|The Boring Info||The Characters||The Terms||The Songs||The Opinion|
My Dear Friend
8 years ago, she witnessed the brutal murder of her biological parents, after which he played a game of shougi against her. The shock of the event combined with the killer’s threats rendered her unwilling to speak, and over the years, the memories of that night became twisted or repressed. The story now follows Shion’s determination and course to become a great kishi (shougi player) as well as finally solving the mystery surrounding the killer’s identity and motive for the brutal murder of her parents…
•It is called しおんの王 (Shion no Ou) in Japanese. In English, this means “Shion’s King” (“King” is referring to the shougi piece). In Korean, it is called 시온의 왕.
•An NDS game based on the manga has was released only a few months ago (10 April, 2008) in Japan. It is apparently an adventure game, though I’ve not seen any gameplay videos and cannot say for sure it’s true.
In snack-sized bits. Images to come.
•Yasuoka Shion – A young girl of 13-14 with a traumatic past; she witnessed her parents getting killed when she was just 5 years old. The shock left her unwilling to speak, and she communicates with others by writing it on a large paper notepad. She is rather adorable and sometimes acts in funny, exaggerated ways because she doesn’t know how to deal with the situation.
•Saitō Ayumi – A 15-year-old boy with a sickly mother. He cross dresses to enter the world of the female professional shougi league in order to raise money for his mother’s hospital bills (as well as having part-time jobs). The underlying reason for having to cross dress is that the male shougi league has a long qualification period (about 2 years, I think) which is required before you are allowed to enter money tournaments. The female league does not have this period (oooh, the irony XD bad joke, sorry).
•Hani Makoto – Also called Hani-meijin, as he is the current grandmaster of shougi. He set off to be a professional kishi after the death of his mother, and abandoned his brother to do so.
•Hani Satoru – Hani-meijin’s younger brother who has become a succesful businessman. He hosts an open tournament so that he, not being a professional player, could have a chance to go up against his brother and finally settle the score between them (quite literally, they’ve played hundreds of games and are currently either at a draw, or Satoru is down by one). He comes off as as a very cunning and somewhat backstabbing person.
•Nikaidō Saori – A young female kishi who just worships the ground Hani-meijin treads. Everything she does, she does to get his recognition. She becomes a fan of Shion because of Shion’s skill and cuteness.
•Yasuoka Shinji – Shion’s foster father, and the man who taught her how to play shougi. He always supports Shion and the choices she makes, and is somewhat of a comical character. He has won several prices in Shougi, which he attributes to Shion inspiring him to do so, and he holds the rank of 8th dan.
•Yasuoka Sachiko – Shion’s foster mother, and a downright awesome lady. She loves and supports both her husband and Shion, even though she does not always agree with the choices they make. She also keeps Shinji on a short leash, whenever his antics are about to get out of hand.
•Hisatani Touru – One of Shinji’s students. He takes on a big brother like role in Shion’s life, and often cheers her on during her matches.
•Kamizono Osamu – A seclusive man, who is stern to the point of coming of as an evil, grumpy bastard which earned him the nickname, “Akuma” (demon). In reality, he is a kind-hearted man with phenomenal insight in the human mind and heart. He takes on Ayumi as his first and only apprentice so that Ayumi could earn money for his mother’s bills, and he was the only one to support Shinji when Shinji wanted to adopt and raise Shion as his own. His skills have earned him the rank of 9th Dan
There were literally TONS of terms in the anime, and I remember none of them. This was mostly because that like with chess, shougi has names for various offensive and defensive “positions” of the pieces (strategies), when seen as a whole. However, most were only ever used once, so I didn’t really both with them.
The only terms I recall are more like vocabulary than actual terms. These are tsumi (詰み) which means “checkmate“, kishi (棋士) which is the collective “term” for shougi players (though it may only apply for those who play professionally, I’m not entirely sure), and meijin (名人) which means “master” and is the highest rank a kishi can attain in the world of shougi.
LADY LOVE is an alternative/rock/grunge/whatever song performed by RIZE. I liked it enough to hear it the first few times, but I grew annoyed with it didn’t find it to be a song that is all that memorable actually. It did have some decent 1½-3 second passages with good rhythm.
The animation is does what it is supposed to. It portrays all the characters, and gives a brief glimpse of the murderer’s interaction with Shion. It’s nothing really noteworthy, and quite simple for the most part. The last couple of seconds with the shougi pieces falling and rotating in the background was well-drawn and caught my attention.
My Dear Friend
My Dear Friend is performed by Teruma Aoyama. It was awesome in a subtle and simplistic way. No excessive instruments or background voices, just one chick with a clean, beautiful voice and music that emphasize her voice and rhythm instead of trying to “hog” the song.
The animation is simple. It’s an animation with Shion sleeping while the credits roll on the notepad she uses write on when she wants to “say” something, and later scenes from the anime is shown on it. A nice touch in my opinion.
In my honest opinion, Shion no Ou failed as a mystery. By episode 3 or 4, I had narrowed it down to 2 suspects, and by episode 7, I knew with 95% certainty who the killer was and had figured out the motive. In retrospect, I could probably have figured it out an episode or two earlier, as would most people, since it is painfully obvious if you just take a minute to think about it. You should probably have guessed the motive simply from reading the second paragraph of this post.
As a “sports anime”, it didn’t do all that much for me either, other than convince me that I’m never gonna learn how to play shougi, even at a level so low that one would lose to infants randomly throwing the pieces around. I mean, after watching e.g. Akagi, I could at least picture myself getting good enough to play for fun, and perhaps even win a single dealing or two on a lucky hand and a lucky draw or five.
The fact that I don’t get the specific strategies of shougi didn’t help much either, so while I’m sure shoigi players where like “Place it there, THERE!!! *GASP!!!* Why did she place there instead?!?! *cliffhanger, DUN DUN DUUUUUUN!!!!*“, I was more like “Why did everyone react like that? *read dialogue* Oh, it was and odd move. Why was it an odd move..? *more dialogue* aha, I see… *waits for story to progress*” Luckily, there’s a character in the anime who is just as ignorant about shougi as I was, and he actually asked the other characters these questions for you. Lucky us non-shougi players, huh?
Long story short, while the overall plot and the “sales pitch” sound extremely interesting (it sure did to me), the story delivers very little. The characters are likeable and the complex relationships are interesting to follow as they evolve, but as a mystery it fails miserably. I only advice you to watch this anime if you a) aren’t that good at solving mysteries, meaning that the suspense will last longer than 5-8 episodes, or b) are just in it for the likeable characters and complex relationships (this is what kept me watching, Shion’s and Ayumi’s relationship in particular XD).