March Comes in Like a Lion, Vol. 1

Denpa. (March Comes in Like a Lion). Mar. 2023. 186p. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781634428125.
Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-old Rei Kiriyama is a prodigious shogi (also known as Japanese chess) player who turned pro in junior high. With a rank that now requires him to play 30 to 40 tournament matches per year, and living alone in a mostly empty apartment, Rei has little free time for anything besides training; he thinks of going pro as “jumping onto a train that never stops…not until you lose.” In this first volume of the series, which was adapted into an acclaimed anime, Rei gradually peels back the layers of his past, from the loss of his parents and sister in a fatal automobile accident to his meeting Akari, a hostess at a bar who found Rei passed out one night and began inviting him over to share meals with her grandfather and younger sisters. Readers meet some of Rei’s competitors as well, including Harunobu Nikaido, his rival and self-proclaimed best friend (Nikaido has an unnamed illness that affects his kidneys, and other characters comment on his diet and body shape; he is described in a chapter endnote as being modeled after real-life shogi player Satoshi Murayama). While readers familiar with shogi will especially appreciate the detailed looks at game boards and players’ moves, the foregrounding of players’ emotions in the visuals ensures that all readers will be able to follow the excitement of the matches. Umino’s expressive artwork effectively steers the book’s tone between moments of action and comedy and moments where Rei feels his sense of isolation acutely.
VERDICT A character-driven story about the complex emotions that turn players into competitors, recommended for gamers and fans of sports manga.

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