Folks, my roaring headache seems to be here to stay, and on top of that I have to get ready for work tonight, so unfortunately today’s gonna have to be a quickie too.
I’m only a few episodes into S2 of March Comes In Like a Lion, and just like my feelings from the first season, I think this is just okay. I still love the animation, premise, location, and all of the side characters.
I still have far too many problems with the protagonist, Rei Kiriyama. Huge tracts of the show are spent inside of his head, listening to him drone on about either his feelings or a scene that played out just before. The former is fine, if done sparingly and eloquently, which it isn’t. The latter is the sort of thing that makes me want to tear all of the hair out of my head, because believe it or not this show is really good at landing those big tearjerker scenes, but then screwing up the landing by having Rei belch on about it.
Off the top of my head, there were two scenes that really stood out to me as being stunning, but were then ruined by Rei talking way too much. This might be getting a bit spoilery, so I’ll hide them behind the cut.
The first was in S1 when he managed to beat Yasui, a man going through a messy divorce and a string of other personal losses. Rei’s dilemma was that, as a professional shogi player himself, he can’t afford to throw matches for the sake of other people, but he also felt intense guilt at having to hand Yasui yet another stinging blow. Partway through the match, Yasui visibly gives up and concedes, even though Rei thought that if he had fought more, Yasui could have salvaged things. Yasui leaves the shogi hall without the Christmas present he bought for his daughter, representing his abandoning the hope of spending one last happy Christmas together as a family.
Rei chases after Yasui with the bag. Throughout all of this, his inner monologue is going overboard, berating Yasui for giving up. That’s fine, that’s the kind of insight into Rei that is important to flesh out his character and thoughts. When he catches up to Yasui, the inner monologue finally stops and the scene plays out. Yasui first denies that the gift is his, and then abruptly snatches the package from Rei before stalking away without thanking him.
Rei, visibly stunned, turns towards the street behind him. There is no inner monologue, it’s just silent. It’s sunset, the streets are empty. He starts walking, then suddenly starts running. Still no monologue. This is great! His feet are pounding on the sidewalk, the crows overhead burst into flight. The street he’s on is on a slight downhill, and he’s just falling forward, faster and faster, until finally he arrives at the river that is a major cornerstone of the series. He stands on the grassy banks, plants his feet, and bellows!
“What was I supposed to do!”
This is great stuff, it’s chilling. Rei isn’t a character prone to emotional outbursts, so to see it laid bare, huge and unstoppable, is intense. He screams, and it’s almost bestial. The things he says are selfish, but they’re real, and they’re the things that make him a human being and not a selfless robot. This is such a great scene, and it does all of this without explaining a single thing.
As he is wiping his eyes, the inner monologue starts up. The bad kind. The kind of monologue where he calls this rage a “monster inside of him” (YUCK) which will “destroy everyone around him” (YUUUUCK). His inner monologue is that same cold, calculating, narrator voice as always, and it sucks. It’s the worst. This raw, emotional, human scene ends with his normal robot voice and rational sorting-into-boxes approach to his feelings. It’s not by design either, it’s because the show is terrible at trusting its audience to just get things, even when it does such a good job at conveying them.
How much better would this scene have been if it just ended with him slumping back in on himself and crying? Why does everything need to be undermined by these terrible explainers?
The other scene was from S2, when Hina confesses that she’s being bullied in school because she stood up for her friend. After coming clean, she panics and bolts, sprinting through the nighttime Tokyo streets towards the river. Rei chases after her to make sure she’s all right, and when he catches up to her, she breaks down and cries out in frustration. She’s scared, she’s desperate, she’s angry, and all of it comes pouring out. But after all of that, she screams, “I don’t regret it! I didn’t do anything wrong!”
It’s powerful and moving. She’s a scared and small young girl, but she’s got the presence and conviction of a giant. Rei is so moved by this that he… starts up an inner monologue about himself. About how he was bullied many years ago, and how he was impressed by her. It’s uncomfortable to shift so abruptly away from this girl going through a lot of trauma, and back onto the guy who is just witnessing it.
It gets worse. He gets down on one knee (NO) holds her hand (STOP) and says to her, “Thank you, Hina. You’re my savior.” (NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO YUCK YUCK YUCKKKKKK)
This big emotional scene that should have put the spotlight on Hina instead gets dragged back over to Rei. Rei belches on about how Hina “saved” him (SHUT UP) and how he is going to do everything he can to pay her back (FUCK YOU) even if it takes him the rest of his life (DIE IN A FIRE). The next several episodes are about Rei obsessing over his shogi winnings and wondering if it will be enough to financially support Hina and the Kawamoto family, which… why?? Who does this?? How much of a narcissist do you need to be in order to turn such a great moment for another character and make it all about yourself??
I’m eight episodes into the second season. I want to like this show! Please have Rei get out of his own way and let me like this show, dammit!