After eight episodes of creepy lolicon harem shenanigans, Ryuuou no Oshigoto! finally made a funny joke:
It’s funny because it’s true. That’s what’s watching the show feels like, as a sixteen year old shogi wunderkind is oblivious to the advances of his harem of nine year olds –and younger– shogi proteges. There are also a couple of older women interested in him, like his senior in the shogi group he grew up in, or the hapless co-presenter of that shogi livestream he was commenting on and much of the “humour” in the series is his young disciples getting jealous of them and interfering. Now, as with the joke here, much of why this is offensive is not so much what’s being told as how it’s being told. The show continuously directs attention to its own lolicon tendencies by having people commenting on how much of a lolicon our protagonist supposedly is. So here you have one particularly adorable cute girl giving a chaste kiss to cheer our hero up, but the way it’s presented and commented on by the audience and the characters on screen make it lewd. The show keeps setting up situations like this, where nothing overtly lewd takes place, but the presentation and he way the characters respond to it make it lewd. So our hero teaches another nine year old shogi and when his first student catches him at it, he and she react as if she caught him in bed with another woman.
Meanwhile, under that veneer of unfunny and downright creepy harem shenanigans, there’s an actually decent sports story hidden. Shogi, like chess, is a male dominated sport, where female players have their own league and no woman has yet become a professional shogi player through the traditional promotion system, where you train in a shogi study group as an amateur and through a series of exams get promoted to professional status. What Ryuuou no Oshigoto! does that’s so infuriating is that it takes this seriously. If it was just using shogi as an excuse to build a harem for its protagonist I could write this off, but because it keeps coming back to the struggles of its female cast members to create a space for themselves in shogi, I keep watching.
On the most basic level, there are the protagonist’s two pupils, both blessed with talent, discovering for themselves how far that talent can bring them while building experience, as well as their less gifted friends doing the same and having to cope with those two geniuses among them. There’s also his senior in his old shogi group, aiming to become the first female shogi professional and already having claimed two titles. She’s the idol others measure themselves against. More interesting is another member of that group, the twenty six year old daughter of their master, also aiming to become a professional shogi player, but who is running out of time to do so. Her story is the easiest to sympathise with, coming to the limits of your talents and having to decide whether giving up is the right choice. All these women are finding their place in the shogi world, having to struggle against disappointment and loss and if only this harem crap wasn’t there it would be an utterly compelling series. As it is, it’s really not recommendable to anybody.