What They Say:
Rei Kiriyama is a seventeen year old professional shogi player. Among the youngest in history to go pro, he has many expectations for the future, yet his recent separation from his foster family has left him conflicted and his career has stagnated. However, after meeting a family of three sisters, color slowly returns to his life…
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with an English language dub (!), both of which are done in the uncompressed PCM format. The show is one that is largely dialogue oriented without much in the way of action as even the shogi move sequences aren’t overplayed dramatically. There are some nice moments where the dialogue moves around and some dramatic sound effects from time to time, but the big sequences for the audio are still the opening and closing moments. That said, the dialogue is very well handled here with some big dramatic moments taking shape but also some really strong pieces where quiet is key and that takes on its own disturbing tones. It’s a very good show in this regard throughout and with the background music that wells nicely from time to time, but it’s not a mix that’s going to attract a ton of attention.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this set are spread across three discs in a four/four/four format. Animated by Shaft, the series has an exceptionally strong look about it with the details, quality of animation, and color design. It’s not a movement-heavy series for the most part but what it does is create such an authentic world and setting that it just draws you in through that quality. The encoding is top notch here with a high bit rate that lets the colors really shine with all their variation while also keeping all the details in both characters and backgrounds looking great and problem free. There’s a real richness to what we get here and watching this on a large screen just makes it so easy to be absorbed in it all with what it does. This is a fantastic looking show made so by a fantastic encode.
The packaging for this release comes in a really sweet heavy chipboard box that holds the oversized clear Blu-ray case. The box has some of the really appealing character artwork on both sides that we’ve seen where the front has Rei with the sisters outside where almost all of them are smiling while the back as Rei by himself in the same kind of place but with the cherry blossoms trees in bloom behind him. Both look fantastic with some great color reproduction that really does just make both sides feel uplifting. Within the box we get the case that’ done up with a pencil sketch image of Rei for the front cover set against a white background as it uses the back cover artwork close up with the back cover blank. The reverse side handles the left side with the character artwork in full from the front in the same kind of design while the other panel is blank.
The set also comes with a really nicely done square bound booklet included where across the thirty-six pages we get character profiles in full color, reproductions of the end cards, and a nod toward the credits at the end.
The menu design for this one is nice as we get some good soft visuals of backgrounds that are lighter in color tone for the background. The foreground brings in various circles that bubble in and rotates various character moments through those in more vibrant colors while the rings around them flow in shades of blues as well, making for an active but natural looking design overall. It’s one that definitely works better than a static menu and gives you something that draws you in because of the quality of the animation and designs. The navigation strip along the bottom is a soft white that breaks down the standard selections while also noting the volume and disc. Everything functions well both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this release are pretty straightforward as we get the clean opening and closing sequences along with the promo and commercial for the show. We also get two pieces of the Meow Shogi bit and they’re certainly cute and worth having separate from the show so you can show it off to others easily enough.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Chica Umino, March Comes in like a Lion in its first season is a twenty-two episode series and this set contains the first twelve episodes of them, the twelfth of which is a recap episode. The original manga has been ongoing since 2007 with twelve volumes so far running in Young Animal magazine and the anime has been doing a great job of adapting it with Shaft handling the production. What helps with a show like this it that it airs on NHK and doesn’t have to have the same kind of commercial appeal as other shows on the main broadcast networks, so this is getting to take its time and draw us in with what it’s doing. And thankfully so because this is the kind of slow build slice of life character drama that needs to take its time to engage the viewer.
The show focuses on Rei, a seventeen-year-old young man who has been involved in shogi for years. He’s living on his own in Tokyo but spends a decent part of time with a trio of sisters, Akari, Hina, and Momo. They live on the other side of the bridge in March town whereas he lives in June town. There’s differences between them as March town feels a little less glittery and shiny as modern Tokyo but there’s a kind of earthy nostalgia to it that Rei is drawn to. Rei’s able to live on his own thanks to the shogi master that has sponsored him so that he can more fully pursue the experience. For Rei, this is a difficult situation because he’s plainly not handling this kind of solitary life well but also struggled heavily before that within a family. Quite simply, Rei was broken some time ago and is looking to find a way – mostly on his own – to heal wounds that requires more than just himself.
