OP: 「フラッグを立てろ」 (Flag wo Tatero) by YUKI
「Chapter 46 Setting Sun/Chapter 47 Ramune」
Good heavens, just look at the time! 3-Gatsu no Lion marks a triumphant return, and for Shaft, it might have been another day in the office. But it looked like they were having an absolute blast, as they showcased a signature blend of style and flair! So many artistic styles and animation techniques were incorporated throughout the episode, highlighting the limitless creativity of a veteran studio, while seamlessly expressing a wide array of colourful emotions. For example, cartoonish faces played off lighter moments, whereas detailed pastels drove home the more serious scenes. I can also swear that Shaft has an unhealthy obsession with Noguchi’s moustache, because I got a hearty chuckle every time it quivered like pudding. Ho ho ho! However, if I had to pick my personal favourite segment within the episode, Kumakura’s snacking tendencies easily took the cake. And for anyone else who got deja vu, “I’ll take a
potato chip slice of cake… and EAT IT“. Not only did Kumakara munch with excessive energy and vigour, but Shaft also opted for all sorts of weird and wonderful angles, which included the inside of Kumakura’s mouth. Is it unreasonable to suspect that a certain animator on their team has some rather interesting taste? Who knows. Even more bizarre was the fact this all took place during a competitive shogi game, carrying the kind of pressure I can’t even begin to fathom. Nevertheless, the intensity exuded by Kumakura in his game against Souya was quite impressive. I honestly think I would have crumbled in the face of his sheer willpower.
I really liked how they brought up the mental fortitude required for competition at the highest level, by having Rei psychotically explain how defeat is a continually steeper slippery slope as you get stronger. Noguchi and Hayashida-sensei are already averse towards losses despite being complete casuals – which brings us onto the topic of how the stakes are infinitely higher for Rei and other professionals. Since he’s the protagonist, some can easily take for granted the burden that weighs down upon his shoulders. Protagonists are meant to easily shoulder these trivial burdens as part of the story, and bounce back stronger. To us, it might simply seem like losing a mere board game, and more importantly a means by which to have some fun. But for Rei, it isn’t even about enjoyment – shogi is a way of life. Every loss for him is soul-crushing, and somewhat denies his very existence. Similarly, victories that come at a great expense for his opponents also deeply hurt him, if you can recall the breakdown he had last season. In other words, shogi merely inflicts endless torment upon Rei, far outweighing any pleasure it could possibly derive. That’s just a sad fact of reality, because despite his young age, Rei has lived like an adult for many years by sacrificing what any normal youth would have.
Which is why I’m so pleased when he eventually found himself places where he could belong to as a peer, with the most recent addition being highschool. When Rei finally experiences the happiness of having friends at school, by making ramune sweets together with the Science Club members, we can see him being so overcome by the warmth of such emotions. He wonders if these guys are what it feels like to have friends, and it’s impossible to deny the overwhelming sincerity of his raw sentiments. I was so touched by his epiphany, that even I was almost left on the verge of tears. Rei finally found the support he had needed, yet lacked, for most of his life. It never ceases to amaze me how Umino Chica manages to consistently portray this kind of beauty through her works, demonstrating her caliber as a writer, as well as the extraordinary quality of 3-Gatsu’s storytelling.
A combination of Umina Chica and Shaft might not be everybody’s cup of tea – as evidenced by the rather controversial response to last year’s first episode. However, I think this potent duo allows for a full exploration of both style and substance through abstract imagery and metaphors, which all have their place in stories like 3-Gatsu no Lion.
When I browsed comments on Takaii’s post following Shimada’s defeat, some people suggested that Rei gained nothing from the final arc. Specifically that hard work and friendship are ultimately useless, when faced by Souya’s incredible genius, which felt like an antithetical resolution. Even though we saw how badly Shimada had been hallowed out, I’m confident that this episode should put those concerns to rest. Although it may not have seemed like it, the gains that Rei makes are actually incremental. There’s no spark facilitating a rapid change for the better, and in that way, I would describe this particular representation of change as being truer to life. Rei was mentally trapped by the cuckoo nest metaphor, given his previous traumatic experiences with the Kouda family. But the whole point of the Shimada arc was to make Rei realise that dependency is fine, provided there’s a quandary based upon give and take. Seeing the help go both ways during his bootcamp with Shimada, Rei comes to realise that he can also offer things in return for the Kawamoto sisters without parasitically leeching off their kindness. Therefore, we are able to savour the fruits of a resounding progression, where the prodigal son finally returns home, bringing back treats for the precious Kawamoto sisters.
ED: 「カフネ」 (Kafune) by Brian the Sun
P.S. – Special thanks to Takaii-sempai, who allowed me to take over the reins after doing dedicated coverage for the first season.
P.S.S. – In addition to events and themes present within the episode, I’m up for talking about the new opening and ending themes. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comment section down below!