Posted on 23 March 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Shion no Ou


I doubt that I can write a review to do this series justice, but here it goes. Shion no Ou is an anime about shougi, the Japanese form of chess. The rules are quite complicated, but you don’t need to be able understand them if you want to enjoy this series. What’s much more important for Shion no Ou is the general strategies, and the mind-games that get played between the two players.

And don’t ask me how they did it, but the writers are true masters in terms of storytelling. While this series does take place mostly in a tournament-arc, they take everything that gets handed to them to spice things up. Every single character has his or her own style of playing that gradually evolves throughout the series. The police and the press often play a big role, as they support the main storyline and the main cast of characters.

And let me say that the story and characters are nothing short of incredible. The heroine, Shion, is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever seen. Every single character is well-defined and developed. Every single episode pushes the plot forwards, without any exceptions. The original manga was also written by a woman who used to be a female shougi-player as well, and she made sure to show all the ins and outs of a shougi-tournaments.

The animation definitely is different from usual. You’ll either love it or hate it, and it does fluctuate from incredibly bad to incredibly good, due to a limited budget. But in exchange, everything looks unique, and you can see that the animators are trying everything they can to make the art stand out. The animation itself is messy, but the poses and camera-angles are creative and yet incredibly life-like, that turned this series into a visual feast for me.

Great anime usually have one or two aspects that turn out very polished, like a cast of terrific characters, or an engaging storyline, but the outstanding anime really deliver in every single department. Shion no Ou has it all: terrific storytelling, a great storyline, a cast of deep and amazing characters (both the villains, main and side-characters) that really comes to life in the second half, a terrific art-style and animation, excellent music and a good sense of realism, although you should note that Shougi is serious business in this series, and at times the characters do tend to take Shougi a bit too seriously. ^^;

Posted on with categories: Shion no Ou


God… this series is over at last. Endings like this one always have a certain air of predictability. Shion was bound to win, Hani-meijin would definitely end up arrested, and there’d also be a pretty good chance that Shion would get her voice back in the end.

And THAT’s exactly where the creators of this series come into play, and their mysterious talent to make this series awesome, no matter what happens. I can’t believe that these guys really know what it takes to create an excellent series. I’ve heard that the manga continues on beyond this point, but there are absolutely not threads left hanging, and everything is somehow carefully wrapped up in this episode.

This is exactly why I love Studio Deen. Their series either reek of mediocrity, like Hatenkou Yuugi, Touka Gettan, Ginga Densetsu Weed or some of Hiroshi Watanabe’s works, and yet they’ve managed to churn out a number of true classics. These guys are not afraid to experiment and go with their own style, which becomes apparent in masterpieces as Jigoku Shoujo, The Law of Ueki, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Simoun and of course this one. They’re looking to be busy yet again for the upcoming spring-season, with Vampire Knight, Amatsuki, Kyou Kara Maou and Junjo Romantica (incidentally, all four are shoujo), so perhaps another potential classic is amongst these four.

So in the end, Hani-meijin indeed was and still is obsessed with Shougi. He basically killed off everyone dear to Shion, in order to make her more focused at getting better at Shougi, after the recommendations he heard about her. Even Kasumi had to die because of this. Oh, and I absolutely loved it when Satoru punched his brother in the face. That scene was simple, but so effective.

The animation was yet again excellent in this episode. And here’s an interesting bit I found out: the chief animation director (Seiya Numata) also did the key animation of the fourth episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, which was the one that spawned the outrage. The episode itself was pretty bad, it was directed and written by a supposedly good friend of the director (called Osamu Kobayashi if I’m not mistaken). But this does explain why that episode looked so strange when compared to the other episodes. Osamu Kobayashi must have been heavily influenced by the unique style of Seiya Numata.

The problem with that episode was however that it didn’t fit in with the consistency of that series at all. Like with The Third, such a different animation-style breaks flow. Arusu the Adventure has thus far been the only series where a change of animation-style has really worked, simply because it consistently changes its animation-style with every single episode. If there are one or two episodes where the characters look totally different from usual, it just feels like bad planning.

That’s why it’s great to see that in this series, Seiya Numata was in charge for the animation of all the episodes, so he could really go all out. And I really like how he made use of the clearly limited budget that this series ended up with. This series is the perfect example of how you can look great, even without the big budgets you see in series as Seirei no Moribito and Macross Frontier. Especially that punch from Satoru looked terrific.

