“Curtains are more expensive than I thought, but now I’ll finally be able to sleep peacefully.”
-Rei Kiriyama, March Comes In Like a Lion, Episode 4
I’ve had trouble getting out of bed lately for a myriad of reasons, all of which fall under the general umbrella of depression. From its first moments of a drowning Rei Kiriyama — pictured in the premiere episode itself and the anime adaptation’s opening sequence — to the latest episode that shows Rei sleeping his days away due to apathy, depression has been at the forefront of the series’ narrative. SHAFT’s visual direction regarding this theme is very heavy-handed, and often lacks the nuance that a strong discussion or portrayal of depression requires.
Yet, in the series’ sixth episode, bits and pieces come in and out of focus, giving us hints at the larger picture. Like one of Rei’s shogi matches, we can finally see the path ahead of Rei. By extension — if you resonate with how he feels or what is shown of his mental state throughout the series — you may be able to see the path ahead for yourself, regardless of how arduous or daunting it may seem.
When choosing an apartment, Rei purposefully selects one that looks over the river. He says repeatedly that he loves the river and his apartment has an open and inviting view. Even at his most depressed, when he ends up sleeping the days away without doing anything at all, Rei almost always keeps his windows open. There are no curtains until he buys them later on in the series and light is constantly streaming into his dark apartment — he doesn’t appear to own a lamp at all — from the outside.
First he tapes up cardboard and newspaper over one of his large windows to keep the light out. Yet, he still finds a way to be in the light, even with his makeshift curtains.
Only once is Rei’s room shown with the curtains he purchases closed. This is at the height of one of his depressive episodes, where he realizes that he’s poured his life into shogi and is uncertain of where he wants to go. Completely directionless, he says that as long as he accepts stagnation, he’s reached his goal. Only a small shaft of light enters his room through the closed curtains as he sleeps in the background.
The other day a friend of mine asked me why I was depressed. I couldn’t put it into words. Existential dread? Fear for not only my future but those I care about? The knowledge that I’ve accomplished comparatively little in the grand scheme of things? Sometimes I just want to roll over in bed and stay there forever. Other days I want to fight it. These feelings wax and wane.
“Everyone is working so hard. That’s right. How is it that my head fills up so fast with only my own problems?”
-Rei Kiriyama, March Comes In Like a Lion, Episode 6
In his throwaway line about buying curtains, and other goods, for his apartment, Rei says that he’ll finally be able to sleep peacefully. This implies that the light streaming in from his large windows constantly is a nuisance. Yet, he’s always inviting it in, and welcoming this light source, even if he doesn’t realize it himself. His largest amount of sleep comes when he is depressed, and closes his curtains, yet it’s fitful and unhealthy. At all other times, despite his depression, Rei has his curtains open.
Like the natural light in his apartment, Rei also instinctively reaches out to the Kawamoto sisters. Despite attempting to turn down their invitations, he always finds himself back at their house, unable to fully push people away.
The Kawamoto house is always shown with an internal light source. Where Rei’s apartment receives light only from the outside, the Kawamoto sisters create their own warmth and light. When the Kawamoto’s house is shown in an exterior view, light radiates out from the interior.
Even during the sisters’ somber remembrance of their deceased mother and grandmother, Akari Kawamoto and Momo Kawamoto appear bathed in light. Despite the fact that the primary light source is coming from outside of the house like Rei’s apartment, there is still light illuminating the sisters and the house from within.
Only once does the Kawamoto’s home resemble the lighting in Rei’s apartment — when Rei takes Momo home and remembers his deceased parents and sister. Here, the only light source comes from outside as Rei begins to cry while tending to Momo’s wounds. The light of the Kawamoto home comes from the warmth of the people who live there. Without Akari and Hinata, the house is dark.
Despite all of his efforts to shut the world out, Rei’s curtains, or lack of curtains, reiterate that total isolation isn’t truly what he wants. March Comes In Like a Lion doesn’t denigrate or judge. Instead, it simply reminds us to keep our curtains open, even in our darkest times.