3-Gatsu no Lion - First Impression

3-Gatsu no Lion First Impression

Studio : Shaft
Genre : Drama, Game, Seinen, Slice of Life
Episodes Aired : 5
Status : Another show with "gatsu" in it's name. This isn't gonna end well (for me). Watching.

Ever since Akiyuki Shinbo joined as director in 2005, Shaft has been on a rampage, pushing its avant grade cinematography (and head tilts) to the limits. And now that they've made a name for themselves (and the fact that they're all out of source material on the monogatari series), they have started to calm down. Compared to last year's Owarimonogatari (and the subsequent Kizumonogatari movies this year), they have a Slice of Life entry this fall season by the name of San-gatsu no Lion (or March comes in like a Lion). Based on a well received ongoing manga, the story revolves around Kiriyama Rei, a high schooler and a pro shogi player, living an independent life in a rather empty part of town. Having lived through a mountain of trouble as a child and not-so-good experiences at his foster family, the repressed emotions and lack of "love" (if you will) has made him depressed and lonely inside. The only thing he has left is his career as a shogi player, which, sadly, started with a lie. So, a life (and mental sanity maybe?) built on such a feeble foundation can only last so long. And so it all starts to crumble and he starts going into a downward spiral.
3-Gatsu Gif 1
This scene reminds me so much of Zetsubou Sensei

But fear not, all is not lost yet. Enter the three Kawamoto sisters. Having gone through some rough times themselves, they had one another to lean on, and so they live their modest lives full of happiness and laughter with the occasional sad reminiscing. And thankfully, they drag our protagonist into it, and it acts as a sliver of hope in his life. His interactions with them and the subtle changes they cause in his personality seem to be the main focus of the show.

Now, there are a few things to watch out for, if you're thinking of picking this up.
Number one is the drama, the kind of drama where there are lots of tragic flashbacks and broken, damaged characters. If you find characters wallowing in depression appalling, this might not be your cup of tea. Though I would say that the creators have put a lot of effort in Rei's backstory as it feels "legit" and in-sync with his character.

SanGatsu Gif 2

Second, is the game of Shogi. They say shogi is like chess, except that it's not (well it is, in essence, a strategy game). Compared to the 16 pieces per player in Chess, Shogi has 20 pieces; there is no queen, and two new pieces - silver general and gold general are in play. Even the board is different (its a 9x9 instead of an 8x8). Point is, if you don't know shogi, parts of the show involving it - like the surprised look on players when the opponent makes an interesting move (shots with the board and the pieces in position), or analogies/metaphors relating to our main characters life, will probably make less to no sense.

Number three is Shaft. Now, I already said that they're trying to calm down, and they are, I mean, 5 episodes without a head tilt (Shinbo must be screaming in frustration, good thing Kenjirou is in charge), but, it's still Shaft. And I've seen some people complain about the artstyle. Thankfully, it all isn't as erratic as the monogatari series and I am fine with it. Heck I love how they keep the contrast when switching perspectives from the depressed MC to the cheerful sisters (love the color palette too, and the opening, though wtf cat monologues).
SanGatsu Gif 3
If you're thinking Honey and Clover. Same creator. Similar artstyle.

Conclusion. I like where this is going. I like that the main character is "damaged" damaged and not just damaged for plot's sake, his backstory really gets me. And I am interested in how far down he is going to fall before he gets over his past or if the past is going to come back to haunt him, either way, he will face it and that's what I'm looking forward to (I know it translates to 'I wanna watch him suffer' but that's just me). Also, this is Shaft and I have hope that they aren't going to mess this up.

P.S.
Next up for a first impression, in alphabetical order, will be Drifters. I'm trying real hard to be on time this season. Wish me luck.

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