Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hikaru no Go

Today I thought I’d talk about Hikaru no Go.

As a general rule I don’t follow series based around sports or games, but I got hooked on Hikaru no Go, which is based around the game of Go.  The story follows a young boy named Shindou Hikaru as he is introduced to the game and then comes to realize that he wishes to pursue a career as a Go player.  His struggles to learn the game and enter the Go world are followed through the games he plays and his interactions with the other Go players.

One thing makes this series very unique.   Hikaru is haunted.   He is haunted by the ghost of a past Go master.   Fujiwara no Sai was a Go master during the Heien period and after being disgraced for cheating (which he didn’t do), he took his own life.  This has caused him to haunt Go players down through time, most recently Hikaru.   Hikaru and Sai meet when Hikaru comes across his grandfather’s old Go board.  Hikaru at first only plays Go to allow Sai to play it and has no interest in the game, but as time goes on Hikaru begins playing for himself.

In an early game Hikaru plays under Sai’s direction, he happens to play against a boy his age named Touya Akira, whose father is a Go master.  Sai beats Akira handily, and Akira, who has been playing and studying Go since he was old enough to hold the Go pieces, is devastated to be beaten by a boy who doesn’t even know how to hold the pieces.  Hikaru and Akira become rivals during the series and Hikaru is driven to become a professional Go player by his desire to catch up to and beat Akira.  He only manages to achieve this because Sai trains him and plays against Hikaru over and over. 

As Hikaru learns to play Go for himself, he allows Sai to continue playing also by playing Go online under the name of “Sai”.  Sai becomes a well-known and well-respected online player and eventually even gets to play Akira’s Go master father.

The series has an incredibly tragic part, when Sai realizes he has finally paid his karma or achieved his purpose and dissolves forever.  Hikaru is lost and devastated by Sai’s disappearance, and he spends several episodes searching for Sai and regretting not letting Sai have more chances to play, etc.  With some help from a friend, Hikaru realizes he will always have Sai with him in playing the game of Go, and he resumes playing, which he had given up.

The series follows all the Go players as they learn and struggle to become better and to win their games.  There are several side stories involved as well.   The plot line is good but the tragedy part was pretty intense for a couple of episodes.  The music is good and the characters and their interactions are very good.    This series also demonstrated for me why I download anime.  The US company putting out the DVDs on this series stopped before completing the series, leaving me with a partial DVD series.  Irritating!  So if you can find the entire series, I recommend it.

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