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Hikaru no Go: Board Games = Serious Business

Sean Wong   July 6, 2007

Hikaru no GoAs far as crazy ideas for a series go, Hikaru no Go is definitely up there. Based around a board game, there is absolutely no way that this series can be any good, is there? Oh, you bet there is. Hikaru no Go is a prime example of how good writing can make even the most laughably absurd concepts become incredible works of art. Would you believe me if I said that this series revolving around an ancient board game turned out to be one of the most engaging series I have seen in a long time? Before you question my mental health, please read on.

Before my encounter with Hikaru no Go, I barely knew anything about the ancient Chinese board game of Go. Naturally, when I first came across it, I said to myself, “How ridiculous! There’s no way that this could work.” Oh, how happy I am that I was wrong.

Hikaru no Go revolves around sixth-grader Hikaru Shindou. He’s your typical elementary school student who doesn’t care much for school and isn’t really passionate about anything. One day, he’s digging around his grandfather’s attic with his friend Akari and comes across an old Go board. He sees a blood stain on it and tries to wipe it off, but to no avail. What’s even stranger is that Akari doesn’t even see the stain. Hikaru then hears a voice coming from within the board and then collapses. He wakes to find that a one-thousand year old ghost named Fujiwara no Sai has taken residence in a corner of his mind. Sai was an extremely talented Go player who tutored the emperor during his lifetime. However, when his reputation is crushed after losing a rigged game, he drove himself to suicide. His spirit cannot rest because he has not yet achieved the “divine move.” As he lies in Hikaru’s consciousness, he begins to bring Hikaru into the world of Go. On the way, they meet new friends, new rivals, and many new challenges.

Hikaru no Go is a show that heavily focuses on its characters. Each character has each of their own distinct personalities. Hikaru begins the series as a slacker with no real interst in anything. However, as he learns more about Go, he becomes more mature and dedicated. Akira, Hikaru’s rival, is generally a very polite and well-mannered boy, but he becomes very serious and determined when it comes to Go. Sai, while acting very childish at times, is in fact a man full of wisdom.

Okay, technical aspects. There is not too much to speak of in terms of animation. It’s slightly above average at best, but they do an interesting job dramatizing the game, complete with flying lines and action poses. The artwork is very nicely done, though. One thing you may notice in the series is that the characters actually age and grow taller. It’s a nice little touch. The music is also one of the strongest points in this series. The background music works well to convey the intensity of each match. But what I love the most are the opening and ending songs. It’s a lot of upbeat J-Pop music, but I think they are quite memorable.

Really, the game itself is no too important to the story. You don’t even need to know how to play the game to enjoy the series. What is important is what the game means to the characters in the story. They could switch out Go with any other activity and still have the same kind of series. This is less of a series about a board game and more of a series about a passion.

If you’re still skeptical, I don’t really blame you, but I encourage you to be open-minded and check out this series. This series has reached my top 10 list, and I don’t think it’ll be going down anytime soon.

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Category: Series Reviews

One Response to “Hikaru no Go: Board Games = Serious Business”

  1. The Magpie

    I have to admit that I was disposed to like this series. Although I do not play go, my husband and son do, and I had absorbed the idea from them that go is a game worthy of a lifetime of devotion.
    The game *is* important to the story in that the games are real. The difference is that of a fight scene where they bother to have a real fight choreography vs. one that is all bright flashes and speed lines. The website Sai plays go on is real. The rooms at the Go Institute are the actual roooms. The reality of all the details is part of what makes the story so compelling. Unlike most anime, one can believe that these are the real struggles of actual people.
    The only thing I would fault this series on is the unsatisfying ending. However, the author did set herself an impossible task. After all, *nobody* knows what the “Divine Move” means, so it’s not surprising that she doesn’t come up with a good answer. I would have ended Sai’s quest differently, but then … I don’t know what the Divine Move is either.

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