When is a character not a character? Since his first appearance in season one, Souya has been little more than a story to scare young shogi players with. He’s an unflinching, robotic, monolithic player who cannot be stopped. However, in this episode of Sangatsu no Lion, Rei was able to pull back the curtain on Souya and learn a little more about him in the process.
The fact is that until now, Rei’s own experiences with him were very limited.
Yes, he’d walked past Souya a few times in the past, but for the most part, he was only known by his reputation as a fierce opponent. This episode dropped the bombshell that Souya is deaf, which poses some very interesting questions about who he is and what his motivations are.
Let’s not sugar-coat it: almost every good shogi player in this show has some kind of terrible past. Rei, Nikaido, Gotou, Junkei, the list goes on and on. At first glance, it appears that Souya, like Nikaido, may have sought comfort from his disability in the world of shogi, but there’s no confirmation that this has been a lifelong ailment for him. We’ve all seen A Silent Voice – we know how cruel kids can be – but let’s assume this is a more recent development. In this case, Souya would have lost his hearing and somehow found the strength to continue playing professionaly, conducting interviews along the way without anyone realizing.
This speaks to a far greater personal strength than any other member of the show’s cast.
Perhaps, to Souya, concealing his deafness is the same as hiding a well-placed shogi piece, ready to attack. After all, if he doesn’t tell anyone, keeps his hair long, and his public appearances brief, no one would ever know.
During this episode’s match, Rei realizes that, contrary to popular opinion, Souya is just a human being. He makes mistakes, keeps secrets, and has issues, yes, but inherently, he’s a good person. The two are so alike, so in sync, that Rei finds himself feeling refreshed even after being defeated. This enthusiasm for the game shocks him to his core – although it was a serious battle against a seasoned opponent, it felt more like a conversation to him. In a way, it’s the closest he’s come to a reciprocated friendship between him and a peer in a long time.
Clearly, there’s far more to Souya than meets the eye. What is his day-to-day life like? How has his deafness impacted the rest of his life? Does he think the world would treat him differently if his secret was revealed? This is the most exciting Sangatsu no Lion has been in a long time so hopefully, all these questions and more will be answered in the episodes to come.