12-year-old Shindou Hikaru is just your average 6th grader. One day, while searching through his grandfather's attic, he comes across an old Go board. Upon touching the Go board, Hikaru is possessed by the spirit of Fujiwara no Sai, and continues to be haunted by him soon after. Sai was once a great Go player, who committed suicide and continued to stay in the world as a spirit desiring only to play Go once again. Finally bending to Sai's pleas, Hikaru allows Sai to play Go through himself, unknowingly attempting the first game with the young prodigy Touya Akira. Time has finally started moving, as Sai's quest for the perfect game, "The Hand of God", is set underway. Based on the manga by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata.
#1: "Bokura no Bouken" by Kids Alive (eps 1-12) #2: "Hitomi no Chikara" by Mizuki Arisa (eps 13-30) #3: "Sincerely ~ever dream~" by dream (eps 31-46) #4: "Days" by shela (eps 47-63) #5: "Music is My Thing" by Dream (eps 64-74) #6: "Get Over ~Special Mix~" by dream (ep 75)
How on earth could anyone make a 75 episode anime about a school kid playing a 3000 year old board game? Surely there must be a lot of filler episodes. Those were my initial thoughts but Hikaru No Go had a great rating on Animenfo and I decided to start watching it.
The first thing to do is to collect the entire series of 75 episodes, the special and the Journey to Hokuta Cup before you start. One of the most amazing things about Hikaru No Go is it's ability to capture the viewer from the get go, once you start watching, it's like you don't
want to stop. Every episode except for Story Arc endings is a mini-cliffhanger motivating you to start the next episode. This perfection of editing and pacing has not been achieved by many other anime.
The story centers around Shindou Hikaru, a 12 year old school boy. He's just had his allowance cut and was in the midst of rummaging through his grandfather's garage looking for something to sell for money when he picks up a "Go" board inhabited by the ghost of Fujiwara No Sai, a genius Go player from the Heian dynasty. Sai has unfinished business in this world, he wants to achive "The Divine Hand or Hand of God" in go. He possesses then haunts Hikaru ~ all he wants to do is play Go.
Initially Hikaru lets Sai play by moving the stones for him but he starts to fall in love with the game and starts playing himself. The series is a coming-of-age, maturing of new talent, exposure to the competitive world of Go and the beauty of the game. There's a nice large cast of supporting characters, all of which are fascinating in their own right.
The soundtrack is wonderful and fits the scenes well. The animation does have some frame reuse but it's done by the same artist who did Death Note and is good. As the series continues you can physically "see" the characters growing up, they get taller and their faces change.
One of the reasons Hikaru No Go is such a good anime is because Sai is the best anime character ever created (in my opinion). He's very loveable, smart, funny, honorable AND he's a Go genius.He shows amazing patience with Hikaru's moods and childishness, not just being his friend but also teaching and mentoring him from nothing to greatness at Go. Sai is just one of those characters you'll never forget. He has a big heart.
Having dated a nationally ranked chess player in my wild and mis-spent youth, I was amazed at how faithfully the series captures the world of competitive board game sports ~ rivalry, one-up manship, jealousy, excessive obsession with the game, psychological warfare, pushy teachers, they're all there and exist in real life. Even a person who doesn't play Go can understand it as it is presented in the anime.
The series has many layers of philosophy behind it that escape most people the first time around.
* How great is a person's desire for something?
* Can one live, obsessed with a game and winning?
* To achieve greatness there is always a price one must pay, in time, or friendships sacrificed by oneself or others. How far should one go?
* How should one deal with or live with regrets from one's past actions?
* Do people care about legacy and what should one try to leave behind?
* If a goal seems "unreachable / unattainable" is it still worth pursuing?
On surface the plot seems simple but in reality it's very profound, that's one of the reasons I consider this series a masterpiece. It could easily go on for another 75 episodes and I would want them all. Even after it ended, I was still thinking about it and craving more. I even started playing Go online. The manga sparked a resurgence of interest in Go in Japan, wih some message boards featuring posts by Go professionals stating that they wish they could play against Sai. For an anime to arouse this level of interest is amazing. Hikaru No Go deserves to rank much higher than it does, it is truly a masterpiece.
Hikaru no Go is, in essence, an anime about the world of Go; about the game, the friendships and rivalries that arise in this world, the challenges, obstacles and feelings. This is a lot to actually live up to, and Hikaru no Go most certainly fills its role well.
