March comes in like a lion – Episode 26

March really knocked it out of the park this week, offering one of the strongest episodes of the show altogether. I don’t know what mystical alchemy conspired at SHAFT that allowed them to pull together so many talented animators to work on such a great storyboard, but the results certainly spoke for themselves. I’ve reached a point of zen where I accept that no basically no show can actually look like this every single week, but goddamn is it spectacular when it happens. Great work, team.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below.

This slow reprisal of the previous episode’s ending is pretty painful. We’re close in Hina’s perspective, watching the other houses pass, staring down at her shoes

Just lets her continuous, ugly tears lead the production. And I like the sound of crows flying off as her older sister rushes to her side

A girl named Chiho in Hina’s class is being bullied

Other girls made spurious rumors about her and ostracized her from their group

Hina was the only one who didn’t reject her

This is basically an exposition narrative, but the visual imagery is strong enough to easily carry it

“Don’t tell the teacher! If everyone found out, they’d bully me even more!”

The moment when Hina’s adolescent belief in the power of adults dies

All sorts of wild, evocative imagery here. I love the strong use of color, and the stark contrast between the greyscale characters and richly colored backgrounds. I like how often the shots isolate these characters in the frame, and when the show decides no backgrounds is better. I like the subtle echoes of Rei’s deep water well

Also using the changing flowers to depict the change of seasons

And the white outlines of the girl’s footsteps, like evidence of what’s happened

The teacher, also in greyscale, ignores Hina’s words. Everyone who won’t help or contributes to the problem is in gray

Oh my god, this shift to bright watercolors for her exit. And the animation is so strong, too

Chiho leaves the school

Hina just fuckin’ leaps on the head bully. Awesome

The sound design in this episode is also terrific. The giggles and whispers rising in the background as Hina checks her empty footlocker

“I couldn’t do anything to help her!”

And so Hina runs out into the night to avoid upsetting Momo

All she can do is run. Where can these feelings go?

This running sequence is incredibly too. Extremely well animated, matched nicely with these wavering flutes, and again with very distinctive color choices. This time, the generally deep blue night is entirely black and white, as if the whole city has turned against her. The episode established that visual motif and is now paying it off

She just runs and runs until she can’t run anymore, and the show actually captures all of that beautifully. A sequence of one repetitive action demands strong animation to feel meaningful, and this one nailed it

This is also the moment Hina realizes so many people are less kind or strong than she expected

“From tomorrow, I’ll be all alone. I’m so scared”

“I don’t regret anything. What I did was definitely not wrong!”

I like this shot panning up as Rei leans down. Lots of well-chosen perspective shots

“Even after all this time, something can save you, coming in like a storm from an entirely different direction.” Hina’s current strength and goodness saves young Rei

Rei takes her out to the library to research sweets the next day

Hina’s words help Rei get over his trauma, and let him face the ladybug bush head-on

Rei’s feelings of anguish at Hina’s pain are expressed so beautifully in this wrinkled, overly detailed animation

Desperately trying to think of how he can be useful

Rei has reached the point where he can actually try to help others

Going home is itself a scary proposition. We can easily become ashamed of our suffering, as if we’re letting down the people who love us by being unhappy

Grandpa praises her for trying

More great character acting here. Momo not sure how to help her big sister

And then they just let the music and the gorgeous animation carry the last act. The warmth of a family, expressed largely through motion

One thought on “March comes in like a lion – Episode 26

  1. Might need to rewatch part of season 1 – I seem to remember a sequence where Rei also runs desperately, and is offered a hand. If I’m not mis-remembering, this would be a parallel to that, thereby establishing that now Rei is indeed capable of helping someone else through empathy.

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