The second season of March Comes In Like A Lion (which I finished just last week) packs even more of an emotional punch than the first. Throughout its 22 episodes, I laughed, cried, and cheered as I shared in its characters’ many victories. Though the franchise has many wonderful characters (which is, by far, its greatest strength), my absolute favourite is Rei Kiriyama. That being said, Hina Kawamoto really gave Rei a run for his money during this second season. So much so, that I felt it would be a disservice not to jot down a few words about her too. Writing about more than one character might not be in keeping with Character Spotlight tradition, but the best thing about Watashi Wa Bucho!! (or I’m the boss) is that, yes, I’m the boss! This allows me to throw the rulebook out the window at any given moment, so there!
It’s been two years since I watched the first season of March Comes In Like A Lion, but I distinctly remember that what first drew me to Rei was his awkwardness. He’d often misread or fail to pick up on social cues. Not only that, but Rei would also feel uncomfortable when part of a big group. As such, he’d spent most of his life alone, his shogi pieces, his only friends. You can’t help but feel for somebody like that. Though, while most people would feel sympathetic, I felt maternal towards him. I wanted to take Rei under my wing, -give him a much-needed haircut-, and teach him the ways of the world, ya’ know?
Rei’s difficulty in forming friendships is completely understandable in light of the difficult relationship that he has with his adoptive family. This is something else that first drew me to him. I can totally identify with that feeling of feeling like an outsider in your own home. Once my dad remarried, I suddenly felt like a spare part that was no longer needed or wanted, my step-mother’s coldness towards me being a contributing factor. So when, during the second season, Rei paid his mother a visit (in an attempt to build bridges), I was deeply moved. I’ve always wanted to build bridges with my own step-mother, but, unlike Rei, I’ve never been brave enough or mature enough (for the longest time I felt it was her responsibility, as the adult, to fix things between us). Though watching him made me feel like it’s not too late and that, maybe someday, I’ll still be able to mend our broken relationship.
Something else that I love about Rei is his generosity. He makes good money as a professional shogi player, yet his wardrobe is shabby and threadbare and his apartment, minimalist, to say the least! Rei clearly has no special attachment to money, which would explain why he’d so readily use it to help other people. He very nearly gives all of his winnings from the Newcomer Tournament to the Kawamotos, until he realises that they may not appreciate handouts from a high schooler!
As for Hina… That girl is downright inspirational! It’s hard enough for an adult to take a stand against bullying when they see it play out right before their eyes, let alone a teenager (for whom the approval of their classmates means everything). Yet Hina steps in to defend her friend, Chiho, with little thought as to her own wellbeing. Even when the bullies turn on her, she doesn’t regret her actions. Can you grasp just how incredible that is? That selflessness, that fierce, unshakable loyalty, and that all-consuming desire to see other people treated well are qualities that I try to emulate myself. Sometimes I fall short of this, sometimes it’s easier to let the namecalling, the snide comments, and the sideways glances that take place in the workplace go. But if something’s easy, it’s not worth doing, right? You should always make the effort to stand up, not just for your friends, but for anybody less able to stand up for themselves, no matter what the cost, because that’s what’s necessary to create a nicer, fairer world. And that’s what Hina, this fictional 15-year-old girl, reminded me…
I also loved watching Hina start to carve out a path for herself into adulthood. Much like her older sister, Akari, I felt like a proud parent, watching her discover her passion for sweets-making, choose, and get accepted into a high school where she knew she would be happy. That’s one of the benefits of being a steadily aging anime fan, I get to play the proud parent a lot!
But what I love most about Rei and Hina, more than their individual traits and characteristics, is the profound effect that they’ve had on one another. Rei might not realise this himself, but he saved Hina throughout her bullying ordeal. He may not have confronted the bullies himself (no, that would have undermined her), but he did so much just by listening to and being there for her. It validated Hina’s feelings and gave her a safe space within which to express herself. And I couldn’t believe that he actually went to the trouble of tracking her down in a strange, unfamiliar city while she was on her school trip just so that she wouldn’t have to spend her free time alone! But, inasmuch as Rei saved Hina, Hina saved Rei. Like Hina, Rei was bullied (only at a much younger age). Hearing how Hina stepped in to defend her friend helped prove to him that there are kind, selfless people out there, people willing to stand up for others. Not only did this restore his faith in humanity, but this was also the catalyst that made him actually want to pursue meaningful relationships with other people. In other words, Hina profoundly changed the way in which Rei saw the world and interacted with others. But, perhaps just as important as this is the fact that Hina is also Rei’s first love. True to form, he’s blissfully unaware of his feelings for her himself, but, come on! In addition to everything I listed above, he also helped her study for entrance exams, gushed over her sweet designs, and showered her with compliments over her dramatic, new haircut. It was real special, watching the insular, painfully shy Rei fall in love for the very first time…
If you managed to read the whole of this essay, kudos, and thank-you! Before you go, I’d love to know, what do you think of Rei and Hina? Or of the franchise as a whole? I look forward to hearing from ya’!