Slice of Life Anime is underrated. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a magical girl, shonen warrior odyssey as much as the next nerd. And those storylines frequently have Slice of Life undertones, but sometimes non-magical people battling non-fantastical problems is all you really need.
For those unfamiliar, “Slice of Life” is a subgenre of Japanese animation which focuses on day-to-day problems of the protagonist. Though the genre can overlap with others more action-packed, like Shonen or Mecca, shows without magical happenings highlight the protagonist’s relationship with individuals as well as their struggle with societal expectations placed on them.
“3-gatsu no Lion,” literally “The Lion of March” or “March comes in like a Lion,” follows Rei Kiriyama, a 17-year-old professional shogi player. The audience finds Kiriyama in a dissociative and melancholic state while he spends time with Akari, Hinata and Momo Kawamoto, three sisters who frequently invite him over for meals and holidays. All of them are recovering from familial deaths (Kiriyama lost his parents and little sister when he was young and the girls recently lost their mother and grandmother) and find solace in each other. Kiriyama specifically tries to evaluate how he actually feels about shogi and his relationship to the game.
In addition to death, the show subtly tackles some heavy themes, including mental health. It’s very clear that Kiriyama suffers from depression, from the color palettes of his memories and inner monologues to actual flashbacks involving emotional and physical abuse he suffered in his foster home. But there are plenty of light moments to balance the show out. Kiriyama frequently helps Hinata with situations at her school involving friends and boys, despite not having much experience in those areas. And he also takes part in raising the youngest, Momo, by picking her up from kindergarten when Akari takes up extra shifts. All of these moments give him time out of his head and often help him process his own feelings.
I definitely recommend “3-gatsu no Lion” for anyone feeling a little lost and alone. The series has potential to soothe any worries you may have.