When Hikaru Shindou discovers an old go board in his grandfather's attic, he is greeted by the spirit of an ancient go master, Sai Fujiwara no. Sai spent his life teaching the techniques of the board game to an emperor during the Heian era, and now in his ghostly state, he is eager to share his passion with the unsuspecting Hikaru. The only problem is that Hikaru is not all that interested in board games. But Sai is not easily dissuaded. Pressured by Sai's unrelenting desire to pursue something he refers to as the "Divine Move," Hikaru begrudgingly consents to playing the game, executing moves as dictated by Sai. But slowly, intrigued by the dedication of his peers, he begins to learn the basics of the game.
As Hikaru enters into the world of go, guided by his intangible tutor and inspired by his rival, Akira Touya, he cannot help but be drawn into the complex game as he grows determined to prove his own abilities. In a coming-of-age story centering around an ancient board game, Hikaru no Go tells the story of a boy maturing through the pursuit of his newfound passion.
As ancient Oriental board games go (no pun intended) Go, has a reputation for being either extremely boring, extremely difficult, extremely intense, or all of the above. It is not an easy game to play and a game is not easily finished, either. Yet Hikaru no Go, a manga that's all about Go and little else, made it seem exciting and interesting enough to stir some new-found appreciation for one of the oldest games around.
Strange how action-packed manga rarely draw me in, but a manga about a board game (for crying out loud, a BOARD GAME!) can drive me nuts and leave me crying over
cliffhangers. Each chapter is more fascinating than the last and if you find yourself saying "I'll stop reading after this chapter...No, after the next one...Damn it's a cliffhanger, I have to read the next volume...When it gets dark, I'll stop...I'll turn on the lights..." You probably won't rest until you've pretty much read all the volumes available to you.
Aside from the engaging story, the art by Obata Takeshi is also something to love. The art is simple, yet the crispness of the images lends a freshness. The inks are bold and striking - no swishy strands, frail noses, and feathers and cherry blossoms here. Everything is pretty much realistic. The details right down to the shoes are awesome. Seriously, I love Hikaru's outfits. He's like a Nike posterboy or something. Also, if you read the manga from volume 1 all the way to 20 in one go (again, no pun intended) you will notice something rather surprising. Hikaru grows up right before your very eyes. Literally. I have seen manga in which the storyline spans at least two years and yet the characters never change. But here, Hikaru grows taller, loses some of the baby fat, and Akari fills out. This attention to detail is really very interesting. About the only thing that remains the same on Shindou-kun is his hair - though it's shorter in the back in the later volumes. The art style also grows cleaner and the inking smoother as the series goes along, which shows that Hikaru isn't the only one whose style is growing and changing. Obata Takeshi's art, by the end of volume 23, is noticeably similar to his incredible work in Death Note and is a far cry from HikaGo's first volume.
However, the manga may not be for everyone. I admit that people who do not like wordy manga or manga with no action, magic or romance will probably not enjoy this very much. Still, if you want substance and realistic inner struggles without the excessive angst and hyperactive SD-ness (although there are still some of those), this is a good manga to read. It can appeal to anybody with even the tiniest bit of ambition, as that is ultimately what the story is about. Those who like comedy can enjoy this, too, as it doesn't take itself too seriously. It would be better if you have some small working knowledge of Go, so you might want to check the game out and play sometimes (though playing is likely to drive you even more nuts). Hopefully, Hikaru no Go will achieve one of its obvious goals - to reach out and make the youth (or anyone, really) interested in this difficult yet highly satisfying strategy game.
Finished being published in 2003, created by Takeshi Obata (art), known for his works on Death Note and Bakuman and Yumi Hotta (story); Hikaru no Go (English: “Hikaru’s Go”) is one rollercoaster of a manga.
Go, the main focus of the story is an ancient tactics game that originated from China approximately 3000 years ago. A complex game, much of the equivalent to Chess and is commonly known to be played amongst the elder generations.
This is where Hikaru no Go comes in. Taking the youth by storm and literally turning the Go world around, it takes a presumptively boring game which only ‘oldies’ are
thought to play and incorporates it into a teenager’s manga. And it’s no one trick pony as to how it popularizes Go practically overnight.
The story is simple; Hikaru is plummeted into the world of Go after Sai, a spirit from a Go board takes residence in his consciousness. Through Sai Hikaru starts taking an interest in the game. Sai (by dictating moves to Hikaru) beats the child prodigy Akira. Thinking it was really Hikaru who had beaten him, Akira starts chasing down Hikaru - starting an epic battle and rivalry for many years to come.
