Episode 01: “Shion’s Path”
Summary: A strange and creepy man murdered a couple in their own house. Their young daughter, Shion, witnessed everything. The murderer comes up to her and forcibly covers her mouth. He seems to be saying some things to her which the viewers are not able to hear. For some reason, she was left alive.
Seven years later, we see a grown up Shion on her way to the Shougi Association of Japan building. On the sides, a couple of detectives are watching her and providing us viewers a quick summary of who Shion is and her circumstances: Her name is Ishiwatari Shion and her parents were murdered 7 years ago. She has been adopted and raised by an 8-dan professional shougi player and his wife, so she is now known as Yasuoka Shion. It is revealed that from that murder incident, she had been traumatized and has lost the ability to speak. Back on Shion’s current day, she enters the building where she is welcomed by Furuta whom she seems to be acquainted with (probably some officer of the association). Shion cheerfully offers the cookies she made (which are shaped like shougi pieces) which she made herself. Just then, Hani-meijin (a high-ranked pro shougi player) walks up to them and grabs a piece of cookie while Shion goes over to the TV screen showing the ongoing game in one of the rooms. Hani-meijin asks Furota who the girl is. Furuta informs him of Shion and that she is a member of the female shougi players’ training program, adding that she is only in elementary school but is an extremely strong player and has won every game that season on the training league, and that if Shion wins twice in her games that day, she will become a professional kishi (player). He informs Hani-meijin that Shion lost her parents at a young age and due to the shock, she has lost the ability to speak. Hani-meijin goes over to Shion and asks what she thinks of the game that’s being played on screen. Shion answers via writing in her notepad, indicating a prediction of which piece should move. Hani answers back with his own move prediction, adding that the rest of it is Shion’s homework as he goes back to his own game. Furota then tells Shion that it’s time for her own game.
We learn that in order to become a professional female kishi, one must first become a member of the training league and then participate in the league matches. Then, the top player who wins throughout 6 months of relentless matches, only that one person becomes a professional female kishi. Meanwhile, Shion wins her first of two matches. Just as her win is being marked on the tally board, another female player, Saori, approaches Shion and hugs her, saying that she has been eager to meet the young player. Another female player, Ayumi, enters and marks her own win in the tally. Saori tells Shion that Ayumi is the other undefeated female player and is considered as Shion’s rival for the professional spot. Saori formally introduces herself, she turns out to be a professional female kishi. Just then, a guy approaches Shion and cheerfully congratulates her for her win. We then meet Hisatani, Shion’s adopted dad’s 3-dan apprentice. Saori grabs his hand and casually tells Shion that men have to have beautiful fingers, especially kishi. This momentarily reminds Shion of a scene in her parents’ murder previously. Hisatani interrupts Shion’s thoughts and informs her that her second and last match is against Ayumi. Saori comments that the match with Ayumi would be pretty tough.
Meanwhile, at Shion’s house, Hisatani calls up Shinji (Shion’s adopted father) and lets him know of Shion’s match. Shinji asks him to pass along a pep-talk message to Shion. Shinji tells his wife, Sachiko, that Shion will be up against the other undefeated girl for the pro kishi title. Her mom and dad worry about her if Shion would be able to competitively and emotionally face this tough game ahead. The game has begun. Ayumi thinks to herself that she didn’t expect Shion to be such a good player at that young age. The other players are also watching the game through the monitor outside. Hani-meijin is surprised to hear that he is looking at the game of trainees since it seems to be very interesting. He recognizes Shion from the cookie earlier. Histani tells him that he and Shion are studying under Yasuoka Shinji. Hani-meijin recognizes the name then asks Hisatani if he’s worried about Shion. Hisatani agrees, saying that Shion had been sheltered as a child so he doesn’t know if she can bring out her true power in a tough match like this, so she might lose psychologically. Hani-meijin asks him to take a good look at the board and that it seems to him like Hisatani’s worries may not be the case at all. Meanwhile, Shion feels a bit different as her she seems to be feeling nervous about the game then realizes that she would like to win. The game gets more interesting and tough as it goes. Shion ends up losing to Ayumi, so Ayumi becomes the pro kishi this time around.
