Bits and pieces may seem familiar from other anime, but so what? March Comes in Like a Lion contains elements from such varied series as Your Lie in April and Big Windup. But it does it so well.

Rei is not your normal high schooler. He is a professional shogi player. Shogi is a type of Japanese chess with its own age old traditions. Considered a prodigy, Rei seems to have a bright future in the game. But that does not necessarily bring happiness. The first thing you notice is that Rei has a constant scowl on his face, as other shogi characters seem to have much of the time. He does not quite fit in to his world of school or shogi, living alone in a mostly bare apartment. No wonder since every defeat literally brings a player down in the rankings, and every victory seems to destroy the loser. March Comes in Like a Lion is the story of Rei and how he rises above all the darkness and loneliness in his life.

He is first befriended by a family of three orphan girls of varying ages who live with their grandfather, a master chef of sweets. The middle girl, Hinata, becomes the center of a story line in season two dealing with middle school bulling. Rei also develops a relationship with Harunobu, another shogi player Reiís age who practically forces himself into Reiís life as his self-proclaimed rival and best friend.

Very much a sports anime, as well as a coming of age/slice of life anime, the first season is exciting enough even if you have no idea how shogi is played. Rei has victories and defeats, and the viewer is engaged on every one. The second season, however, is a bit weaker as we get into stories of supporting characters, such as Hinata being bullied, and Harunobuís health problems. There are also a few filler episodes which go absolutely nowhere, and seem to serve no purpose other than to draw season two out to twenty-two episodes.

Most of the animation is OK, but there are some sequences, mostly fantasy, in which the artists seem to go all out. I guess with twenty-two episodes a season, keeping the animation on a high level throughout would be cost prohibitive.

The series as two main directors, one of whom is Akiyuki Shinbo who also directed Moon Phase and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Despite the slight letdown in season two, I still recommend March Comes in Like a Lion. You can catch it on Netflix streaming. No word on a third season yet.