Ayane SakuraYurika KuboSho HayamiSayaka Senbongi
The Ryuo's Work is Never Done!
Also known as: Ryuo no Oshitogo!
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2018
Director: Shinsuke Yanagi
Writer: Fumihiko Shimo
Original creator: Shirow Shiratori
Actor: Ai Kayano, Ayane Sakura, Chinami Hashimoto, Hisako Kanemoto, Mitsuko Horie, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Rina Hidaka, Sayaka Senbongi, Sho Hayami, Toshihiko Seki, Yui Ogura, Yuma Uchida, Yurika Kubo
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=19872
Website category: Anime 2018
Review date: 2 July 2019
Ryuo no Oshitogo
It's two shows in one. The good one involves Japanese chess, i.e. shogi. The uncomfortable one... well, let's talk trash. Specifically, let's talk about reprehensible anime trash, made for creepy otaku who use their TV as a girlfriend substitute. There's a sliding scale of these things, from "actually good" to "I feel defiled". I'll be getting into sub-genres here.
ARBITRARILY DEFINED LEVEL #1: "fantasy girlfriend". Your featureless male protagonist acquires a magical girlfriend. She may or may not have actual magic powers (or she might be an alien, or his right hand, or whatever), but she's appeared from nowhere and you can't get rid of her. Our hero didn't have to lift a finger and indeed might be significantly inconvenienced. The girlfriend doesn't care. She'll love him and only him, unconditionally, forever and for no discernable reason. She's a limpet with boobs.
HOW DISTURBING IS THIS? It's not healthy. Japan now has lots of otaku who've renounced any interest in 3D girlfriends. However these shows, at their best, can be sweet and heartwarming, despite their dodgy premise. Importantly, it's possible to do these shows with believable characterisation.
ARBITRARILY DEFINED LEVEL #2: "harem". Instead of just having one girl obsessed with him, lots of girls are inexplicably in love with a single bland hero.
HOW DISTURBING IS THIS? Obviously it's a lot less plausible. These shows can still work, e.g. early Tenchi Muyo. At their best, they manage to sell their improbable premise and are often very, very funny. There are plenty of good harem shows. At their worst, though, these shows break. They'll be full of shrill, silly squabbling between girls who are obsessed with breast size and can't talk or think about anything except this arbitrarily chosen man. There will be eye-rolling sexual content that's almost certainly been written by and for virgins. There's also a sub-genre that goes beyond innuendo and nudge-nudge into actual harem sex, e.g. High School DxD.
ARBITRARILY DEFINED LEVEL #3: incest.
HOW DISTURBING IS THIS? Some of these shows are excellent (e.g. Koi Kaze). Some, uh, aren't. Japan seems to have decided that bit of incest is a mainstream way of spicing up otherwise normal anime. (This is rarely taken all the way, but it's still getting ever more common.) On the upside, though, at least it's closer to informed consent than...
ARBITRARILY DEFINED LEVEL #4: small children.
aka. "my eyes, my eyes".
Obviously, this will NOT be taken all the way. However that's no excuse. You'll have a fairly normal dodgy show of Types #1 or #2 above, but with one or more of the characters being severely underage. No matter how hard you try to tell yourself that it's innocent, you'll still find scenes that would have been romantic, dirty or whatever had everyone involved been ten years older.
Sometimes this works out okay, because we're not stupid. To take an extreme example, imagine a parent playing with a toddler. There will be hugging, face-to-face contact, etc. Those actions might look suspicious if done with someone else's spouse, but so what? It's fine. You're with a toddler. Only a sicko would see anything else in that... which should be just as true with small children. Being affectionate with a child is just happy and normal. No problem. People being nice to each other is a good thing. You can just enjoy the show and ignore the intended undertones, if they're subtle.
Which brings us to The Ryuo's Work is Never Done!
This show is 95% charming and 5% hair-raising. The charming side of things involves a 16-year-old shogi champion, Yaichi Kuzuryu, who takes on some nine-year-old disciples. (Their ages aren't that improbable, believe it or not. Serious shogi players often start young.) They think he's great. He thinks they're cute. There's nothing wrong with that. You've got people being supportive and emotionally generous to each other... well, except for the tsunderes, loonies and pointy-fanged sadists. What's intended as a pseudo-romance is actually just helping a child grow and gain confidence.
...or at least that's what you're trying desperately to think. Most of the time, you can. Occasionally, the show crosses a line. It's mostly for cringe comedy and there's no need to arrest anyone, but gyaaaaaaaaaaah. There are scenes that play out exactly like harem sex comedies, but with small children. You'll want to die. Alternatively, you'll want to kill Yuichi for being incapable of behaving like a normal human being. (They're nine-year-olds. Talk to them like that, you idiot.) It takes a kind of genius to make such a mess of perfectly harmless situations like the one in ep.5.
In fairness, this can be explosively funny. This series was voted the best new light novel series of 2017 by Japan's premier light novel guide. I can sort of see it. You'll be wanting to die, but you'll be laughing. However it's impossible to ignore the romantic framing of Ryuichi's relationship with Ai #1, which on no less than two occasions is turned into a pseudo-wedding. You'll be surprised they don't kiss in ep.11.
FINN WATCHING THIS SHOW = "charming charming OW OW PISS RIGHT OFF charming charming IT'S TRYING TO KILL ME charming charming charming" etc.
Moving on to higher things...
It's a surprisingly strong shogi anime. You'd get tonal whiplash if you watched it back-to-back with "March comes in like a lion", but it can stand the comparison in its detailed portrayal of the shogi world. It's educational. It digs into characters like Keika, the 25-year-old who's approaching the age at which she'll be too old to turn professional. It also, crucially, makes the matches exciting. A real shogi match can last up to ten hours and be pretty dull to watch, but this show turns them into duels and an examination of the characters. We're told that the Meijin can destroy his opponents psychologically and it's true. He can. By the end of the show, one of my favourite things would be Ai #1 going into her trance and chanting "kou kou kou kou kou".
This is an excellent shogi anime. It's thrilling, it's relatable and it's got some vivid characters. (Ai #2 is a long way from likeable, but she's the rival that Ai #1 needed. I could have lived without her and Ginko both being such extreme tsundere, mind you.) You'll understand each player's strengths and weaknesses, both of which will come into how they win and lose. Ai #1's weak spot, for instance, is that she's a nice, kind-hearted nine-year-old (as well as being a near-superhuman shogi freak) and it's possible to throw her off by upsetting her. Yes, that happens.
I liked this anime. I liked Yaichi and Ai #1. I wanted to see them happy and successful. However the show also often made me scream.