As sakura season is in full bloom, Rei and Shimada arrive at Yamagata. Still recovering from his straight losses at the Lion King Tournament, Shimada continues to feel the weight of responsibility pushing down on his shoulders. As the guilt of the losing is gnawing away at his being, rain pours upon him and the town, dampening everything. He blame himself not only for the loss, but the rain as well.

But as he enters the shogi hall, the atmosphere shifts. Gone is the grey and green of the outside rain, instead replaced by the vibrant oranges and yellows within the hall itself. Old men who’ve known Shimada forever grumble at his rain bringing, acting as if nothing happened at the Lion King Tournament. The rain that dampened everything earlier is now out of sight and mind, something Shimada desperately needed.

Even Nikaidou is here, dressed in elegant armor and being his good, jolly self. What follows is quite the fascinating game of human shogi, with both men and women dressed in armor and acting as shogi pieces. Faced with such happy faces and events, Shimada’s worries are washed away. In one of the most satisfying sequences that I’ve ever seen in 3gatsu, we’re rewarded with Shimada’s happiness returning. The sequence is accompanied by lively music, inside jokes, and Shimada’s attitude grows noticeably brighter as he’s reunited with more and more of his old friends and teachers.

Not only that, we’re given quite the heartwarming understanding of what Shimada has done for the old folk of the town. By organizing the local shogi club to send out vans and pick up the local, elderly residents, he single handedly offered company to the aging population of his town. Furthermore, the vans were stocked with supplies for the lonely locals. It becomes apparent that Shimada has done so much for this town, more than anyone else could’ve. Perhaps he’s done more than he could’ve by just winning a title, but regardless, Shimada is left smiling and his initial worries had evaporated away.

For what seems to be the first time in forever, we’re taken back to the Kawamoto family. As expected of a scene including them, the entire segment is absolutely adorable with all the characters playing to their strengths. One would think it’d get old by now, but something about Momo’s childish nature is just irresistible every time. Perhaps it’s just me, but I thought it was quite interesting how the Kawamoto’s act differently without Rei in the picture. It’s an interesting perspective we’ve rarely seen, as Rei has always been the centerpiece of their attention. Perhaps this is why it’s so memorable when Rei does return, with some of Shaft’s best animation work accompanying him.

Overall, this episode started with a dash of sadness but quickly ascended into one of the highest highs we’ve seen. Both Shimada and Rei are happy, the Kawamotos are ecstatic, and the Lion King Arc has finally resolved. Onwards to the next one!

Episode twenty two marks the class shuffles of Rei’s school, separating him from our beloved Mr. Hayashida. I really hope this wasn’t 3gatsu’s way of just killing him off as a character, because I absolutely love that guy. Thankfully, he returns within minutes as the same old Hayashida we’ve come to love. Once again he goes he full mile and offers to start the shogi club with Kiriyama, offering him a chance to make friends through what he does best. It’s things like this that has made Hayashida one of my favorite characters of the show, and he’s such a strong pillar for Kiriyama at school, that I can’t imagine Rei’s high school without him.

Hayashida pops the question we’ve all been asking, “Why are you coming back to high school?” Surely not the eat alone during lunch time, and run away from interaction. Rei realizes he wants to be as happy as Shimada was during the last episode, and it’s something I want for him as well. Rei has so many friends in all facets of his life, and school is the frontier in which he’s the most alone.

Desperate for club members, Hayashida runs around the school gauging interest, only to discover no one cares about shogi. It’s not until the return of our beloved Bunsen Burner’s Club that members finally come forth. The hilariously moustached Noguchi agrees to join after Rei agrees to join the Bunsen Burner’s Club, and the pact is sealed. Both Noguchi and Hayashida wish to play and learn shogi, and we see genuine excitement from Kiriyama. After all, who isn’t absolutely ecstatic when someone wants to learn their favorite hobby?

The second chapter begins on a much more depressing note, and really puts into context how far Kiriyama has come. It’s a childhood flashback of Kiriyama during a school trip, where one of the boys refuses to sit next to him. It’s both cruel and embarrassing for Rei, but it gets even worse as he’s hit with the lunch spot dilemma. Sitting alone makes him too noticeable, leading to an even worse series of events, so Rei is forced to find a spot both secluded and out of sight. It’s not until he returns to the bus however, where the depression really hits him. “No one was sitting her from the start,” is what he says to his teacher. What a line. A bit normal at first, but quickly becoming sadder and sadder. Gah, I just want to give little Kiriyama a hug.

The empty seat metaphor transitions into shogi as all things do, and we learn that Rei has been using shogi to cope with the loneliness in a way. The empty seat across the shogi board was always filled by people of various types, and they were his lifeline. He describes it as a train ticket that took him to tomorrow, pushing away the weight of his depression and replacing it with the presence of company. This is when Nikaidou’s voice breaks through Rei’s daydream, opening up a scene with all of Rei’s shogi friends. He realizes that as he rode the train all these years, he’s met dozens of people more who are also riding the same train. From Gotou to Shimada, Nikaidou to Souya, they’re all on the same train.

Final Thoughts:

An amazing end to an amazing season one, Shaft really knocked it out of the park with this one. The animation sequences, the music, the atmosphere, and the show and tell. 3gatsu has been quite the ride from episode one, with the most heart wrenching of lows and the most happiest of highs. It tugged at my emotions in a way I haven’t felt in forever, and its melancholy moments have been something I’ve never seen done anywhere near as well in any other show. I felt the pain in Rei’s heart as Kyouko’s venom hurt him so, and I felt the comfort he felt during their childhood as the two slept beside each other. I almost teared up as Akari talked about her mother during Obon, and I wanted to cheer Shimada on as he struggled through the Lion King Tournament.

From the Kawamotos who warmed the initial episodes, to the sleeper hits that were Hayashida, Nikaidou, and Shimada, the characters of 3gatsu are splendid and have truly set a new standard for me. Kyouko the tempest, both an enigma yet so crystal clear at the same time. Gotou, who’s first impression was that of overwhelming oil and drowning strength. Our beloved Nikaidou who went from eccentric kid, to the only man who could be both Rei’s friend and rival. Even the smallest of characters had their time to shine, from the old men Rei eliminated to Smith and his kitten. The focus on characters is absolutely insane, and I’m sure I’ll be disappointed with the characters of other shows after this one. Everyone had a story to tell, and no one was good or evil. Everyone was human. I’m sure even Gotou, who we’ve learned next to nothing about, will reveal himself in the next season, and I honestly cannot wait at all.

To think that season two is considered a masterpiece, even moreso than season one is mind boggling to me, how could something be so good? I’ll definitely be moving on as soon as I can. One of the best anime I’ve seen in recent memory, and I’m glad to agree with all its fans that it is indeed worth the hype. This is a down to earth anime at its finest form, a masterful example of storytelling that puts others to shame.

Easily a 9.5 for me.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. jsyschan

    I heard Honey and Clover was pretty good as well, and I hope that one day, I’ll check it out.

    What a way to end. It’s quite amazing what Shimada has done for his hometown. Like you said, winning the title seems insignificant when compared to the people’s reactions. His efforts remind me of Sakura Quest and Yoshino’s efforts to revitalize the town. I just finished it, so it’s still fresh on my mind. That last episode was great too. The whole train metaphor was nice. The struggles of being on an endless journey, yet you’re surrounded by people making the same journey who can relate to you and such.

    Sorry, it’s hard to put final thoughts here, but I’m really glad you decided to pick this show upon request. It may be out of the norm, but I hope that you continue this with season 2. Certain events help motivate the characters in new ways that make the show more exciting, so it’s definitely worth the ride.

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