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Shion's King: The Flowers of Hard Blood
A seinen manga (with an anime adaptation) by Katori Masaru that blends the game of shogi with a murder mystery.
Shion no Ou is the story of a young girl named Shion Yasuoka. When she was a very young child, she witnessed the brutal murder of her parents. Oddly, the murderer leaves her alive but takes the "king" piece from the shogi board (the Japanese rendition of chess). The resulting trauma leaves her unable to speak, forcing her to communicate with people by writing her thoughts out on a notebook (... no, not THAT notebook).
After her parents' murder, Shion is later adopted by her next-door neighbor and family friend, Shinji Yasuoka, who is a kishi, or professional shogi player. Shion continues to play shogi, learning from Yasuoka out of both her own love of the game and her desire to discover the identity of the murderer.
An anime adaptation, produced by Studio DEEN, was released in late 2007 and finished up in March of 2008, following the current storyline of the manga fairly faithfully. The manga ended a few months afterwards.
Compare with Hikaru no Go, which has a similar premise, only with Go instead of shogi.
This show provides examples of:
- Art Shift - Whenever Shion recovers a memory of the night when her parents were murdered, the art style becomes sketchy and much Darker and Edgier.
- Attractive Bent Gender - Ayumi-chan is very, very cute... and many oblivious members of the cast, both male and female, comment on this.
- Batman Gambit - Hani Satoru's use of the free-for-all shogi tournament as a means to find his lover's murderer. It's slightly more complicated than that, though. If the killer didn't show up the plan would fall flat.
- Cute Mute - The eponymous Shion, who lost the ability to speak after witnessing the murder of her parents.
- Blond Guys Are Evil - Subverted; Hani Satoru spends most of the story acting like a Jerkass, and despite abundant foreshadowing to the contrary, he's not the Big Bad, nor is he really a bad person at all...
- Break the Cutie - All three main characters, at least once.
- Dropped a Bridget On Him - Saito Ayumi, though the story doesn't hide it from the viewers for long. Satoru intentionally drops this particular Bridget on Nikaido Saori for what seemed like no reason at all, though it may just be part of his Batman Gambit to find out who killed the Ishiwataris.
- Genki Girl - Shion is a non-vocal variant of this. It kind of edges her (just slightly) in the direction of Canon Sue as she doesn't seem to react realistically to the various bad things that happen to her.
- Gratuitous English - Lots of it in the opening theme "Lady Love" by J-Rock band Rize, not quite as much in the ending theme "My Dear Friend" by J-Pop artist Thelma Aoyama.
- Hot-Blooded - Many of the kishi can get very enthusiastic about the game. The animation style used when the players make their moves further emphasizes this.
- Hot Shounen Mom - Averted; Shion's adoptive mother isn't unattractive, but she definitely looks her age.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Kamizono 9-dan shouts a lot, speaks very bluntly, looks very intimidating and has a reputation as a merciless kishi... but (almost) any of the scenes between him and Ayumi show that he's far from a bad guy.
- Satoru also counts.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia - Shion can only remember bits and pieces about the murder of her parents that she witnessed.
- Marshmallow Hell - Saori hugging Shion on the first episode.
- Off-Model - Studio DEEN seems to have a problem with this. The first few episodes are rendered in great detail, paying close attention to character hair and especially the faces of the older male characters. This degrades over time and for several episodes the animation quality drops noticeably before getting better again halfway through the series. It never did reach the same level of detail that it started with, but it did get much better.
- Stalker Shrine - A wall plastered with photos of Shion is shown in several of the early episodes.
- Talking with Signs - the method of communication Shion prefers.
- Teen Genius - Played straight and subverted; in the free-for-all shogi tournament, fifth-grader Suo Honma beats a 9-dan professional kishi. It's subverted because he used a strategy common among Internet shogi players that his opponent had no knowledge of. If the 9-dan had known about the strategy, he would not have lost. Honma later loses to Shion because of this lack of experience.
- The Rival - Played straight to start with Ayumi vs. Shion; later averted when the two become close friends.
- The Untwist - the revelation of Shion's parents' murderer.
- Tall, Dark and Bishoujo - Saori Nikaido; her navy-blue seifuku only enhances her adherence to this trope.
- Unintelligi Ball - For anyone who isn't familiar with shogi.
- Wholesome Crossdresser - Ayumi. He does it to get into shogi tournaments earlier than he would have been able to had he not passed himself as female.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair - Ayumi. It's not blue-black, it's jarringly bright blue. Hani-meijin also has obviously purple hair.
- Zettai Ryouiki - Displayed frequently by both Shion and Ayumi; Saori's skirt is usually too long for this.