Now for a change of pace. While I haven’t ran out of anime to review (how could I, I’ve only done a few!) I do want to branch out a little bit. I know a did a few game reviews before, but those were special cases. As of this week I’ll mix my anime reviews with manga as well. However, most of the manga I’ll cover are not quite finished, so I hesitate to call it a full review, but that’s the best word for it, I think. I read a lot of manga (just shy of 250) with a fair bit of variety so hopefully these will be a little different than before. Anyway, the manga I’ll start my review with also happens to grace the top of my manga folder. Since it’s in alphabetical order, it’s no wonder that something called 3Gatsu no Lion would be up top.
So a quick overview of this manga. As you can kind of see (maybe if you click the image) above the official English title is March comes in like a lion. It’s done by Umino Chica, who also did Honey & Clover (which is really good and I’ll review it at some point). If you’ve read my Aria review or any of the slice of life series I’ve covered, 3Gatsu no Lion is fairly similar. It’s a slow-paced series, though unlike Aria or Kamichu! which are also similarly-paced, 3Gatsu no Lion is a little less light-hearted and has a bit more drama. The stories involved from chapter to chapter are a bit more serious and as a result have you thinking a bit more. The basic plot of 3Gatsu no Lion is that it follows a professional shogi player named Kiriyama Rei as he… well, goes through life as a professional shogi player. He became a professional player while he was in middle school and decided to skip high school and get into shogi as a career. He’s a five dan… I’m not very familiar with shogi, honestly, so that doesn’t mean much to me, but from what I understand that is a little better than a new professional player.
As Rei is quite young, he’s obviously talented for his age. In fact most of the people he plays are either middle-aged or older, though I believe that has more to do with the demographic of people who play shogi in Japan. Oh, before I forget, shogi is kind of like a Japanese chess, so just think of it as chess. Anyway, there’s more to the manga than just shogi. Rei is a little bit of a tragic figure, since his family died in an accident. He’s taken in by the man who later becomes his shogi mentor, and enters a somewhat complicated relationship with both his mentor and his mentor’s kids. As the manga starts however, Rei has moved past that and is living by himself in Tokyo. He doesn’t have very many friends, but he does know one small family where he often goes to eat dinner. Rei has mostly a quiet life, and the plot is generally contained in a chapter-by-chapter basis, with small hints of a larger story (the complications arising from Rei’s life as a child and whatnot).
There aren’t very many characters in 3Gatsu no Lion, but let’s start with the main character, Rei. He’s an… interesting character. I think what’s nice about manga as compared to anime is that characters aren’t as much caricatures of popular ideas and instead feel more… “real”, as it were. It’s kind of hard to describe but I think the easiest way I can put it is that the characters in 3Gatsu no Lion come across as believable, human characters that display the full gamut of human emotions while still retaining some sort of personality. That’s kind of a mouthful but that’s how I see it. Anyway, Rei is a delibrate, kind of melancholy person. Obviously he’s had a bit of a tragic past (moreso than I’ve indicated) and a lot of that affects him to this day, but I think even besides that Rei’s personality is slow and deliberate, and that’s part of what makes him a good shogi player. A exciting main character…
Well, he’s not really, but I think his quiet introspectiveness (I know that’s not a word) makes him come across as interesting and deep. Rei’s personality sets the tone for the manga as having a mostly serious and somber tone, but there are some characters that break that monotony. Particularly the Kawamoto family, whom Rei happens to be friends with. A family of 3 sisters, Akari, Hinata, and Momo (aged in that order), they kind of take the job of looking after Rei. Since men are generally horrible at living by themselves of course. Because they’re younger (well, Hinata and Momo), they offer a lighter more humorous side for the story, which is welcome and keeps a good balance between the serious and somber Rei and the Kawamoto family. For now there’s not much more to them, but they provide a good tonal foil to Rei’s character.
The last thing I’ll cover for 3Gatsu no Lion is the art. As you might know by now, my artistic sense is pretty terrible, but art is a very big part of manga. Besides the story and characters, there’s only art to go on. And since the medium is mostly picture-oriented, art is kind of the biggest part of manga. Anyway, I like the art for 3Gatsu no Lion. If you’re familiar with Honey & Clover (the manga or the anime) you’ll find the art quite similar, as it’s the same person. In particular I like some of the set pieces used for backgrounds in the manga. There are some really nice shots of scenery and what have you in the background, and that’s one of the sections I think 3Gatsu no Lion shines, artistically.