What They Say:
Rei Kiriyama is a 17-year-old prodigy in the world of shogi (Japanese chess), his young age marking him out as an exciting talent in a hierarchy mostly dominated by much older men. While those around him are impressed by his relative success at such a tender age, for Rei the expectations placed upon him feel like a millstone around his neck as he struggles to make sense of his place in the world and the person he wants to be, while simultaneously battling with the pressures of the world of professional shogi.
Rei’s journey of friendship, rivalry and self-discovery brings with it a gamut of emotions, and a poignant look at life that will resonate with viewers from every walk of life.”
The audio has 2.0 release in English and Japanese, despite being a fairly recent series so surprised only 2.0 options with both languages. Despite that the English dub wasn’t an issue and didn’t even require adjusting so a much higher than expected and the Japanese version also didn’t require it so there were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, etc – the quality is high overall, just wish it had a 5.1 as whilst the show is very subtle with its audio, the atmosphere is there with the subtle changes in music so would have been nice to have the full effect.
Similar with the audio, the video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation and colour in a more traditional sense, with no real problems with the subtitles, and with it being a fairly recent series (2016-2018) it flows easily onto Blu-Ray compared to some older releases. The animation combines CGI with traditional especially with the shogi sequences which seems to work well for the most part and not really noticeable except with close ups and yet feels like an old school anime with a traditional feel at the same time so is the best of both worlds.
There was no packing for this test release however with the collector’s edition you get the collectors packaging.
The menu is pretty standard – we see clips of the show intertwined with the opening theme song in the background as below the scenes we get the selections of Play, Episodes, Settings, Extras and Credits. Easily selectable and like most Blu-Rays gives you the option to choose via a pop-up menu whilst in show some else (bar extras). Fast, quick, efficient and nice looking.
The extras are mostly basic – the first disc has the textless opening and ending, the second disc has a trailer and commercial, and the full version of the catchy as heck Meow Shogi Song (trust me, won’t get out of your head…) and disc 3 has the Meow Shogi classroom hosted by Nikiadou teaching Hinata and Momo the basics of shogi with those cute cat mascots which is a fun way to teach the game.
It seems at the moment the UK has a mixed boon with anime – as whilst we get some of the crowd pleasures whether it’s the popular (My Hero Academia) or the fanservice (Testament New Devil) there is an intermix of much more niche series that seem to be sneaking in due to popularity. And whilst the last two I reviewed I had been aware of (Sound Euphonium, Amanchu) this one snuck by the radar as one I had never heard of and really wish I had. There have been anime that have taken traditional Japanese games and done their own spin whether it is shounen style (Hikaru No Go), serious (Akagi) or fanservice yet still well written (Saki) – this one takes it to a much more in-depth level with its lead character and how/what the game means to him, whilst exploring his own personal growth.
