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Old 10-24-2011, 08:14 PM   #1
Talon87
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Hikaru no Go


Hikaru is a delinquent child who does poorly in school until one day when he discovers an ancient Go board in his grandfather's attic. On the beautiful wooden surface, he sees a dark and spattered stain of blood. Nobody else seems to be able to see it, and suddenly, a ghost appears before Hikaru. It is the ghost of Fujiwarano Sai, the Heian Emperor's Go instructor, a ghost who lived one-thousand years ago and taught the game of Go in the royal court of Japan. He has haunted this Go board for many years, his spirit unable to pass on to the afterlife because of his undying love for Go and his desire to achieve "the Hand of God", the perfect, impenetrable Go strategy. He possesses Hikaru's body, taking residence within the boy, and their two conscious minds are now able to communicate with one another.

When Hikaru is forced to allow the ghost to play Go, he makes his way to a Go salon in the city. There, he finds a boy his own age with whom he can play the game. Little does he know that the boy is Touya Akira, perhaps the 2nd most brilliant Go player in all of Japan, second only to his father, Touya Meijin, the man closest to achieving the Hand of God. After a short game, Sai (through Hikaru) has defeated Touya. Touya had never been beaten before. Ever. And he believes his new rival to be none other than the simple Shindou Hikaru.

But as the plot begins to unfold, Hikaru develops a sincere interest in the game that has captivated minds for generations. He begins an unlikely student-teacher relationship with Sai, learning how to play Go. This causes great confusion and commotion in the competitive Go scene, where Hikaru is sometimes an idiot barely better skilled than a baby, and is other times so good that people swear he might be able to defeat Touya Meijin. Just who is this boy? And why does he win so well and then lose so badly? Is he just toying with us? Or is he just lucky? Or ... is it something else?

But even Hikaru is not fully in on the loop. Only Sai seems to be aware that while Hikaru may be a poor player today, he possesses a remarkable aptitude for the game's finer points. If he could be taught the way of Go, he could become the greatest. And so Sai resolves to set out on a mission of courage and friendship with the boy whose body he now haunts -- he will jointly attempt to discover the Hand of God and teach Shindou Hikaru everything he knows.
_________________________________________

This show is the best Yu-Gi-Oh!-like show I have ever seen in my life. I watched the first fourteen episodes in one 24 hour window. If you love perfectly written, sympathizable villains, this is your show. If you like amazingly well-written drama, this is your show. Basically, if you liked anything about or anybody from Yu-Gi-Oh! - Yami Yugi, Bakura, Seto Kaiba - this show is your show.

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Old 10-24-2011, 08:18 PM   #2
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Characters: (partial list)

Last edited by Talon87; 09-19-2013 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 10-24-2011, 08:25 PM   #3
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Plot: 10/10. One of the best stories I've ever seen. Epic. Beautiful. Tragic. This is a story that really makes you think, a lot, about a lot of various and important things in life. It's entertaining all the while, which serves to drive home the points even better. You'll be hard pressed, in my opinion, to find a better story in anime. There is one admitted grievance -- the use of filler episodes towards the end of the series to space out a dramatic plot twist and the series finale. However, half of them are good, and the other half would have been considered normal episodes if they'd only aired in the first season, so I'm willing to overlook this. The score is still perfect. :p

Characters: 10/10. You will instantly fall in love with the central trio in this series -- Shindou Hikaru, his mentor Fujiwarano Sai, and his rival Touya Akira. They are so realistically well-written in terms of emotions, motives and motivations, and various other psychological aspects. The supporting cast is also well-written and flavorful, something many animes fail to succeed at. It may not be Planetes, but it sure as hell warrants a perfect score in this category.

Animation: 8/10. Studio Pierrot produced this series in 2003, and yet it rarely looks a year younger than the mid-1990's Fushigi Yuugi. Despite this possible grievance, they definitely get bonus points for their interesting, dynamic representation of how a Go game progresses. Bird's eye view, side angle, and zoom-in shots of the Go board are all used very effectively. The studio also gets bonus points for perfectly animating the gradual aging of Shindou and Touya. If you're like me or my friend Aaron, you probably will notice the aging in real-time; but if you're also like us, you probably won't appreciate just how much they've GROWN until you begin to see some flashbacks towards the end of the series. Good job, Studio Pierrot.

