“Chapter 79 Burnt Field (Part 1) / Chapter 80 Burnt Field (Part 2)”
The Legacy of a Thousand Obis
Retaining any sporting title for more than a decade is no trifling accomplishment. Even if shogi is far more reliant upon mental faculties, as opposed physical attributes, there’s no denying that old age takes away some of that competitive edge. Old age might bring vast knowledge, of the infinite possibilities and scenarios inherent to the board. However, the game is also a test of endurance, as well as one’s ability to improvise on the spot. These are skills that steadily deteriorate with old age. As the years go on, it’s no wonder that Yanagihara finds himself increasingly isolated, conveyed through the powerful imagery of a burnt field. While it seems easy to assume the difficulties apparent in such a task, appreciating the emotional toll imparted by the ravages of time requires something special. And something special was exactly what we received, with Shaft exquisitely realising Umino Chica’s artistic vision.
As I’ve said many times, very few series can have you connect with its main characters, let alone side characters, on such a personal level. Yet in 3-gatsu, each character feels like a real person, who has lived their own complex lives full of unique experiences. The magic of Umino Chica’s genius allows us to feel thoroughly familiar, with strangers who have walked difficult paths, and empathise with their plight. Yanigahara has already lost much of what he held dear, and fears the inevitable emptiness that lies beyond the end of his career. Shogi is his life, and consequently his everything. A loss for Shimada would spell future opportunities, whereas for Yanigahara, it would represent the end of a lifetime journey. Though I won’t stop rooting for Shimada, it would pain me to see Yanagihara lose his title.
Not to mention, contrasting a fellow title-holder like Souya, he has much more of a human touch when it comes to his interactions with others. From his conversation with Gan, and wistful recollections of bygone days, you can tell that his cordial behaviour is genuine. He deeply cares for people that he knows within his own private sphere, and it is also the reason why he experiences such an intense burden. As his comrades fall short of their dreams, they ask him to carry on in their stead, unaware of the curse they have placed upon him. Weighed down by the legacy of obi sashes, a metaphorical representation for the expectations and hopes others have placed on him, Yanagihara cuts a wayward figure. His body is past it judging by all that medication, but he still strives to push himself beyond any limitation.
Shimada has worked hard to make it to a point where he could even mount a title challenge, and doesn’t want to let down the old men from his hometown, who travelled a long way to support him. But Yanigahara is sure to give his all by putting up an incredible fight one where he will burn brightly till his very final breath.
Following the extensive hiatus, March came back like a Lion, firing from all cylinders. Shaft really aren’t messing around, and I have nothing but praise for their efforts. The background art was absolutely gorgeous, and the new soundtrack that played during the title match perfectly captured the emotions of the onlookers, as well as the two players themselves. There was a exemplary mix of lightheartedness near the start, accompanied by intensely heavy hitting moments partway through, and 3-gatsu never ceases to amaze me with how seamlessly it can transition between these varying states, in the most organic of fashions. As always, the characterisation was spot on, where we gained some comprehensive insight regarding the man looking to defend his title for a decade straight. Though pushed into a corner as a result of Shimada gaining the upper hand, counting out Yanigahara would be shortsighted, and I fully anticipate that Saku-chan will strike back.