The central theme of this episode is resentment
The third episode of Sangatsu no Lion’s second season had a much calmer pace than the episodes preceding it. But it managed to shed some much-needed light on Rei’s history. The central theme of this episode is resentment, something the protagonist had experienced a lot of during his life.
In a way, it’s surprising that Rei is as calm as he is. He’s been a victim all of his life: a victim of bullying in school, a victim of crime when his parents and sister were taken from him, and a victim of jealousy as he became part of his new adoptive family.
However, his fascination with shogi makes sense. He’s clearly an exceptional player and this allows him to take control of his life, if only in a small way. Even though he wasn’t fond of the game to begin with, over time it became not only his armor but the weapon he used to forge his path as well.
For all his expertise, though, he seems remarkably unconcerned about the results of his matches. This could be because he’s confident enough in his skills. It annoys several of his opponents, however, since they’ve struggled for years to get to where they are, and every game is a struggle to maintain their ranking.
Meanwhile, Rei defeats other players without much difficulty. In fact, his tournament game in this episode garners just a few minutes of screen time and isn’t important enough to warrant an explanation of the plays. Although Rei was shown thinking about strategy beforehand, it seems his past preoccupies him during the match.
This episode also marks one of the first times the audience has seen Rei take advice from one of his friends.
It’s not a monumental decision – just choosing where to buy lunch, but it is good to see that he’s not relying solely on himself anymore.
Despite his improving demeanor and better mental health, there are still some issues he hasn’t managed to overcome yet. It’s a shame because as we saw last episode, it’s going to be impossible to beat Souya unless Rei can be completely focused and at the top of his game.
Rei and Nikaido have to win two more games to face each other in the final. While Nikaido has been stressing the importance of preparation, Rei hasn’t been taking the Newcomer’s Tournament seriously. This could prove to be his undoing in the games to come, something that his rival/best friend won’t let slide. In contrast to Rei’s classmates and adoptive siblings, Nikaido has never wanted Rei to fail. Rather, he wants to beat Rei at his best, and in the short term, that requires extra training and increased motivation.
Sangatsu no Lion is a show that’s far more exciting than its premise suggests. It’s as much about the players as it is the game, but like shogi pieces themselves, Rei is going to have to push himself onwards to get promoted.