It starts out very simle, in a way you've probably seen before. The main character, Shindou Hikaru, encounters a paranormal apparition by coincidence while stumbling around in his shed, and only he can see it. Said apparition is, in fact, the ghost of a skilled Go player from the past, Fujiwara no Sai. He really wants to
play a game of Go, and as such Hikaru brings him along to a Go salon, where he finds a kid his age which he can play. Since only Hikaru sees Sai, Hikaru must play the pieces for him. Of course, fate throws a twist by letting the opponent be a prodigy almost strong enough to become a professional Go player. Sai, skilled as he is, beats this kid, Touya Akira, to a pulp. From here, a wild goose chase after the illusion of Hikaru starts. Sai of coruse manages to get Hikaru into the game, and he eventually chases after Akira. As such we have Hikaru chasing after Akira, who again is chasing what he thinks is Hikaru. Voilá, the stage is set for an intense anime full of emotions, drama and, of course, Go.
The plot from there is, for the most part, what I said above. Through tournaments, encounters at Go salons, school Go clubs, Inseis (aspiring professionals), and eventually the professional world of Go, we see these two chase after each other, and what remains in their wake. Quite honestly, the plot is very barebones, but that is completely irrelevant, because Hikaru no Go is in each and every way a character-driven series, which makes it in many ways more riveting and inspring than a plot-driven series.
And characters, we lack not. Aside the intense, heart-throbbing rivalry that develops between Akira and Hikaru, there are bucketloads of interesting side characters, who range from Go club members to hardened professionals who gaze as these two young players lead on a new wave of young and skilled Go players. Mostly everyone gets an acceptable amount of development, for example the challengers; why they play and what's at stake for them are usually revealed in a gripping way - I surely don't think I've ever rooted for ten characters when all of them posed as adversaries to the main character. The professionals and newspaper people's reaction to these up-and-coming kids, it all seems so real you kind of experience their surprise and excitement at this.
But of course, I can't get lost in the characters only; even though the characters are so good it's easy to forget the artistic qualities of the show, one must not at all forget the music and animation, which both play an impressive behind-the-scenes role in making this series what it is.
Let me ask you one question: When you were a teen, or if you're one now, have you ever looked at a picture from when you were two-three years younger? If so, the reaction "Holy mother of love, did I look *that* young?" is probably a familiar one. And when you watch this series, you'll probably end up thinking the same. For this is indeed a coming-of-age anime, following Akira and Hikaru from sixth grade through ninth grade, or three years. Their growth, while seen mostly in their Go playing and their personalities, is also very much reflected in the animation. Towards the end of the series, I asked myself: "Did they always look like that?". When they showed us flashbacks to the beginning, I realized, they did not. While you can recognize them, it is actually impressively easy to spot that they were different. Their faces, so much more child-like, and their stature lower. Much lower. I commend Pierrot for doing such a great job of reflecting their growth physically, too. It was so smooth that I couldn't say from one episode to another that, "hey, he looks older!", but on an overall basis, by skipping, say, twenty or so episodes at a time, I see that they gradually change.
Apart from that, the animators did an outstanding job. The next thing on the list is probably how they made the Go matches very interesting to watch. Just pain watching the stones being placed could've been very deterring, at least in the beginning. So instead they throw in a heap of special effects; lights, shadows, camera angles, intense effects when placing stones, even changing the background to make the game more in the center of attention, or even make a symbolic scape, for example the universe itself, symbolizing the "world" that is the Go board, and even the so-called Divine Move.
In general, Pierrot did an awesome job of making the show pretty to look at. Now, even in 2002 you had better-looking series, but it does not change the fact that it looks really nice. And they improve as they go on. It looks only mediocre in the first episode compared to the final episode. Among the stronger points I can mention clothes, backgrounds and effects when playing Go. The weaker parts are a bit annoying, but are mostly fixed upon as they go along, creating a most aesthetically enjoyable series. One problem is faces, which look a bit weird - at times some details are a bit misplaced -, but they do a nice job of expressiions, while not going overboard with them either, keeping a fairly serious tone. And later on, when I saw the sheer intensity in their eyes, I just thought "whoa!" and had to let a drop of sweat run down my cheek. The other problem is that sometimes when they placed stones on the board, the perspective was done entirely wrong, when the rest of the stones already there looked real nice. This, too, improved very much as the series went on, and in the latter stages I noticed very litte to none of this problem.
And now, the soundtrack, which was done quite nicely. No, that's an understatement. It was inspiring and evocative, all the while not taking over the series, doing a nice job behind the scenes to build up and strengthen the emotional impacts of the show. The intense feelings of the games, the sad feelings that happened occasionally between characters, it was all done with music that reinforced those feelings and made it enjoyable to the point where I felt this tingling feeling in my stomach. The opening and ending themes are quite nice, too. The first opening, "Get Over" by Dream, especially; its synth-pop rythms and lyrics are very inspiring, but it doesn't completely outmatch the others; they were all very strong candidates for favoritism and defnitely a worthwhile watch. Not to mention the final ending theme, which is a ten-minute half-instrumental, half-original mix of Get Over. That was a masterful piece of music.
