Ok so the first manga I’ll be reviewing/ recommending 2 you guys is Hikaru No Go,translation: Hikaru’s Go.
Maybe not the most well known or stereo-typically accessible but give it a chance!
Written jointly by Hotta yumi and Obata Takeshi sensei right before Takeshi went on to work on greats like Death Note, Bakuman and All you need is kill! The writing and art make the manga an impossibly absorbing ride.
The main character is a pretty average kid at the start with a two tone head and a love of antics:
(warning ahead of time: as this is my very first proper blog I kinda went overboard and I know it’s way too long but please read to the end anyway! thanks.)
At the start of the story Hikaru has no real interest whatsoever in the ancient Chinese strategical board game of Go, but he ends up having to pay more attention to it when he gets possessed by the ghost of Fujiwarano Sai who taught the Heien emperor how to play many centuries ago! Honestly it’s kinda cute seeing Sai freak out over technology so much but he has cool and serious side to him too-when he’s playing Go! Which is the only thing he thinks about most of the time anyway, he wants to continue playing Go through Hikaru until he reaches *que build up music*’THE HAND OF GOD’ understandably Hikaru having no interest threatens to never let him play go, but Sai gets so overcome with sorrow at this that it starts having an effect on Hikaru’s body. And he agrees to let Sai blow off some steam by playing every now and then
In one fateful moment, Sai has become a part of Hikaru’s consciousness and together, through thick and thin, they make an unstoppable Go-playing team. Until Hikaru gets a desire of his own to play through seeing the serious passion of another boy his age for the game,that is.
Will they be able to defeat Go players who have dedicated their lives to the game? Will Sai achieve the “Divine Move” so he’ll finally be able to rest in peace? This is one of those manga that’s all about the journey.
And although the initial premise may make it seem typical or boring to some of the more critical or ‘cultured’ manga readers in my opinion the writing make it anything but. I’m not saying it’s not what it is, it’s a shounen about a kid growing up through passion and hard work, you get what you get, but I don’t consider this a bad thing Hikaru no Go isn’t contained by its genre- it owns it. And to be honest it’s kind of a prime example of the feeling and atmosphere other manga of it’s genre should aim at in their own unique way.
Personally I have no idea how to play Go so I can fully promise you ahead of time that that won’t have any effect on your enjoyment of the manga, it may be written in a shounen style but this story is ALL about the drama and the relationships between the characters, and Hikaru’s journey as he begins to walk the road of go.
This isn’t like your run of the mill sports manga, the plot gets you into a fun and enjoyable rhythm and then suddenly twists and turns making it even more fun, most people who give this manga a chance (say reading the first ten, fifteen chapters or so) generally finish it pretty quickly after getting sucked in, as most of the matches -similar to baby steps or nononono- are tension based and the plot is almost constantly advancing it makes for a pretty quick read at only 189 chapters + 2 bonus ones.
A short word about the anime adaptation
The anime of Hikaru No Go mainly follows the plot of the manga with one or two adjustments, and ending an arc earlier than that of the manga.
While the art -as with most anime adaptations of popular manga- does not at all do the manga justice, it ain’t bad- especially for the 90s . I’ve seen a lot worse and there are times when the original ‘whoah holy crap yeah’ factor shines through.
Animes run on a pretty tight time schedule and strict budgets so there tends to be huge patchy leaps in consistency between amazing and ..meh.
And hikaru no go’s anime adaptation is no exception, it goes from
You see what I’m saying? However while it may be victim to one of the many circumstantial flaws of anime reboots, Hikaru no go’s anime TOTALLY makes up for it with everything else!
For one thing it manages to keep a lot of the tension of the manga, the transitions are good and the backgrounds of the Go matches really capture the idea of motion and badassery while sitting and playing a board game. Reminiscent again I might remind you of Takeshi sensei’s future work Death Note’s main characters ability to make writing in a notebook look like physical exercise.
and then there’s –The voice acting oh my lord the voice acting! How many ways are there to say the name ‘Sai’? These super talented voice actors have probably found all of them and executed them all perfectly at the exact right times in the show. Speaking of Sai – I’ll use his voice actor as an example, Sai is a really wise and experienced character but he’s also really childish too, is giving everything you have to a board game childish? The voicing for Sai can shift perfectly from whining and whidling ‘Hikaruuu let me play’ to a serious and strong charisma that totally enhances the drama of the show. the quality of the japanese voice actors for this show is really wow.
(Although the subtitling goes a little crazy at the start of the second season) with the Japanese subbed version at least each character’s voice fits them like a glove, and while the dubbed voice overs aren’t quite as stimulating if you look at it open-mindedly I’m sure you’ll agree that they don’t do a completely terrible job of it as many dubbings can ruin shows entirely
-like the infamous sailor moon voice actor switchover for serina that caused many long time fans to drop the show entirely – these guys although succeeding in multiplying each characters ‘annoying’ factor by ten and butchering their individuality the voicing is at least … endurable.
I managed to watch this 75 episode (subbed) series in a single month when i first watched it. With this series you go to watch one episode and end up watching three or four, it’s just that kind of show. because of how brilliantly executed a series it is.
