Posted by SuperWooper on 3 December 2017 with categories: 3-gatsu no Lion, Currently Watching:

Look at me, posting this review just hours after episode 30 showed up online! This must be the start of a new chapter in my blogging career, and my reward is a pretty good episode of 3-gatsu. I say “pretty good” rather than “great” because, as is often the case with this show, one of the manga chapters it covered was much better than the other. Thankfully, the team at Shaft seemed to recognize this, because they devoted a lot more time to Nikaidou’s story than to the dialogue between Rei and Hayashida-sensei. This is the second of these student-teacher chats that we’ve seen this season, and while they’re important for establishing Hayashida as a fatherly presence in Rei’s life, this one wasn’t as strong as the original. The close-ups, head tilts, and repetition of past jokes (countering “monster parents” with other monsters) were particularly distracting this week. Really, the only thing I gleaned from this scene was the way in which the Kawamotos’ father disappeared – he found a new girlfriend, abandoned his family, and started a new one somewhere else, just like that.

There’s more that could be said about “Midday Moon,” but the Kawamoto family wasn’t the real focus of this episode. That honor belongs to Nikaidou, who some 3-gatsu fans cite as their least favorite character due to his role as a loud, hotheaded rival character. If there were ever an episode capable of changing their minds, though, it would be this one, which explored his history as a shogi player, his struggle with chronic illness, and his fierce competitive mentality. Shimada is the perfect conductor for these flashbacks due to his status as Nikaidou’s shogi “brother” and his recent mentorship of Rei. Even more than his present relationship to their characters, however, his initial dislike of Nikaidou is what sells “Adventures” as a complete story. Shimada first dismisses him as a rich kid looking for kicks, resenting his wealth because of the poverty in which he himself grew up. But after perusing his semifinal match records, he realizes Nikaidou is an obsessive student of shogi, and that his sickness must have created the conditions where he’d be able to fully devote himself to the game.

Knowing this about Nikaidou, it’s easier than ever to draw a parallel between him and Kiriyama, his arch rival. Rei was essentially forced into shogi in both his biological and adoptive families, and continued to use it as an unhealthy mode of escape even after becoming independent. For both boys, the game functions as something of a curse, but it’s also a life preserver in an ocean of pain both psychological and, in Nikaidou’s case, physical. He can’t bear the thought of anyone going easy on him, because for him, shogi is the only contest in the world where he’s on a level playing field with everyone else. That’s why he begs Shimada not to tell Rei about his illness – not only does he want to avoid burdening his friend, but he also wants to maintain their rivalry as a means of personal growth. As I watched this scene, I remembered Kyouko’s past strategy of telling Rei about the strained family life of another shogi player, hoping to sabotage her stepbrother by generating sympathy for his opponent. The hurt that Rei experienced in childhood makes him scared of hurting others, so it seems Nikaidou was on the right track by concealing his condition from his best friend.

The question of whether Rei can still treat Nikaidou as a rival is left unresolved here. Shimada reveals that his opponent in the semifinals forced a second game after a threefold repetition, which has a direct equivalent in chess. In that game, such deadlocked board states are typically avoided, but can be intentionally pursued to manipulate the game clock, which appears to be what Nikaidou’s opponent had in mind. Whether he purposely took advantage of the boy’s poor health isn’t clear to us yet, but either way, Rei has an opportunity to avenge his friend in the finals. That match will function as a landmark moment in Rei’s shogi career, but Shimada is more interested in whether he can still be merciless Nikaidou, as his opponent was. And although Rei is determined to win his next match, he dodges Shimada’s question, which signals to me that he now sees Nikaidou in a totally different light. Even if the finals end in victory for Kiriyama, it’s going to take a lot more than a trophy and a promise of vengeance to bridge the gap that has formed between them.

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