The Lion Cub Can Grow Again: Season One Episode Thirteen
Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
Despite it only having been a few weeks or so, it really feels like I haven’t done one of these in forever. That is college for you. But now I am back, and once again I can dive right into March Comes in Like a lion.
The episode opens with a bit of a recap from the last. In the opening moments, the way Rei says “here I am again” is a reminder of the fact that he no longer wants to use the Kawamoto sisters as a crutch, and wants to mainly focus on being the best at Shogi. After giving Akari some fish he received from the Association president and having dinner, Momo asks Rei if he could stay the night. Rei, remaining steadfast, explains to her that he has a sort of test tomorrow, and that he must do everything in order to win.
It is worth mentioning that, despite Rei’s resolve to stay away from the happy, comfortable lifestyle that comes with hanging out with the sisters more often, he still appreciates their support, which is evidenced by the fact that after Momo says, “do your best,” Rei smiles. While he maybe be putting on a more outward show, on the inside he is overjoyed.
However, this will actually be the last Rei is shown for a while.
Immediately following the opening sequence, the show settles onto Smith waking up and starting his day. As he wakes up, he gets up and out of bed, and walks immediately over to the fridge, where he picks out an array of different foods. As he finishes setting everything on the table, he begins to have something of a Shogi match breakfast, likely because of his facing off against Gotou.
As Smith heads out for the day, he recalls seeing Rei at the Shogi Association printing out match records for Shimada and Gotou, but laments that he did not print out anything for him. Still, a more honest and level-headed voice reminds him that he just does not see himself winning against Gotou anyway. However, he does not let this dissuade him.
Smith soon after arrives at the Shogi, calming and reminding himself of Gotou’s more defensive play style, which he says he will counter with his lightness. As Gotou arrives, Smith notes that at a professional level of play, no matter how much one has prepared beforehand, the outcome of a match can never be decided one hundred percent before it is played.
Smith’s sequence up until this point is interesting for a number of reasons. The first is a fairly obvious one: outside of the last episode where he had to restrain Rei from attacking Gotou, Smith has not been a prominent character, so to see him get over half an episode pretty much focusing on him is fairly surprising, and adds a much needed bit of character development.
Speaking of development, the second reason is that the episode shows us a bit of Smith’s overall personality and approach to the game. Despite having a seemingly calm and collected, albeit upbeat personality, Smith’s Shogi play style is a bit different. He plays in a more all or nothing manner, choosing to focus on continual offense rather than defending the king. Smith also tends to remain relatively positive and clear-headed, at least until the end of his match against Gotou.
Despite his best attempt, Smith still loses the match, and with it his place in the Lion King Tournament. As they sit after the match, Gotou tells him that the reason he lost is because he hesitated in executing on his play style, and that if he is going to continue to play the way he does, Smith cannot continue to do so. Smith then heads home, using a can of coffee and a trash can to decide whether or not he will go drinking. After a terrible shot from a long distance away, Smith peers behind some nearby bushes only to find a stray cat crying out for help, and with that his night was dictated.
The last eight minutes of the episode then shifts its focus back onto Rei, who plays an A ranked player Shimada on the same day. As he walks to the Association, Rei vaguely recalls a time when Shimada came to a kids tournament as a guest speaker, noting the lankiness of his stature and presence. As the match between Rei and Shimada gets underway, a lot of camera angles, both from Smith’s match earlier and from Rei’s, start to convey more meaning.
Earlier, when Gotou approached Smith as they were beginning their match, the first view shown of him is one where he is towering over Smith, with the light shining above making him out to be an ominous presence. Now, both Smith, and Rei sat on the left side from the camera’s perspective. So, in a literal sense they are in the same position, but also in a metaphorical sense they are looking up towards Gotou, wanting to take him down in the tournament.
By contrast, as Shimada sits down to play, the camera from where Rei is sitting cuts off half of his face. This indicates that, despite preparing for the match by looking over his records, Rei still does not see Shimada as a real opponent, only a means to an end. Unlike Smith, he is not focusing on the opponent in front of him, and for that he suffers.
At first his game seems to be going well enough. For a while, the two begin to make fairly inconsequential moves. Eventually, though, things begin to heat up. The two continue to shift pieces around the board, with Rei trying to figure out Shimada’s game plan, but to no avail. Somewhere along the way, though, Rei gets swept up in all the action, and suddenly realizes that, despite thinking the game was even, that he is actually losing by a lot.
The show then cuts to a short sequence, where Shimada and Nikaidou meet outside of a game room. When Shimada asks why he is here, Nikaidou responds by asking him to take down Rei. However, he does not do this out of spite, or because he wants to Rei to lose. Nikaidou seems to understand Rei’s feelings pretty well, and wants to help him get better.
It then cuts back to Rei falling out of his trance like state, looking up and revealing Shimada’s face for the first time that match. The episode ends soon after with Shimada smiling, asking “shall we continue?” It is in the next episode where Rei will learn what it means to take Shogi seriously, finally figuring out the full extent of his stagnation.
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