First Impressions: The Ryuo’s Work Is Never Done

The Ryuo’s Work Is Never Done! (aka Ryuuou no Oshigoto!) opens in a scene of suspense. Sixteen-year-old Kuzuryu Yaichi is one move away from winning the highest title in professional shogi: Ryuo. The pressure is on. His sight blurs, and he has to escape to the restroom to get a grip. Then, in the hallway, a girl offers him water, reviving him, and he returns to win the shogi match and secure the title. Three months later, that girl, nine-year-old Hinatsuru Ai, shows up in his apartment and requests he take her on as a disciple.

My reactions to Ryuuou no Oshigoto!‘s first episode swung widely between “yesssss, shogi” and “nopity nope.” The opening scene had my full attention. I was interested in everything: the match, the way we saw the scene through Yaichi’s eyes, the way they obscured his face until after the two-minute mark. Then we got our first full look at little Hinatsuru Ai. Her over-the-top cuteness made me suspicious. Please don’t fetishize her. But then we saw her match against Yaichi. The skills she displayed! The way she’d learned shogi! Yes, I thought, scribbling down several notes about the scene and taking screenshots like the one above. Yes, this is fun. Then they put her in the shower. They showed this nine-year-old girl in the shower. And, shortly after, they had her exit the bathroom with only her long hair for cover. Oh no. It wasn’t sexualized, but it wasn’t good, either. And it got worse. They went for the he-falls-on-her-just-when-someone-walks-in trope—while Ai was still naked. Nopity nope nope nope! They didn’t end the episode with that, and the ED visuals looked clean, so I’m holding onto the [probably vain] hope that they won’t continue exploiting nine-year-old Ai for cheap “humor,” or at least not often. The premise of this show is too interesting to be dragged down by this. I want to learn about these kids—want to watch their games, cheer them on, follow their growth as people and as players.

So will I watch more? I think so, but with definite wariness, ready to back out if it proves to be more of a moral minefield than a beneficial tale of growth.

Ryuuou no Oshigoto! is available on Crunchyroll.

8 thoughts on “First Impressions: The Ryuo’s Work Is Never Done

  1. As someone who’s read the first volume of the light novel being adapted, I knew what I was getting into with this one. (For the record, the light novel explains that Ai’s family runs a hot springs inn and suggests that’s why she has no shame walking around naked… not that that explanation makes things any better…) Your thoughts pretty much reflect my thoughts on the light novel and this first episode of the adaptation. When the story goes into what life of a shogi player is like, the development of the characters as players, and the actual matches, it’s quite engaging and interesting. On the other hand, all that… inappropriate stuff just feels really tacked on and unnecessary. At least overall it doesn’t take up that much of the episode (and in this first episode’s case, you can pretty much just skip past the “problem” part entirely and not miss anything important), but it’s still unfortunate that what otherwise could be a very compelling story will drive away many potential viewers with those elements.

    On a side note, this light novel was apparently voted to be the best light novel series of 2017 by both fans and critics in Japan, which I’d like to believe reflects just how strong the shogi story aspect is.

    1. That’s interesting information about the light novel series being so appreciated in Japan. And it’s a bit encouraging. I really want to keep watching, so hopefully the shogi story indeed proves stronger than the inappropriate stuff.

  2. Argh. I really hate that sort of thing, be it an adult or a child who is sexualized or fetishized by the work and the artist. I have dropped shows I was otherwise enjoying (Arpeggio of Blue Steel, the original Twin Peaks, Gunbuster, and if FLCL didn´t have six episodes, I would have dropped it too) because something of this kind was really bothering me. Shogi sounds interesting. Now I´m watching Chihayafuru, about karuta, and it´s simply amazing how well every hability, moment of enjoyment, motivation and growth in mastery is portrayed. I guess there are many Japanese sports we just don´t have discovered yet.

    1. Yep, it’s really frustrating when they have to ruin a good show with this stuff. And it really puts us in a tough position as we have to decide whether or not it’s good for us to continue watching.

      Chihayafuru is *wonderful*, for all the reasons you mentioned and more! I’m glad to hear you’re watching it. I really like good anime that focus on mastery of a skill and on the suspense of competition. Chihayafuru is one such anime. Hikaru no Go is another. I also remember Shion no Ou (involving shogi) being really good, though it’s been years since I last watched that one. And this is why I’m holding out some hope, however naive it may sound, that Ryuo’s Work turns out to be more good than not. I want more anime with these topics.

      Thanks for commenting, Gaheret!

      1. So disappointing since I would LOVE to see a strong series that does to shogi what Chihayafuru does for karuta. As much as I love March Comes in Like a Lion, it’s really weak when it comes to engaging viewers in the ins and outs of shogi

        1. It really is disappointing.
          Huh, I heard that March Comes in Like a Lion includes shogi… but I heard a lot more about it making people cry, which is why I didn’t give it a shot.

          1. Not into crying anime? Haha. I would say that it’s an emotionally involving series. It’s never had me on the verge of tears, but it stays with you. The series is really about the main character—a shogi prodigy—growing out of depression that developed in him through difficult circumstances in life through the relationships he develops, particularly with a struggling family of three sisters and a grandfather. It’s a beautiful series, and this past season, which focused on bullying, was particularly excellent.

      2. Thank you both for your recommendations! Shion no Oun, Hikaru no Go and March comes like a Lion will be ipso facto added to my ever-expanding watching list. If they resemble Chihayafuru in the slightest, I´m sure I´ll love them. Depression, that´s a very difficult topic. But some of the most heroic and hopeful examples of Faith and love I´ve ever seen were done by someone in depression. Light brights more in the darkest places, I suppose.

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