3-gatsu no Lion – 09

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Rei isn’t feeling great about having to bring down a guy who’s been playing more than twice as long as he’s been alive, and that feeling doesn’t improve when he spots his opponent, Matsunaga, praying at a local shrine and acting very erratic.

The old man’s inscrutability translates to his shogi game, which Rei can’t quite suss out, even to the point he wonders if Matsunaga is placing pieces randomly. He also starts to doubt if his opponent’s stress is real or all an act. Neither can we; his opaqueness makes for some entertaining human observation.

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When the match is over, and Rei wins, Matsunaga nearly falls down some stairs (the same stairs Rei was going to use to sneak away), and ends up treating the old man to a sumptuous feast and more than he can drink. Turns out Rei is a nice guy like Kyouko said, because he doesn’t leave the man’s side as long as he’s not certain he’ll be okay.

But he will be okay. The liquor greases the hinges of the door to Matsunaga’s heart, and he opens up to us and Rei. Rei may not be able to fathom forty years of shogi, but hearing the old man speak of the addictive elation of victory despite the bitterness of defeat (and he’s suffered a lot more defeats than Rei), he’s able to finally relate. Those are the same things he feels.

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Even if Rei claims to hate shogi, and Matsunaga can’t answer the question of whether he likes it, the fact of the matter is, they are both shogi players. So when Kyouko calls to gloat over Rei having to “strangle an old dog”, Rei proudly announces that Matsunaga will, in fact, not be retiring from shogi after all.

Rather than serve as a young, beautiful grim reaper for the old man, Rei, their match, and the night that followed, made him reconsider quitting the game, even after Rei beat him (that, and he really doesn’t want to do house chores).

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Matsunaga this week, as I’m sure Rei didn’t. But I was pleasantly surprised by the swiftness with which his character was fleshed out. This week was a sprawling profile of the guy, from his knowledge of Fukushima history to the drive to play not snuffed out by Rei. Sorry Kyouko – no win for you!

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Another – 09

Sakakibara learns that Nakao probably wasn’t killed by the boat at the beach, but by a contusion he suffered hitting his head back in Yomiyama. Sakakibara meets with Teshigawara, Mochizuki to search the old class 3. Two girls bump into them, and they mention what they’re doing. Misaki is already in the building and tags along. They eventually find a cassette tape in a locker recorded by Matsunaga, in which he chronicles the school trip to the shrine. Praying there had no effect, but the tape cuts out before they can hear both his confession and advice to the future class 3. The tape also unravels and snaps when ejected. Meanwhile, one of the two girls dies while in the car with her parents, and the other girl’s brother is killed by an excavator crashing through his bedroom.

This series is really starting to hit its stride, as this week served up lots more gloom, forboding, mysteries, and yes, a couple of deaths too. We knew the moment the two girls walked up and asked what Sakakibara and Teshigawara were up to that they were kinda doomed. In the cold open, there are two girls conversing: we suspect it was these two. One was trying to move away with her family, but it wasn’t to be. True, one didn’t die, but she lost her brother, and both deaths were terrible in that they were both matters of bad luck. The episode set them up so deliberately, leaving us an an audience helpless to do anything. In both cases, rain was a major player, making the road slick enough for a truck to start sliding backwards, and loosing rock that fell upon Ayano’s car while driving up a mountain road.

Also unlucky was Nakao last week, whose nausea was the result of his contusion, not mere carsickness, and who in all likelihood lost consciousness in the sea while swimming. This is proven beyond doubt when we see him get hit underwater; he’s not awake. Of course, Sakakibara can’t let this go on, and doesn’t want to involve any more people than he has to in solving this thing. Leave it to Misaki Mei to insert herself into the investigation. While searching the classroom, she proves quite the klutz, and even makes a tiny joke to try to reduce the tension. But that’s an exercise in futility, as listening to a creepy tape in a creepy building in the dark during a rainstorm only ratchets up that tension. And naturally, just when they’re getting to the part on the tape that may prove helpful, it cuts out and they’re nearly discovered by a faculty member. Fix that tape, Mochizawa!


Rating: 4

Car Cameo: Ayano and her folks meet their end in
what we believe is a fairly old white Toyota Corolla.