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Shion no Ou

When Shion was very young, her parents were murdered in front of her, the trauma rendering her mute. Nowadays, she's a 12 year old girl on the verge of becoming a female pro of Shougi - Japanese Chess; as various events conspire to remind her of this still unresolved murder; while she meets two other pros; Ayumi - really a boy who crossdresses in order to win as much money as possible to pay for his ill mother's treatment bills among the less competitive female pros - and Saori a girl from a very well off family who is apprenticed to the Meijin - the current top player of the Shougi world.

I first encountered mentions about this anime around the Hikaru no Go fandom, and it's easy to see why, both being shounen series revolving on board games; yet they are very different kind of series apart from some fairly standard Shounen tropes , although both are excellent. Where Hikago is a fairly straight forward Bildungsroman; Shion no Ou is much more focussed on the main mystery's investigation and one main tournament of Shougi, held at a breathless pace. This is the anime's strongest point : I watched the 22 episodes in about 2 days, driven by the intense storytelling.
In terms of characterisation, it is a little bit uneven. Shion herself is a bit distractingly "moe" on first aboard, not to mention the difficulty of giving strong presence to an animated character whose voice is only heard during the occasional inward monologue, but eventually as the story progresses she's revealed to be a very strong person and compelling lead. Ayumi's the other compelling character (and my favourite) as a very intense and earnest boy in a difficult situation. Saori is also very interesting, although too much put to the side of the main story in the latter part. Other characters are pretty well done in their role - I particularly like how, in contrast with Hikago, parents, even those who do not play board games, aren't entirely sidelined from the story. There's a couple of characters who are a little mishandled due to how the mystery plays out.
About the plot itself : I liked how it came across as the intersecting of different characters' agendas and own secrets. The main mystery of Shion's parents' murder itself is only decent and fairly easy to guess, but works well because of how tied it is to the Shougi games and Shion's psychology.
Sadly the graphism and animation is quite ugly and barely watcheable; although occasionally interesting.
The show also makes a few interesting commentaries on gender, and sexism in the Shougi world is addressed, which was appreciated.
Overall a solid series, very easy to get into and very fun to watch.

Otherwise I finished watching a few series I've mentioned before:

Shounen Onmyouji: Had a pretty dull last tier. I'd hoped it would pull itself into an eventually interesting plot and antagonism but it disappointed me. I'm feeling very meh about this anime overall.

Saiunkoku Monogatori S2: Well, this was not an ending made of fucking awesome brilliance, what with so many interesting new plot threads only being hints; and any expectation of a sequel being unlikely to come very soon, what with the fact the anime already adapted almost all light novels it is based on; but it was still very decent, and made a nice counterpoint to the S1 ending. I really adore this series, despite some of its flaws.

Michiko e Hatchin: FUCKING AWESOME BRILLIANCE.

What's next? I'm currently watching Mononoke, Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji, Mouryou no Hako, trying to finish watching Zoku Sayounara Sensei, as well as watching Zoku Matsume Yuujinchou and Skip Beat as they're nearing to their ending. Currently wondering what I'll get into after I've finished those, so if you'vre got suggestions...

February 2016

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