As much as I love fantasy and science fiction, there are times where I just want to relax my mind and spirit with something softer and more tangible. I want to be enveloped by a warmth that makes me feel at home. This year and the last, these moments could be found with March Comes in like a Lion, a two-season anime that started in the autumn season of 2016 and began once again this past October. It seems more than appropriate that one of the most heartwarming shows I know begins in the fall, my favorite time of year, and wraps up in the spring just as the buds are blooming. There’s a lesson to be seen there with the path from harvest to birth.
While it would be easy to attribute my love for March Comes in like a Lion to its tone and look, gentle through and through, there’s much more to the anime than that. This is a well-crafted story with both depth and range. Shogi ties everything together: Rei’s livelihood from past and into the future, his relationships both dear and antagonistic, his way of life that firmly grasps the rules yet bursts with moments of ferocious clarity. Shogi, so often compared to chess, provides the perfect board for the game that is life and is the backbone to the entire work.
The strong foundation allows for plenty of deviation into other areas of Rei’s life. We see him at school and with the Kawamoto family. We even experience entire side stories from others’ points of view. The second season of the anime that began this year goes deep into this, delving into Hinata’s troubles at school and Nikaidou’s poor health. Although these arcs focus on side characters in Rei’s life, their struggles and dreams greatly impact the protagonist. He directly attributes his ability to stay positive to Hina’s strength and kindness, and while we are currently in the middle of Nikaidou’s arc as I write this, I can see how his determination to win despite everything holding him back will affect Rei and his own approach to life’s difficulties. The extended time spent on Hina and Nikaidou makes them meaningful figures on their own—not just the protagonist’s punching bags for ideas and growth.