I’m no exact stranger to series like this, although I’m not sure what to really classify these types of series as to begin with. Every now and then I need something really light-hearted and apparently sports/competition based to tide me over until something interesting comes around every season. Ryuuou no Oshigoto isn’t exactly the replacement Bamboo Blade, which I sadly haven’t had the time to talk about around here, but it still provided me something entertaining every Monday to sit through while I worked out.
RnO focuses on the titular Ryuou, Kuzuryu Yaichi, one of the youngest holders of the Ryuou title in the competitive shogi world. During his title match, Yaichi almost blacked out from the sheer pressure of the match while returning from the bathroom if it wasn’t for a young girl who handed him some water. Out of gratitude, Yaichi offers to do something for her in return and she asks him to have her as his disciple after he wins his title. Months later, Yaichi finds himself in a slump and generally being unable to fully live up to his title. Yaichi returns home one day to find that very girl waiting for him inside and after being inspired by her talents, he decides to uphold his promise and take her under his wing.
A slightly more unique case in a sports/competition series where the main character is already in the upper ranks of skill. The important distinction being that he’s actually recognized as a prodigy who earned a prestigious title at only age sixteen. However, this doesn’t take the competitive nature out of Yaichi’s character as he undergoes at least one training arc to learn a new style of play and has a breakdown down the road. I guess the premise of defending one’s hard-earned title is still a bit better than watching the same climb from the bottom we’ve seen so many times. I’m not necessarily against the latter story-structure but there’s plenty of bad examples than good ones.
Yaichi wasn’t too much of a standout example of his character archetype, but to be fair, I generally don’t watch enough sports series to be either impressed or jaded from this. Remember, the last honest sports series I’ve exposed myself before prior to this was me going back to finish Bamboo Blade and then reading the rest of it. In that series, the protagonist switched between Tama and Kojiro. In the very least, Yaichi is already established to be a prodigy at his craft and instead of climbing his way up to the top, he only needs to defend his position as a title holder. I will mention his breakdown during the last half was a decent change of pace, although him just acting out of anger and “needing the support of everyone he’s met along the way” was just as to be expected. Other than that, he’s par for the course but he becomes surrounded by the attention of a bunch of little girls much to the chagrin of his closer female confidant. At least he shows some interest in Keika though. The honest draw for the series involves his disciple, Hinatsuru Ai, the 9 year-old prodigy who ran away from home to learn shogi from Yaichi himself. She was inspired by his drive and his passion for the game to try it out herself and sure enough, she was no slouch and inspired Yaichi to pick himself up and properly perform as the title holder he is. Aside from that story and skill perspective, she’s ridiculously cute and was immensely enjoyable to watch, that much is probably a big reason why non-shogi enthusiasts probably pick this show up for, because it certainly wasn’t Yaichi. Ai’s sweet disposition as well as her overly possessive side drives the show with her interactions with Yaichi as much as the shogi itself. Ai’s prominence in Yaichi’s life is uncontested by two other girls, Sora Ginko, Yaichi’s fellow disciple and another disciple of Yaichi’s Yashajin Ai.
Ginko is the aggressive and primary tsundere of the series who is closest to Yaichi yet her attitude with him as well as Yaichi’s density has any of her advancements toward him prove unsuccessful. While skilled, Ginko chases after Yaichi’s prestige and tries to stand on the same ground as he does and I enjoyed her for bringing up a sideplot that I enjoyed. The unrequited romance was to be expected because come on, Yaichi is going to somehow end up with Ai. Speaking of Ai, not only do we have a sweet blue Ai, we have a red one with more attitude. Yashajin Ai came to be under Yaichi’s tutelage after her late father was inspired by a young Yaichi’s prowess in the game and the two had made a promise that had Yaichi teach his daughter. Whereas the first Ai is way more cheery, the second Ai is more prideful and actively tsun in reciprocating to others. Last but not least is Kiyotaki Keika, one of the older girls who Yaichi seems to show anything close to attraction towards, who has her own arc as a struggling player reaching the age of being unable to compete if she does not up her performance. Aside from those mentioned, there’s plenty of other side characters such as the other group of little girls Ai plays with as well as the other professional players vying to compete against Yaichi. All in all, it’s a pretty big and fun cast, although not as developed to really become too attached to them outside of the main circle.
Since I’m not familiar with the light novels, I couldn’t really tell you how well they handled this adaptation. I have heard that some of the volume climaxes such as a number of Yaichi’s matches having a lot less emphasis than they were originally written to have. Truth be told, I was only around to have a fun time and since I didn’t know what a single piece of shogi can even do, the level of tension was only as high as the characters could outwardly show it. That isn’t to say that I was completely bored by it but there was only so much I could glean from the times they showed of the board. The pacing in between arcs wasn’t too much of an issue since the concept of learning the game mostly came down to the spur of the moment zeal Ai would invoke when push came to shove, which thankfully didn’t always guarantee victory. Training basically occurred at all times so it was only the matter of getting characters to meet and compete against each other and since everything occurred within the confines of officially sanctioned matches, there wasn’t a variety of things they did, but it’s not like they really needed them. Owing to the series’ focus on shogi, there wasn’t anything all too problematic or worth mentioning in the visuals and sound department, although I don’t really care to remember any themes from the show.
As far as the enjoyment of the story goes, the only moments I really enjoyed where when a level of growth showed up with the other cast members and when Ai’s prodigious skills were actually bested, since the usual standard is Ai just winning everything and displaying her obvious talents. This came up with the arc involving Keika and her attempts to qualify to the professional league and her age encroaching the professional league’s age limit for women. I will say that the general cute stuff with Ai and her group of friends just interacting with Yaichi was what it was, the novelty kind of wears off but seeing a 9 year-old girl go yandere is a bit rare for me so I did enjoy those bits. Ginko’s scenes as well as all the other pro shogi players where Yaichi actually stops being a lolicon to act as the pro he is helped establish the weight of a pro’s opinion, even though there are two to three over the top characters playing up a persona a bit too much beyond believable levels.
Coming in no expectations aside from the want to be entertained probably did wonders for my impression the series but it wasn’t something I hated watching. While it doesn’t carry too profound of a reason to play beyond one’s limits and the usual hard-work spiel is abundant, it’s definitely not the most cliche thing I’ve watched. The arcs introduced a bunch of characters that livened up the usual crew’s antics, the actual matches later in the show had a lot more tension, and Yaichi’s own drama while a bit divisive among some people, was still something human and telling about how even he still had a long way to go to shape himself up.
All I wanted was something easy on the eyes to watch and my expectations were met. Nothing really went above and beyond the bounds of competition-based series, especially within just three to four volumes of adapted material, but it was an entertaining experience of a sport I never got the chance to involve myself with. While being predictable is damn near impossible in these sorts of series, there was still some amounts of tension, there were a lot of times were the main characters would fail to win so it’s not always a cake-walk so at least there’s the distinction to constantly improve and learn from loss. On the other end of the spectrum, if shogi doesn’t interest you and cute interactions do instead, then there’s barely a shortage of that around here with a rather colorful cast of weirdos all gathered around the game.