With this episode we come to an end of Shimada’s title challenge matches against Souya, and somewhat close his arc down. Shimada time has been very effective and touching time and he proves to be a very worthy addition to the cast. In this episode we get to see his dream: the dream sequence depicted the life Shimada could have been had he given up on shogi. In that dream, he lives a normal, happy life in his village with all the smiling and warmness from his hometown people. While this sequence sure is bittersweet, I can’t help but feel it was a tad heavy-handed. Now, “heavy-handed” is a term that I don’t normally use for 3-gatsu, even I don’t mind those sequences about Rei’s depression, as it lays bare the emotions Rei has been struggling to live his life. But the reason I find this dream a bit forceful is because when you make a career out of something, anything really the feeling of burden and “just stay on your feet and keep walking slowly ahead” are bound to happen. Not just shogi. Here the show tried to paint us that it was the life he sacrificed for his shogi professional path. Well, it’s not like his girlfriend left him because he chose shogi for one thing; moving to the big city to make ends meet and trying to survive is the very struggle of majority of people out there, and shogi career isn’t that bad. It could’ve been much worse. My point is that his dream feels like a wishful dream, and maybe that is the show’s point. Just like any sweet dream, it’s just too bright and too perfect to be real. In this life though, the stomach pain he got represent the responsibility he been carry through from the people from his village. He has to carry that weight and that pain for the rest of his life; but like he acknowledges later on, he embraces that pain because the pain makes him feel alive.
The match between him and Souya ends up in another straight loss for Shimada. Boy, here I thought with all that build-up, the show would just make him win this match so that he could play in his hometown; guess I was underestimated the show’s writing. One interesting thing (and how true) I noticed is that doesn’t matter how Shimada tried his best to climb his way up slowly and steady; in public eyes, at least for now he will be remembered as “the challenger who loss straight matches”, “a loser whose skills ain’t that great to be in the title match”. It’s a shame though the way publicity works, sometimes you just see the ice tips on the surface and ignore the rest of the iceberg. And he comes this close to win that match without even realizing it. The same thing. “Almost winning” still doesn’t mean anything to others but maybe himself, Souya and Rei. All his efforts weren’t rewarded this time, but now he knows that he still has a potential to actually beat the master.
Rei, on the other hand, has become really active lately and I believe he has matured a lot in this trip. It’s great to see him actively feel concern for someone he cares, and moreover express his feeling towards Shimada in the final moments of the match, something that the timid Rei in the beginning of the series wouldn’t dare to do. Witnessing Shimada struggling through matches, his will to play, and finally that “last move” have given him a lot of valuable lessons as well. After he sees the weathered Shimada sleeping soundly on the train back home, he learns that what lies on the other side of the storm is just more furious and non-stop storms. Pretty deep stuff here. At the same time, it reaffirms that our Rei is, in fact, special (surprise surprise! He’s our protagonist after all) to find the final move that only Souya could see afterwards. Kidding aside, it draws the parallel between Souya and Rei, as in term of shogi, they pretty have the same style and the same instinct. The real difference is that while Souya is always portrayed as a perfect inhuman being (time stop around him, snow falls, he doesn’t age), it comes with a price too: he’s so far removed from the rest of the world. With Rei thought, he’s human, he’s imperfect and although he feels lonely at times he has others who actually care for him. They’re not the same in the least. With only 2 episodes left (meaning 4 more chapters), all I can really hope is for 3-gatsu to have a proper ending point. But I really doubt that, since like in real life; we, and life itself, just keep moving on.