We have a fairly typical 3-gatsu this week, in which its level of quality is what we come to expect now. Its awkward shift in tone and the lack of big thematic plot points are still prominent in this episode, but we also have many heart-warming little moments, occasional touch of visual greatness and the plot that focus balancedly on Rei in his professional shogi life, his social life and his personal life. The notion of hometown, in particular, plays a big theme in this episode. As Shimada talks about his hometown to Rei, there’s really nothing in his town, just farmland, yet he tries his best so he can play the title match in that town again. Doesn’t matter where you end up living, the place where you spend childhood will always give a special, nostalgic feeling to you. And where is the place that Rei consider his home anyways? His true life was taken away from him when he was too young; spending 10 years in a house with little to no happiness; and now living alone in an empty apartment? Is it the sisters’ house then, the house he was just accustomed himself to recently? That song “Hometown” in the end really brings the sad, quiet feeling and it was one hell of a way to end the episode. Nice craft, Shaft!
Although I would be more interested to see the title matches between Souya and Gotou instead, bringing Shimada to face Souya actually benefits the story better. Shimada is still at the level that isn’t out of Rei’s reach, so to see the man’s commitment to face off the top shogi player is a valuable experience for Rei. While I feel that they overplayed the part where Darth Vader and Yoda shogi fighting and the endlessly shogi rambling (still, steamed bun joke was very good), I like the way Rei feel unsettling about the situation in the workshop. He’s the allrounder type, so he tends to focus more on the overall situation than the specific puzzle, unlike those two. The water motif again is very on point this week, depicting Shimada’s spirit and his will through the influx of water that nearly swept Rei away. I’m glad that Rei has gotten really over his depression few episodes ago and now keeps trying to improve his game, both tactically and mentally.
It’s his time with Hayashida-sensei, however, gives the episode a lot of heart. Hayashida has become more and more important to Rei’s current life and he feels like one of a prominent character now, the way he makes his best effort to keep Rei engaging his school life socially. He is one of the best sensei Rei could’ve had (on a second thought, not really, since he actually encourages Rei to skip class and nearly cost the poor boy another year), not only helping him get along with his study life, but moreover gives him many valid advices and heartfelt comments. Rei always has a feeling that he’s currently in a standstill: he doesn’t get along well at school, barely make it pass the year, his ranking isn’t improving… but Hayashida pointed out correctly how he has been fighting all this time at an age that normally shouldn’t be bothered to try. While I’d would give the exact opposite advice if I were him- someone in Rei’s age needs to go get out more and explore the world- his sincere comment at least reaffirm Rei’s worth, his life isn’t empty as he think it is. He carries a big burden especially for someone his age and it’d be much better if he understands that his friends are more than happy to carry the load along with him.
And here comes more Hina and Momo moments. I was a bit afraid that having the sisters meet Kyouko would disrupt the balance of the tone of the series, but thank god it didn’t. The three sisters are always brimming with light and warmness, while Kyouko’s always surrounded by dark nights and cold detachments, so how can they mesh together on the same screen? After all, how often you see the sun and the moon together? And isn’t it those times when they are together a special occasions? This week, it’s nice to see Hina and Momo get into Rei’s apartment for the lamest excuse (yeah, like they need that bento box that urgency!), but Hina’s emotional directness always work for someone who always hide his feeling like Rei. Rei makes that moment even sadder when he admitted that Kyouko is his sister, but clearly they don’t share any siblings chemistry at all. It’s perfectly normal when siblings having a fight with each other once in awhile. It isn’t when they having a fight every single time. In fact, the only close-to-sibling-ly moments they shared together was when Kyouko teased Rei about the three sisters. Only Arika sees through this complex relationship and I hope we have a more touching moments the next time Rei encounter the three sisters. Now, allow me to end this post here so I can watch some Squirrely-sensei program and go to that Mouseland for some adventure!!