What They Say:
“Chapter 81 Burnt Field (Part 3) / Chapter 82 Burnt Field (Part 4)”
It’s the final match of the Kishou Championship and the honorary title of “Eternal Kishou” is on the line for Yanagihara. As the shogi game approaches the final stage, Shimada is dominating. Yanagihara reflects on how he’s been entrusted with metaphorical relay race-like “sashes” from friends who have given up or retired from the professional shogi world. Even while feeling bound by this pressure, Yanagihara continues to play.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
We begin right where we left last week, with Yanagihara contemplating his own situation and comparing it against his friend Gan’s analogy to being in a burnt field. Instead, Yanagihara feels as if he’s still burning. I could have just jumped straight into the rest of the episode since we’ve already seen this, but I just wanted to take a moment to mention the amazing work involved in this scene. Everything from the music, the imagery, the words… paint a complete and haunting picture. March has always excelled at this and it shows throughout the entire episode, but every once in a while I am taken aback by the sheer artistry of it all. Anyway, on with the review.
This is the rest of the match between Yanagihara and Shimada and it is glorious. It mostly focuses on Yanagihara as it’s to be expected. As he keeps on playing, making strange, never before seen (according to Rei) moves, you can tell something is changing inside him. Gan’s words ring out inside his head, and he turns them over and over again trying to find an answer for himself, sometimes even losing the thread of his game. He compares Shimada to a Zelkova tree, a plant that grows slowly but surely strong and wonders what would his peers compare him to, but he is all that remains of his generation’s players and as they say, it is lonely at the top.
The match is particularly important because Yanagihara is not only playing for this title. He has been a champion so many times, one more win and he’ll be awarded the title of Eternal Kishou, a title only deserved by those who’ve won ten titles. The entire episode feels like a beautiful, long poem flowing organically, taking you in and out of the game and Yanagihara’s mind. His plays are fierce even though his body is frail. He even chuckles a little bit remembering how he thought he was going to die in their previous match, a gesture Shimada takes the wrong way. It’s a small moment but it’s highly effective. Just a little bit of bittersweet comedy that while subtly funny it’s also perfectly realistic as opposed to the more usually exaggerated style.
Little by little, the images in his mind start changing as well. Should he retire? Is he going to lose this time? These questions float around him but as he slowly starts accepting you can’t win forever, and metaphorically starts letting the sashes go, something else happens. March has dealt before with this dichotomy between reality and perception but maybe because it hadn’t done so for a while, it felt a bit more poignant. As this epic battle is unfolding, and it is epic, Yanagihara can hear the voices of those he’s left behind, telling him they’ve given up, they can’t do it anymore, practically saying goodbye. However, back in real life, his friends are still supporting him, some telling him to hang on, others, and this was the most significant detail given his worries, telling him he’s done enough.
When Yanagihara reaches out to grab those sashes again, it’s not a moment of defeat but of triumph. He is so close to achieving Eternal Kisshou and he decides to take them all with him. To take them out of that imagery of the burnt field into greener pastures, so all he’s endured won’t be in vain. It matters because this is not him carrying a heavy burden imposed by others like in the past episode, this is Yanagihara himself making the decision to carry on their dreams and make them a reality, and in doing so he gives them and himself something far more precious than a title: he gives them hope.
It was an outstanding episode in every possible way, right down to its message. Yanagihara asking Gan to use his camera for the commemorative photo and then including both him and Shimada in it, it’s basically telling them without words: it isn’t over yet, it’s never over unless you want it to be. The answer he reaches is both simple and beautiful: live your life to the fullest right until the very end. Frankly, this is the best we can hope to achieve and may we all be so lucky. The match was also spectacular. The music and the visuals gave it an epic feel, as though it was the most important thing in the world, a history-changing event even as the rest of the world just kept going as usual. The entire episode was downright magical.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll