Originally a manga series, 3-gatsu no Lion (also known as March Comes In Like A Lion) tells the story of Rei Kiriyama. We follow a slice of his life as he, at 17 years old, adapts to living on his own as a professional shogi player. Directed by Shinbou, Akiyuki and Okada, Kenjirou and developed by Shaft, 3-gatsu no Lion delves deep into what it can mean to feel alone. How do you cope? When you’re that deep in loneliness, how do you come to realisation that people do care about you? Can you?
3-gatsu no Lion is, like most slice of life shows, a slow burner. Despite this I found the show to be quite gripping as I wanted to find out what would happen to Rei next. As we progress through the story we comes across characters that affect Rei in different ways. No two character’s have quite the same affect upon him but I would say that each character has their purpose. They suffer a little from being one-dimensional side characters be it the encourager, the antagoniser, the thinker; each character has that one element that they focus on. Now, it could be that it is Rei’s perception of them. The Kawamoto sisters, Hina in particular, and other characters Rei spends a lot of time with seem to get a lot more development but none of them quite evolve in the same way Rei does.
The focus of the series gradually shifted in accordance with Rei’s priorities. Some of the characters I expected to revisit later in the series we didn’t. Most of the story was told to us from Rei’s point of view. Either he was personally present, being told the event, or remembering a past event. As such, the moments when he wasn’t there – and most of these occurred around the Kawamoto sisters – were slightly disjointed. One or two seemed to be a bit pointless and didn’t seem to help the story at all; as much as I loved to see Momo this story was about Rei.
The show was aired over two cours and we had 22 episodes to experience Rei’s journey. It could be said, and indeed I felt this was the case, Rei suffers from depression. The writing does a good job of not having him “snap out of it”. Despite being over two seasons it was one continuous story throughout the entire series and the troubles of the first cour weren’t immediately resolved. I would say, however, that some elements still felt unresolved by time we got to the end.
One thing about 3-gatsu no Lion is that I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s such a deeply personal story and yet you can relate to it. Even if you’ve never experienced the loneliness and depression that plagues Rei there will be elements you can connect with. His story isn’t rushed, but nor is it dragged out and everything happens quite naturally for him. Natural is the best word I can use to describe this for when I ask myself the question of “is Rei’s story being predictable?”, I have to say no but then I cannot say it was overly surprising either.
It could be that I enjoyed it primarily because of my like of this genre. I felt like I also learnt a little bit about the game of shogi while watching this. It’s not a particularly compelling reason to watch the show but it piqued my interest in the game.
The art style of 3-gatsu no Lion is very demure and soft while also retaining a rather sharp aesthetic at times. The colour palette varies from vibrant to demure. As you can see from the image above, contrast is used to draw attention to important moments. I wish I could go into the more technical aspect of it for this show, such as the media used, but I just don’t have that knowledge to be able to. I can say, however, that it felt more artistic rather than trying to mimic reality.
There wasn’t anything particularly memorable, outside of the shogi tutorial cats, but it really fit the story it was trying to tell. The art style echoed the different experiences Rei went through. The animation really tried to show you how he was feeling rather than just telling you. When Rei was experiencing complex emotions they were shown to us in a way that helped you understand. It also let you draw on your own experiences of feeling that way.
Aside from explaining his feelings, the art style did a wonderful job of helping tell the characters apart. Even if you can’t remember all the names, no two characters looked similar. This really helped as there is a lot of cast in this show. Not once did I mistake one character for another.
When it comes to sounds I don’t know much of Japanese voice actors, but it is worth noting that the VAs of the Kawamoto sisters sang the ED of episode 7. If you’ve seen She and Her Cat: Everything Flows or Poco’s Udon World then you might recognise the voice of the middle Kawamoto sister, Hinata. I must say it was only when I was going through the VAs for this show that I found Hanazawa, Kana was in both.
There’s a couple more VAs worth noting. You might recognise the eldest Kawamoto sister, Akari, as being voiced by Kayano, Ai who also did Alisha in Tales of Zestiria the X. Attack on Titan‘s voice actress Inoue, Marina – who voiced Armin – also makes an appearance as Kyouko. The librarian from The Ancient Magus’ Bride voiced by Sakurai, Takahiro also has a recurring role (another I didn’t recognise).
The music for this show, with exception of the OP and ED, didn’t particularly stand out. It complimented the scenes without overriding them because I’m sure that music was present. However, I can’t pin point an exact moment save for the shogi cats and the very start of the show. As for the OP and ED’s they were wonderful.
For the first cour the OP was by Bump of Chicken called “Answers”. It fills me with joy listening to it and it’ll be on my playlist of anime songs for sure. They also sang the ED of the first cour “Fighter”. It’s a very upbeat song in comparison to the OP and fills me with so much hope while listening. Another firm favourite. In the middle of this, episode 7 specifically, the VAs of the Kawamoto sisters sang the ED “Nyaa Shougi Ondo”. If you love the shogi cats, like I do, you’ll love the song. I don’t think it’ll join a playlist but it was a fun departure for that episode and fit the episode’s contents.
After listening to two really good songs for 11 episodes, I originally found the OP of the second cour a disappointment. The seond OP is “Sayonara Bystander” by Yuki. Originally, I felt as though it didn’t fit the nature of the series. Once I was a few episodes in I couldn’t imagine any other replacement. Both Answers and Sayonara Bystander fit their cours of 3-gatsu no Lion so perfectly and I thoroughly enjoy Sayonara Bystander now as much as I do Answers.
The ED for the second cour isn’t as memorable for me. It’s Orion by Yonezu, Kenshi and it is a really good song. I’m not quite sure why it doesn’t make it to my playlist but when I listen to it I don’t feel that sense of 3-gatsu no Lion like I do with the others. All the other songs I can instantly recall a scene when I listen to them. That brings a smile to my face as I remember this show. I just don’t get that from this song.
3-gatsu no Lion: A Very Strong Series
If you enjoy Slice of Life shows then I think you would enjoy 3-gatsu no Lion. I would stay clear if you don’t like that genre unless you are explicitly wanting to try it again. If you can connect with Rei it’s possible you could enjoy this show regardless of it’s Slice of Life aspects. It’s one I would recommend to friends who have never watched anime before too.
I think this series is one that I would love to revisit. Whether I would actually ever make the time to watch it again, I’m not sure. I’m much more likely to watch the first cour again than the second. That said, there is a second season arriving in Fall 2017 which could raise the enjoyment of the second half. I’m looking forward to the second season and I hope it starts with the Kawamoto sisters. My biggest gripe with this series was that their story felt unfinished.
This show didn’t remind me of any others; it really stands apart from all other Slice of Life I’ve seen and was very memorable series. It’s a very unique journey and one I probably would want to own on physical media.
I started watching 3-gatsu no Lion on March 27, 2017 and finished it June 20, 2017 with English subtitles and Japanese voices. At the time of writing you can watch this series on Crunchyroll.