship Rei does have with both his father and sister, he still gets angry to the point of almost attacking, with Smith having to physically restrain him.
It would be one thing to care about his father, as he has already demonstrated that he still cares for Rei, but the fact he gets angry over Gotou insulting Kyoko is a bit more interesting. Going back to what the show has already covered, the relationship between Rei and Kyoko seems to be fairly abusive, and so the feelings of affection Rei has for Kyoko seem to come from a kind of Stockholm syndrome he has developed after years and years of this abuse.
However, the tension does not last too long, as it is interrupted by the Shogi association president, who appears to be back from a fishing trip, as he is carrying with him a cooler full of fish. Gotou then leaves, clearly annoyed at the arrival of the president. The president then insists on Smith and Rei taking some fish home, and tells Rei to bring some to the Kawamoto sisters as well.
Rei then takes a train ride over to the sisters’ house, stopping just outside to take in the feeling of warmth that the house gave. After Akari receives the fish from Rei, she stares in disbelief, wondering how much she will be able to save on food bills for the month. She then thanks Rei, and Hina brings out some of their leftovers, apologizing and saying that is all they have.
Rei is, of course, overjoyed to be getting food at all. After finishing his meal, he thanks the sisters for everything they did for him while he was sick and could barely move. Momo then insists Rei should stay the night, and Hina agrees, adding that they could do a jigsaw puzzle in the morning, since it is Satuday.
It is here, at the end of the episode that Rei’s resolve to focus on Shogi appears on full display. For as much as he would have loved to say yes, he knows that he can’t simply put off practicing. He tells Momo that he has a sort of test that he has to study for, and so she tells him to do his best, at which point Rei heads home. He then reminds himself that in order to get his revenge on Gotou, Rei first has to get through his next opponent, a man named Shimada, who will become much more important later on.
How did you guys feel about the show the first time you watched it? Let me know in the comments.
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