3-gatsu no Lion – 44 (Fin) – From Darkest Depths to Highest Heights

The eight minutes that kick off 3GL’s final episode (for a while at least), in which Rei visits the Kouda household, were some of the most hauntingly beautiful, unsettling, and emotionally gutting eight minutes I’ve ever seen. He is received only by the mother, who narrates the entire segment.

Rei was always capable—more capable than her children, which is why he had to go—but she finds him even more so now; he’s become an adult. Meanwhile, Kyouko and Ayumu (seen but never heard here) continue to flounder; they remain children, seeking immediate enjoyment.

Rei’s visit confirms to Mother Kouda that it was for the best for Rei to leave, and she is grateful that he did it of his own volition. Rei was such a genuinely good boy, it was a weight the rest of the family could not bear. When she dreams of Rei being her real son, he’s a sassy layabout like the others.

I was already in tears before the OP, but this episode wasn’t done, as Rei takes Takahashi and Rina out for monja to congratulate their graduation and bid farewell to the brawny baseball kid. Going pro is no longer a dream for him, it’s a goal, and leaving the home he loves was something he had to do to achieve it.

As they talk about how there won’t be monja where Takahashi is going, and that he’ll simply bring it with him to represent March Town, it dawns on Hina that while people may move away, they remain children of the town.

As the minutes and seconds left with Takahashi tick implacably down to zero, Hina savors those remaining moments with everything she has before saying goodbye. Again I held back tears…watching her hold back tears.

Takahashi leaves for his new school the day of the cherry blossom festival, which means he’ll miss it, but Hina doesn’t see him off. For one thing, the previous night’s farewell was just fine; for another, she’s got work to do, working at the Crescent Moon food stall.

She, Akari and Gramps clean up, capitalizing on the slight remnants of the winter chill by selling hot red bean soup and dumplings. Like so much with the Kawamotos, it’s warm, tasty, cozy, and fun.

And as Hina remembers a younger, smaller Takahashi sitting on the steps with an ice cream bar in his baseball uniform, she commits to doing her best where she is, just as he’ll be doing his best farther away.

Soon thereafter, just before she starts high school, Hina decides she’s going to get her hair cut. Privately (or rather in the presence of their aunt), Akari has bittersweet pangs about Hina’s choice to give her childhood self a “proper sendoff” and take a step forward as “the new me.” Akari is sad that one stage of her little sister’s life is ending, but excited and even a little envious of the next; Hina’s “springtime of life.”

However, that first step forward seems to go horribly awry when only an older hair stylist was at the salon. Hina asked for an “adult-like bob”, but once she get it, Akari can barely contain her shock, while Gramps, in his most hilarious reaction to date, thought on first glance that Hina was the household deity. Momo thinks she looks like a kokeshi doll, while Akari asks her to pose with a box of candy.

But when’s all said and done and we get a decent look at it (from numerous intimate close-up angles) I’m in agreement with Rei’s first impression: it’s nice. It’s a really nice new look! Despite the references made by her family, she looks a little more mature and serious, especially in her new high school uniform.

The more Rei looks at it, the more he likes it…and the more embarrassed Hina gets. But let’s not forget what’s happening: the two are walking to school together! This is huge. What will his classmates think? What will they say? How will Rei and Hina handle the fact that they look like one of history’s most perfect couples, straight out of the gate?

Unfortunately, all of that must be left up to my imagination, because 3-gatsu no Lion closes the book on the life of Rei, Hina, the Kawamotos, the Koudas, and all of the shogi folk. Hopefully it will be back, but if this is truly the end of the anime, it couldn’t have ended on a higher, brighter note, rising from the sullen depths of the Kouda household.

Tamayura: More Aggressive – 04

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Potte and Kanae snap pictures all over school and town, but still haven’t decided on what to perform at the Cherry Blossom Festival. Dougou suggests they perform a dance as he plays the guitar, with the photos as a backdrop. They then visit the stage in the middle of the park, which contains one thousand cherry trees, each one planted in honor of someone. Potte and Kou’s mom tells them they have trees too, but they were planted somewhere secret. On the day of the festival Dougou is injured, but Potte and Kanae improvise, singing and dancing to a folk tune, and the crowd responds favorably. After the performance, Kou and Komachi show Potte and the others their trees, which Momoneko helped him locate.

In Bleach, Senbonzakura is the name for Kuchiki Byakuya’s bankai, a devastating cloud composed of millions of tiny petal-like blades. But here, it’s just the name of a cultivation project in Takehara’s public park. (Go figure.) One thousand trees were planted, each in honor of people the planters loved. In the case of Kaoru, Potte, and Kou, they were planted when they were born, and have grown larger and stronger as they did. Those trees are one more discovery that brings Potte closer to her dad, to the point where she even gets to “see through his eyes” by taking a photo of the tree from the same angle he did. The tree changed from photo to photo, but the sky and mountains remained the same.

They’ll be the same long after both Potte and the tree pass away, as well. But until then, Potte wants to return the love her father had for her and the town by making her mark on it as he did, through photography. When her performance hits a snag, President Potte refuses to give up, and she and Kanae put on a show not just to stir up interest in the club, but as thanks for everyone who pitched in with ideas, assistance, and emotional support. They didn’t bring the house down, nor did they perform beyond their abilities, suddenly turning into talented idols. They just hunkered down and did their honest best. We wouldn’t be surprised if they’re rewarded with more prospective members.\

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Rating:7 (Very Good)