“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.