Shion no Oh, the first thing that I thought about when considering whether or not to watch this anime was that I didn't know how to play shougi. I play chess however so I can relate a bit, but not really... so I can say now that having watched it, information on shougi is just a bonus but it's not needed. It's true I can't tell if their moves were actually good or not but Shion no Oh focuses on the psychological aspects of gambling on yourself, reading your opponent and doing whatever it takes to win. They can be experienced through any competition and that's what makes this anime relatable.
The synposis makes the anime look really elementry but in reality it is a thorough look into the nature of competition. In regard to arrogance, the inferiority complex, friendship, family and many other elements that lead to an intellectual investigation hidden under the basic premise of kishin playing good shougi. The murderer of Shion's parents is merely a ploy to add another psychological aspect to the anime, all of these weak plot points start to show their true selves and reveal that this isn't an ordinary sports anime. I expected something like Haijime no Ippo out of Shion no Oh, or perhaps that Shion played to escape from her haunting childhood but instead it's about her facing tragedy head on without backing down. This hits something inparticular with me as a viewer because there is some truth in it, out of tragedy you either get frightened fools like serial killers, suicidals and the like or you get heroes who face tragedy head on and shine brighter than the rest of us.
The first flaw I thought may exist in a shougi anime was predictability, however it's suprizing how intelligently the plot deals with it's characters. It doesn't fear to use them how it wishes in a way that is unexpectedly logical, one of the most disappointing flaws you can see in the general anime is an unquestionable reluctance to offend their characters by forcing them to be real. In other words they're too scared to show us an ugly side of a character, scared to make someone who is loved and praised to lose or do something despicable. Everyone is just is as they are shown; nothing more, nothing less. The problem is that humans aren't that perfect and they are not always as they seem, Shion no Oh is bold in this way and that's what I love about it.
It's an unfortunate flaw that shougi is not really exciting to watch when we have no idea what it's about, this may seem stupid to rank down an anime because of the viewers flaw but it makes sense. I doubt anyone reading this knows shougi, so in terms of how much you enjoy it, it's 7/10... just like if a detective film used cruicial advanced evidence that we didn't understand or admire then using it as a climax would lose it's effect.
The animation was ruthless in it's depiction of characters to represent both their true nature and how we percieve their false nature. The cuteness of Shion contrasted against the ugliness and cruelty in the appearence of her competition became a real reason to love Shion and hate her enemies but the animation only sets up the illusion that is stripped down by the plot. It's simple and cute, it depicts what it needs to with a surprizingly advanced technique for an anime. For a non-animated film they would be simplistic and common but Shion no Oh makes use of these features to create something that is rare in anime.
Juxtapositioning and contrasting of characters increases the psychological impact of the plot, it is an essential building point of the plot and yet it still manages to do what normal good animation does.
It was a pretty good OP and ED, the OST was pretty good too but there is one major flaw in my ability to analyse the OST and that is that I don't understand Shougi. If the shougi in the anime is genius enough or interesting so that the scenes that I found boring were in fact breathe taking or heart clenching then the sound track was brilliant, 8.5 or 9 However for me many of the scenes where the calmness of the shougi was only interrupted by the growls and hisses of players, I would have liked the OST to step it up a bit and attempt to create some power in the games so it wouldn't be as boring. I can't be sure, and I think the fact that I watched Shion no Oh in only 2-3 days made it a bit relenting, perhaps it was indeed better than I thought. 8/10 is a good rating as compenation for some of these factors.
It's hard to write anything more without spoiling because the characters are merely pawns that allow the plot to go through the investigation that dominates the anime. I've explained the most of it but it's rare to find so many characters that have such depth in an anime, in fact it's somewhat unheard of for me. The only reason it doesn't get a 10 is because I felt like to some degree, I found myself not caring as to what happened to too many characters, I think the reason this occured is because of how timid and unconfident many of them were in themselves. Only in a few moments while playing shougi would they begin to take themselves a little seriously, considering how good they are there's no reason to be afraid so... It was nice that their style of play served as a second character development but sometimes it happened a little too fast, I think stretching it out a little bit would be more pleasent but keep in mind i'm just explaining a few minor flaws.
It's true that this anime wasn't the most intelligent or gripping in any of it's facets and that's why it won't be recieving a rating that signifies a masterpiece but Shion no Oh was pretty solid. A big issue is that even I fell a bit behind in terms with character development and representation which makes me wonder how well others will catch up. If you hated Death Note for it's lack of action then STAY AWAY FROM THIS ANIME. It's like an intellectual discussion between you and the anime, it's worth is weighed in how much you comprehended but even if you are confident that you could keep up with everything it's trying to say in one go. There is no action in this anime at all, it's just people playing shougi, if you don't keep up I can imagine it being really boring. This review gave a few hints that I hope you can use to stay on top of the content. There were indeed times where I struggled to press on because watching people playing some alien game was pretty damn boring, but if you think you can survive this and the idea of a psychological anime excites you then watch this.
There is no anime that studies human nature more than this one.
Thank you for reading and please post comments if you have any.