A long time ago I had decided I was going to watch the Hikaru no Go anime, and then it went to my continuously expanding “to watch” list. Now many years later I’ve decided that I would probably prefer the manga over the anime. Part of the reason I was inspired to finally grab this particular series is from Bakuman. I’ve become very curious about this manga artist (Obata) and I’d like to see all of his works. So in order to enjoy his art style best it would have to be the manga that I try out, PLUS I imagine the pace of the manga is a lot more satisfactory. In the anime as the player pauses on deciding which move is next, you’re FORCED to pause as the player thinks. But with manga you understand that the individual is taking a while and can flick your eyes to the next panel, and quickly see the result. Better instant gratification 😉 I purchased the manga up through what Viz has released and read the rest online, but I plan on buying the rest of the volumes as they become available.
While exploring his grandfather’s shed, Hikaru Shindou stumbles across a Go board haunted by the spirit of Sai, a fictional Go player from the Heian era. Sai wishes to play Go again, having not been able to since the late Edo period, when his ghost appeared to Honinbō Shūsaku, an actual Go player of that period. Sai’s greatest desire is to attain the Kami-no-Itte “Divine Move”, or the “Hand of God” – a perfect game. Because Hikaru can sense Sai’s spirit Sai is able to inhabit a part of Hikaru’s mind as a separate personality, coexisting within Hikaru.
Sai convinces Hikaru to allow him to play Go using Hikaru’s body, during this time Hikaru defeats a professional level Go player named Akira that’s HIkaru’s age. Hikaru becomes interested in the game and begins to play for himself. But Akira has already set his sights on defeating the skill he saw in Hikaru during that first defeat. Hikaru’s game is not at Akira’s level, however he demonstrates a natural talent for the game and is determined.
I don’t think Hikaru no Go did that well in the US. The first few volumes seem to be going out of print, even though the series hasn’t finished being released yet (this happened to me with Red River and Basara too). And I just feel like this series is a genre readers in the US wouldn’t accept so easily in manga form. After all this is a series ENTIRELY about people playing a board game competitively. Knowing that…are you still curious? Well if so, then this might not be such a bad series for you try it out. I think Hikaru no Go is a great manga series, but I don’t think every manga fan will like it. It honestly took me quite a few volumes to really warm up to this series, I wasn’t sold on the series until the last half.
I also say that this series is better read in large chunks rather than little by little. I read the whole thing in a few days, if I had read it slowly I think it would be hard to be as excited over a particular game, probably because I would have forgotten details about the opponent and the protagonist’s situation by the time I got the next volume. Also there is an overwhelming amount of players in this series, it would be more difficult for me to remember all their situations accurately if I hadn’t just read about those characters recently. One aspect of this series that kind of made me sad was that as Shindou progressed, some interesting characters from the beginning were just sort of dropped out of the story. Their rare appearances in the last half of the series were more like cameos than as an active character in the series.
Let me just say this word of warning about the end of this series… it’s abrupt. I get the feeling it was forced to end before it could finish out the rest of its intended story. So keep that in mind as you’re deciding on whether or not to read this series. At the VERY end of the review I’ll describe the ending (spoilers). I’ll put a lot of space so you don’t accidentally see it if you don’t want to.
One of the aspects of this series I liked the most was that I really felt like I was watching Shindou grow, both as a Go Player and a person. At around the halfway point the artist/author really made his growth noticeable (they made sure to throw in a few flash backs so we could REALLY see how much he had grown). It was at this point that I really began to look forward to each chapter, it kind of felt like a signal that things were going to get even more intense. All the prodigy kid players made the switch from looking like a bratty kid, to Go player bishounen. Just that change in appearance and attitude really made the games better for me. Not only did I now have some eye candy, but it felt like Shindou was even more serious when playing. You could say he just found his “poker face”…except with Go.
Overall I enjoyed this series, but, had I realized the ending was going to be as abrupt and unsatisfactory as this one was…I wouldn’t have read it. The series I respect the most are the ones that have a strong finish. BUT I did learn a lot about Go, and I liked that I was witnessing a battle of the minds. But the end of this series was a deal breaker for me. I won’t go out of my way to reccommend this series to others, but I think many manga fans out there will find Hikaru no Go to be a manga series that is a nice change of pace.
I’m going to talk about the ending of this series below
Shindou is in a youth tournament representing Japan with Akira (his rival) and some other guy named Yashiro. The whole country is cheering for Akira, Shindou and Yashiro are no names to the general public. Shindou is seat 2nd (1st is usually the strongest). A guy on the opposing team that is seated 1st insults Sai (Honinbō Shūsaku) and gets Shindou really worked up. The captain says that if Shindou plays well he’ll consider letting Shindou play seat 1 to face him. In the game Shindou gets off to a terrible start. This is the first Go match his mother has ever gone to, she gets up and leaves while he is losing (she doesn’t return to my knowledge). He makes a great comeback, but he still loses in the end. Akira wins his game, and Yashiro loses his. Japan now has a weak standing in the tournament.
Because of the strength of the last half of Shindou’s game, and his fiery spirit, the captain allows him to be in the first seat. The Japanese fans are in an uproar that their star player is in Seat 2. The game Shindou plays is a well played game, but he still loses. He begins crying (lots of tears streaming down his face) and he leaves the room that way with his team. Akira won his game, and Yashro lost his. Japan is in last place in the tournament.
WHAT THE HELL!!!!!!!!! I took a shower right after reading the ending, and thought over this series and its ending. And that’s the conclusion I’ve reached! I understand that for many reasons sometimes a manga needs to be ended abruptly, and a story can’t be tied up as well as both the author and readers may have liked (ex: Shaman King). Sometimes those creating the manga become ill, and sometimes the publisher just needs to pull the plug on a series that is now beginning to fail. But I honestly feel that it was a terrible way to end this series regardless of how abruptly it may have been forced to end. They tried to have a positive spin on it with a message of how everyone is always developing and changing, and how Shindou has a great life of Go ahead of him. AND I understand that Go players aren’t undefeated in life, they win some, they lose some. But the fans of this series were already being denied so many scenes that they hoped they would see someday (Shindou winning against Akira, Shindou becoming a player on par with Sai, the Divine Move, etc…) couldn’t we have at least been given a strong win before saying farewell to Shindou and the gang? Sometimes I like having an unexpected and slightly sadder ending to my series, it adds a touch of realism. But this was a series that I REALLY did not want to end on such a negative note.
But keep in mind, the reson I’m THIS upset over the ending is because I really liked the series. I wouldn’t care as much if it was a series I wasn’t enjoying up until that point.