The story is, in essence, realistic. Not the part about Sai taking place in Hikaru’s mind and whatnot but the part about Hikaru starting off and remaining for a long time, a mere amateur. So he doesn’t start off like everyone else, what with a spirit starting off his passion, but his progress and journey from amateur to pro is. Even with the supernatural element the story still remains realistic, because that element is very minor.
In most shounens the main character has a lot of natural talent and always seem to beat every major opponent that endangers his honour or him becoming the best, however Hikaru has or does neither. He isn‘t the best during the course of the series, loses a LOT of games throughout it and just isn’t annoyingly fabulous like most shounen protagonists.
How it manages to run for 191 chapters on a story that is supposed to be all about Go isn’t a wonder either, because it DOESN’T just focus on Go throughout the whole saga. There are many games shown throughout the series, yes, but also keep in mind that it is also a drama.
And what a drama it is.
Character relationships and character themselves play a big part in the drama aspect. One important character relationship is Sai and Hikaru. Teacher and Student. Friends. They may be forced to be stuck with each other but it becomes apparent that they value each other companionship. Yumi Hotta’s clever manipulation of this pair brings the reader to some level of wrenched heart as you progress through the manga, as you would assume this goofy pair would always remain a comedic goofy pair.
The rivalry between Akira and Hikaru is another splendid character relationship present throughout the manga. It’s an awkward relationship. They don’t like the other but they don’t dislike them either. They’re rivals but to an extent they also become friends. It’s an admirable rivalry, possibly up there with L and Light’s rivalry from Death Note. From the age of 12 to 16 and probably for the rest of their natural lives they are completely obsessed with chasing the other’s shadow, trying to beat them. They’re eternal rivals. The other’s existence becomes so important to them because without the other, Go becomes boring for both.
Art critic or not there’s no doubt that Takeshi’s Obata is extraordinary. The art is so realistic it’s hard to remember that HnG is only a story, as it is as if the whole thing is brought to life. Even the most minute detail is there - from backgrounds to the clothing patterns to the design on the shoes. The most amazing thing again about the art is Hikaru and Akira (and every other character who started out as a 12 year old at the start of the manga). As aforementioned, the story starts from when they’re 12 years old till they’re 16, so when you read the manga you literally see them grow right before you, volume to volume - which adds to the “coming of age” part of the story. They become taller, their baby fat thins, and their jaw and shoulders become more defined. Not only do they grow height wise, but also in maturity. Character development is another excellent part of HnG. Every experience brings forth a lesson for these characters, every volume shows a little difference in their character. Hikaru may have started off as a naïve, ignorant and somewhat insensitive little boy but no way does he end like this.
The fact that the characters develop physically and mentally adds sentimentality to the story. You feel a part of their lives. The reader can’t help but feel things for the characters when they have conflicting inner struggles and resolves or even for the outside battles.
The other characters in the HnG family are fantastic; do not be fooled that this is just about Hikaru and Akira. Every character is important -- all carrying their own personalities, struggles and values. Of course with it being a manga about Go, most characters would be Go players; though this does not necessarily mean that they are only shown before the Go board. Moreover, the fundamental characters aren’t just kids. There’s a wide range of ages in characters -- from as young as 10 years old to as old as 60. Surprisingly, these adults are just as common to see in HnG just as much as the kids -- especially in shounen this is certainly a rare see, since adults either seem to extinct, easily disposable or unimportant in them. There’s even a broad range of nationality: Koreans, Chinese, Germans, Americans etc. showing that Go is an international game enjoyed throughout the world.
What surprises most readers is the exceptional emotional drama, which isn’t as strong in the anime. Although the anime has done an excellent job in sticking with the manga storyline the intensity, feelings, atmosphere and drama is far beyond that of the anime version. It is almost a wonder how a manga about a board game can manipulate a person’s emotions so well - it can have you laughing, annoyed, moved, feel sad and (if you’re a bit of a softy) cry. The only real problem I had with this manga is its unsatisfactory ending, right in the last couple of pages of the final chapter. However, this can be cast aside because of my overall enjoyment of the rest of the series which undoubtedly high.
Knowledge of Go is irrelevant when reading this. Most foreign readers do not know what Go is when they start. However, inevitably the reader will want to know and learn about Go. Filled with inspirational messages along the way, great characters, development and bonds, realistic stories and quite questionably, exciting games it’s no mystery as to how it managed to sell 22 million copies in Japan alone and even stir up the Go world in other countries around the world.
