One of my all-time favorite anime is 3 Gatsu No Lion which roughly translates into March Comes in Like a Lion. It is unusual in that when I first tried it, the initial episodes were so depressing I couldn’t continue it. Thanks to the glowing reviews by all the anime bloggers here, I took it up again and made it thru to the good stuff. There are individual episodes that are among the finest ever made in all of anime.
3 Gatsu is about a lonely boy, Rei. His own family died and he was adopted by a friend of his father who was a Shogi fanatic. His childhood was rough. He was a genius at Shogi, so much so it caused his adoptive father to neglect his other children. A fantastic amount of resentment developed at home among his adopted siblings who could not compete. This was internalized as self-rejection and depression.
At school, Rei is an almost textbook case of Asperger’s syndrome. He lacks social skills. He lacks physical ability. He is bullied and teased and isolated. He is an alien in a world he doesn’t understand and which isn’t interested in understanding him. There is one place in the world he feels at home and that is at a shogi board. He is so good at it he is able to turn pro in middle school and live on his own, away from the strife at home.
He lives alone in a barren apartment eating junk. One day he is taken (underage) to a bar by older friends who were not friends. They got him drunk, spent all his money, and then abandoned him in the cold. Akari Kawamoto, a cocktail hostess, discovers him huddled against the wall outside and takes the boy in. Her family is loving and warm. And so begins a new chapter in an otherwise miserable life.
One of my favorite episodes of the series is the New Year’s episode.
Rei begins the episode and New Year’s Eve in bed with a cold. Now, you or I catch a cold and we’ll swallow a bunch of DayQuil and soldier on. This is an anime cold. It is just shy of an existential threat.
Rei holes up in his apartment in bed for three days, not eating, ignoring the mail, and ignoring the long-dead cell phone. So weak he won’t reach for a bottle of water that fell onto the floor. Now trying (and failing) to ignore the sudden pounding and calling at his door. It is Akari with her sisters, Chiaki and Momo. They’d called, got worried at his lack of response, came to investigate. They drag his butt out of there and get it diagnosed as a cold and not the even more deadly flu.
Don’t they have flu shots in Japan?
Next, they bring him over to their place to take care of. He is fed, medicated, and sent to bed. Then, just before midnight, Akari wakes him up. Time for some food and more medication. And maybe not to be so alone on this particular night.
This is a low-key New Year’s celebration. Everyone else is asleep. The television is shown broadcasting a traditional New Year’s program, Kohaku Uta Gassen, very much like Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in America. It will feature a pair of famous singers and there will be teams contesting in a sing-off. You can even see the network, NHK, in the banner.
A Buddhist gong will be rung 108 times to dispel any bad feeling from the old year and Kohaku will end just before the final gong.
Daddy was a deadbeat.
Neither character’s recent past has been particularly good. I’ve already discussed Rei. Akari’s father ran off without a word. Her mother and grandmother are dead. Both characters are wrapped up in sad memories. That is one of the lessons of New Year’s. As the Roman god Janus looks to the past, memories of pain can overwhelm his other function, looking to the future.
Akari asks Rei if anyone had called while he was sick. Rei indicated that it would be doubtful. Akari grabs his cell phone and puts it on to charge and soon he can see numerous calls from his adoptive father that failed to come thru.
Rei returns the call to discover his father was indeed worried about his well-being. He’d been too wrapped up in his own issues to think about him. That’s another common problem during the holidays. One can become so self-involved with personal issues we may forget about others who worry about us.
He then thanks Akari for bringing him over on the holiday, saying that she saved him. Rei responds by saying she had wanted him over and that he’d saved her. Otherwise, there would be nothing for her to do but to clean up for the evening and cry.
Rei realizes now that his own loneliness had blinded him to the loneliness of others. Both start to tear up.
Which brings up a final lesson. The best medicine for feeling lonely can be to seek out other people who are lonely. There are plenty of them out there. Two lonely people who accept the validity of each other’s pain can help each other to a better place, even if all you do is feed the homeless on skid row. Think about that the next time a holiday looms ahead and you have no one to celebrate with.
That night he has a dream of when he was a child. He and his sister had put stickers on his dresser. His adoptive mother was furious and they were terrified. She even had devil horns in the dream and scolded them as she peeled them off.
The next day comes in bright and new. People flying kites and New Year’s Day postcards being delivered. (That’s a surprise to me since I would have assumed as an American that mail delivery would have been suspended on a holiday.) All of the Kawamoto family receives a share of cards.
Chiaki wonders if Rei had gotten any and over his half-hearted objection she runs over to collect them. On her return, she is unhappy that he only got two cards, thinking that so few would make him sad. Actually, it cheers him up because two cards were actually two more than he thought he’d get. One was from his friend and shogi nemesis, Harunobu Nikaidou, about the great vacation he was on. The other was from the chair of the shogi club who had gone sport fishing.
Aunt Misaki shows up, full of good cheer and energy. She pays her respect to the household shrine for her departed mother and sister and hands out gifts to everyone, including Rei.
Just before the end, we flash back to Rei waking up that morning., Rei notices stickers applied to a dresser drawer in the room where he slept. Stickers that were not peeled off with a stern scolding but left in place as a sign of love for the child who placed them. He realizes this is the house of warmth and the family he needs right now.
And a New Year begins with a bit of energy and optimism.
This was once a part of an OWLS post that had enough material for 4 posts.