3-Gatsu no Lion and Foreboding Stomach Pains

“It’s rushing towards me, Mr. Shimada’s thoughts. Like water that’s been let loose from a dam. Sudden and forceful!”
-Kiriyama Rei, “Torrent,” March Comes in like a Lion

Happy March! And what better way to enter this month than to touch on the show March Comes in like a Lion? The anime has been a favorite of mine from the beginning, but I’ve neglected discussing it until now. Part of the reason for that is the amount of material worthy of analysis and commentary felt daunting. Unlike Onihei, which I talked about in my previous post, March Comes in like a Lion receives plenty of spotlight from fellow bloggers and anime critics. However, the past few episodes featuring the character Shimada Kai reminded me of my own unpleasant and ongoing experience with stomach pains.

Shimada makes his living as a professional shougi player and suffers from chronic stomachaches. Although he ranks as an eight dan, he continues to look upward towards the top Meijin title. Shimada plays mentor and role model to younger players like Nikaidou and Kiriyama. While he guides them in their never-ending quest to improve themselves, he also paves the way for their paths to the top. As if to echo the weight of such responsibility, Shimada endures daily, near-debilitating pain in his gut.

It was back in middle school when I first put a name to the twisting feeling in my stomach: acid reflux. The frequent pain seemed to spring up around puberty–it often hurt so bad that nothing but lying down and pressing a pillow hard against my stomach helped alleviate the pain. After a scare with ulcer bacteria, I began taking medication to combat the acid in my stomach. I was also instructed to frequently eat small portions throughout the day and avoid acidic food and drink. While I no longer take this medication, the habit of snacking every couple of hours persists to this day. Unfortunately, I’ve strayed towards acidic and spicy foods. The one plus side to my past experience is that I seem to have a higher tolerance for tummy aches, which again are a familiar enemy in my daily life.

There are several possible causes for chronic stomach pain, like stress, bacteria, menstrual cycles, diet, and allergies. No specific reason is provided for Shimada’s situation, but it’s immediately apparent that he currently has little control. He skips meals, drinks coffee, and overworks himself physically and mentally. Stress over shougi matches keeps him awake in the middle of the night. While Kyouko’s discomfort is an obvious response to overeating then lying down, Shimada’s pain seems mostly mental. Like a flood bursting through a dam, relief only arrives during matches–whether that’s because it’s all in his head or concentration makes him forget, I can’t say.

Shimada’s struggle either seems like an old joke to the people who reference it (Chairman), or a secret to those who should know about it (Nikaidou). Oddly enough, Kiriyama is the only one who seems concerned about his well being. He goes out of his way to feed Shimada and even accompany him to Kyoto. The boy who can’t care for himself during his own illnesses turns into a nurse for his mentor. The role reversal of student and teacher bodes ill for Shimada’s fight against the reigning shougi champion, Touji Souya, particularly so after Shimada likens Kiriyama to Souya during practice. I have a hard time seeing success on the horizon for the eight dan when he has a five dan similar in mindset to the meijin fussing over his health. I fear for Shimada to win, he will have to first confront his mysterious condition.

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7 thoughts on “3-Gatsu no Lion and Foreboding Stomach Pains

  1. If you ever get the chance … the manga is (in my not so humble opinion) ten times better than the anime adaptation. If you are liking Sangatsu that much you should definitely, definitely give the source material a try! ^^

    Liked by 1 person

      • I think you will be surprised at least … and I would guess that you … well … no spoilers! :p

        Will say (though you already may know this) that the mangaka of Sangatsu also wrote Honey and Clover … so if you have read that one.

        Ep 20 aired today (four for four – alas) which means only three more episodes. Am curious to see what they will adapt and where they will end things.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oho! I did not know that, and I loved the Honey & Clover anime. I’m really bad about reading manga since I honestly hate trying to read it digitally, but don’t want to shell out for the physical books since I already have piles of books all over my house.

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  2. It’s not really the kind of show that is going to have Shimada win. When he himself is hoping against hope to not get swept, it’s not really a possibility that’s on the table.

    As for stomach issues, I don’t have them, but my wife has dealt with them from a young age, including ulcers, reflux, and FODMAP sensitivities. She’s doing ok with them now, but the more amazing thing is how much has changed in what people think about treating the problems.

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    • I’m commenting before seeing Shimada’s Kyoto match, but yes, I agree that there’s a very low chance that he will win against Souya. I tried to convey that in my title. It’s a shame since I like his character so much, but it makes more sense in the narrative for him to lose.

      While I was falling into the pit that is WebMD, I read that irritable bowel syndrome affects a larger percentage of women, which I find very strange. Regarding your last sentence, are you referring to the more modern tendency to immediately seek pain relief, or something else?

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      • What I’m talking about is more the change from “have her drink a lot of milk” when she had stomach issues as a child to that never being the remedy now, with much more research into what foods are helpful and which foods are not. Especially things like FODMAP sensitivities, which I think could end up being a gigantic deal. It’s not that they really make anyone overtly sick, but it’s a lot of pain and discomfort that nobody wants. If more people tried to cut out those things that made them feel bad, and found substitutes (because you can find substitutes for just about anything) and started feeling a lot better, a lot of people would be a lot happier.

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