I've been a subscriber to the English version of Shonen Jump
since it started up in the States a couple of years ago. Along with
Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Yugioh and other action based manga strips, there
was a rather unique series that started early on: Hikaru No Go.
When I first encountered it I was a little confused. This wasn't
a fighting series, like all of the others were. It was based on the
game of Go, a complex strategic game that is the eastern equivalent to
chess. Surely there must be a mistake. After reading the first
installment though, I was hooked. The series has all of the drama
and excitement of it's more violent counterparts while telling a story
that quickly hooks the reader. As with many popular manga, Hikaru
No Go has been turned into an anime show, and the first volumes are
now being released in the US. Like the manga, the first volume
is all you need to get hooked.
In the Heian era (about 1000 years ago), Fujiwara-no-Sai was one of
two Go teachers who instructed the Emperor in the fine points of the game.
One day the two instructors played against each other to see who would
be the sole tutor for the Emperor, and Sai lost after his opponent cheated.
Unable to deal with the disgrace and having no other skills, Sai took his
Jump to the present day where a young boy named Hikaru discovers an
old go board in his grandfather's attic that has a brown stain on it.
The only thing is that no one else can see the stain. When Hikaru
tries to clean the board and get rid of the discoloration, he hears a voice
in his head...the ghost of Fujiwara-no-Sai.
It's been 150 years since someone with the same passion for the game
of Go has touched the board that Sai's spirit is trapped in.
Now he's raring to play the game again. The only problem is that
Hikaru has no interest in the game. He's a slacker who gets poor
grades and has never played Go.
After Sai pesters him enough, Hikaru goes to a Go club and lets the
ghost play a game Sai tells Hikaru where to place the stones, and
the boy follows his instructions. Unfortunately Hikaru challenges
Akira Toya, son of the reigning Go champion of Japan and a boy who is planning
on becoming a professional player soon...and Sai manages to beat him with
ease. The budding professional can't believe another child his age
beat him without breaking a sweat, much less one who has never played the
game before. Now Hikaru has a rival, one that doesn't realize that
he actually has little skill.
This is a fun show that works just as well as the manga does.
There's a fair amount of humor, especially with Sai discovering all of
the new things that have been invented since he died. The story of
Hikaru learning to play the game himself and his rivalry with Akira is
the meat of the show though and this plot is able to hold the viewer's
interest and keep them coming back for more.
One of the nice things about this show is you don't have to know anything
about Go in order to enjoy it. They mention the basic rules over
the course of the program, and there are Go playing tips for youngsters
at the end of every episode, but you can easily follow the plot even if
you don't know the difference between a komi and a star point.
The animation is about average for a TV show. There's a fair amount
of detail, but not a lot, and the movements look natural and smooth.
This isn't a show with a lot of impressive battle scenes, so the images
aren't astounding, but the style fits the tone of the show.
This show comes with the original Japanese soundtrack and an English
dub, both in stereo. I alternated tracks while viewing the disc and
preferred the original language over the English track. Some of the
English voices were a little exaggerated and unnatural sounding, especially
those of the minor characters. Both tracks were free of defects and
sounded nice and clear.
The full frame image looked pretty good overall. The colors were
bright and solid, and the lines were clean and strong. The only real
problem was a fair amount of aliasing that appears throughout the show, especially when
the camera pans across the grid of the go board. Aside from this
defect, the show looks good.
There are only a few extras on this disc. First off is a "Know
your Go" glossary which defines some Go terms and gives brief biographies
of historical people mentioned in the show. There is also a
20 image art gallery, a preview of the manga, and a clean opening and closing.
Even if you've never heard of the game of Go before, this is an entertaining
show. Filled with light humor and an engrossing plot, the show is
easy to get hooked on. A fun show that's worth viewing. This
disc gets a strong recommendation.