In any case, it’s sad to see that this series is finally over. This has without a doubt been the best series of the past half year. I’m hoping that the upcoming spring-season features at least one more series with the same calibre as this one. A series that comes from nowhere, grabs you and never lets go until after it’s finished.

Posted on 15 March 2008 with categories: Shion no Ou


This episode was… beyond incredible. Oh my god… I can still hardly believe how this turned out to be by far the best episode of this series yet. And with Shion no Ou, this has to say something! Every single part about this episode was just outstanding, and this episode turned out better than I could have ever imagined. It’s episodes like this one that only appear once every half a year. These episodes really are the true masterpieces, and showcase the best of the best for anime.

Okay, so it was sortof to be expected that this was the episode where Shion would find out that Hani-meijin was the one who killed her parents, but the real strength of this episode was the fact that the series had built her character into a truly memorable one. In the end, what happened was that Hani-meijin and Shion played a game of Shougi, after the murder. Shion just was too young to immediately realize what happened to her parents, so she just went along with the game, in an attempt to protect them. Because of this, she tried everything, to prevent Hani-meijin from taking her king. Hani-meijin then took the king from her, and placed it on her father’s forehead, explaining why it was so drenched in blood, after which he left, leaving Shion to finally realize what that total bastard had done to her parents!!!

As it turns out, Hani-meijin left his mother’s necklace with Shion on purpose. He wanted her to have something to constantly remind her of her parent’s murder, so that she wouldn’t just forget it, and a necklace is the perfect thing for that. And you just have to love Shion when she finally realizes that. Instead of cowering in fear, she quickly pushes them aside, rips off the necklace and puts Ayumi’s necklace on instead. That was so AWESOME.

And really, the animators were on FIRE for this episode. It’s not like the episode was extremely smooth or anything, but there were so many different angles, so many different poses. I really love the sense of style that this series has. Most series try to use some extra budget for flashy CG, or extra smooth frame-rates. But this series is different, and instead it’s more interested in different poses and viewpoints. Heck, it has this even more than Hakaba Kitarou. This is really what anime should be: an art-form.

It’s such a shame that there’s just one episode left. This series is really too awesome to end, but on the other hand, it also needs a conclusion. The next episode should be perfect for that, because all that’s left is for Shion to bust up Hani-meijin, Hani-meijin to reveal his reasons and the reason why he ended up killing Kazumi as well.

Posted on 10 March 2008 with categories: Shion no Ou


And the finale has begun! This episode mainly builds up for the two final episodes, but we already see some interesting events. Finally the murderer himself shows a bit of himself, and it’s like I guessed: this guy is obsessed with good shougi. His match against Shion has just only started, and he already is giddy with excitement over Shion’s wit.

The question remains, though: why Shion? Did Hani-Meijin already notice the talents of Shion when he first met her, and therefore decided to turn her into some kind of shougi-machine, or is there a deeper reason beneath it? Satoru believes that Kamizono knows more about it, so he decides to go and visit him this episode. Apparently, Hani-meijin held a match with Kamizono at the time of Shion’s death, providing him for an alibi that day.

And Ayumi, you idiot! How dare you listen to Hani-meijin at such a time and stay away from Shion’s match, right when she needs you the most!? Ah well, at least it looks like he’ll arrive before the match is over, but that might as well be too late for her. I must say that the creators have used the tournament extremely well to set up Shion’s encounter with her murderer. It makes perfect sense, and it’s definitely among de best tournament-arcs I’ve seen.

Posted on 1 March 2008 with categories: Shion no Ou


Heh, and I thought that Satoru would be out of the picture now that he lost. Heh, it’s far from that. Basically in this episode, he confirms the suspicions that were raised in the previous episode, and it’s now pretty clear who the murderer is. Really, only now that this information is revealed, I realize how much sense it makes.

Why did I never question why Shion and Satoru had the same kind of necklace? I just assumed that it was chance, but that was FAR FROM THE CASE. In fact, these two necklaces belonged to Satoru and Hani’s mother! Each of them took one of the necklaces, and I think that this is the first thing that raised Satoru’s suspicions. It must’ve been quite a shock when he first saw it. I also now realize why he was toying with Shion so much: he was trying to figure out how she got the necklace, and because of that, she reminded him of Kasumi. Still, why was Hani-Meijin stupid enough to leave his necklace at such a place?

