Sangatsu no Lion has been dancing around for quite some time now, but in episode nine, the final game of the Newcomer Tournament takes place. While this episode doesn’t show much of Nikaido, he attends the game in spirit, ultimately preventing Rei from losing early on.
This episode diverged from its trademark watercolour aesthetic at several points.
As Rei’s temper flared, he was shown in stark black and white in a shot that could have been taken directly from the manga. Similarly, later in the episode, several characters are highlighting with bright, vibrant colours. This serves to illustrate the differences between the way that Rei sees the world compared to the people around him.
There is an elephant in the room, however. As much as Rei tries to do the right thing for Hina, he’s starting to cross boundaries. For instance, in previous episodes, he put together a plan to pay for her tuition. This time, he tracks her down on a school trip. If Hina was having fun with her friends, it’d do more harm than good to have an older boy come and interrupt. To be fair, Rei only has good intentions, but he is starting to appear a little creepy to the viewer.
Essentially, this episode was about friendship.
Even Rei, a masterful shogi player, has his weaknesses. Almost everyone he’s met since season one has helped him in some way, even when it’s not immediately apparent. Whether it’s Nikaido teaching him to be patient, Takahashi helping him with the school’s faculty, or Akari just giving him a place to go so he’s not stuck in his apartment, Sangatsu No Lion’s supporting cast are the real stars of the show.
Episode nine had an interesting piece of dialogue at the start. Two characters are discussing Yamazaki’s game against Nikaido and one mentioned that to do your best to win, regardless of your opponent’s condition, is “just etiquette”. Would Rei go all out if he and Nikaido played each other in the final? Given Rei’s kind nature, it’s unlikely, but Nikaido would never forgive him.
Hina’s bullying subplot is still going strong. We’ve seen very little progress made on this in the last few episodes. In a way, this echoes the reality of many bullying cases, but it doesn’t make for a very interesting story, especially given the 20-minute runtime. That said, the show is likely to bring Nikaido back fairly soon so expect the pacing to increase as he and Rei battle for their places in the other upcoming tournaments.
Sangatsu no Lion has always been a slow, contemplative show. However, tensions are beginning to build as the loose threads of several plotlines draw together. For all its flaws, no one can call this show boring.