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Ryuuou no Oshigoto! – In Shogi We Grow


Pay no attention to the crazy stalker in the corner.

Many people will argue that Ryuuou no Oshigoto! is Saki for lolicons. I think that’s unfair. There’s plenty in Saki for lolicons to enjoy too.

Wait. What was I talking about?

The point is, I do think that Saki is the best barometer for whether someone will enjoy this show. Its general feel is the most similar—a focus on comedy hijinks and fanservice, crazy high-powered matches, a general lightness of tone—but the two shows are actually fairly dissimilar when you pick them apart. So let’s do that, shall we?

The thematic core of Ryuuou no Oshigoto! is growth. It might seem at first that the gravitational center is loli antics, and—okay, yeah, there’s plenty of that. But what younger characters give a writer—the grade schoolers to be sure, but main characters Yaichi and Ginko are only 14 and 14, respectively—is the chance for explosive changes in a relatively short period of time. The point of this series is not the titles or the shogi, which is good because I still don’t really understand shogi. (I’m shaky on Japanese mahjong, but I’m a damn sight better at it than shogi, that’s for sure.) But that never mattered because shogi is the vehicle by which these characters growth, not the be all end all itself.

Compare this to Saki, which is at its core a team sports anime. There is certainly character growth, but the core there are these big team battles and winning tournaments, whereas in Ryuuou it’s always about personal growth. That makes sense when you focus on who is competing and who wins the matches—the team versus the individual. But, to both shows’ credit, they embrace that difference. Saki is more like a battle anime, whereas Ryuuou is a coming-of-age drama.

This shows in how much the characters in Ryuuou change over the course of the story, and none so much as the one person who isn’t a teenager or younger. Keika is the stand out surprise of the series, because her story of continual failure followed by redemption was so well executed. You really feel for Keika because she goes through so much for her love of shogi, and yet keeps getting nothing for it. She’s outclassed, but also standing in her own way, and it breaks the heart to see it—just as it makes the heart sing when she finally got over it. The changes in Keika, Ai #1, Ai #2, and Yaichi are the whole point of the series, so thankfully they do them relatively well. Not flawlessly—only Keika and Yaichi experience changes that are more than just the natural consequence of growing up—but pretty good.

For me, the biggest weakness in Ryuuou is that, while the anime did a pretty decent job of explaining when the big swings in momentum were happening, the staid world of shogi doesn’t lend itself as well to drama. That meant that it could get boring when the characters were placing tiles and I only kinda knew what was going on. Partially that’s a fault of mine for not knowing jack about shogi, but it’s also just harder to make this kind of thing work with shogi, since the price of entry, knowledge-wise, is higher than with other games. It’s also relatively silly through most of its run, and whether that works for you will depend on your tastes; it was light and airy enough to make it an easy watch for me, but it probably lacks the impact to keep others watching. I’d understand either way.

One of the best things Ryuuou did was the ep10-11 descent into despair by Yaichi, because it was actively unpleasant to watch—which made his recovery and eventual victory against the Meijin all the sweeter. It was also wise to hold that off until that late in the season, because if a viewer was put off by the uncomfortable, frustrating ending of ep10, it’s likely they’d watch the final two episodes because it’s almost done anyway. Better to make that play later on, when the buy-in is already there. I also really liked how they only started showing the Meijin’s face during ep12, because it showed that Yaichi no longer considered him some unbeatable god, but rather a a man to be defeated. Good job on the run back, Ryuuou.

Ryuuou was a pretty fun, and pretty silly, anime that mostly delivered on its message of growth through shogi. Stand outs like Keika and Ginko (who I felt sympathy for as well, with how she was always chasing the gifted behemoth that is Yaichi) made up for weaknesses in the blow-by-blow of the actual shogi. That and there are lolis, if that’s your thing. I won’t deny that it was pretty funny to hear Hidaka Rina put on her best yandere loli voice and make it clear who’s Yaichi’s future wife. Though her mother was the best at the latter. Poor boy! Despite his occasional feints toward Keika, we all know where your inclinations lie. Good luck in your next matches, Loli Ryuuou.

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March 26, 2018 at 7:05 pm
10 comments »
  • March 26, 2018 at 8:01 pmZaiden

    I hate the overt sexualisation of lolis, yet ironically, I have absolutely no gripes with quite a few loli shows. It’s not that I secretly love them or anything. In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m insanely attracted to well-endowed bodies – (oppai ga suki), and would firmly put myself on that side of the spectrum. But strangely enough, loli doesn’t equate instant turnoff like samurai for me, so much as apathy. As such, I tend to enjoy shows that incidentally feature lolis, provided there’s something of deeper value behind all that nonsensical fanservice. In my opinion, Ryuuou fits such a statement, and I’d argue that loli fanservice is an optional side serving to a main course which largely focuses on other things. It was silly and fun, but most importantly, it had some genuine depth that personally speaking did make a great impact on me. I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to dismiss the existence of such a quality.

    Though I don’t know much about shogi, despite being the blogger for 3-gatsu, I’ll argue that shogi is focal, in that it serves as a conduit for volatile emotions within both series. Consequently, it’s what makes 3-gatsu and Ryuuou no Oshigoto compelling to me, despite my similar lack of familiarity when it comes to shogi. By that, I mean to say that shogi lends itself well to drama, due to being a competitive game that has a professional industry, where emotions are prone to spiralling up and down, with jobs/prestige on the line. I can feel connected with the characters, and try to relate with their realistic struggles on a personal level, because such an experience is transferrable to other facets of life. I too will have experienced the same kind of doubts and hopelessness, for perhaps different reasons, as well as the same joy at overcoming them.

