As both Rei and Smith are determined to win their respective matches, episode thirteen begins with a cold Rei returning to his home to practice. We’re also given a remarkably jazzy sequence of Mr. Smith and a peek into his method of studying. As he devours the contents of his fridge, the moves of the shogi board play through his mind. He takes solid bites out of a tomato before moving onto a sausage, all the while accompanied by the jazz score in the back. It’s an incredibly strange scene, something I never thought I’d ever really see, but somehow it fits Mr. Smith quite well. It’s the equivalent of a shounen protagonist practicing his final combo before a big fight, except this is much more amusing.
What follows is a sequence of Smith walking towards the Shogi Hall, pondering on the upcoming matches and Rei. He’s a bit insulted that Rei is only studying up on Shimada and Gotou, but at the same time, respects Rei for that vision. It’s just a little bit, but the small development of Smith’s character is very much welcome, officially moving him from random side character to full fledged cast member. I realize 3gatsu does this quite a lot with many of its characters, almost a bit like Haikyuu, and I really enjoy it.
When Smith arrives for the match, he’s met by a low angle shot of Gotou. Gotou is almost greyed out and looms over Smith, quite spooky. As the match begins, a dramatic piano score envelops the scene, and a flash of Gotou’s piercing eyes raise the stakes for Smith. As the moves are played, Smith reflects on his past match with Gotou, in which he suffered a terrible defeat because he tried to embrace a style that wasn’t his. This match is a lot closer, but nevertheless, Smith takes a step away from his own style and Gotou takes advantage of that one moment of weakness, dragging Smith down. Smith describes Gotou as this black slime, similar to the oil that was used to describe him before. I’m interested to see where this comparison will go in the future, since we’ve seen multiple times already the “clear water” of Rei. Unfortunately for Smith, he’s outdone by Gotou, who even gives him some advice after the match is concluded. The Gotou we see then isn’t the one we see from Rei’s perspective, but rather just a strong opponent.
So ends the first half of the episode with Smith rescuing a stray cat from the bushes, a surprise, but a welcome one. He decides to start from square one and doesn’t let this loss get to him too badly!
The match between Rei and Shimada is a bit more interesting to me, with Rei’s underestimation of Shimada’s abilities. Rei believes Shimada plays to not lose, rather than to win, and is quite harshly corrected. I thought it was a bit strange why they weren’t revealing Shimada’s face at all, but afterwards it’s revealed that Rei didn’t even consider him a serious enough threat to look at. It’s not until Shimada turns the tables on Rei, completely surrounding him that Rei looks at Mr. Shimada.
It’s also revealed that Shimada knows our favorite Nikaidou, who encourages Shimada to destroy Rei. Now, Nikaidou calls him big brother, but I’m unsure as to whether this is just a mentor type of relationship, or whether they’re genuinely brothers. Mr. Shimada does seem to genuinely care for Nikaidou however, and it was quite cute to watch. Now I’m just curious if Shimada is going hard on Rei for Nikaidou’s sake alone, or if he was planning to destroy Rei anyway.
Episode fourteen begins with Rei’s realization that he’s in quite the tight pickle. His shogi pieces are submerged in dark water, and he’s panicking. He scolds himself for underestimating Mr. Shimada, and I’m glad to see he’s realizing his own mistakes. Too bad it’s only during the match he realizes this. Rei plays out the rest of the match, unwilling to selfishly forfeit, but it ultimately ends as it should, with a complete loss for Rei.
However, it’s not until the post match review that Rei realizes just how badly he had been outplayed. Every possibility that Rei suggests was already seen through by Mr. Shimada, and every turn was already blocked. He never stood a chance.
Embarrassed at the match and his own approach, Rei takes off running. I mean, who wouldn’t? His opponent not only outskilled him on the board, but saw through his arrogance from the start. As Shimada watches Rei run off, Smith joins him and the two talk. It’s nice seeing all our cast knowing each other and makes this feel like a real, living world rather than a setting that follows our protagonist. Afterwards, Shimada heads home and tells Nikaidou that Rei is an interesting person, while Smith heads to his own home where he’s quickly fallen in love with his newly adopted cat!
As for Rei, he’s in a much worse state. He falls into a pit of depression and locks himself away inside his apartment, trying to sleep everything away. We’re once again brought into the dark gloom of his room, the only light coming from outside or his bathroom lights. He becomes dehydrated and a bit sick, barely mustering the energy to reach the convenience store.
From there he finds a magazine of job advertisements, which encourages him to go to school. Unluckily for him, it’s P.E day and Rei gets absolutely destroyed at basketball. But our favorite teacher arrives on the scene! Hayashida’s been a recurring character for a while, and I feel like I underestimate the impact he has on Rei. He’s Rei’s only positive influence at school, offering both comedic value and genuine advice. Rei is honestly so lucky to have so many great people in his life to help him through his spouts of depression, and Mr. Hayashida is no exception. He also provides the brilliant advice of eating hot food when you’re depressed rather than cold. In hindsight it seems rather obvious, but I never really thought about that.
Hayashida drops some info on Rei, revealing that Shimada was a player who came up alongside the shogi god that is Souya. Overshadowed by the brilliance of Souya, Shimada made it to his rank through sheer diligence and perseverance. This makes me respect Shimada even more so than I already did, and I’d be really glad to see Rei learn from him at the workshop!