Shogi matches and convenience store runs are the only things that get Rei Kiriyama out of the house. After losing his family when he was younger, he rarely goes to school, rarely eats properly, and rarely socialises. Fortunately for Rei, he can live off the income he earns from playing shogi, so he has an apartment and enough food to keep him alive but it’s not exactly a fulfilling life. Sisters Akari, Hinata and Momo try their hardest to include him in their family, inviting him over for dinner and forcing him out of isolation. It isn’t easy but Rei gradually begins to change.
This was definitely one of the stranger first episodes I’ve ever watched. Our protagonist wouldn’t feel out of place in a Haruki Murakami novel if you made him a few years older, complete with anti-social behaviour and repressed past. The episodes are split into two chapters each, and for an introduction to the series, I’m not sure that it works. The two parts of episode one seem disjointed… but that may just be deliberate. On one hand, it seems weird but on the other hand, it shows how Rei is beginning to change. On top of that, the tone switches dramatically as soon as the sisters are introduced, their overly-enthusiastic optimism overruling Rei’s solemn stoicism. Whereas during the shogi match, his opponent was forced to carry the conversation by himself, he’s a lot more open and verbal around the girls. He’s by no means an extrovert in their company, but it’s a push in the right direction. The use of silence when Rei is in his apartment shows that he’s in his own little world, especially as the background music doesn’t start until he steps outside. And the first song is in French, which makes it feel different from the beginning. The visual style of the characters may not be my favourite, but the backgrounds are absolutely beautiful. Not many of the lines are solid, making it look more like traditional art than an anime. Also, the cultural aspect of the series really shines through as the episode progresses, from Japanese food to respecting elders and looking after others.
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Extroverted friends help a talented yet introverted boy overcome his troubled past and enjoy life again.
Tanaka-kun is Always Listless – Stoic protagonists find themselves challenged by the energetic lives of the people around them.
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