Hello, I am The Luminous Mongoose, and today, I got to learn some Japanese chess!
I am midway through March Comes in Like a Lion’s 2nd season, and the shogi terminology and moves going over my head has become too much for me to bear. So, instead of giving up the show that I love so dearly, I instead coerced a Japanese friend of mine into teaching me the ancient game of shogi.
Shogi truly is a deep and complex game, and I now fully understand why a single game in the series can take up an entire workday. For every single move, you had to think five steps ahead of your opponent, mapping out every route of attack, or fortifying your position. It has a significantly steeper learning curve than chess, and no less complicated. Plus you know, the are pieces not distinctly carved pieces, but flat pieces of wood with their Kanji titles written on. My biggest opponent was constantly confusing Silver General with Gold General (hint: Silver has the little hat, Gold has the big hat), due to their similar movesets and symbols.
Alongside pieces having completely different movesets from regular chess (such as pawns capturing units one space in front of them instead of diagonally), it’s not only pawns that can get promotions this time around. Each piece can get their own promotion once they breach enemy territory, that gives them access to new directional movements.
However, the most unique mechanic that differentiates shogi from chess is that pieces get “captured” instead of dying, allowing you to deploy your opponent’s own pieces onto the board against them. This also essentially means a game of shogi has the potential to go for as long as both players please as pieces never really die.
Over the course of 5 hours, we probably played 3 complete games, and that was us playing as quickly as we can. I would LOVE to say I did good for my first try, but the final tally was 2-1, in favor of my friend. The game I won was the most fun though, so I consider the day a victory for me!
Games were so long, that while we were playing, I managed to show him three whole episodes of 3-gatsu no Lion in between games while I was too busy thinking about my next move. It was really fun finally understanding, even a little bit, the battle of minds and wills that takes place in a single game of shogi. This was why Rei, Shimada, Nikaidou, and a lot of the professional players in the series give it so much respect and study. It’s not just a game, but a way of life.
It’s fun, it’s deep, and it’s a vital part of Japan’s heritage. I’m glad I took the time to learn it, and I am eager to play even more.
With all that said, March Comes in like a Lion S1 review is coming out tomorrow, so stay tuned!