One has to wonder what the makers of Shion no Ou were thinking in mixing aspects of mystery and board game developments into a title that quite often goes overboard with its plot and characters. The series covers Shion's rise in the game of shogi and slowly unveiling facts that reveal the killer of her parents from years earlier. The series does do fairly good at setting up reasonable character depth with a number of its major characters and they have enough personality where they don't feel tacked on with a random character archetype, with Ayumi's character having the best development of the characters in this series with his personal issues and the conflicts he has for his reasons of playing shogi. On a basic level, it also does well at setting up suspense with its mystery as the series drops hints to keep one guessing over who may be threatening Shion and had killed her parents. Also expect a good number of cliffhangers at the end of many episodes of the series that make for effective hooks you into seeing the next episode.
Though at points the story can get a little rushed through some of the games, the mix of emotional heights makes Shion an anime that it would not be wise to miss. However, some of the very first scenes could be considered disturbing to some people and would not be advisable for children under 13. Still, it is a must see for anyone wanting a serious story to pass the time with. I would seriously recommend this to anyone who enjoyed others such as Saki, and loves a good mystery.
I really liked the character designs and colour palette, everything in the show is pretty cookie cutter and normal but sometimes the art got a little wonky, and characters started looking really creepy. I can see how they might've done that on purpose for some scenes, but other times it was just weird. The animation is also nothing to brag about. It's fairly standard, and although they don't use speed lines! and actually animate stuff, most of the games aren't really shown but described. What I did like a lot was the execution, especially in the way they handled the murder scenes and other really suspenseful parts of the series.
The voice acting was spot on and the soundtrack was very mood-setting and eerie at just the right parts. The opening is "Lady Love" by Rize helped set the tone from the outset, and it actually was an opening I didn't skip even once. It truly fits the show, the lyrics, the beat, they made a great choice. For the ending, it's "My dear friend" by Teruma Aoyama, it shows how Shion's life is reflected through her notepad by way of the credits appearings and shows some moments with her friends they help and give her courage along the way, so it's fitting in that aspect though I prefer the opening much more.
This is where Shion no Ou shines. Shion Yasuoka is adorable, cute, determined, and honestly one of the best strong female characters you'll encounter in anime. Just like the character development, character design in this anime is simply average. The side-characters each have a defined place to play, a set character, and backstory that develops nicely through the series. It's an ensemble cast, nicely done, and you should feel good resolution to almost all character development in the series. I don't fault the writers at all, it's near-perfect. I suppose if Shion had more voiced lines, or did more action, she'd be in contention for end-of-year awards. You won't know who the antagonist is for a while, as you have several choices; suffice it to say, not every bad person is just drawn that way. The characters are a mix of 'pretty boy' men and 'cute loli' girls, there are also a mix of middle/old aged adults that really look their age and all have their own unique look and personality. Well not so much in personality since most of the shogi players are either passive or aggressive.
Saori Nikaidou is typical of a daughter born to a wealthy family, with a wicked sense of humour, she is sculpted into a fascinating femme fatale, who seeks nothing from the game of shogi but the approval of Hani Meijin. My emotions were torn with Ayumi Saito who successfully covers multiple key roles. From initial antagonist to loyal friend, her story is extremely tragic and probably makes her the most robust in the show. Ayumi is a sixteen-year-old androgynous male shogi player. Due to his sickly mother, he had to leave high school to take care of her. When playing shogi, he pretends to be a girl in order to earn money for competing due to the male league taking two years to qualify. However, Shion herself becomes a letdown; dragged into a bewildering battle of good versus evil, I can’t help but feel our mute heroine could have been developed into something much more epic.
Starting off as a mediocre and wishy-washy board-game anime and ending as a confused murder mystery, Shion no Ou is occasionally intelligent and frequently fun enough to entertain the viewer; however it is lacking in re-watch value.
The only real negative to the series is that it may be a bit too drawn out, but new revelations and suspicions that pop up over the course of the series help alleviate that. The animation can be rather variable between some episodes, but is overall pretty good. The music is also good, especially during the shogi sequences. If you’re looking for a good mystery series, I definitely suggest checking Shion no Ou out.