Also, Shion’s style of playing shougi turns out to be the same style as that of Hani-meijin, according to Satoru. Of course that’s the case! From what I gathered, Shion and Hani spent quite a bit of time together between the time of the murder and the arrival of the police. We already know that he was the reason why she continued to play shougi, so he might as well have given her a few pointers on how to improve her game. The interesting thing is that ever since, Shion did try to change from her usual tactics. I wonder whether the creators will use that in the final episodes.

And thank god Ayumi didn’t turn into a helpless pawn of Hani-meijin. He really shines when he does something for Shion and yet again there are so many possibilities at how the creators can use him against Hani-meijin for the final episodes. Three episodes is just enough to give Hani-meijin some more development (now that we finally know that he did it, it’s time to delve into the reasons as to why he did it). Satoru has already proved to be an extremely versatile character, and it would be a shame to see this series end without Hani-meijin getting the same treatment.

Posted on 24 February 2008 with categories: Shion no Ou


Well, it’s four episodes left, and we finally get a question that has been asked through the entire series confirmed. It wasn’t the most exciting episode that this series had to offer, but it was a perfect build-up to the grand finale of this anime. The next line is going to be a spoiler, so this line is there to prevent it to appear on the blog-aggregators like animeblogger antenna.

So, yes: Satoru was just one big red herring; he never killed Shion’s parents in the first place. The real killer also has to be Hani-meijin, all signs point to him:
– He will be playing against Shion for the finale
– He recruited Ayumi to be his student.
– He entered a world so dangerous that he had to abandon his brother.

In the end, all Satoru was, was another one of the guy’s victims. Satoru looked up to his brother, and he was deserted because of Shougi. In addition to that, Satoru lost his mother, father and lover, and it turns out that he was just clinging to get back to the only one of his loved ones who is still alive. His sadistic actions were just mere pranks, in order to get noticed. I think that the reason why he revealed Ayumi’s identity to Saori just was a subtle cry for attention. I must say that now that I love his character, and the depth of it, and it makes me hate Hani-meijin even more.

Throughout the first two thirds of the series, we were all made to hate Satoru, while the real bastard is actually Hani-meijin. I remember how I didn’t like the guy, but this hatred disappeared when the even worse Satoru appeared. Still, it now turns out that the guy loves to play with other people as if they were toys. Saori, another person that’s been dying for his attention just got shamelessly put aside during this episode, in favour of the “stronger” Ayumi, just because she didn’t make it to the finals because she had the bad luck to face an old shougi-master!

And really, what’s he planning with Shion? I think it’s clear now that he’s after strong players and has no need for the weak ones. Was the reason he committed the murder a twisted experiment to get Shion entirely devoted to Shougi, so that he could harvest her once her talents developed? Is the fact that Kaminozo accepted him really the only reason why he took on Ayumi as his new student? Or was this yet another part of his plans with Shion. The guy definitely had a bad history with Shion’s parents, but what exactly is it?

It’s really been a while since I watched such an episode, but this is one of the rare ones that gets better and better after you finish watching it. It wasn’t the most exciting of the shougi-matches, but it’s been ages since one episode made me think so much as this one. It’s series like this one that remind me why I fell in love with anime in the first place.

Posted on 17 February 2008 with categories: Shion no Ou


This episode was meant to build up for the next one. But with Shion no Ou, this isn’t a bad thing at all. This episode was yet again awesome, and now that this series is nearing its finish it’s getting more amazing by the minute! Seriously, this series has some of the best character-studies in a long while, and at the moment, I’m certain that it’ll end up being one of my favourite series of 2008, even though we’re only half past February.

And really, the animators were on fire for this episode, after the really weird shots of the previous one. It’s really interesting to see that the creators too have realized that the animation needs to be better, and they’re actually improving themselves. I’ve only seen this phenomena in one other series: Mahou Shoujotai. I don’t think I need to say anything more. It’s not like the animation this episode was really crisp or smooth. It’s even messier than usual, but it’s detailed and imaginative. Those were some really interesting poses, where you can see that the animators put some thoughts into them. Some were exaggerated, but others looked SO natural, like how Satoru tilted his head when Shion approached him.

