Shion no Ou

aka “Shion’s King”
Genre: Murder mystery, board game
Score: Very good
Rating: 12 for violence

When Shion was only 5, her parents were murdered. Her memories are limited, and she hasn’t spoken since that day. Now she’s 13 (at the start of the story), a talented Shogi player on her way to entering the professional women’s league, but strange things related to the murder keep happening: threatening letters, hints made online, untraceable phone calls. Could somebody in the Shogi world be connected?

The obvious comparison here is with other sports/game anime like Hikaru no Go, but this series stands out because its focus isn’t on the game itself. You won’t learn a great deal about Shogi watching this. Instead the focus is on the people. Of interest are two older girls in the women’s league who become Shion’s friends and rivals: Saori is apprentice to the reigning champion, who she clearly has a crush on; while Ayumi appears to be playing primarily for money.

It takes quite a long time for this series to develop – it won’t grab you with its awesomeness in episode one – but the pace is important for the characters to develop. Shion certainly develops, not just as her memory returns but as she starts to reflect on how the experience of the murder may have affected her. This being a murder mystery I can’t say much more without spoiling it, but it’s well worth giving this series a chance.