March Comes in Like a Lion or 3gatsu no Lion is an ongoing manga by Honey and Clover‘s creator, Chica Umino. In 2014, it won the esteemed Grand Prize of the 18th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize.
Directed by Akiyuki Shimbo and with an opening song by Bump of Chicken, the animation series produced by Shaft Inc. has just started airing this month.
Episode 1 includes two chapters. It introduces its young protagonist Kiriyama Rei and where he lives: the town along the river. He wakes up from a dream of a woman who says that his name means zero and that it suits him well. He gets up quietly, prepares to go out and commutes his way to a shogi hall looking all despondent.
At 17 years old, Rei is a Rank C-1 , 5th dan professional shogi player but despite winning his shogi match that day, he walks home looking glum as he remembers his painful childhood. Just then, he receives a message from the genki Kawamoto sisters. He tries to say NO but he ended up coming over to eat some curry together anyway. The eldest of the three sisters, Akari, is responsible and motherly. Middle sister, Hinata, likes to oversleep and make bentos. Youngest sister, Momo, is cho kawaii. But competing with her cuteness are the cats in the Kawamoto household. I’m not a cat person but the cats in the show are just too adorable. One even looks like a fluffy owl. The sisters live with their grandfather who runs a confectionery store. Though they also don’t have any parents around, the Kawamotos’ home is warm and the sisters are energetic; the complete opposite of Rei’s empty and quiet one.
I haven’t read the manga and since it’s under the seinen genre I was expecting something like Hikaru no Go so I was quite surprised with the serene and very slice-of-life atmosphere. I am in love with the beautiful artwork for its mix of seinen roughness and shojo vibrancy. The richness of colors in the background, the bubbly sisters and their cats and their grandpa, plus the dynamic soundtrack make up for the main character’s gloominess. So even though I feel sad for Rei, overall it is not a depressing show. The narrative starts pretty slow so I am curious as to how Rei will come to terms with the feeling of being alone. It will be interesting to see his development as a person and the relationships he establishes along the way. Just as his teacher said, he may be a professional shogi player, a genius, but at the end of the day, he is just a normal teenager. I just wish I knew more about shogi so I can comment on how Rei’s “moves” are connected with his thoughts and feelings during the game.
Ryunosuke Kamiki will play Kiriyama Rei in the 2017 live action movie. I’m really excited about this since Kamiki is one of my favorite actors. This two-part film will be directed by Rurouni Kenshin‘s Keishi Otomo.