This is a 23 volume series that's about people playing a board game. Throughout the course of the series, they play the game, they get better at it, they play against people who are pretty good at it, then they play some more. Why would I give a series that's pretty accurately summarized by that a 9? Because it's amazing.
Really, the plot is not as boring as it sounds. The story isn't really about the game. It's not like sitting and watching a chess match. Really, the actual amount of game playing is brief, and they don't go into too much depth about it that
a complete noob to Go wouldn't understand it. The most interesting components about the story comes from the opponents that they play against, the dramatic irony that no one else knows that Hikaru has who is pretty much the freaking God of Go on his side, and how the characters--both the protagonists and "antagonists"--are both trying to improve themselves.
The characters, in this way, are one of the greatest elements in the story. I read this quote from somewhere that the story doesn't go anywhere with just a strong protagonist. You need a strong antagonist, or rival, for there to be any enjoyment in the story. In this case, we have a super strong rival known as Akira Toya. The story isn't about some overpowered protagonists taking down everything in his way to stay overpowered. It's about him moving through these obstacles to achieve something that's greater than him.
BUT by far, the greatest part of the characters was the development. It was done so beautifully. Hikaru develops not only in his gameplay, but in his attitude. All of the characters change and aspire to something. But another part of character development that some manga and anime tend to forget is physical development. In this case, the story starts off pre-puberty, and the artist made sure to make slight changes in the character design to show their physical growth, and it was such a nice touch. The best part was, I didn't even realize it was happening when it was, so it almost gave you a connection to the characters, like how family members you haven't seen in a while will tell you that "you've grown!"
The only reason why my review is a 9 is because not all of the questions I had about the series, and not all of the concepts they brought in were directly answered or explained. There was no gigantic plot hole that destroyed the manga like some of the things I've read. In comparison, there was just a few bumps. But not all of the questions can be answered.
I think my favorite thing about this manga is that I can't quite put my finger on what I loved so much about it. I've talked to some of my friends about it, and some said that they couldn't get into it, but I think if you can, you'll end up loving it. I would completely recommend all manga lovers to read it.
If you do decide to read it, obviously just try out the first one or two volumes before committing. Once you do, though, when you get to about volume 19, get all the ones that come after that. There's a bit of an arch that starts to form around there, and it's also towards the end of the series, and you don't want to find yourself in that position with no more books, but it's not like I'm mentioning that due to personal experience or anything.
I absolutely loved Hikaru no Go. (A little bit of trivia: For those who didn't know this already, Hikaru no Go was drawn by the same artist who drew Death Note, Obata Takeshi-sensei.)
Actually, I've already heard of Hikago a long time ago. However, I felt no sense of urgency to read it. I knew it was good though since I hadn't come across any bad reviews for it. But being primarily a shoujo fan, I lacked enough interest to actually download/buy the manga. It wasn't until I bought an issue of Shonen Jump which contained some chapters of Hikago that I had a reason to
read the manga.
This issue contained only a few chapters but it generated enough interest for me to look for the earlier chapters. It was just that good. The story and art simply hooked me.
One would think that a manga about a game you barely know about would probably be boring and confusing. On the contrary, it was anything but. The manga was more about the characters' development and their interactions with each other. It would help if you knew a little about the game but if you didn't, it was okay too. (I had no idea about the game of Go.) It was truly a coming-of-age type of manga as you would witness the growth of the characters, both literally and metaphorically. The story, in the beginning, especially when they were introducing characters, was very engaging. I literally couldn't bring myself to stop reading it. (Which is why I finished it in 3 days. =_=)
The story becomes a little boring in the second saga though. Which would explain for the 9 points in the Story and Enjoyment area.
Now, the art. I could not simply rave enough about Obata-sensei's art. It is simply wonderful. This isn't surprising as he had mentored the likes of mangaka Kentaro Yabuki (Black Cat), Nobuhiro Watsuki (Rurouni Kenshin) and Yusuke Murata (Eyeshield 21), among many others. Another plus side to reading Hikago is you would witness the evolution of Obata-sensei's art. His style of drawing differs as the chapters go on. Definitely a good reason to read the manga.
Yumi Hotta (the author) did a wonderful work in making the characters. There are a lot of characters and, although it may seem like hard work, she managed to shed light on their personalities, struggles and victories. Character development is (there's no other word for it) sugoi. It is for this reason (and the amazing art) that I have more than my share of character favorites in the series. :3
I thoroughly enjoyed this series and I recommend it to anyone wanting a great, engaging read.
On the ending: I thought the ending was a little disappointing. Nonetheless, I didn't regret reading this great series. :)
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