A current ongoing manga series dating from around 2007 to present, the anime debuted in Japan in 2016, with the 2nd season (soon to be released here) finishing in March 2018. We are introduced to our main character Rei, a talented young shogi player who is one of the few to qualify as a pro whilst in middle school giving him some high reputation. He lives on his own, seems to be a slight shut-in yet still attempts to go to school despite apparently not having friends (apart from ironically one of his teachers) yet at the same time, he isn’t lonely as he occasionally visits a family of girls who are a surrogate family to him despite recently having their mother die on them. These are the oldest Akari, a young adult who helps her grandfather with their sweet shop and works as a hostess managed by her aunt in the evening, the second youngest Hinata, a nice, excitable middle school girl who seems to make Rei get more himself and looser as the series progresses, and the youngest Momo, a preschool student who is your typical little girl, a bit selfish but adorable…
The focus is definitely half on his lively with the Kawamoto sisters, and half playing shogi, but throughout both you slowly begin to learn about his past. He plays his self-proclaimed rival/best friend Nikaido who has known him since they were children and whilst he’s a bit obese and suffers from problems, he is a fun loving kind rich child (who later Momo mistakes for a Totoro knock-off ^^) and definitely the most fun character of the show, whilst at home Akari is being a strong head whilst Hinata whilst seemingly strong, cries when out of sight for the passing of her mother. From this, you learn about Rei’s past, as we learn that his parents died and he was adopted by a man named Koda, who is a pro shogi player and found more talent in him than he did with his actual children Kyoko and Ayumu, leading to jealousy from the family, especially Kyoko who seems to appear at times to stay the night at Rei after a night out, and always seems to try and psyche him out before a big shogi match…I get the feeling there is more to this pair than meets the eye but we’re just get started with this show…
There are a lot of fun moments combined with drama – I love Hinata’s worry about making a box lunch for the baseball star that she has a crush on named Takahashi…which leads to learning that she has a ways to go before she can cook…but a brilliant book end is that Takahashi is a nice guy and even looks up to Rei that his status as playing shogi pro in middle school inspired him to try and be a pro baseball player! Little things like that which you don’t expect really had to the show…
…but clearly the drama is there too. The more on Rei’s past, the emotions leading to his adoption, his parents death, the Kawamoto’s situation – it leads like the two groups really need each other for support despite being all smiles between everyone. The New Years episode has Rei and Akari being the only ones awake to see in the New Year but Akari is thankful because otherwise she would have seen it alone due to her mother passing away and doesn’t need to hide the tears from him. This combined with the flashbacks of Rei being adopted, and the two other children clearly not happy as they think he is taking their father away from him, combined with the grown up Kyoko and how it affects Rei (he plays two matches near the end, one against someone who would retire if he went down a rank…which has a surprisingly humorous conclusion, and one against someone who has relationship issues which isn’t as humorous leading to the aforementioned scene with Akari at New Years) – it really hits you hard and just really want to know how far it is going.
And along with that, it is also a great tutorial for people like me who have never played shogi. The Meow Shogi Song is annoying catchy but that combined with Nikaido’s way to teach Hinata and Momo how to play is also really good for viewers especially for those who play chess (like me) but never played shogi and how it is different. It teaches you enough so you understand similar to how Hikaru No Go and Saki did teach you enough of the basics to play whilst the focus was on characterisation and developments.
It is a slow show in that regard – 11 episodes in (episode 12 being a recap episode) and doesn’t really go at an amazing pace – but that is why it is good. It is slow, the story is being built, the characters are developed (Rei clearly has a lot of baggage but whilst he does have his moments actually is not a shut-in and has a decent life style outside of living alone – hence why Akari almost drags him to her house when he has a cold) and there is plenty of fun to enjoy to offset the upsetting backstories (Nikiado is great for that, and Akari’s charm at the bars when some of Rei’s friends force him to take them there is too innocent yet comical at the same time). There is clearly more to be shown especially as we don’t know everything about either the sisters or Rei’s past, but this is one of those shows that really feels like you want to see what happens more, both on the game side, the rivals’ side and the relationship side.
The Season 2 discs arrived as I wrote this so yes, this will be put in the player very soon…
March Comes In Like A Lion has a great mix of everything albeit at a slower pace than usual – comedy (Rei’s teacher Hayashida whilst minor has some great comic moments with him as does Nikaido), drama (the back-story of the sisters and Rei’s adopted family, and Rei himself) and storytelling/development that you forget that the actual catalyst was shogi. Along with other shows that range from using brass bands, diving, camping, the circus, motorad travelling, etc – sometimes the most unusual things end up bringing out some of the best stuff on television and it becomes truly captivating. There is clearly many things still to be told and this whets the appetite just enough that you want to see what is going on, both Rei as a player and as a person. Unusual, yet highly recommended.
Textless Opening, Textless Ending, Trailer, Commercial, Meow Meow Shogi Song, Moving Meow Shogi – Nikaidou Class
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: October 29th, 2018
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.