March comes in like a lion – Episode 31

I apparently forgot to post this one back when episode 31 aired. Whoops!

Rei finally arrived at the Newcomer Tournament finals this week, and was able to pay Nikaidou back for his loss in the semis. Of course, that victory only came after Rei painfully accepted this arc’s main lesson: that sometimes we cannot help the ones we love through direct action, and must exercise emotional restraint. It was a smart narrative embodiment of this arc’s central emotional conflict, and seeing Rei rewarded by actually being able to help Hina was great as well. This show is good stuff.

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

The newcomer tournament finals is tomorrow! Rei gets some encouragement from the sisters

Hina’s school trip is also tomorrow. Two nights and three days in Kyoto. So they may be tethering the end of these two arcs together

Rei is determined to win for both Hina and Nikaidou’s sakes

The tournament’s in Osaka

Junkei Yamazaki, the defending tournament champion, is a mountain of a man. Bald, towering, deep voice. He seems like a yakuza boss

The tone of this battle seems to be “austere.” No background noises except the subtle click of their tiles, little visual embellishment. A clear venue for Rei’s mental calculations to dominate

This is simultaneously a match and an interrogation. Rei wants to beat out of this opponent the reason he played so defensively against Nikaidou, seemingly intentionally making use of Nikaidou’s infirmity. This is the first time in a long time that Rei wants to not just win, but beat this specific opponent

“Go to hell!”

In the second half/chapter, Rei begins to realize this is just this opponent’s style. He plays utterly conservatively, hiding inside his cave, waiting for his opponent to make a mistake. Wonderful visual illustration of his opponent’s play style here. They really capture the inscrutable nature of his play

Rei gets angry and impatient, and wants to just attack in order to provoke a reaction from his opponent. But it’s Nikaidou’s voice that draws him back, urges him to play for the long game. In a way, this is his match with Nikaidou – and Nikaidou’s still the one ahead of him, still guiding him along. Nikaidou’s emotional strength is so great

I love this elegiac string and piano melody for him realizing his own emotional shortsightedness. And what he’s doing now is much harder – playing his conservative best in spite of feeling so passionately invested in this match. Before it was easy for him to play mechanically, now that he feels all these emotional obligations, it’s harder

Also like the gentle watercolors and rough sketches of these Rei shots

Rei takes it! He’s the Newcomer King!

And then one of the other club members has some great stomach medicine, and Rei scampers off with it

And now with Hina, he again just wants to do something. So he’s willing to rush to Kyoto just to give her stomach medicine

It’s appropriate that after an arc that’s so often prioritized Rei’s inability to help others, these final conflicts focus on his ability to exercise restraint even when he wants to act

But now, he’s finally rewarded with something he can do, a helpful action he can actually carry out

A ton of new backgrounds this episode, all very pretty. This episode is leaning particularly heavily on the show’s watercolor aesthetic, again appropriate for an episode about restraint

Rei uses his own childhood experience of loneliness to guide his search for Hina. A perfect twist – she saved him, and now his own unhappy childhood will help him help her

And at last, he can be there for Hina when she needs him