[Readers Request] 3-gatsu no Lion Episode 17 & 18
The title match is here! The mysterious Souya, who we’ve been given small glimpses of, facing off against our Shimada. I must admit, I’m quite excited for the match and the atmosphere of the hotel is definitely contributing towards that. The prestigious location, the media coverage, and all the luxurious delights blend together to form an energetic atmosphere that has me itching to see what’ll happen.
As Rei enters the hotel for the first time, he’s blown away by the scale of the tournament. Who wouldn’t be nervous or excited in his shoes? It’s like a college swimmer getting to watch the Olympic freestyle in person. It’s a bit unreal, while simultaneously driving one forward towards the goal. Unlike Rei, who’s nervous about the whole event, Nikaidou is only thinking about supporting Shimada and the future where he too is playing in the title match. It’s a surprising display of consideration and kindness on his part to worry so much about Shimada, something that didn’t even pop into Rei’s mind. This is likely attributed to the strength of the relationship between Nikaidou and Shimada rather than Rei’s lack of consideration.
But perhaps the most striking thing about the first few minutes of this episode was Nikaidou’s utter assurance of playing in a title match. Without batting an eye, he knows for sure he’ll be standing where Shimada is one day. It’s a kind of doubtless confidence and determination that drives him forward, something that Rei can perhaps learn from. At this point, I’m fairly confident that Nikaidou is my favorite male character of the series. (Can’t say favorite character because that’d be an injustice to the amazing Akari). He’s displayed kindness to everyone he meets, from Rei to little Momo. He’s shown his fierce competitive nature and determination to contend with the best, not to mention his illness that he’s been dealing with for so long. He’s been developed to the point that I actually really enjoy screentime with him, and I’m excited to see more of him as the show goes on. Go Nikaidou!
As Rei continues to explore the hotel, he runs into his adoptive father. Now at this point, all my incorrect assumptions of their relationship have faded away, and I’m honestly so relieved that their relationship is normal, if not a bit rough on the edges. Mr. Kouda tells Rei that he doesn’t have to keep depositing his earnings into the family bank account, something that Rei feels obligated to do. Perhaps he feels paying the money will somehow make up for whatever damage was done to Mr. Kouda’s family as a result of Rei being the prized pupil, it’s very likely though that this weighs much more heavily of Rei than it does to Mr. Kouda.
Mr. Kouda brings up the elephant in the room that is Kyouko and her whereabouts. He tells Rei that she hasn’t been home, something that’s been implied since her first appearance. Rei is conflicted as to whether he should tell his father about Gotou, which is completely understandable. Telling Mr. Kouda may actually destroy the relationship between Kyouko and her father, which is already only hanging on by a single thread. The ideal resolution would be Rei somehow solving this without having Mr. Kouda go through all the trouble of knowing, but 3gatsu will probably take the melancholy, perhaps even depressing route.
As Rei ponders about the situation, we’re introduced to the mysterious Souya once again. This time he’s staring idly into a pond of koi fish, getting drenched by rain without a care in the world. Perhaps not the ideal image of a world champion, but enigmatic enough to leave me with a thousand questions. What does he think about shogi? Does he secretly have this fierce fervor deep inside that lets him reign from the top? Does he feel apathy towards it? Every player we’ve met has had a distinct approach to the game, and Souya’s approach interests me the most. What’s going through the head of the best?
My personal highlight of the episode was the Kawamoto family meeting Kyouko for the first time. It didn’t happen the way I imagined, but it was quite the scene with the Kawamotos running into Rei and Kyouko arguing. The venomous words of Kyouko cutting deep into Rei, contrasting with the sympathy of the Kawamotos. It’s like night and day, and for the first time, we get to see the two sides of Rei’s life collide at a single point. When Hina runs back to Rei with a bento box, giving a cute little “grrr” to Rei, it’s honestly the most heartwarming thing.
Kyouko does a complete 180 after meeting the Kawamotos, eventually devouring the bento box in Rei’s house. Her venomous words from earlier are replaced by a cutesy demeanor of a girl excited over food. The exchange about whether or not Rei is dating one of the Kawamotos and Kyouko’s dismay over Akari being only a few years older than her are incredibly amusing, and I wish there were more. I’m also secretly wishing Kyouko and Akari become best friends one day.
The night ends with a somber Kyouko and Rei falling asleep, and a beautiful scene of Kyouko’s phone illuminating the room. Rei describes the room as the bottom of the sea, with the two of them sinking deeper and deeper. How long will it take for them to finally swim back up? I wonder.
Episode eighteen starts off with an analysis of Shimada’s match from the previous Lion King Tournament. The ragtag group of workshop members toss their minds together to figure out the best course of action, with a lot of butting ideas and Star Wars references. Without any progress being made by the arguing couple, Shimada turns to Rei for his opinion, but he turns up a blank.
It’s unsurprising that Rei has trouble articulating his thoughts since he’s done shogi alone all his life. Save for the teaching sessions from Mr. Kouda or his father, Rei has been practicing alone all this time, he’s never really had to explain much to anyone else. He had trouble earlier on in the series when the Kawamotos were interested in shogi, with Nikaidou coming in to save the day with his adorable book.
Thankfully, these workshops are pushing Rei to collaborate with his fellow shogi players, revealing ideas and strategies they never would’ve thought of had they been alone. It’s nice seeing Rei open up a bit to the people who share his hobby, and I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction for his growth as a character.
Shimada’s explanation of his game was an absolutely stunning scene with waves of ink and bright blue pounding away at him. It’s the kind of visuals I’ve come to expect of the show, and 3gatsu’s commitment to the idea of defeat feeling like an overpowering wave is still going strong. This inevitably led to a phenomenal transition that takes us to Rei sitting in his bathtub, pondering to himself as he usually does. He hardens a bit of his resolve and decides that he too wishes to compete at Shimada’s level, perhaps the influence of both the workshop and Nikaidou’s fierce determination from the last episode. Yay for change!
This leads to perhaps one of my favorite scenes in the entire series, an emotional exchange between Rei and Hayashida. With a passing report card, Rei bows to his teacher and thanks him for all he’s done. But on this bridge surrounded by a flurry of sakura leaves, Mr. Hayashida once again proves why he’s such an amazing person. He goes on a rather long, emotional rant about how Rei has accomplished amazing things, even if his rank was stagnant this time. He vents about his own life, revealing the dreams he had and the mistakes he made. This moves Rei to tears and quite clearly impacts him. Once again, I must stress that Rei is blessed to have so many positive influences around him. Although the occasional venom from Kyouko may put his net depression value below zero, the Kawamotos, his shogi friends, and his teacher are always there to pull him back up. I hope one day he’ll be so far positive, that he never dips back into the negatives.