It’s so good to have March Comes in Like a Lion back! As challenging as the content is, the show is a breath of fresh air, full of wonderful direction, quirky animated bits, terrific music, and sincere characters. Episode 23 eases us back into the series, with a focus on an important match in the world of shōgi and, in the second half, Rei’s club activities in which he teaches the science-minded members shogi and then makes homemade ramune with them (someone is going to have to help me out here – I’m guessing this is more like, ramune concentrate?). As mild as the opening episode may be, it ends on what I think is a really important note, as Rei narrates to himself that after sharing a happy experience in club, he was eager to share his day with the Kawamoto sisters.
For those unfamiliar with the series, all these common day occurrences – going to club activities, having fun with people you care about, sharing your day with family friends – is rather significant and out of place for Rei. As he continues to deal with depression, loss, and anxiety, the normal things that we take for granted are especially difficult for Rei. He has slowly opened himself up to the the Kawamoto household, who have treated him like family consistently. The club he helped formed in also a new place for him, a happy place in school, which he had otherwise abandoned in his mind long ago.
For Rei, one cause of his depression is that he doesn’t enjoy what has become the central focus of his life: shōgi. But because of the people around him, Rei has stared to shift this focus. Shōgi remains of central importance, but family, friends, school, and community are all now budging in. As Thanasis writes in his review, the show is asking us, “What’s more important? What we do or with whom we share the things we do?” Rei’s smile at the end of the episode reinforces something what he’s coming to realize: community is vital. Without it, we’re left living a half-life, one that isn’t where it should or could be.
That’s not to say that community is easy. Rei invests in the Kawamoto’s lives as they do in his, which sometimes means caring for Hinata when she’s going through boy troubles, or helping Momo when she has a scraped knee. It gets even harder when your community is so close to you that you see ugly, ugly warts, in the form of anger, rejection, and hostility, as with Rei and his adopted family.
Rei also has to deal with his own struggles. He has to learn to trust the people around him. We start the story at a point in which Rei already trusts the Kawamoto’s, but we see how that sense develops with Hayashida sensei and with the Shimada shōgi study group. It’s a work in progress, a process that makes the building of community slow. Rei also has his own depression to work through. It won’t go away with kind words and the snap of a finger. But by the end of episode 23, it looks like Rei – if even for a moment in time – has gotten to a point where he’s ready to better embrace his “family.”
My own building of community has come with its struggles. Some of them are internal, as I deal with judgment, expectations, and pride. Some are external, where my community doesn’t support me in the way it could or probably should. Because of these difficulties, intimate relationships can turn into a drag, can cause me to sometimes feel worse than if I had no one to turn to. But I hope I won’t retreat when that happens, because I’ve experienced the joy of genuine community and know how it can help me grow as I love them and they love me. For when community works just right, when it becomes a place where we want to share and they want to hear, when that happens, community is itself a joy. It is itself, life.
You can stream season two of March Comes in Like a Lion on Crunchyroll.