Since the end of March Comes in Like a Lion’s second season, I’ve returned time and time again to the first eight minutes of its finale – an extra story titled, “The Other Home”. I watched it twice immediately after its initial airing, a couple times more after a few of my close friends belatedly caught up to the series and several times today in preparation for this post, making it probably one of my most re-watched scenes in anime ever.
This small aside placed intentionally at the end of the cour marked a turning point in Rei’s growth. It was his return to the home that cast him aside, a re-encounter with those who left him with nothing but himself. At worst, this visit would destroy all the progress he’s made so far, and at best, he’d maybe be able to reconcile with the ones he once could’ve called family.
It was a surprising story to see so close to the finale but also one that ended up elevating the series in my eyes to be something of a masterpiece, adding an entry to the small list of anime that I would consider to be my favorite of all time. And so, I thought it’d be appropriate to ring in my return to the blog with a piece about Rei’s return to his old home.
We’re first introduced to an unfamiliar woman – Rei’s adopted mother, as we’d soon learn after she gets a call from Rei about coming over. After initially misinterpreting the caller’s identity, she introduces Rei as “the boy who had once lived in my home”, a cold reminder of their distanced relationship. We cut to Rei’s arrival and in the first of only two moments of character animation in the scene, we watch him warmly greet their family dog, Tarou, followed by a shot of Tarou’s time-worn legs showing just how long it’s been since they last met.
Rei asks her about his adoptive siblings Ayumu and Kyouko, and we are then finally given a chance to see the face of Rei’s adoptive mother. She looks thin and kind, with only the slightest signs of age creeping onto her features. Her reply is concise and safe, reflecting all of the good and none of the bad of her children’s situations; seemingly, a reply for the uninvolved. Through the small talk, Rei gives her a gift: sweets from Crescent Moon. The show’s shown once before the power of the Kawamoto’s cooking in bringing people back together and this would hopefully serve as a powerful good luck charm.
Rei apologizes for not visited sooner and before she can reply, she catches herself. “I was worried about you since you never came by”, she wanted to say. But she realized just how much he realized that his departure was needed for her family, so she says nothing.
From there, through the mother’s eyes, we learn the full extent of their family’s tribulations. She talks about Ayumu and Kyouko and their realization of what was required of them to match Rei’s talent and drive. She tells us of their weakness, how it destroyed them, and it destroyed their relationship with her and her husband. We learn about her husband’s preference for Rei over his own children because of his childhood and how much of himself he saw in Rei. We hear about her anguish and her blame towards Rei for being so perfect and so much better than her children. And we learn just how much they all realized that Rei was never to blame. Then finally, we hear from her about his quiet departure from their home.
By the time we had been all caught up, the orange glow of the sunset told Rei that it was time to go. They’d presumably been sitting in silence all afternoon. As he gets up to leave, he tells her that he’ll come again, to which she can only answer with a strained reply. After all, how could she deny this boy of his choice once again?
Before he leaves, Rei goes to say goodbye to Tarou and with a multi-part sequence of shots of Tarou’s cheerful face, the boy’s conflicted profile, and his arms slowly extending towards his old companion, we cut to the second of the two moments of character animation in this whole scene. Rei warmly embracing Tarou as he whispers to him the words he wanted to say for so long to his long-lost family.
“Live a long life, okay?”
The story ends with his mother dreaming about a world where Rei is her son. He’s just another kid his age, goofing around with his siblings, wasting time, and staying up way too late. At this vision of a different world, she’s a little disappointed but also profoundly relieved.
This would be the gift that Rei’s visit would bring. Sweet dreams of a world that could’ve been and a possibility of a similar reality in the future. This was a scene that solidified in my mind just how far Rei’s come, since the start of the show and carried with it a view that nothing is ever truly broken or lost, at least not with a little effort.
Thanks for reading,