This week we have an episode that dedicated to Shimada the 8th Dan and overall it was a satisfying episode. Looking back to his first introduction, I’m even more amazed how the show pulled his character off by purposely made him insignificant when we first met him both by his plain appearance and by Rei’s occupied thoughts on Gotou; until he demanded Rei’s and our full attention. He might be plain and always seems to be lurking in the background (and the show keep pointing that out as well), but as this episode proves magnificently, even ordinary everyday man has his own personal compelling tales to tell, just like real people we meet in our lives. Chica Umino is a masterclass when it comes to character writing and I’m in overall happy with what she accomplished to Shimada’s character here.
Starting off by Shimada’s flashback on his rural hometown and how he gotten into shougi, we followed his perspective on the struggle he had to stand on his own in the shogi world. We usually find this kind of flashback in other anime as well, the whole episode focused on certain character’s backstory to flesh out the character, but in this case I would argue this flashback is an example on how to use it right. Because in addition of giving more depth to Shimada, this flashback never at once feel out of place or even disrupt the flow of the story. Everything they showed in that flashback was just deepen what we already know about Shimada. That night bus keeps squeaking as it runs through the night perfectly sum up thematically his struggle towards just barely make it there to shogi, become “a small fish in a sea of sharks” and keeping the hope from the people in his town (man, how I love this writing). I had been in night buses before (and night planes that took forever) so I can relate to it all to well. Waking up and there’s a different, unfamiliar world awaiting you; but the moment when you’re alone in those buses waiting to get there was the loneliest time ever. His stomach pain also represents his pressure towards the kindness and hope of the people in his village; but those hopes (and that heartfelt banter) are something that keep him going, that make him try harder and harder in his shogi path.
I’m honestly quite surprised about Rei, as he takes a very good care of Shimada in this episode; because let me tell ya, taking care of a person is a freaking demanding job. He felt a bit responsible for Shimada’s current stomach pain so he decided to accompany him to Kyoto (that place! One of my favorite place that is). Rei has gotten more active roles lately and I’m glad that he starts to take care (AKA giving his support) to others because then people can rely back to him. It’s the right step in the right direction for our protagonist. It’s interesting to note that he’s actually shared the same thinking with Souya regarding shogi, because mostly they play the same all-rounder style and both relatively “genius” among his peers. Well, the Souya comparison will get more apparent as Rei’s getting better at his game I’m sure, but it’s still nice to see that Shimida acknowledged it sooner than anyone else. Also, we learn a bit more about Souya. He’s like an outcast, I don’t think he feels belong to this shogi world, but he keeps getting forward without looking back and apart from that he doesn’t care for anything else at all, just wandering around places with his mind in the sky. There’s really a thin line between a genius and a fool after all. Next week, we gonna see how the title match in Kyoto progress and I hope this time Shimada can break through so that he could play shogi in his hometown. You have my full support Shimada.