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.