This week’s episode of Sangatsu no Lion spends a lot of time developing its characters, but it also manages to squeeze some shogi gameplay in, introducing a new character named Hachiya.
As with previous episodes, this new opponent is designed to provide an insight into Rei’s psyche. His loud, aggressive playstyle is in stark contrast to Rei’s – in fact; it could be part of the reason Hachiya has progressed so far. Rei manages to defeat him by refusing to be drawn into a lightning-fast game. In other words, he does not play with the same rules that Hachiya does.
This is a lesson that Rei may draw upon in the episodes to come.
Hina’s teacher seems to have forgotten that she has a duty of care for the students in her class and is, in effect, victim blaming. Akari is worried about broaching this subject with the school and proposes counters to various situations in a distinctly Rei-like way. However, she lacks experience with confrontation, and since Rei has volunteered to help, it may be that the teacher and bully’s parents find themselves sorely outmatched in any meetings that take place.
As we predicted last week, this episode shows more of Nikaido. He and Rei seem to be beginning to form some friendship at long last. Nikaido is still more concerned with training than Rei, however, and the pressure is on: he has to win his upcoming game to be able to face Rei in the final of the Newcomer’s Cup.
What’s particularly interesting is that Nikaido doesn’t seem to think he’ll win. He’s more interested in the circumstances of the match itself and views it as something of a prize fight. Given that he’s been training so hard while Rei was preoccupied with unrelated matters, he stands a far better chance at winning than he thinks. This raises the question of what happens if Nikaido beats his idol.
It’s possible that he’ll attempt to rally Rei. The two are rivals, after all, and every good underdog story needs a comeback. On the other hand, he could just find another player to focus on. This would mean that Rei effectively loses the only friend he has outside of Akari’s family and could lead to Rei losing all of the progress he’s made towards becoming a more rounded person.
At the moment, Sangatsu no Lion is attempting to resolve its various underlying plotlines in a way that makes narrative sense. This show has always been more about interpersonal relationships than shogi, but if Rei loses his upcoming matches, everything will come tumbling down. This isn’t the type of anime that has an invincible protagonist, and for better or worse, this means that if Rei doesn’t get his head in the game, there may not be much of game left for him.