All in all, Hikaru no Go provides sufficient character-driven, intense and emotional entertainment, which most people would find interesting. And don't let the pretense of a baord game like Go deter you from watching; it is hhgly enjoyable, and though I didn't really care for the Go, it remained interesting throughout the whole series. And the more enjoyable aspects of the show will definitely overshadow it if it comes to that. And for new and seasoned Go players alike, this is a very interesting ashow to watch!
This is somewhat of an anomaly. If you had told me that one of my favorite series was going to be a show about people playing go, I would've laughed and told you that you clearly don't know me. Yet, here it is.
Admittedly it's been a few years since I watched Hikaru. Working in the time to rewatch a 75 episode series isn't feasible when there's other anime to watch out there. However, that doesn't matter much as I will explain below.
Let's talk about the story first:
I rated Hikaru no Go an 8 on story because I felt like while it's exceptional, the story is
pretty simply about Hikaru playing go. You might be wondering how a story can be exceptional with something so basic, but it isn't about the go games themselves (which I'll talk about in a few paragraphs) Rather it's about Hikaru and the people he meets as he learns to play Go. It's about his relationships with them and how he grows into manhood.
The fact this series takes place over several years is nice. In my opinion, there's no better time to see a characters development than when they're children. It's something we can all relate to in some regard. Also, kids tend to be more expressive of their emotions which makes it easier to know what they're thinking, which really helps in character development.
The number one reason you should watch this show is the character development. That being said, you might be curious to hear about the go aspect of the show.
Go is the primary focus of 90% of the characters you'll meet. If you have no idea how to play go, let me give you the absolute minimal stuff you need to know.
Go is a game about territory. You place down stones to create territory and the goal is to have the most territory in the game. If someone surrounds a piece (or pieces) they take those pieces and gain more of the board's territory.
That's all you really need to understand about the game to enjoy the series. While you're watching, I can almost guarantee you'll want to learn more, but as the series goes on, you'll find that it becomes too difficult to keep up with. Due to the fact that the game involves a deep sense of strategy once you move past the basics. But you don't need that knowledge to enjoy the tension. You don't need the knowledge to understand the joy of victory or the shock of defeat.
Give it a try if you really like character driven anime.
Hikaru no Go is a pretty old series at this point. 2001-2003 was over 10 years ago and obviously it wont compare to modern day animation. Nothing really bothered me about the art though, and so I don't think my rating here should matter. But I'll give it a "good" just to say that I had no problems with it.
Sound: The music in this series was always great for creating the right atmosphere. To emphasize this, I sometimes experienced a fuzziness through my body whenever I started hearing the ending music start playing when the episode was wrapping up. It was like they were pumping me up and making me excited to see the next episode.
Character: Like I mentioned in the story section, this is why you should watch Hikaru no Go.
Enjoyment: If you're wondering if you'll enjoy the series at this point, then let me offer a piece of advice. Watch the first opening (try to find the best quality you can) If that doesn't convince you to at least watch an episode, then maybe it wont be your thing :x
An anime about a grade school boy playing a board game. Sounds intense, huh? *cough*
That's what I thought when I first heard about Hikaru no Go. But how about something like this: A young boy is introduced to a board game unchanged through nearly three millenia by the spirit of a top player still yearning to complete what is called the "Hand of God." But then again, everything sounds good when you throw in big words.
Hikaru no Go is essencially the story of Shindou Hikaru as he is inhabited by Fujiwara no Sai - a genius go player from the Heian Period. As Hikaru is
inducted into the world of Go as Sai's 'hands,' he sees for himself that an entire world built on the base of a board game exists almost secluded from reality.
As he watches Sai play, Hikaru develops a want to play himself. What makes this story reach out towards you is that not only do you watch on as Hikaru's will to play increases, but you yourself also want to play.
At times you'll be watching two players put down stones while dramatic music plays in the background. To an outsider, this may seem a bit odd and lame but when you truly watch it, everything feels correct. Hikaru no Go is not just the story of Shindou playing a game. Throughout the anime, Hikaru matures eventually realizing that the world of Go isn't just built on a game but the emotions -for the game- each player possess.
The animation proves to hold very consistent through the entire anime, peaking towards the end as Hikaru becomes older. There isn't much flash or bang to each episode but there's always a well done scene when needed.
Too many openings and endings to count. There'll be at least one that you enjoy - not to mention the OST is half decent, with a few tracks standing out (Honda vs. Izumi!).
You'll be introduced to a huge cast with only a handfull being quite important to the plot and even then a smaller handfull remaining important to the plot after their 5 seconds.
If you're interested in a story about a young boy pushing through the world as he experiences that you can't always do what you want and make the best situation of things, check out Hikaru no Go.
We are mostly all here to watch anime and read manga, but there is plenty more in Japanese fiction that we can take advantage of. Here is a primer on modern Japanese literature and novels translated to English that anime fans should consider reading.