Some of my favorite series are the ones that I didn’t expect to consume my life. Chihayafuru is one that immediately comes to mind: the story of a card game specific to Japan, it’s the reason that I bought my own karuta set and started learning classical Japanese poetry. Yes, I’m the kind of person that goes all-in on my interests.
March Comes in Like a Lion finds itself scratching that same itch, except instead of card games it’s shogi, or Japanese chess. Also native to Japan, it’s an extremely difficult and tactical game, and one that can take many, many years to truly master. Imagine people playing chess and how boring it is to watch. How can this show, with animated chess, really be that good?
Much in the same vein as Chihayafuru, while the game is central to the plot, it’s the relationships that drive the story forward and stick with you long after the credits roll. March Comes in Like a Lion expertly blends a painful coming-of-age tale with sprinkles of romance and chunks of shogi know-how.
It’s a difficult balance to strike. But given that the series now consists of not only a manga and anime series but two live-action films, plenty of people seem to be taking notice.
A Deeply Emotional Story of Loss and…Shogi?
Rei Kiriyama is an up-and-coming star in the shogi world. At 17 years old, he’s already been a professional shogi player for a few years, making the cut in middle school. Other players and fans often speak of him highly, calling him one of the most promising young players of his generation.
Bullied and unable to make many friends, Rei’s childhood trauma was compounded by the loss of both his parents and his sister in a car accident. Taken in by a friend of his late father, he is taught the rules of shogi, and quickly proves to be a prodigy.
Leaving at a young age to live on his own, Rei isolates himself and has trouble forming meaningful connections. Eventually he meets the Kawamoto sisters and lets them into his life, opening up to them slowly and forming connections that get him through the darkness of his past and rescue him from his self-made loneliness.
The Main Characters of March Comes in Like a Lion
- Rei Kiriyama – The protagonist, Rei lives on his own in Tokyo after becoming estranged from his foster family. After becoming a professional shogi player in middle school, he decided not to go to high school, wanting to be on his own and away from people as soon as possible. However, he later changes his mind, and becomes more mature in the process of returning to school and facing his demons.
- Akari Kawamoto – The eldest of the three sisters that befriend Rei, Akari takes care of her sisters Hinata and Momo. She works at a sweets shop in the morning and at a bar at night, hustling to make ends meet. Finding Rei on the street after some of his shogi rivals dumped him after getting him drunk, she seeks to care for him as well.
- Hinata Kawamoto – The middle of the three sisters, Hinata eventually falls in love with Rei after he becomes involved with the family. She goes to his high school, and is trying to become more mature.
- Momo Kawamoto – A preschool student, Momo spends most of her time in daycare. As is typical of small children, Momo is often selfish and tends to get her way. Sweet and happy, Momo adores Rei.
- Masachika Kouda – Masachika took in Rei after his parents died. A high-level professional shogi player, he took Rei under his wing and taught him the game. His other two children, Kyouko and Ayumu, grow to hate Rei for taking so much of their father’s time.
The Original Manga Creator is Already Well Known to Anime Fans
March Comes in Like a Lion was originally created by Chica Umino, who is also the author of the popular Honey and Clover series. She won an award for the drama series in 2003, and it was later turned into an anime series, a live-action film and a television drama.
Curiously, Chica Umino is a pen name, and the author’s true name remains unknown despite her popularity.
Originally beginning serialization in the bimonthly magazine Young Animal in 2007, the March Comes in Like a Lion manga is ongoing. It has been compiled into 15 volumes thus far.
In 2011, the manga won the Manga Taisho, a competition for newer titles originally created in 2008. It had previously been nominated in 2009, though Chihayafuru took the gold that year.
Will the Anime Series Ever Get a Season 3?
The first season of the March Comes in Like a Lion anime series premiered on NHK G in 2016 and ran for 22 episodes. Not long after, it was announced that a second season was coming, and it ran for another 22 episodes beginning in 2017.
The anime series was created by Shaft, a Tokyo based studio which has worked on many gorgeous and bizarre series like Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei and Arakawa Under the Bridge. These series display a very signature art style, coined by Akiyuki Shinbo, the executive director of the company.
Plenty of fans are praying for a third season, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Nothing concrete has been announced yet, but with the manga continuing and the series continuing to receive high reviews, anything is possible.
Where to Watch the Anime and Read the Manga
While the manga series hasn’t yet been licensed in English, I’d hold out hope. It’s found plenty of popularity, so it’s possible that someone will pick it up in the future!
A two-part live-action film was released in 2017, and sadly this hasn’t hit the North American Blu-ray market.