To understand what shogi anime is about, we need to know what shogi is. For the uninitiated, shogi is a strategy board game played between two players. Think of it as the Japanese version of chess. It even has a king, knights and pawns. The game is popular enough that it has been the subject of some brilliant (and some slightly less brilliant) anime and manga over the past 15 years. This list will discuss four of the best shogi anime of all time and one shogi manga for good measure.
List of the best shogi anime
- Shion no Ou
- Ryuuou no Oshigoto
- March Comes In Like a Lion
- When Will Ayumu Make His Move?
1. Shion no Ou
The first shogi anime ever created, this 2007 series by Studio Deen follows Shion — a mute middle schooler who witnessed the murder of her family at a young age and has a mountain of trauma as a result. Despite all of this, Shion is taken in by her neighbours who run the shogi association, and starts playing the game in an attempt to see if she can figure out who the murderer is. When Shion garners the attention of the brother of Japan’s best shogi player, her job suddenly becomes dangerous as she attempts to deal with stalkers and someone who may know something about the murder of her family. She does this all while growing her mental fortitude in an attempt to defeat her shogi opponents and her dark past.
The series combines mystery, suspense and shogi in a way that isn’t often seen in sports and game anime. It’s serious and the stakes are higher than just ‘becoming the best’, which is what sets this anime apart from others within the genre.
Give Shion no Ou a watch if you love crime or board games. Or both.
2. Ryuuou no Oshigoto
The next shogi anime on the list is a little more light-hearted. Ryuuou no Oshigoto is a slice of life comedy anime that explores the world of shogi through the lens of a young student who has suddenly become the king of competitive shogi in Japan.
Unfortunately, becoming the shogi ‘dragon king’ as a teenager isn’t as glamorous as one might think. Yaichi (this is a play on words and means ‘81’ — there are 81 squares on a shogi board) is looked down on by the rest of the shogi community due to his age. On top of this, Yaichi is beholden to a promise he made to 9-year-old Ai, a little girl who wants to become his student.
Yaichi and Ai start practicing and improving their shogi together in an attempt to realise their dreams — Ai, to become a great shogi player, and Yaichi to be recognised for his achievements in the shogi community.
3. March Comes In Like a Lion
Probably the most famous shogi anime of all time, March Comes In Like a Lion is a slice of life drama from Shaft that follows Rei Kiriyama as he deals with living the life of a young shogi professional.
Rei lives with his adoptive family, but when he becomes a professional shogi player in middle school, his family begin to shun him and pressures increase as he participates in shogi tournaments, school life and dealing with other people as a socially awkward teen. He ends up moving to Tokyo by himself to pursue his shogi career further, but as a 17 year old, he struggles to look after himself properly. He soon meets three sisters who live with their grandfather. The sisters start looking out for Rei and show him that he is liked and has someone to look after him. This small family shows Rei that you don’t need to be related by blood to be a family and that you can find support in the strangest of places.
At its core, March Comes In Like a Lion is a coming-of-age story that uses shogi as a plot device to explore the complexity of relationships and the individual.
The series currently has two seasons that are both worth watching if you enjoy shogi and slice-of-life anime.
4. When Will Ayumu Make His Move?
The most recent shogi anime to grace our screens is When Will Ayumu Make His Move?. It’s a considerably more light-hearted anime than March Comes In Like a Lion and Shion no Ou and is perfect if you want to watch a cute, fluffy romance with some shogi thrown in for good measure.
The series follows Ayumu Tanaka, a middle school kendo champion who ends up ditching kendo in high school when he falls head over heels in love with the president of the unofficial shogi club, Urushi Yaotome. Despite never having played shogi in his life, Ayumu joins the club in an attempt to get closer to Urushi, with the intention of confessing to her once he finally beats her in a game of shogi.
Unfortunately for Ayumu, Urushi is a genius when it comes to shogi, and it seems as though he’ll never be able to beat her. At the same time, Urushi is doing her best to make the shogi club an official school club, but often finds herself getting flustered when she’s around Ayumu due to his tendency to give her compliments with a completely straight face.
A cozy shogi anime to watch when you want to enjoy good vibes and a budding romance.
Shogi Manga: 81 Diver
A strange manga with an even stranger art style, 81 Diver is a series about shogi and gambling — a strange combination in all honesty.
Kentaro is known as ‘81 Diver’, but has failed to get into the professional shogi scene. Instead, he spends his time making a living by gambling at amateur shogi clubs. It’s at these clubs that he meets the mysterious maid, Milk-chan. By day, a maid who spends her time cleaning and being polite, by night, a shogi champion who thrives off of taking the money of unsuspecting shogi players.
There you have it. If you’re a fan of shogi or looking to get into the game, here are four anime and one manga about shogi to get yourself into the spirit of Japanese chess.