*Halfway point of the blog*
More so than in any series I know of the way the gradual aging of the characters is done is completely believable and done with care over the course of the series, which follows Hikaru and Akira(the rival) from the age of twelve to Highschoolers. It isn’t an overnight time leap, either – the progression is gradual to the point where you don’t even notice until there’s a flashback to a much earlier episode how much the characters have matured.
The details make this series it paints a picture of the world of Go in modern Japan – the school clubs, the Go Salons, the training sessions at the Go Institute, internet go everything is explored carefully and interestingly
Largely due, I assume to the Go professional Yukari Umezawa (5-dan)’s help who also acted as advisor for the manga
and supervised the production of the series’ Go games.
The last thing I’ll mention about the anime adaptation is the MUSIC –THE SOUNDTRACK FOR THIS SERIES IS GLOBTASTIC,
||I’ll be the One
*taken from wikipedia
Each of the opening themes is great in it’s own way the title sequence that goes along with each song really gets you pumped up for the episode you’re about to watch, my personal favourite is Get Over by dream, I can’t think of the
Hikaru no go anime without hearing this in my head. I’ll be the One is a close second but Fantasy just didn’t do it for me personally but it might for you!
(Bokura no Bouken by Kids Alive episode 1-122
(Hitomi no Chikara by Arisa Mizuki ep 13-30
Sincerely ever dream by dream ep 31-46
Days by Shela ep47-63
Music Is My Thing by dream ep64-74
personally i have no real opinion on the ending themes for this show, they’re all good in their own way but honestly i have a bad habit when watching an anime to not bother listening to the ending theme once the shows finished.
but i do love the part of bokura no bouken by kids alive about a minute in where the beat drops 🙂
*there’s not much more left of this, I promise you’re nearly there! 😀 *
Back to the manga
As I mentioned before this manga is all about the Journey and Hikaru’s coming of age but I am implored to warn you ahead of time, that the end is sudden.
This is essentially because of a combination of two things. One was Takeshi sensei being commissioned away to start work on death note the other -and this is second hand knowledge i learned from the forums so i don’t know the ins and outs- was because in the last arc where korean players where involved, one of the korean players was based off a real korean professional, he sued and there was some outcry by korean go fans as well, I don’t know if that story is true or not but it’s what I’ve been told.
The ending of Hikaru no go, without giving too many spoilers, is that there is no ending. Hikaru’s go is a journey manga and the end signifies that the journey of the road of go is endless, like with any sport, or anything in life really, you can always go higher and farther when it comes to your passions and transcend the things you’ve done before.
Because of how sudden the end was a lot of fans didn’t like it and as such many have downrated Hikaru no go from a great manga in their esteem to a ‘good’ manga. Personally after rereading like with The cage of Eden the ending has grown on me … like ivy. . .
Like with cage of eden there isn’t much of a conclusion, there kind of is and there kind of isn’t, and there are great subplots left untouched e.g. the whole thing with the chinese go player getting the divine move through a computer.
Although the ending could have been better executed this manga’s still a high recommend for me, the whole story was great all the way through and one forced chapter isn’t going to change that as far as I’m concerned.
The supporting characters
Each character has their own unique sensibilities from speech patterns, clothes and even taste in food each one is highly defined and recognisable.
Along the way Hikaru during the story comes to love the game of Go and Sai who begins after a while to teach it to him and who is always with him acting as a best friend. During his journey he meets a totally memorable cast of characters – old like old man honinbo, inbetween like Kurata the foodie and Ogata the guy who always seems to be smoking or looking at fish
and young like the insei and touya akira and even the kids from the haze jr high go club who inhabit the Go world he’s starting to become a part of.
They’re all vibrant and super unique and something which is really important to me when it comes to manga – way more than just stock characters.
And they all contribute to the story in their own way. Whether it’s just making the story more realistic or adding momentum or weight to Hikaru’s growth.
Even the korean kenkyuusei suyong hon whose only in the story for 3 to 5 chapters at a time when he first appears becomes a focal turning point for Hikaru and Sai in separate ways.
Waste not want not and there is nothing wasted about these extra characters.
Did I mention that at the time this was published in the 90s go was on the decline in japan? Only the elderly seemed to play it, but after this manga was released there was A HUGE unprecedented boom in the 2000 year old game
there was even a bbc news report done on it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyllVL9fpe0
A whole generation was inspired by this manga and there was even a quasi boom in the game in America when it was published in english. And there’s even a title holder in the game right now said to have been part of the Hikaru no go generation. How’s that for a comic book!
What I love about this series
I love a lot of things about this manga, but one of the best things I have to say is the way it forces readers to experience the story as the the main character does. This is a story that’s almost like Dance! Subaru in the way it gives you the same adrenaline rush you imagine the character would feel. It gets you hopping up and down in your seat crying ‘oh snap!’ when something unexpected happens.. or you know just saying it in your head while manically giggling.
This is a drama manga and as such it centres on the emotions and individual feelings of the characters translated through both the art and the dialogue. I have cried a good three times at least while reading/ watching this story and that is not something that happens to me often. The banter between Sai and Hikaru and the other characters is really fun.
It’s funny and smart and damned exciting too, with some of the best cliffhangers!
This story is well done and well-deserving of its popularity, If you’re looking for a rock-solid, well-produced and riveting series that’s accessible to all ages if given a chance while being really smart and gripping then look no farther.
The manga reviews done guys I promise to do the anime one soon! ❤