Every so often I come across an anime that knocks the wind out of me. The impression is one that I won’t forget for a long time; it would be impossible. Very likely, it’s a feeling that I wouldn’t want to forget, even if I could. The impact is deeper than simply a story that was fascinating and fun. I’m talking about an anime that makes me examine things like my life, goals, morals, etc. You get the picture. It’s one that leaves such an impression that, in the end, I can’t help but be changed, even if it’s something as subtle as introducing a new thought pattern. Spoilers ahead.
There are limitless criteria that people use to score their anime. Some score based on objective things, such as pacing, soundtrack, art direction, story direction, etc. Others take a more subjective approach, scoring based on how they perceive it would appeal to the general population or how much they simply “liked it” without knowing why. From what I can tell, most people take a blend of these when scoring an anime, and I’m no exception.
I have a very specific criteria for what qualifies as a 10/10 anime. There are times I’ll finish an anime and say “That anime was great,” give it a 9, and start the next anime. A 10 happens when I finish an anime and I just have to walk away and really think about what I just watched. It’s something that really leaves that euphoric “I can’t believe this exists” feeling in me. A 10 is an anime that was so good, I can’t even think about starting another anime right now.
You can probably see where this is going.
The 2nd season of March Comes In Like A Lion is one such anime for me. I laughed and I cried; I felt the pain of the characters and shared their victories. This was an unforgettable journey that I finished in a single day, though I’m not sure I can recommend that kind of emotional assault to everyone. If you asked me for specific reasons that I gave this anime a perfect score, I probably could not properly convey exactly what I experienced and why. But I’ll do my best to give you a taste while trying to keep it brief.
March Comes In Like a Lion – 2nd Season continues to follow the professional shogi career of high school student Rei Kiriyama. Along with him, we take special interest in the three Kawamoto sisters, Akari (in her twenties – the eldest), Hinata (middle school student), and Momo (preschool student). The Kawamoto sisters had more of a supporting character feeling in the first season, but their stories are much more fleshed out for the second, giving Hinata center stage for the season’s most painful and beautiful arc.
For much of the season, Hinata is the victim of bullying. She is chosen for defending her friend Chiho, the original target for the classroom bullies. Chiho was pushed and abused to the point where she had to be pulled from school and sent to a special recovery center that would help her understand and cope with her trauma. Their victim gone, the bullies then turn to Hinata. When the rest of her classmates see this, they avoid associating with Hinata at all costs, lest they become targets themselves.
Hinata is left alone and confused. She knows she was right to defend and help Chiho, but nobody would come to her aid now. Her homeroom teacher refuses to acknowledge that the bullying is taking place, ignoring obvious signs and cries for help from Hinata, choosing instead to blame Hinata for not getting along with the other students.
Despite best efforts from Hinata’s friends and family, including Rei and her older sister Akari, little improves. Hinata has no parents to turn to because her father abandoned their family and her mother died years before. Akari has assumed the matriarchal role, but finds herself speechless when faced by the parent of the accused bully. It isn’t until Hinata’s homeroom teacher cracks, unable to cope with the pressure of teaching any longer, that things begin to change. The Head Teacher steps in and begins corrective measures immediately. Unfortunately, a lot of irreparable damage has been done, and the entire classroom suffers delays as they begin recovery.
A common theme of this season is “everyone is human.” This applies to everyone from Hinata’s bullies to Rei’s shogi opponents. Many are introduced from the perspectives of the main protagonists, and occasionally they seem almost sinister in nature. But soon, the anime begins to tell the other side of the story.
A great example of this is Hinata’s main bully, Megumi Takagi. A surprising amount of time in the later episodes revolve around one-on-one counseling between Megumi and the Head Teacher. Megumi is made to apologize, but that isn’t enough for the Head Teacher. He wishes to see true remorse from Megumi. Unfortunately, Megumi appears to feel no regret, seeing nothing wrong with her actions. To her, everything from Hinata’s pain, to the resignation of her former homeroom teacher, to the necessary rehabilitation of Chiho, is acceptable. The Head Teacher does his best to unravel the reasons for Megumi’s indifference, but in the end he’s unable to get a direct answer from her. He suspects she’s afraid of failure and therefore resents those around her who appear to be trying (and succeeding) in their efforts, but it’s never resolved. However, by the end of her short arc, you begin to see her as less “the face of evil” and more “the misguided child.” It’s a rather striking but important example of how this anime deals with “enemies.” There is no clear cut mold for the characters in this show. Everyone has their dark and light sides, and there are reasons for each to exist.
I could spend a lot more time unpacking the things this show has to offer. It’s a full 22 episodes in length, and it has a lot more to say than what I’ve put here, but a simple plot rehash wouldn’t do it justice and I won’t insult it by trying. In my opinion, this anime is an important one to experience. It deals with a lot of issues beyond bullying. Season 1 really explores the character of Rei Kiriyama, helping him grow into someone who can trust those around him while also valuing himself outside of shogi. If you’ve ever even considered giving this show a try, I hope I was able to convince you. Season 2 is especially beautiful, and I hope it is as special to you as it was to me.