And boy, the story. I’m getting more and more the feeling that Satoru is some kind of huge red herring, standing in front of the real killer. The amount of depth that he and Shion got in this episode is almost unbelievable. This episode starts with Hani-meijin winning over Hisatani, and the second half of the episode is dedicated to the match between Shion and Satoru.

It actually turns out that Shion met Kazuki, when her parents were alive. She hears this from Satoru, during the match. In exchange, she starts crying for her, wondering who it was that handed her her first shougi-pieces at such a young age. I don’t think that Satoru could have expected that other people cared about Kazuki apart from him.

That’s not the only thing that Satoru tells her. He also tells him that she actually once convinced him to stop playing Shougi, and that because of her, he organized the tournament in the first place. It also seems that she died, the day after Shion’s real parents died. Also, for some reason, Satoru also tries to make her remember the incident, and because of this he also shows her his memorial, the same as Shion’s.

Shion then recalls another part of her memory, where she’s playing shougi with her father as a child, where he actually inspires her to keep playing shougi. Shion then realizes that that was the reason why she became a pro in the first place. After the match progresses a while, Satoru leaves the room to eat a bit of lunch. Before he leaves the room, he asks Shion about the night of the murder. Apparently, it took a while before the police arrived, but Shion never screamed for help. She just cried for her parents, if I understood things correctly.

This makes Shion recall that night a bit more clearly, and the night with her father as well. Guess what? It turns out that these two nights were the exact same night. The reason why Shion kept playing shougi was BECAUSE OF WHAT THE KILLER SAID to her! In her mind, she changed this image to be her foster-father. One interesting detail is that Shion held the other king in her hand that time, and she didn’t want to give it up.

Seriously, the potential for the finale for this series is overwhelming. Hands down, Shion no Ou has become my favourite series of the Autumn-season, and Ghost Hound is going to have to be amazing if it wants to have any chance to change this.

Posted on 10 February 2008 with categories: Shion no Ou


Oh my god. This episode was absolutely amazing, and quite probably the best of the entire series yet. And with Shion no Ou, that has to say something! Obviously with that, there are major spoilers following, because this episode turned so many tables around. You don’t want to read this entry without having seen the episode, and I’m serious about this. This sentence is meant to fill up space on the blog aggregators.

Now, the biggest shock was definitely the very first sentence on the first scene. From out of NOWHERE, we just learn that Ayumi’s mother freaking DIED. I hardly could believe my ears when I heard this, and how it came so incredibly suddenly. The first sentence was the last place I’d ever expect a twist so major as that.

Unfortunately, the only thing that wasn’t freaking awesome about this episode was the animation. Something went terribly wrong with the outsourcing this time, and some shots looked really off, even more than usual for this series. Thankfully though, the rest of the episode MORE than made up for it. Shion’s face when she found out about Ayumi’s mother was heart-wrenching. And yes, I admit that I cried a lot during this episode.

The thing also remains that Ayumi has now lost his main reason to play Shougi. Hani-meijin then comes into the picture, when he basically offers to make Ayumi his successor. With his loss against Satoru this episode, the female Ayumi has also died, and the episode ends with Hani-meijin, actually cutting off Ayumi’s hair!

And on top of that, Satoru also receives a truckload full of development. We see him this time at the apartment of a newly introduced friend of his. We receive the first clue that perhaps he wasn’t the one who killed Shion’s parents. It turns out Kazumi was indeed his lover, whom he met in high-school. She died, however, at the same time that Shion’s parents got killed. In this episode, we see how Satoru has actually asked this friend of his to investigate on the real facts of the death of Shion’s parents. Now why would he do that if he was the murderer?

We also learn why Hani-meijin and Satoru split up. Hani-meijin basically forced Satoru to stop playing Shougi, while he himself would pursue a professional carreer in Shougi. This had a major impact on Satoru, and he secretly kept playing Shougi with himself. It turns out that his ultimate goal is to have a real match with his brother, which is probably why he organized the tournament in the first place. Where Shion fits in this isn’t clear yet. But Hani-meijin is indeed the weak point for Satoru. When he finds out that Hani-meijin was late for his own match, his own game against Ayumi got a lot weaker. When the guy showed up at last, he easily won.

