When I watched the first season of Chica Umino’s March Comes In Like A Lion (Sangatsu No Lion) last fall, I fell in love. An urge to tweet my thoughts on each new episode was my prerogative. The characters seduced me with their depth, their struggle and joy. The animation studio Shaft took on the project and its airing sequel. Using different artsy animation styles, a wide range of colour palettes and varying camera angles, the characters’ complex emotions became much more palpable to me. Which is why I felt that I should write a short analysis on the second season‘s first episode.
The opening sequence acts as an invitation for us to return to Rei’s mind. The narrowed skewed screen suggests his point of view, reminding us of who Rei is by showcasing his apartment, simplistic, quiet yet lacking in anything truly materialistic. All that he possesses are things that he finds important in his life, including the shogi board and his study notes. The only thing differing this moment to one in the first season is the first thought Rei utters in his internal monologue.
He no longer recoils from the morning wind filtering into his room. He welcomes it instead, standing tall, determined to move forward on his life’s path as suggested by the flight of seagulls flying toward the sun.
What I enjoy about March Comes In Like A Lion 2 is the fact that it doesn’t waste time in trivialities. It establishes the setting with a montage showing the after school activities happening at Rei’s high school. The image of the school garden during the collection of snippets accompanies the line, “Shogi Science Club activities finally begin.” The flowers emphasize how long it took to create the revamped club from the final episodes of the first season to this moment. They delineate maturity in May as it is the time when bloomed flowers appear in their full splendor.
The art style used to draw characters can appear so far removed from Umino’s art style (which can be regarded as the standard in the anime) to communicate the character’s emotions for comedic value – as is the case for this episode. In his first appearance, Noguchi appears as if illustrated with a western cartoon style using watercolours and crayon textured lines. The style suggests that Rei views Noguchi with respect. Rei is inherently refusing Noguchi to succumb to a childish chibi look of confusion, and therefore, maintains Noguchi as the calm and mature senpai Rei recognizes him as.
On the other hand, when Hayashida enters into his own childish temper tantrum after being beaten in an online shogi match, his personality is reflected in how he is drawn. As a chibi, his enlarged head and flailing limbs emphasize how Rei has lost all respect for Hayashida.
The use of light in the episode is associated with time, or rather the future. The shogi board suggests the uncertain future of the Shogi Science Club, seeing as how once Noguchi and the other member graduates, Rei will be its only member. The board is halfway whited out on the screen to show that its future is threatened.
The spotted light reflects Noguchi’s experience of shogi in that the future can be a mystery no matter how prepared you may be. Noguchi struggled with creating strategies in the hopes of winning his shogi matches, but they never truly ensure his victory because his opponent could create a counter strategy to defeat his pre-made plan.
The final symbolic moment in the episode that I wanted to comment on was the portion in which Rei is asked if he liked shogi. The question comes as a shock because as we’ve come to understand his relationship to the game, it was his connection to his father figures. He never picked up the game to enjoy it for himself. Knowing Rei and his tendencies from the first season, he has difficulty answering the most simplistic questions. Hence, his scratched out face reveals his timid nature.
The metaphorical imagery floating behind Rei as he tries to answer the question is hilarious. Each of these scientific discoveries are based at the very beginning of our knowledge about humans, so it’s funny to see Rei trying his best to think way back into the recesses of his mind to find the perfect answer. It takes so much strain that his body turns completely white.
At the same time, I can’t help but feel bad for Rei.