What They Say:
With his life as a teenage shogi player developing rapidly, Rei Kiriyama finds himself facing a whole host of new challenges – not just on the shogi board itself, but also in his own personal life. As his fractured and difficult family life come into focus, so too do the root causes of many of the anxieties that plague Kiriyama. He isn’t alone in his struggles however, as a major tournament reveals that even more experienced players have their own deep-seated problems to face in the name of success.
With new friendships forged and important life lessons learned, for the first time Kiriyama might just be equipped with the knowledge he needs to proceed down the path to a successful life and career…”
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.
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 a peaceful song in the background as below the scenes we get the selections of Play, Episodes, Settings and Extras. 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.
Disc 1 has some generic extras in the textless opening and ending, as well as the credits, with disc 3 having a second season announcement trailer and an English trailer as well, but the bulk of the extras (spread around discs 2 and 3) are the continuation of the Moving Meow Shogi series, the 1st one in the previous collection, this one has all the rest from #2 to #10.
Set in CGI and in the fictional Shogi Land, we have Nikaido (still referred to as Bodoro by Momo) teaching Momo and Hinata how to play shogi by turning all the characters into cats, and demonstrating what they do and how they can be used in shogi in a 3 move way to checkmate someone. So we basically get what is in essence a good beginner’s guide to shogi done simply like beginners would like a la Hinata/Momo, which is also good for the audience. We get all the pieces (pawn, lance, knight, silver general, gold general, bishop, rook and king) along with some general information about shogi including facts that may surprise you (it’s original origin in India for example was very interesting). It always ends with Rei at the end looking disappointed he wasn’t part of it, but it is a very quick, yet fun demonstration of how the pieces work in shogi done in a fun cute style, thus very welcome.
March Comes In Like A Lion was a pleasant surprise, able to talk about a subject that many westerners would not be familiar with (shogi), use it as a base for a plot and focus then on the character development of the lead as he goes from pretty much a shut-in to becoming more out-going, finding friends, learning more about himself and deciding what to do with his life. The 2nd half continues on this story with quite a few surprises as it doesn’t conform to what you’d expect the show would do as you’ll see…
We see Rei about to enter a tournament where media coverage and prize money are on the agenda and he’s clearly trying to not thinking of a particular player named Gotou. Mainly because Kyoko apparently has a thing for him despite him being in his early 40s and married. It is clear there is history between the two from this and this rage seems to inspire that the two may face in the finals of the tournament…with Rei winning his first game; the contract of that state compared to him visiting the Kawamoto sisters represents the fight between the warmth of the family vs. his personal life…
The semi finals have Rei’s friend Smith face Gotou but he does lose (albeit a fun scene where he finds a stray cat and adopts it – it’s adorable). Indeed, it is all set up as Rei faces an opponent named Shimada who is in A Rank compared to Rei’s C rank, but he has been studying him and Gotou well and it sets up the final…
…except for the surprise twist. REI LOSES.
I will confess this surprised me as I would have forgiven the series for the common cliché of fighting the rival as I expected that to happen and thought Rei would lose there, but nope, he loses against Shimada as it is clear Rei was thinking too far ahead and forgot how skilled an A rank can be. This whole arc then turns into one part Rei, one part Shimada arc as he becomes a focus character (helps that he is the mentor and teacher of fan favourite Nikaido as well) – it humbles Rei and after a bit of sulking, he realises he needs to focus on his life, so he wants to graduate from school and also after some prodding from Nikaido joins Shimada’s workshop. Shimada in turn, defeats Gotou in the final (after some surprisingly funny bickering) to face off against the grandmaster/meijin, the mysterious Soya – who like Rei, became a pro during middle school…
Thanks to his likeable teacher Hayashida he begins to focus on school and goes up a year, whilst also we see how his adoptive father Kouda learns about Kyoko’s lifestyle (which inevitable leads to them butting heads, a nice moment sees Hinata of the sisters help him out) whilst Shimada begins to suffer a couple of defeats to Soya, in a best of 7, he needs to win 2 so that the 6th match would have been at his hometown…
Again, the story doesn’t go the happy ending or predictable route as sadly, Shimada loses 4 in a row to Soya, who is very mysterious and quiet, but not cocky, just incredibly strong. We learn about Shimada’s illness, his past, his dreams, the lack of regret yet wondering if his family and friends would berate him as he returns home with Rei and Nikaido in tow for a game of human shogi, whilst Rei has to contend with a new school year. And with him being older due to missing classes and repeating one year due to shogi, Hayashida wants to find a way for him to make friends before he leaves with regret, and his idea? Make a shogi club….hmmm….
It sets up the next stage of Rei’s arc as he is slowly branching out into the outside world, and seeing if a club can make him more sociable. As strange as the show is in reminding himself he seems to be alone, this arc reminds us he does have friends – the sisters, Nikaido and friendly rivals like Smith, Shimada, plus having to deal with his issues with his family – we only get glimpse of Gotou’s history with him and Kyoko (calling her a stalker suggests that she is the one being aggressive but he’s a bit of a shady character) but the Kyoko/Rei relationship strikes me as the most interesting as it is clear she resents him for taking her father’s attention (there is a moment where she thinks he is the one who is stopping his support of her – hypocritical considering she accuses him of mooching off the sisters and off her father yet he is the one who is earning money and renting despite his young age) – it feels like they hate each other yet need each other in times of loneliness…which brings the sisters back into play as Akari is the motherly figure for Rei, whilst Hinata is the younger sister/girlfriend type (she gets a little jealous of Kyoko so…) with Momo obviously being the kid sister. It definitely is verging onto a family vs. history story which is why it is so intriguing.
Helped by a lot of likeable characters that support him outside of the sisters – Nikaido continues to be a fun rival but the real star of the show is Shimada. Only a character mentioned in passing and seemingly overlooked by everyone (Rei in particular being guilty of this), he is a man in his 30s and a high rank of shogi but it sets up like Rei will face Gotou as the good vs. evil arc, yet his play style is hard to work out and Rei completely overlooks him and suffers a bad defeat. However the man is gentle by nature, with a hint of childishness and the nerves of someone playing shogi causing stomach pains – combined with looking after Rei after his defeat to the point that Rei joins his seminars, with a good natured past despite some family problems, he is the star of this story surprisingly which in turn catches you off guard but it opens up Rei’s options as a person as well, making this extremely well written. Add to that he is also the mentor to Nikaido and we get some fun moments between everyone involved.
It still is a slow burn, and of course it isn’t heavy on action or indeed an arching plot outside of Rei needing to graduate and see how his does both in his shogi life, and his social life. However this seems to put him in the right direction, and the fact the show TWICE doesn’t go down the obvious route (Rei loses to Shimada, and Shimada is destroyed by Soya) means that this feels more realistic than your average shounen protagonist show. It isn’t going to be for everyone, but for me, it’s a perfect sit down and enjoy show and definitely one I didn’t expect to like this much.
MCILAL continues it’s way on Rei’s journey, but the fun thing is we aren’t sure what the journey is. To beat Soya? To have a happy family life with the sisters? To remain alone? How he is going to deal with Kyoko? Can he graduate? The show throws a few twists so you don’t know what the answer is going to be and it makes you like characters that are introduced just then as well as wonder about other characters (Shimada and Gotou respectively) – it won’t be for everyone as the show pacing and sometimes depressing backstory can put people off, but underneath that is a well thought out and quite charming series that definitely needs to be seen past the chess pieces.
Clean Opening/Ending, Credits, Moving Meow Shogi Series (episodes 2-10), Second Season Announcement Trailer, English Version Trailer
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: November 26th, 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.