What They Say:
Rei Kiriyama, 18 years old. Occupation: Professional shogi player. After losing his family at a young age, all Rei had growing up was a shogi board to cling to. The three sisters Akari, Hinata and Momo were the ones to gradually bring light back into his life. When Rei learns that Hinata has become the target of bullying at school, he desperately searches for ways to protect what is important to him.
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 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes for this set are spread across three discs in a four/four/three 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 there’s a really strong look to it thanks to the paper quality that lets the blues come through richly and the back brings the silvers and greys to life just right. With so much white background material it definitely has a striking look to it. Within the box, we get the case that’ done up with the colorful elements from the front cover set against a white background with it wrapping around with no character artwork, which is a change from the previous two sets. The reverse side does essentially the same with just a light touch of line work but comes across as blank upon first glance..
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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of the series took a little bit of time for it to really connect for me but as it progressed and worked its larger story focusing on Rei it managed to really surprise me and hit some strong notes. It’s almost eighteen months between the last set and the start of this season with this set and that does make an impact in being able to reconnect quickly. Almost like making this a new show to get in on the ground floor of depending on how well your memory is. With some good memories of the first and eleven episodes to sink your teeth into, it doesn’t take long for most of it to come together. The first couple of episodes are kind of a mix of re-introductions and lightness in some ways that helps to make it a bit of a smooth transition.
This half of the season works three storylines, one of which is wrapped up in the other two in a good way. The initial storyline is focused on Chiho as she’s finding herself ostracized and bullied at school by some of the more popular girls. In itself, it’s a familiar storyline and the show even makes it clear within some of the narration that it is something that almost everyone can say they’ve experienced in different ways during their school life. A strange and disturbing common bond that’s allowed to exist. Chiho’s struggling with it in a big way while trying to put on a brave face but we get Rei trying to do his best to help her. This leans into their relationship dynamic that goes to their shared past when she was the one who reached out to him and he intends to help her. But this is one of those situations where it’s more about support, being there, and listening. It’s an interesting arc, not one that really grabbed me in a big way, but it paints a vivid picture of what the teenage struggle is like for those living within it and those out of it but unable to help those within.
The other main arc that did work a lot better for me was the one involving Nikaido. Here, we get to see how the “best friend and rival” of Rei’s is doing. He’s been a bold and brash character in the way that really annoys others in a huge way since he’s not compliant and that keeps him at a distance. What we see throughout here is more of the struggle he has in playing at times because of his illness and just how that impacts him. But for me, it was the flashback period that really shined in making Nikaido even more accessible for me. Some of it was eased in the previous season but here we see more of him as a child and his foray into playing the game and how so many wrote him off as just a spoiled kid who is doing this as a lark. But the real focus with a good part of it that really got me was watching his Kai Shimada in all of this. We know how he is in the here and now but seeing him back then when he was frustrated by it all and then really coming to understand why Nikaido plays clicks so well.
And that’s where the larger arc comes in with Rei. We got a lot of it with Chiho in how he wanted to help her through her problem, but with Nikaido it’s a bit different. We see this through Nikaido’s side and that of Shimada as well. With Nikaido unable to do things with other kids and isolated, he put himself into a different world of heroes and the like and all of that manga has him as we know him, vieing Rei as his rival and best friend. His belief is that the two inspire each other to be better and if Rei really knows what it is that Nikaido goes through, he won’t play and grow as strongly as he should. I really like the way the relationship between the two has grown since the series first brought Nikaodi into the picture and seeing him as a child and how he struggled. With what Rei does know, seeing just how emotional Nikaido is about keeping it a secret in talking with Shimada about it. Wrapping all of this with Rei as the glue about everything just allows for his story to grow nicely, to raise all boats in a way, and having him being important to others even when he can’t do anything to actively help them from his point of view.
As the second season gets underway with this set, March Comes in Like a Lion isn’t starting at square one but it feels like a mild step backward before it can move forward again. Chiho’s story is decent and I like that it does set the whole idea of most of us going through similar things and there’s only so much you can do. But it’s more that Nikaido’s story, especially seeing him as that lonely little boy, that really hits home because you see how he’s moved forward from there and found a path. Getting that through Shimada’s eyes and reinforcing his own devotion to Nikaido is well handled. Wrapping all of it through Rei brings it full circle and that delivers a solid story. I’m eager to see where the rest of this season goes next and to see just how well Aniplex puts together the next set.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening & Ending, Trailers, Commercials
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 18th, 2018
Running Time: 275 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.