The silent main protagonist.
My mission to reduce the glut of anime titles I haven’t watched continues, with a 2007 anime titled Shion no Ou. I watched this one purely because the title is similar to the previous anime I watched before this one. Being an anime aired in 2007 in Japan, it will compete with Nodame Cantabile for ‘Anime of the Year 2007’ title but because this anime is a sport anime, it will be at a disadvantage because the sport genre handicap will be applied here.
Our main female silent protagonist is an elementary school student who aspires to become professional shougi player. She, who lost her parents in a murder case, entered a long-running open shougi tournament (it lasts for three-fourths of the series) with lucrative prize money on offer as she is about to find out who is the culprit in the murder of her parents.
The story in this anime is quite good actually, even if you don’t really know what shougi is all about. Storytelling techniques usually associated with the sport genres makes their appearances, where the protagonist becomes better in each match she played and eventually surpassing everyone at the end. Her power-ups seems to come mostly during her games only, using literary devices such as flashbacks etc. which is quite unbalanced compared to titles such as Eyeshield 21 (the hero there can ‘upgrade’ during off-game events).
Accompanying the main story is a significant subplot that involves the mystery of her parents’ murder case. The subplot is very well-written, even I cannot predict the outcome until after all cards has been shown by the writer. Then, the main story and the murder subplot are combined perfectly to give the viewers a great package. Furthermore, as a bonus, there is virtually no romance at all in this series, ensuring that there will be no unnecessary distractions from the core of the anime.
Pacing and the flow of the story are quite good, except for some moments right after the second half of the anime has started (episode 15 and 16 has fluidity problems). Character development is not a strong point of the anime, where the only outstanding character here is the protagonist and, to a lesser extent, her cross-dressing blue-haired friend. The ending is good too, with the climax being the showdown between the protagonist and the murderer of her parents. < ----- SPOILER ALERT!
Just like the character development, character design in this anime is simply average. The protagonist has overly big eyes like the one mentioned in Hatenkou Yuugi, but far less creepy. Too few people has black hair in the modern Japan setting.
Too bad that the protagonist is a card-carrying mute, so most of the dialogues (or almost all of them) are done by supporting characters. Generally, just like the character design, voice acting in this anime is average at best. Notable voice acting jobs involves the aforementioned blue-haired guy/girl (cancel where appropriate) and also his/her mentor that sounded like a bad-ass creepy antagonist.
A major positive aspect for this anime. The OST and the OP/ED themes in this anime are excellent.
The animation in this anime is good when the series started, but I can’t help but notice that during the last third of the series, the quality has markedly dropped. Not only that, the drawing also suffers during the same time frame, which contributes to the lukewarm character design comments above. Considering shougi is not a sport that involves action, there will be no choreography comment here.
The director has done very well doing his/her job, as explained in my comments in the story section above.
9 out of 10. An excellent score despite the sport genre handicap. One more point and a replacement for Nodame Cantabile as ‘Anime of the Year 2007’ would have been born.
The prelude to a hot steaming moment between the cunning master and the naive student of his.