Seriously, this episode was all kinds of awesomeness, and to think that the creators haven’t even begun to reveal all of their trump-cards. Right now, only Shion, Hisatani, Satoru and Hani-meijin are left in the tournament. Quite an interesting line-up, if you ask me. If I understood things correctly, then Hisatani will end up against Hani-meijin if he wins his next match. Shion then has also has a match against an unknown opponent (I suspect that this is going to be the guy who beat Saori), after which she yet again has to play against Satoru, who of course wants to go to the finale where he can play against his brother (who’ll likely beat Hisatani). It turns out that there will be 22 episodes for this series, just as with Ghost Hound, and this should provide enough time to close off this series.

Posted on 2 February 2008 with categories: Shion no Ou


Shion versus Yasuoka. How could this episode not turn awesome? It was probably the longest match of the entire series (a bit less than one episode, to be exact). As always, the match was awesome, but what went on around the match was even more interesting! Sure, Shion managed to win, but that’s not what this match was about. It was a nostalgic trip for both Shion and Yasuoka, seeing as this was their first real match. Shion was SO adorable when she was four, and first got into contact with Shougi. I can’t believe that she actually played her first match at that young age, and it’s even more adorable how even then Yasuoka didn’t hold back.

Hisatani and Saori also have quite an interesting relationship. Hisatani has been nervous ever since he realized what he was up against, and Saori just keeps yelling at him to get him back to earth. He’s got his own match to prepare, so he can’t check up on Shion. I also like how Shion ended up winning. The usual spectators have written her down, at that point, and then Satoru suddenly reveals a fail-proof way for Shion to win that everybody else didn’t see. Of course, Yasuoka did see it, and he forfeits.

The episode also ended with a great scene between Satoru and Yasuoka. As usual, Satoru starts taunting, though Yasuoka retorts that Shion’s parents must be proud at how she grew to adulthood. After that, we see a bit more of Satoru’s past: it seems that he actually SAW his father die in the accident that killed him. After that, he shows what could very well be the nicest face that we’ve ever seen from him…

Posted on 26 January 2008 with categories: Shion no Ou


Really, Shion no Ou is one of these few series that’s just as awesome during its climaxes as during the building-up scenes. I don’t care anymore whether we get some exciting Shougi-matches or just their set-up: they’ll be awesome either way! Even though this episode just built up for the eight-finals of the shougi-tournament, it easy was able to remind me why this is my favourite series at the moment.

Like expected, Saori doesn’t get angry at Ayumi after finding out his secret. Instead, she and Ayumi get much closer now. Like Shion, she offers to pay for the operation on Ayumi’s mother, but yet again he refuses. What’s also interesting is how Saori too noticed that Ayumi started to get other reasons to play shougi, other than paying for his mother’s hospital bills. It also turns out that Ayumi has been keeping his shougi-adventures away from his mother as well. This was to be expected, of course. Ayumi really is a person who doesn’t want others to worry about himself, and likes to keep information about himself from others.

I’m still not sure what Satoru’s up to. First, he brought Saori and Ayumi closer together, and now he arranged behind the scenes with the help of the reporter that Shion’s first match in the eighth-finals would be against her foster-father. Instead, he keeps dropping hints how he was the one who killed Shion’s parents. What did seem interesting was the way he talked to Shion was much more different than usual, and it almost felt like he was emotionally involved with the things he said to Shion, how he too lost his parents at an early age. And really, Ayumi was too cute when he tried to protect Shion.

Interestingly enough, Hisatani also made it through the preliminaries. I loved how nervous he was at all the professional-looking shougi-players that he was amongst. It’ll be interesting to see what the underdog has up his sleeve. And I had to laugh at the way that Yasuoka picked up his phone that told him his place in the eight-finals. From his overdramatic movements, to him not knowing how to use a cell-phone.

The media also got developed a bit through this episode. Now that the tournament is progressing, the coverage of the media is also going to increase. Especially on the only two high-school “girls” who made it through the preliminaries. It really felt like they looked at Shion and Ayumi as they were a bunch of cheap idols, and it’s quite a change from the usual reporter, who always was really involved with the matches.

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