OP: 「アンサー」 (Answer) by BUMP OF CHICKEN
「桐山零 / 河沿いの町」 (Kiriyama Rei / Kawazoi no Machi)
“Kiriyama Rei / The Town Along the River”
There is an interesting genre of anime that has surprising persistence every season, yet I think we simply don’t talk about enough: the esteemed ‘Anime Where the OP Tells You Nothing About What It Is About’. 3-gatsu no Lion is a natural fit for this category, as you could no doubt tell when you were wondering what manner of Apocalypse it was trying to show in its opening minutes. As I mentioned in the preview, 3-gatsu is the adaptation of the manga of the same name by Umino Chika, who also notably did Honey and Clover. And so 3-gatsu is at once subtle and complicated, and hard to represent with just a minute or so of imagery and a theme song. It might, however, surprisingly be right up the alley of director Shinbou Akiyuki and the studio he is attached to, Shaft. It seems that when faced with complication Shinbou instead goes for abstraction, hoping that along the way a sensible metaphor will appear from somewhere (this time, his favourite motif: water). It’s not quite as pretentious as I make it sound though, for a lot of the things that make good drama like inner turmoil are abstract, so what are we to do?
Umino Chika is actually already really good, so for the anime we actually don’t really have to do too much more. Some improved visual humour and a few Shinbou flourishes aside (I mean, how can he resist?), 3-gatsu is a very faithful anime adaptation. Even if it wasn’t explicitly going through the manga chapter by chapter, it’s quite noticeable that a lot of respect has been shown to the manga’s original direction. If one were to make a close comparison, they would find many panels that were lifted straight from the manga to be directly translated into anime. Normally here I’d perhaps point some criticism at the anime staff for lack of ambition or a even lack of understanding of the difference between still frames and animation, but 1) really, whatever works, 2) ‘a few Shinbou flourishes’ is already stylistic enough, and 3) when we have a source this good, why run from it?
It’s also not that the anime medium does not add value to 3-gatsu. Let’s just have a look at how it opened. Now, chapter 01 is simply Kiriyama Rei. Rei (Kawanishi Kengo) is our protagonist, so we need to learn something about him, fair enough. What 3-gatsu actually does, to start, is simply show us his going through his life, no narration, no internal monologue. This is great for two reasons: first, I’m all for showing over telling (look, you can at how much you can deduce about a character just from a few shots of his room) but also because the silence is so effective. One thing that anime has over manga: sound. While the scene actually played out fairly similarly in both mediums, it was much easier to notice the lack of dialogue and general lifelessness, especially between Rei and his father(-figure). It made for a stark contrast when Rei goes to have dinner with the lively Kawamoto sisters (Kayano ai, Hanazawa Kana, Kuno Misaki). It’s an effective juxtaposition that both draws out the despondency of Rei’s life in the first half and the personalities of the cast in the second.
Also, the insert song was great. I don’t know why it’s French, though.
Overall, a very solid start to the series, without much criticism or controversy from my end. That said, I really had no doubts that 3-gatsu no Lion was going to be good. The lack of any big surprises is actually good news in my book. If you’re a manga, a daresay you can feel safe with this adaptation, if you’re not, then perhaps you’re interested in the human drama carried by a deep cast, or a slice-of-life where life isn’t all skittles and beer but people get by anyway. Or maybe you just remember that Honey and Clover was pretty good. Chances are, 3-gatsu no Lion will be as well.
ED: 「ファイター」 (Fighter) by BUMP OF CHICKEN