We’re winding down towards the end of the decade. To celebrate, I’d enjoy going through all my favorite shows from this decade. Unfortunately, there are waaaaaay too many shows to talk about! Many of which I’ve discussed before. Others of which deserve their time in the limelight!
So today, I’m going to focus on one show in particular. One that I’ve mentioned in the past, but never in as much depth as it deserves. Today, I’m going to review my favorite anime of all time. It’s finally time to take a good, long look at March Comes in Like a Lion!
This show has everything I look for in a good drama! Story and characters? Depressing, inspiring, and memorable! Animation? Stellar! Music? Catchy as hell! Everything about this show is absolutely incredible!
Which makes it all the more strange that no one has been talking about it! Seriously, why isn’t this show any bigger than it is?!
Story: A Sad Boy and All His Secretly Sad Friends
March Comes in Like a Lion (or MCILAL, as I shall be calling it from henceforth) is a show that masterfully balances two wildly conflicting tones. On one hand, you have one of the most emotionally resonant, heart-wrenching dramas that I’ve ever seen. On the other, you have one of the cutest, most comfortable slice-of-life shows you could ever experience! Neither one of these tones ever come into conflict with one another. Instead, they come together to form a perfectly balanced viewing experience. A Yin and Yang dynamic, if you will.
Rei Kiriyama is a shogi prodigy, having earned pro status while still in middle school. He lives in a small apartment in a river town on his own, having left his adopted family for *spoilers redacted*. We follow him, along with the three Kawamoto sisters who befriended him, throughout his daily routine as he struggles with school, keeping up with his competitors at shogi, and grappling with his depression and the ghosts of his past. All the while, we get a look into the lives and sorrows of all those around him.
This show has all the necessary set pieces that I enjoy in a series. The list of characters is huge, but each one is given more than enough time in the spotlight to get the development they need! Very few characters feel relegated to simple comedic gags, although there certainly are a few of those. But the number of interesting, developed characters far outweigh the number of one-dimensional gag characters.
The story itself is perfectly paced. The initial few episodes are fairly slow and calm, taking their time in introducing new characters and further developing the ones already there. Each event smoothly flows into the next, giving the show a constant sense of progression. Sure, none of the events are really all that big. But each one moves into the next smoothly.
Some of which will make you feel good. Others will make you curl into a ball and cry into your sheets.
Now, there are more than a few scenes where the story grinds to a halt. It’s in these scenes where the characters will simply sit around and talk about food. Personally, I like to think that these were all in the manga (which hasn’t been localized in English, so I haven’t read it) and the writer just got really hungry and translated that onto the page. Still, it does occasionally kill the pacing.
Even with these scenes included, I love every minute of this show! It’s a very simple story, one firmly grounded in reality, that manages to perfectly tackle a large serious of heavy and serious topics. It is depressing, but it never wallows in the tone, using it rather to make the moments of joy all that brighter.
And I still haven’t discussed my favorite part of the show!
Presentation: All the Little Details
In its initial seasons, this show has a very distinct visual style. Particularly with the character designs and their lips. But that design does become a bit more in-line with typical anime as the show goes on. Still, that doesn’t stop it from being the most gorgeous thing I ever did see!
Let’s start with those character designs! I love every single one of them! Each of them is very simple, given the realistic tone of the show, but they’re each still incredibly effective! No one character looks like another. Each design offers subtle insights into their characters, such as Kiriyama’s blank eyes or Nikaido’s round, balloon-like body. Artistically speaking, these characters are as much of a knockout as they are in the writing department!
Now, the environments. Holy shit, these are pretty! They’re all bright, colorful, and extremely detailed! Then, during the night, the scene seems to transform, taking on a whole new color and shine! Sure, there are some corners cut with CGI, but they’re all such little and unimportant details that it doesn’t matter! Never once does the CGI take you out of the show!
Oh, and the music! Holy shit the music is so good! Each track ranges from quiet and melancholic to quiet and oddly intense! Every single piece of music is memorable and catchy! I don’t know where to find this soundtrack, but I need to find it!
And the animation! Oh my god, the animation! In its more calm moments, the show still moves smoothly, with each frame being excellently animated! But then it gets to the more intense moments and the animation completely changes! These uniquely animated scenes have the quality of a high budget animated film, with some of the most imaginative and effective visuals I’ve ever seen! God damn, are they gorgeous! I mean, just look at this shot!
TL;DR: this show looks fucking amazing! Every single animator who worked on it brought their A-game and it is absolutely amazing! Visually speaking, it is a joy from beginning to end!
I could go on and on about everything I love about this show. I could write articles just as long as this one about each character, about each story arc, and break down exactly why they work so well! In fact, I just might sometime in the future! But for now, I’ll leave you off with this.
Watch this god damn show. Please, for the love of God, watch this show! It is an absolute accomplishment, one of the best anime ever produced! If you love quiet, character-driven drama, this is the perfect show for you!
Also, I want a season three. Like, really badly.