Posted by SuperWooper on 9 February 2018 with categories: 3-gatsu no Lion, Currently Watching:

It’s been exactly a month since my last 3-gatsu post, and the show has delivered a plethora of great material since that point. Or at least, I’m assuming it has, because I wrote this post without having seen the most recent pair of episodes. The series is on hiatus for the duration of the Winter Olympics, though, so I’m not in a big hurry to catch up. The anti-blogging bug made its way into my bloodstream several months ago, and at this point it’s hard to say whether it’ll leave before I do. But that’s enough about me – let’s kick back and chat about some weeks-old episodes of 3-gatsu no Lion.

The moment I saw Akari sorting through the mail in “Small Palm,” I paused the video and went to grab my tissue box. Having read the manga a few months back, I knew that stack of letters contained a message from Chiho-chan, and whenever she appears on my TV screen, my room is guaranteed to get a bit dusty. This time was no exception, as Asuka Nishi’s fragile voice work and images of Chiho smiling and meeting new people combined for a heartstring-tugging scene. When her teacher at the rehab facility suggests making friends with someone her own age, Chiho immediately remembers Hinata’s past kindness, and writes to the girl who may be her closest friend in the world, “I really miss you.” But the real killer is the way she asks Hina whether it’s okay to expect that she’ll visit during summer break. The phrasing of her request is so gentle and so tentative that it breaks my heart. I know they’re just characters in a silly cartoon, but I wish I could give a hug to her teacher, the kindhearted ranch workers, and especially her parents for continuing to care for Chiho, even after her sense of self-worth was brutally stripped away.

For me, nothing else in these episodes comes close to the high of that letter, especially not the material that precedes it. The ease with which Kokubu-sensei dispels the months of mistreatment and oppression in Hinata’s class is too miraculous, and what 3-gatsu leaves behind is a series of conversations where he implores Takagi to show remorse for her actions. Though Takagi’s issues with “ganbaru” culture are indeed a smokescreen to distract him from his mission, the way he brushes them aside goes against the show’s usual spirit of examining every character in detail. I hate what Takagi and her friends did to Chiho and Hinata, but I don’t hate her as an individual, and the series might have benefitted from a closer examination of her life (we know that her mom is a bully and a taskmaster) or her issues with Japanese society. The pressure of succeeding early in life with no guaranteed benefits, and working hard simply for hard work’s sake, must be troubling for kids who feel trapped by their circumstances, as Takagi probably does.

But hey, the series can’t juggle too many plates at once – this isn’t an Urasawa manga. It needs to leave room for a bit of fun once in a while, like Hinata baking cookies at a classmate’s house, or half of episode 36, which took jabs not just at the “old and frail” duo of Shimada and Yanagihara, but even at the Meijin himself. The guy kept it together for most of the pre-exhibition party, but he must have exhausted his supply of preloaded interview responses, because he wasn’t making a lick of sense by the end. Honestly, Souya’s behavior here caused me to wonder whether he’s on the autistic spectrum. I’m not a psychologist, and I know that speculating about fictional characters’ mental disorders is trendy in the worst way. But his non-reaction to the wine spill, the mismatched responses to the reporters, and the show’s branding of him as a “shogi demon” (hinting at savant-like obsession) seem to point in that direction. An anxiety-prone Rei spends most of this episode admiring the Meijin’s apparent poise, but he’s back to revering him as a force of nature by its end. When Souya enters the playing room decked out in a white kimono, the contrast it creates with Rei’s school uniform instantly tells you that our boy is about to get blown back. Personally, I’m interested to see not whether he can keep it close, but how he responds to his inevitable defeat at the hands of his childhood idol.

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