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Hikaru no Go
By Holly Kolodziejczak
Hikaru no Go is something that's turning out to be hard to sell other people on. At its core, this series is about Go - you know, the ancient Japanese game that involves placing black and white stones on a board. As soon as people hear that, I've lost them... they automatically think that it's going to be boring from that point on. Heck, even I thought it was going to be boring at first, I won't lie. I didn't know the first thing about Go, a month ago. Still, I gave it a chance all the same... and I was hooked from the first episode.
The series opens with an introduction of it's main character, Shindou Hikaru (not to be confused with Shidou Hikaru of Magic Knight Rayearth). Hikaru is a 6th grader in modern Japan who has a dilemma that I know I can relate to - he flunked his last history test pretty badly, and his parents cut off his allowance. So Hikaru ends up digging through his grandfather's old stuff, looking for something to sell, and comes across an old Goban (Go table). But the table has a mysterious blood stain on it that only Hikaru seems to be able to see...
The Goban is tied to the spirit of a Go player from the Heian era named Fujiwara no Sai. Sai was once a Go instructor for the emperor of Japan, but because of a colleague's treachery, he was cast out of the capital in disgrace and ends his own life shortly after. However, Sai's spirit is unable to rest because he still has not been able to achieve the "Hand of God" in his Go games. Unfortunately, Hikaru has just about zero interest in playing Go, so it looks like Sai is out of luck for the time being. Hikaru eventually gives in to Sai's desire, and very slowly begins to form his own passion for the ancient game of Go.
Like Hikaru, children in Japan and all over Asia are suddenly taking an interest in Go. After every episode, there is a brief live-action segment called "Go Go Igo" with one of Japan's female professional Go players, Umezawa Yukari. Yukari-sensei, along with her two young students, Mai-chan and Yuuki-kun, present a small lesson about Go in each segment that helps you understand the game, and therefore understand some of the references in the anime. These lessons are presented so well that I, who knew absolutely nothing about this game before watching this anime, went out in search of places to play Go online. There was even a page in one of the tankoubon with information on where one can play Go and a number to call for information.
Hikaru no Go has spawned such a great newfound interest in Go among Japanese children that the Japanese Go Institute recently hosted a Hikaru no Go beginners Go class, attended by hundreds of children. Beginner's Go boards featuring the Hikaru no Go characters were handed out to the participants, and Yukari-sensei, Mai-chan, and Yuuki-kun were there for the festivities. Clearly, this anime and manga has started something big. Hikaru no Go just started its run on TV Tokyo a few short months ago in October of 2001, and already there is a collectible card game and a Game Boy Advance game for the series.
The animation for this show is very clean and nicely done. Sometimes the angles make the characters look a little weird, but for the most part, the artwork and storyline follow the manga closely. The soundtrack is good, but nothing spectacular. The background music is fitting for the show, but the tension music that plays during some of the Go matches can get a little repetitive if you're paying attention to it. However, if you're anything like me, you'll be so into the match that you won't even notice the BGM.
I actually had to go back and rewatch an episode, specifically concentrating on the background music, because I hadn't really paid attention to it before. It's not bad, and it fits the action that it accompanies. It fades very easily into the background, which is probably the desired effect. The opening song is "Get Over" by dream, and is fittingly inspirational, a very "Keep your head up and never surrender! We'll make it together!" kind of song. Again, the music for this series is good, but nothing truly special.
The sieyuu for Hikaru no Go are definitely no strangers to Studio Pierrot productions, as well as some other major productions. The vocal work for Hikaru is done by Kawakami Tomoko (Chiriko, Fushigi Yuugi; Noelle, Tenshi ni Narumon; Utena, Revolutionary Girl Utena). Kazaku Yumi (Mikage Aya, Ayashi no Ceres) voices Hikaru's friend, Akari. Chiba Nobuo voices Fujiwara no Sai, and Touya Akira is done by Kobayashi Makoto.
As mentioned before, Hikaru no Go began it's run on TV Tokyo in October of 2001. It is currently being fansubbed by Elite Fansubs, and episodes 1-14 are available online in digital format at the time this article was written. Translations for volumes 1-8 of the manga are also available on the web. Hikaru no Go is geared towards junior-high age children of both sexes, but judging from fan groups online, both the manga and anime are wildly popular across every age group and around the globe. Even if you have no interest in Go, give this anime a chance - Hikaru didn't think he'd like it, either.
|HIKARU NO GO: CHARACTER DOSSIER
Hikaru's friend and neighbor. They attend the same school. Akari was with Hikaru when he found the Goban at his grandfather's house, and has been the very confused witness to his transformation since then.
|Fujiwara no Sai
Spirit of a Go player from the Heian era. Sai used to teach Go to the emperor, but was tricked and cast out in disgrace. He ended his own life in utter sadness, but his spirit can't rest until he achieves the "Hand of God".
The 3rd member of the Haze Jr. High Go club. Mitani used to cheat at Go for money, but has reformed with a little help from Hikaru and Sai.
Currently a student at Haze Jr. High, and member of the Go club. In 6th grade, he was better at sports than anything else, until he suddenly became attached to a 1,000 year old spirit (named Fujiwara no Sai) who wants nothing but to play Go.
A child genius, the same age as Hikaru but on the level of a professional Go player. His father is the current Meijin (a Go title) in Japan. Akira was beaten by Hikaru twice, because Hikaru was playing how Sai told him to, and now Akira views Hikaru as his rival and an obstacle which he must overcome in order to achieve the "Hand of God". Akira is a student at Kaiou Jr. High, a rival school.
Captain of the Haze Jr. High Go club. Tsutsui is very unsure of himself, but always encouraging to others. He's a really nice guy, and also teaches Go to Akari when Hikaru's not around.
Studio Pierrot official website (Japanese)
TV Tokyo official website (Japanese)
Hikaru no Go manga scanlations
Elite Fansubs website
The Go Institute