Posted by SuperWooper on 18 December 2017 with categories: 3-gatsu no Lion, Currently Watching:

3-gatsu has been on the road for a couple weeks now, with much of the action taking place in Osaka and Kyoto rather than good old Tokyo. The results have been mixed, although neither of these episodes were bad by any means. It’s the two-part chapter “Kingdom” (which aired last week) where my issue really lies – nothing about it grabbed my eye or my heartstrings until the final scene, where Rei found Hinata by the river on her school trip. The bullying arc has been and continues to be spectacular, but fetching more water from that well right after an underwhelming final shogi match didn’t do much for me. Luckily, “River Scenery” from the subsequent episode elaborated on their meeting in Kyoto, which was just what the show needed. What it didn’t need were the two flashbacks in episode 31 that recapped conversations from just ten minutes prior… but rather than obsess about that dreadful technique, let’s address the elephant-sized shogi player in the room.

His name is Yamazaki Junkei, and he’s a buff, bald brute of a man. At least, that’s what 3-gatsu would have had you believe during his game with Rei. Their clash in the finals of the Newcomer Tournament begins with his towering appearance, gets smothered by a wall of loud, somber strings, and suddenly ends with Rei’s victory. I’m happy that our boy fulfilled his promise to Hinata by winning, but we hardly learned a thing about Yamazaki before or during the game to make it interesting for non-shogi players. It’s true that he took advantage of Nikaidou’s illness and timed him out in the semifinals, and my guess is that Umino-sensei gave his character as little attention as possible so we would root against him, but the result of that strategy was an underwhelming title match. Take Rei’s semifinal game against Hachi as a point of comparison – that scene gave us a full picture of the opponent’s character, and was much more involving for it.

Yamazaki’s backstory doesn’t come until “Silver Wings” in episode 32, but taken on its own, it’s a terrific slice of a series that excels at these sorts of character portraits. Though the man in question is merciless enough to push a sick child to the brink to keep his title, he’s not without a heart. If anything, his heart is too big and too weary to yield to a kid whose passion he can’t understand. Frustrated by his own lack of improvement, and fearing Rei and Nikaidou’s reckless dedication to the game, Yamazaki sees the two boys as “insane.” But it’s Nikaidou himself who inspires a change in his opponent’s attitude, as just before collapsing, he smiles ferally at Yamazaki, a sign of recognition from one competitor to another. That image is burned into the older man’s mind, and it seems to me that it rekindles his love for shogi (as indicated by his study of Rei’s game logs). That renewal is further symbolized by Silver the pigeon’s return, and the blooming of the chrysanthemums in his garden, which he gives to Nikaidou as a get-well present. Though Rei’s “Go to hell!” was appropriate, given the dirty way that Yamazaki sneaked into the finals, I was quite happy to spend these eleven minutes learning more about the man.

All of this brings us to Rei and Hinata, who have grown closer than ever after this week. I’m really appreciating 3-gatsu’s slow approach to romance, which it’s safe to say is the plan for these two characters at this point. Hina may not transform in a blushing, stuttering mess every time Rei is around, but it’s clear that she relies on and appreciates the great lengths that he goes to where she and her family are concerned. As for Rei, his momentary lust for Akari seems to have been a one-time thing, and his strongly-worded dedication to Hinata is looking more and more like love. It’s not the kind of love you find in supernatural high school love triangle series (thank anime god for that), but the kind that’s tentative and selfless, and doesn’t complicate their friendship. It’s especially nice that Rei knew where to find her based on his own history of isolation on school trips, and that he took a page from her grandpa’s book and praised her for hanging in there despite her troubles at school. Watching Rei learn from others and use his own struggles to empathize with them has been some of the most believable character progression in anime this year.

4 Responses

  1. SuperMario SuperMario says:

    Okay, I know you have mentioned this before in your other posts but would you elaborate more on the “momentary lust” from Rei towards Akari? Because I don’t get that impression at all. If there were ever a person that Rei lust after, I’d argue it’s Kyokou rather than Akari.

    • Avatar SuperWooper says:

      Sure. It comes from episode 29, where Rei and Akari are discussing Hinata’s situation at school. They’re walking across a bridge at sunset, and he yells “I’m here too!” to indicate his support. There’s a close-up on Akari as she smiles, and then a close-up on a blushing Rei.

      Later in the episode, Rei thinks to himself, “At that time, when Akari’s cheeks and voice where lit up by the setting sun… I can’t get them out of my head. For the first time, I feel desire for something. And it isn’t an innocent desire.”

      I agree that Rei probably lusted after Kyouko when he was younger, but that feeling probably faded after he moved out. I don’t think he’s got any plans to pursue Akari, either, but it’s cool that the show acknowledges Rei’s sexuality without fixating on it.

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