    As for not quite understanding the game, the only two sports I’d have a clue about are football (soccer) or badminton. However, I’ve managed to really enjoy sports anime that were based on ones that I didn’t have any clue about, due to the successful creation of hype, rivalries and personal stories. Ping Pong, Volleyball, Basketball, Boxing, etc. I suppose if we wanted to go with a like for like comparison, I’d bring up Karuta (Chihayafuru)) and Go (Hikaru no Go), where a total lack of understanding for the base game didn’t necessarily detract from my personal enjoyment of the series.

    So, how is Ryuuou relevant to what I’ve just said? I mostly think of board game animes as being similar in vein to traditional sports series, due to how they repeatedly invoke certain time old tropes of the genre, even if they tend to deviate in many respects. Unlike 3-gatsu, Ryuuou more or less focused on actual shogi. This is evident, where the series is fully endorsed by the national shogi association, who approve of the genuine portrayal of authentic high level shogi. Between the loli shenanigans, the author clearly did some really comprehensive research that was worthy of praise, the shogi association’s seal being proof of such dedication. Maybe that knowledge subconsciously added to my enjoyment – it’s hard to say. However, I thought the series already did a good job of keeping things exciting on its own merit.

    Comparative to 3-gatsu’s more character-focused approach, I also thought that Ryuuou’s high paced, action approach to shogi was really entertaining in its own way. The shogi matches honestly felt like a battle of wits and strategy, rather than a battle of difficult life stories, and the characters really grew through their losses. Ryuuou was able to hit these spots, with all the characters from Kiyotaka Shogi Family being standouts for me – especially Keika.

    Is Ryuuou no Oshigoto a masterpiece? Definitely not, at least in my eyes. While it’s thoroughly charming, a single cour isn’t enough to reach such heights, and it’s exceedingly difficult for lighthearted comedy to broach the emotional depth that is required for masterpieces in accordance with my personal metric. But it was a pleasantly surprising dark horse, that deserves a lot more credit, than people are willing to give.

    • March 26, 2018 at 8:06 pmzztop

      Author says the loli stuff was him trying a new writing angle with depicting cute female characters. See my post and ANN interview link.

    • March 26, 2018 at 8:54 pmbakato

      The author is the same guy who wrote No-Rin, which wasn’t all that memorable for me, but one thing I vividly remember was a classical argument between older busty women and lolis. The lolicons argued that the appeal of little girls isn’t sexual. They appeal to the paternal instinct and that’s what this show does. The camera angle doesn’t linger on their chests or up their skirts. It shows their adorable little faces and that’s enough. Aside from that one scene in episode one, there hasn’t been all that much fanservice, at least not the sexual kind.

      As for the shogi, the author spent 4 years researching professional shogi before he wrote his first volume. Ryuo no Oshigoto stands out from its shonen sports peers by actually focusing on not the sport itself so much as the professional world around it. Typical sports series focus on high school matches and it’s always about winning for the senpais who no one remembers.

      • March 27, 2018 at 1:41 amStilts

        I had no idea this had the same author as No-Rin! Good to know. That was such a weird series, but I actually remember a few scenes/episodes from it, which is more than I can say for many shows (including ones I liked).

  • March 26, 2018 at 8:03 pmzztop

    Ryuuou’s author admitted shogi can be a very boring sport to watch.

    “(The action is) about a clash of principles between two people… flesh out their personalities, and then you work out how a match between them would turn out.
    Once you’ve got that worked out, the shogi scene itself is like an afterthought (approached separately from story developments). The outcome has to make sense and be satisfying for the reader. I just have to make sure that the details aren’t boring to the reader.”

    The loli/ecchi stuff was the author experimenting with a new writing angle.

    “(T)here are two main factions (of girls to write about in LNs): younger girls versus older girls, or little sisters versus big sisters. Childhood friends aren’t really that popular when they’re around the same age as the protagonist. So when faced with the prospect of choosing between one of the main factions, I decided… with little girls this time. I wanted to try something new.

    “I didn’t set out to write Ryuo in a perverted way…(but for) readers to think of the characters as cute, in a little sister…way. I don’t know how the readers will take it, though.”

    https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interview/2018-02-08/shirow-shiratori-author-of-the-ryuo-work-is-never-done/.126909

    • March 27, 2018 at 1:42 amStilts

      Ooo, good find. Thanks!

  • March 26, 2018 at 9:43 pmArche

    Came for the lolis (Red Ai > Blue Ai btw) stayed for the development. One thing I liked about this show was the emphasis on the characters’ mental states during a game. We’re told that most of the cast are prodigies and in blue Ai’s case we see her make long calculations related to the game in a matter of seconds yet she still lost matches due to her composure. It gives us both room for a character’s growth and a reason to justify pulling out a win like in Keika’s final victory.

    Now if only we had an anime that provided some basic explanations about shogi from the start. At this point my conclusion is shogi is chess if every piece was a queen

    • March 27, 2018 at 2:50 amAngelus

      3-Gatsu no Lion had some introductory material when one of the characters is trying to explain shogi to some children. But it’s not easy if you don’t know the kanji involved. There should be a gaijin-friendly version that uses pieces more like the standard Western chess pieces.

      • March 27, 2018 at 7:51 pmAku

        Yeah, the game would make a lot more sense if the pieces were easily recognisable other than the kanji. Heck, if the two opposing sides have different colours would have improved things dramatically. I play chess a lot, so I kind of get the strategies used. But as it is, the way shougi is, I imagine it as the battle of two opposing armies wearing the same uniform fighting it out on the battlefield, with no way for me to distinguish the sides. Kinda frustrating really.

  • March 30, 2018 at 4:37 amKiopi

    but main characters Yaichi and Ginko are only 14 and 14, respectively

    I thought Yaichi is 16 years old? There was that birthday wish speech from Ai-1 a few episodes back.