March Comes in like a Lion (3月のライオン San gatsu no Lion) is an upcoming two-part Japanese film directed by Keishi Ōtomo, starring Ryunosuke Kamiki and based on the manga series of the same name written and illustrated by Chica Umino.

The film will be released in Japan by Toho and Asmik Ace in 2017 in two parts, with the first part scheduled for March 18 and the second planned for April 22.

The Death Note movies of Kenichi Matsuyama and Tatsuya Fujiwara serve as my introduction to Japanese live-action movies. Matsuyama is especially memorable in Death Note for the perfect combination of subtle, thrilling and comedic acting. I saw the first Death Note movie after I watched Matsuyama in Norwegian Wood. Somebody told me about his almost perfect portrayal of the world's "greatest detective." Matsuken's L is what I imagined the fictional character would be in real life.

That was late 2011, a few years after the first Death Note movie was released. Five years later, we're into the fifth live-action adaptation of the manga made famous by Tsugumi Ohba, with illustration by Takeshi Obata. 

If you've watched both live-action Chihayafuru movies, then you know there is another film (or two) coming up. I mean, there's so much still to be told! But before I get ahead of myself, let's have a review.

Chihayafuru Kami no Ku (Part 1) - is the First installment of the live action based on the manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Suetsugu. It is about a school girl, Chihaya Ayase, who is inspired by a new classmate - Arata - to take up Hyakunin Isshu karuta competitively. Joining Chihaya is her long-time friend Taishi, and together with Arata, they formed a bond of deep friendship strengthened by the passion for the sport.

Chihayafuru Shimo no Ku (Part 2) - is the Second installment of the live action featuring the struggles of Chihaya and her friends to play competitive karuta. It also involves their personal issues about love, friendship, family, death and loss, loyalty and rivalry. The movie also introduced another major character - the current karuta queen and Chihaya's thrilling encounter with the queen as they play karuta rivals.

There were some issues raised about the casting of Suzu Hirose playing the main character. Most of the argument is all about Hirose's lack of "personal vibes" to play a credible Chihaya since the character is a  " tomboyish, outgoing and ambitious" girl and that Hirose may not be able to project herself like that. However, for me, I think Suzu rose to the occasion and played a credible Chihaya. The character is not difficult to play. 

The release of the first Chihayafuru movie offers viewers a glimpse of the complicated relationship between Chihaya with Taishi and Arata. While the first film puts the spotlight on Taishi's side, with love that seems to overflow and can sometimes be heartbreaking, Arata's story is yet to unfold.

I'm pleasantly surprised with the changes (alterations) the live action movie has made. Of course, watching the anime episodes, you begin with the premise that this is more than just a love story, it's also about friendship and connection, of camaraderie and teamwork, of competition and rivalry. Most important, it promotes the sport of karuta - a contest that has a long history and is uniquely Japanese. But we'll get into that later. I just want to say, the karuta tournament scenes are thrilling to watch. [ special mention to Yuki Morinaga who plays Komano and yes! Hiroya Shimizu as Akihito Sudo for excellent acting! ]

If you've read Part One (about our main characters, Chihaya, Taishi and Arata), then you are aware that there is a rivalry between Taishi and Arata - a battle for Chihaya's love and affection. Though you can hardly tell if there is any competition at all - you can just feel the tension and that there is something bubbling - just underneath the surface.

Which gives me the chance to ask you - our viewers - one of the most universal of questions:

Will you choose the one who loves you or wait for the one you love?

When Chihaya called Arata after many months of separation, it was with Taishi's 'blessings.' Chihaya is eternally grateful to Arata for introducing her to karuta and with that - the chance to find something worthwhile to pursue. It shaped her world in ways she could not imagine. Arata, at a young age, is already a legend amongst karuta players. With such a reputation, Chihaya is in awe, looking up to Arata as if he's an idol or a young god.

This is Part 2 of our Live Action Buzz featuring Chihayafuru. [ Part 1 talks about the three major characters - Chihaya, Taishi and Arata and the live action cast ]

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Another interesting character of Chihayafuru is the traditional, yet fiery and strict Kanade Oe.

Kanade often has her short brown hair in two neat and low pig tails. Her bangs are separated, half at the right of her face and a half at the left, exposing her wide forehead. She has round brown eyes, single eyelids and only three eyelashes on each eye. She usually wears her uniform which consists of a tucked in white shirt with a bow, a green and red plaid mini-skirt, black knee-socks and brown loafers. Sometimes she wears a t-shirt with the Oe Traditional Clothing Shop logo. Kanade gets her looks from her mother. Oe is a female high school student who loves traditional Japanese culture. Kanade has shown a great love for Japanese poems and traditional clothing. She is in the karuta club that Chihaya and Taichi created and is the third member to join after being persuaded by Chihaya. [ source ]

Kamishiraishi is the lead star/heroine of the movie Lady Maiko. Kamishiraishi is among 800 applicants who took part in auditions over a six month period and it was one of the best performances from a newcomer (the other being Ryoko Fujino in Solomon's Perjury). The lead role required her to wear traditional Japanese kimono, which is what she will do in Chihayafuru. What's interesting, aside from wearing traditional Japanese clothes, is her reciting some of the poems from the Karuta tournament and explaining the history of the poems.


Psycho Drama list of 100 favorite Japanese films through the years.