What’s it about? Yaichi Kuzuru is the youngest person to ever become a Ryuo, the highest title in shogi. A year later he’s already in a slump, but all that changes when 9-year-old Ai Hinatsuru shows up at his door and begs to be his disciple.
CONTENT WARNING: Pedophilia and NSFW screenshots.
The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! really loves shogi. Like Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, there’s a clear love for a traditional Japanese practice here, with detailed explanations of how the game is played and how difficult it is to master. In some places, it reads very much like a devoted fan attempting to pitch their beloved game to the next generation.
Also like Rakugo Shinju, Anime Feminist’s 2017 anime of the year, Ryuo centers around a young person touched by a chance meeting with an accomplished artist and inspired to completely alter their life. There’s even a strong emphasis on the skills and importance of female players here in the premiere, though it remains to be seen whether that will be qualified to only include same-gender matches, with male players implicitly being on a whole different level.
But seeing that its work was not, indeed, done, Ryuo looked upon Rakugo Shinju and said to itself: “You know what this needs? Loliporn.”
The positive qualities I listed in that opening—the respect and depth of research that’s clearly gone into portraying shogi accurately, the potential of female players being respected for their talents and skills—are basically impossible to appreciate through the retina-scarring image of a naked nine-year-old pinned beneath the sixteen-year-old protagonist.
I grant you, reader, that comedy is a subjective thing. Perhaps it is my failing to find humor in the show’s premise that a grade schooler is down to bone Our Hero. After all, he magnanimously brushes her off after the camera watches her shower, wander around the apartment naked, and focuses on her shiny, shiny knees so much you could turn it into a drinking game. She certainly only calls him “master” because she respects him so much, and not at all because there’s any kind of fetish surrounding a completely adoring and subservient young woman obsessed with the viewer-insert character.
They’ve even blown the dust off the good ‘ol “women be competin” schtick, as the first priority of introducing Yaichi’s friend and fellow shogi master Ginko is to establish that she and Ai haaaaaaaaaaate each other because they’re fiercely competing for Yaichi’s attention. It’s an awesome and cool approach to writing women that I’m sure won’t impact the effectiveness of the women’s shogi matches later in the plot.
And heck, why not throw in a nice dollop of comedic assault on top? It’s completely cool when someone kicks the shit out of another character for no reason, especially when it’s to show how irrational the wimmens are (Ginko is two steps short of pulling a giant hammer out to whack Yaichi with). Truly, this is a fine and aged 1990s wine that’s been set before me.
It didn’t have to be like this, is the thing. There’s the germ of a very, very cute story about a kid prodigy and the family she makes in the shogi world while sharpening her skills and climbing her way to the top of the field. Wanting that young girl to be a sexual object rather than an aspirational figure for the audience kind of sours the whole affair, though.
Shirow Shiratori, Shinsuke Yanagi, et al. brought me a pleasant-looking stew, set it down, and then each took a turn hocking a big ol’ loogie into it. It might’ve been a lovely meal at one time, but there’s no way I’m taking a bite now.