The series reveals this over the course of the season as we see how he had spent time with his father, a professional shogi player himself at one point in time, playing the game even though he didn’t care for it much. He’s talented at it but when that’s the only way to really get to spend time with someone you work through it, even at a young age and with complicated social pressures even then within a family. The skill he has is shown through a few others he plays against, including another kid his age named Nikaidou that fancies himself Rei’s rival and plays hard against him in some outlandish ways at times, so we get the familiar trappings at the start. You can feel for Rei and what he’s going and see several possible paths forward for him, all of which could be interesting. So when the wrinkle is put in about his parents and younger sister getting killed, well, you see how it takes that curve and runs with it.
This is where it becomes more challenging as we see him eventually taken in by another family as none of his blood relatives are willing to do so. The man was someone who knew his father and was a rival himself. Unlike Rei’s father, however, this adoptive father only pays attention to Rei and his own kids in the context of shogi. While seen in brief we see how that really damages the older daughter in a way that essentially turns her into a poisonous woman while the younger brother who is Rei’s age simply retreats into himself as he gets older. With Rei getting better and better at shogi since that’s how to survive in this family, he ends up surpassing the others and drawing more of father’s attention and that leads to its own problems, particularly when viewed through the eyes of a broken young man that doesn’t know how to interpret a lot of things and the obvious interpersonal issues that arise because of being adopted into the family. Rei’s escape to his own path is likely the best scenario but one where he cuts himself off too much.
This is the backdrop through which the series operates as we follow Rei trying to continue on as a professional player while being drawn to Akari and her family, which has suffered their own losses that he hasn’t inquired about. There are some interesting connections that come from how they meet with Akari’s aunt owning a small bar where Akari was working when Rei was pressured in by some older fellow pros that were taking advantage of him. Thankfully, it’s not a show where he moves in with them at this stage for a different kind of family but he retains his own place to explore things while also getting some support simply by their presence when he visits them. That combined with Nikaidou, who does frustrate him from time to time because of his outgoing nature that’s in such contrast to his own dour and withdrawn style, keeps things minimal but definitely engaging.
This half of the first season has a lot of heavy lifting going on in setting all of these things up and exposing them over the course of it. Rei’s removed himself from school early on in order to focus on being a pro but I like that he eventually goes back, even a year behind, to try and build up a social life. That he fails at is is no surprise and befriends an older teacher is about what I expected. He doesn’t have a deep bench of friends/rivals from the shogi side and ends up at one point befriending someone who has been doing this as a pro for forty years and getting all the wrong things out of it from him. So it really does come down to Akari and her sisters, which Nikaidou horns in on after being associated by the youngest with a Totoro knockoff, and that in itself has a great little bit with him teaching the kids shogi through cat personalities. It’s weird but it works.
With a lot of material ahead of it, Marche Comes in Like a Lion basically sets all the foundations here with more than enough exploration of the past so that it doesn’t feel like we’re waiting for shoes to drop. This allows us to engage with Rei as he struggles with is feelings, unsure of what to do to try and find what he needs – or even understand what he needs. The support functions are there and obviously there’s potential for romance as well, but it doesn’t focus on that side of it here. This is a show about a lot of people that are like most of us – broken in some fundamental way but functional while trying to find out how to live life and enjoy things in the face of so many obstacles. Aniplex’s release is just strong across the board here, from my shock that it’s getting a dub to the joy of a heavy chipboard box and a great booklet. With a beautifully detailed show getting such a lush presentation, this is a must-have series right out of the gate with so much more to go.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening & Ending, Trailer and Commercial, Meow Shogi Song, “Moving Meow Shogi” Special
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 19th, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.