After the game, Saori commends Shion for a good game. Saori is later picked up by her family car. She waves goodbye to Shion and mentions that she hopes she could play against each other sometime soon. As Hisatani and Shion head home, someone seems to be watching them from a red car. Switch scenes to Saori, she instructs her driver to look up some info on Shion and Ayumi. Switch scenes over to Ayumi and a flashback memory. Ayumi wins a game with the legendary Kamizono, as she requests to be his apprentice. He suddenly attacks her and strips her top off, adding that he knew Ayumi was not as she appears to be. It is revealed that Ayumi is actually a guy pretending to be a girl in order to join the weaker female league since joining the male league would take much more time (maybe because there are more male participants?) and Ayumi can’t afford to waste that much time since he needs money as soon as possible for his mother who is in the hospital. Kamizono agrees to take him in as his apprentice with a condition of just 2 years.
Back in Shion’s house, Shinji gives her another pep talk and to try and do better next time, to which Shion agrees with a smile. Shinji tells Shion that he heard from Hisatani that Shion had an intense game and performed impressively despite her loss. Shinji asks innocently asks her if she was satisfied with her shogi. Shion is suddenly taken aback by this and starts to quietly cry. Her mom and dad tries to comfort and tells her that it’s okay. As Shion is in bed, her mom comments that seeing Shion cry like that reminded her of that night. Shinji says it’s been a long time since Shion has cried after losing at shogi and wonders if that means she will never give up. He adds that it’s thanks to Shion that his shougi during the past 7 years had been extremely fulfilling, and says that it might be that Shion saved him. Her mom wonders what dreams Shion is having as she sleeps right now. Shinji thinks it might be related to her losing shogi earlier. Shion turns out to be having a dream related to shogi but it’s more of a nightmare since blood is involved and is somehow related to the incident years ago. Meanwhile, we see a man cutting out some pictures of Shion from news articles. It appears that he is a stalker, with a bunch of candid photos of Shion in her everyday activities plastered up on his wall.
Shion is on her way home from school and coincidentally passes by Ayumi who just visited his mom from the hospital and is currently sitting at a bench. Ayumi recognizes Shion and then sees that a suspicious guy seems to be following Shion. Ayumi goes for a closer look as the suspicious guy runs over to Shion and attacks her from behind.
~ end of episode
My Impression: The intro was pretty intense. We see the summary of the plot right off the bat. Shion’s parents are killed by a creepy man and for some reason, Shion was able to survive. She was eventually taken in by a neighboring family and raised as their own. Oh, and her adopted father is a renowned Shougi player; hence, Shion is sort of an apprentice with exceptional potential. The OP song is just your usual rock song, but I kinda liked it. I thought the animation quality was pretty good, although the drawing isn’t anything special. All I know about shougi is that it’s a board game that’s sort of like chess, so I can’t really say anything with regard to the matches. Despite my utter lack of shougi knowledge, there’s enough mystery going on around the characters and enough to make me wonder what happens next and how the story will progress. Why were her parents killed? How did she survive? Who’s that creepy guy stalking her? Etc.
I like that the story progresses pretty quickly for a first episode. Although there’s quite a lot of shougi stuff and games involved, it isn’t intimidating to watch if you have zero shougi knowledge like me. The characters who are involved or watching the game give us the info of what’s going on and we get to hear their own thoughts as well.
Regarding Saori, she seems to be nice initially, but that sudden change of atmosphere while she was in the car, she also might have her own secrets. It was also surprising to know that Ayumi is actually a guy pretending to be a girl since he has his own unfortunate circumstances that’s making him act that way. So I guess since that secret is out for the viwers, please note that I’ll refer to Ayumi as a “he” from this point forward in all the posts.
In addition, I also made a brief entry, a crash course on shougi, which will serve as a quick reference guide for this series. Feel free to refer to that once the technical terms pop up in the episodes to come.
Next episode: Unfortunately, there was no preview for the next episode. Probably, it would pick up immediately from the cliffhanger ending involving Shion, her creepy stalker guy and Ayumi.
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