Posted by SuperWooper on 5 May 2018 with categories: 3-gatsu no Lion, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Alright guys, here’s my last post: a series of short takes on the final four episodes of 3-gatsu no Lion. These are a month late, as usual – it wouldn’t do to break tradition just before my departure. I might pop in for joint film reviews or special occasions, but apart from that, this is the end. Thanks for reading!

41: After the big showdown between Yanagihara and Shimada, 3-gatsu opted to decompress by focusing on its side stories for a bit. I’m of two minds about this episode. Everything involving Chiho-chan is a home run for me, so working her plum syrup into the festival story gave me a reason to care about the Kawamotos’ sweets business. Hinata’s determination to support her friend, plus her growing satisfaction at helping the family financially, are taking her character in a good direction. All the plans she has for special confections hint at a future where Hina takes over Crescent Moon, relieving her big sister of the burden left by their departed mother. Rei pitches in at the festival, too, and there’s even a cameo from Takahashi, lending a sense of community to the first chapter of this episode. As for the scenes from Hinata’s school near the end, I remain unimpressed by the series’ unwillingness to tackle Takagi’s character in detail. As her prospective homeroom teacher says, she doesn’t feel remorse for her actions, but if your goal is that she feel remorse, you won’t get through to her by instructing her to conquer her anxiety. See my post on episodes 35/36 for more on my issues with this subplot.

42: Hina continues to take center stage here, with plot threads like the upcoming entrance exams and her concern for her grandpa positioning her in a more mature role. Several months ago, her main purpose was to fight against the bullying that was occurring in her class, but now she can think more about herself and how to turn her dreams into reality. The idea to attend Rei’s high school pops into her head after a fun afternoon of catching and eating bamboo somen, with a bunch of people participating (including Hayashida-sensei, who catches feelings for Akari straight away). But I think it’s mainly Rei’s cheerfulness that convinces her that Komahashi High is the right fit. Hinata knows better than anyone how much Rei has had to endure, because she has experienced a similar sense of loss. So when she sees him laughing with his friends from the Shogi Science club, she knows it’s a place where the two of them can find acceptance and have fun. Rei goes into tutor mode to make it happen, while Akari makes snacks and provides encouragement like only she can. This might be the gentlest ‘high school entrance exam’ story in the history of anime, but having seen plenty of them myself, it’s also one of my favorites.

43: I can’t get through an episode of 3-gatsu these days without crying, it seems. Kana Hanazawa’s fragile voice during Hina’s sickness broke me, especially the little “okay” she mustered in response to caretaker Rei’s suggestions. Her fear of forgetting everything she’d learned for her exam was so sad, because it was brought on by a far more profound fear: that of abandonment. Just learning that her crush Takahashi would be going to a faraway high school was enough to send her into a spiral, where memories of her mother and grandmother’s deaths and her father’s abandonment were enough to make her literally sick with worry. This was the third episode in a row that mentioned the Kawamotos’ deceased mother, but the first where it caused one of our characters so much grief. Hopefully these constant backwards glances are setting up a brighter future – this episode takes a step in that direction, at least, by granting Hinata admission to her preferred school. It also provides a warm moment between Rei and his adoptive father right at the end, most likely to lead into the special conclusion in the next episode. There’s plenty of other stuff to unpack in this one, most notably the question of Rei’s attraction to Hina, but I’m trying to keep these short, and that plot thread will receive much more attention in the eventual third season.

44: Shaft went with a mix-up for the finale of the second season, just as they did with the first. The chapter from the start of this episode is actually number 97 in the manga, but the second season concludes with chapter 89, so things were a bit out of order here. This was a nice choice, since chapter 90 introduces a significant new character in the shogi world and moves the story in a different direction. Better to cut things off with Hinata in the spotlight, as she has been for the last few episodes. Before that, though, we have “Other Home,” which is told from the perspective of Mrs. Kouda, Rei’s adoptive mother. She doesn’t recognize her son’s voice over the phone at first, which establishes a distance between them that lasts for the duration of the chapter. Visually, “Other Home” consists almost entirely of still images, which creates a fractured atmosphere that breaks only when Rei bids his former pet Tarou goodbye. When he wishes for his dog to “live a long life,” you know his biological family is there in his mind’s eye, since they provided the sort of warm, stable upbringing that Mrs. Kouda couldn’t. Her narration is largely confessional, as if she’s asking the viewer to be pardoned for viewing Rei as an intruder, but their visit is nothing more than cordial. Even a series as optimistic as 3-gatsu knows that some relationships ought to stay damaged for the sake of the story.

Not so for Hinata and Takahashi, though, who go out for monjayaki with Rei and say their goodbyes. As Takahashi prepares the dish and talks about his plans to make it for his new teammates in Shikoku, Hina realizes that the bond they share as children from the same hometown can never be broken. Even as she moves on to high school with a botched haircut and a tear-stained past, she still belongs to a community and a family that love her dearly. I can’t wait to see how that knowledge buoys her, and the rest of the 3-gatsu cast, for years to come.

(For more detailed thoughts on “Other Home,” check out Mario’s post here.)

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