Hikaru no Go Vol. 1
It's been a while since I thought about Hikaru no Go (I believe Holly featured it way back in our March 2002 issue), but when it was finally made available in English and for only $7.95, I couldn't pass it up.
Hikaru Shindou was helping his friend, Akari Fujisaki, explore his attic when the two children discover an antique Go board. Go is a game of strategy similar to chess. It involves stones of two different colors on a standard sized playing board. The object of the game, in a nutshell, is to capture your opponent's pieces, though of course it's far more complex than it sounds.
At the story's beginning, Hikaru really doesn't know anything more about Go than I do, but when he discovers the aged board, he reawakens the spirit of a master Go player named Fujiwara no Sai. Sai becomes linked to Hikaru, informing him that he cannot rest until he manages to perform the Divine Move, which is as much of a pain for Hikaru as it is for Sai.
However, as Hikaru is introduced to the world of Go, he finds it far more interesting than he believed it could be, and with the ghost of a master player sharing his body, he has a bit of an edge over other players.
He quickly draws attention to himself as he casually defeats well-respected players in his area. He has much to learn about Go etiquette, however, and though at first he was only playing to appease Sai, he slowly begins to start making his own moves and enjoying the challenge that the game presents.
This series surprised me even though I've heard nothing but positive reviews from fellow manga fans about it. I'm actually feeling a desire to start playing Go myself, but aside from the lessons for the ancient strategy game, the book is consistently entertaining. The contrast between Sai and Hikaru is rather amusing, and despite the playful tone of the first volume, there's an underlying maturity to the story that keeps me interested in what's to come in future installments.
Takeshi Obata's artwork is visually pleasing, and it features a wide variety of genuinely expressive characters. Of particular distinction are the chapter sketches, which are fully shaded and very well illustrated. Characters are cartoonish, but Obata maintains the integrity of the designs with impressive precision.
The book is unflipped, but the sound effects have been replaced with English translations. There really aren't too many sound effects in a story about Go, but I suppose I can accept these changes seeing as the book is primarily targeted toward a younger audience than other manga titles.
Also included in the release is a bonus story featuring a Go challenge. Really, the more I think about the game, the more I want to learn how to play it, and perhaps Hikaru no Go is just the right series to hone my skills and strategies as I pick up this new hobby.
I'm not sure how much I'll enjoy playing Go, but I do know that I really like Hikaru no Go, finding it an easy recommendation to manga fans of any age. Especially at the Shonen Jump price of $7.95 - it'd be a sin to pass up this book at such a great price.
Consider yourself warned, however - you might just find yourself a new addiction after reading this one. Not only will you want Volume Two when it arrives, but you also might end up looking for a book teaching you how to play Go.