Music: 6/10. There are five or more well-written background pieces in this show, including the overplayed battle music and the twice-used "super battle" music. But that's just the problem -- the great music is rare, and with the exception of one song it is all driven into the ground.

Replay Value: 7/10. This is a long series, weighing in at 75 episodes. And as mentioned earlier, there are several tedious filler episodes, particularly in the range of episodes 60 through 70. However, watching Hikaru re-evolve from delinquent to noble Go pro is something that fans will be sure to want to re-experience; and a second viewing with friends or family is sure to be much less painful.

Overall: 10/10. When I had finished the first ten episodes, I was already prepared to rank this series as one of my favorites of all time. Having completed it, I can say that it is just barely beaten out by several other titles. That stated, it is certainly one of the best stories I've ever seen.
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Old 10-24-2011, 08:51 PM   #4
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Thoughts: a collection of short essays written by me about various aspects of the show

WARNING: The contents of this post must not be read unless you have already completed the series. Under no circumstances should you expand the spoiler tags unless you've seen all three seasons. "Spoiler" really does mean spoiler! ^^;

Essay 1: The Siamese Dilemma
Spoiler: show
One of the most dramatic aspects of Hikaru no Go is what I will refer to as "the Siamese Dilemma". It is the result of two competing wills between two people sharing the same body. It is explored in two fashions: first, when the two wills are different from one another, and later in the series, when the wills are actually the same. While at first it might sound as though concordant wills would generate no trouble, it is actually this second case which is far more dramatic.

When the show begins, Hikaru wants nothing to do with Go, while Sai very desperately wants to play. This causes the first kind of Siamese Dilemma: two spirits in the same body have different goals in mind. This is resolved simplistically (although satisfactorily) -- Sai's depression at not getting to play Go again is so overpowering that Hikaru vomits uncontrollably. Hikaru is forced to acquiesce, if only in part, to Sai's wishes. He says to Sai, "I'll let you play [through my body] every once in a while, okay?" This is enough to please the ghost, and Hikaru considers it a minimal sacrifice if it means not having to feel sick all the time.

With time, Hikaru becomes interested in Go, and Sai is only too happy to teach the boy the rules and strategies of the game. Sai beams with pride as Hikaru becomes better and better, and even sets his sights on a future filled with Go. There is no longer an issue of competing wills. When Sai asks to play Go, Hikaru is happy to oblige. Similarly, when Hikaru asks Sai to tutor him, Sai happily tutors.

But as Hikaru becomes very skilled at the game, gradually approaching Sai's own talent level, a far more interesting dilemma arises. Before this point in the story, Hikaru allowed Sai to play difficult people across the Internet (for anonymity's sake -- we can't have people thinking Hikaru is the awesome player!), while Hikaru would play players equally weak to himself in their presence. In this manner, Hikaru could feel the fulfillment of his own progress at Go (with no cheating assistance from Sai), and Sai could still have fun against players far beyond Hikaru's skill level. But now ... Hikaru is good enough to play the best of the best. And he very much so wishes to. A troubling dilemma arises -- who gets to play?

If Sai gets to play the tough opponents, Hikaru's growth will remain stunted at a sub-ultimate level. He will be good. He will even be able to become a pro. But he will never be able to be "the best" because Sai would be the one playing the best and reaping the rewards. The best Hikaru could ever become is 3rd best, with Sai at 1st or 2nd and a different person whom Sai competes against occupying the other ranking.

If Hikaru gets to play the tough opponents, this leaves nobody for Sai. Now that Hikaru has become a pro, he can't play weaklings nor can he allow Sai to do so. Playing weak people in their presence would give Hikaru a bad professional name, as something of a bully picking on younger players. Playing weak people over the internet is just as flawed -- few professionals use the Internet to play Go, and of those who do, nearly all of their identities are found out sooner or later. A pro can play Go on the Internet without negative repercussions, but only if he's playing fellow elite players. So Hikaru's body can only play strong people (be it in person or online), and if Hikaru-the-spirit hogs all of the strong players to himself, Sai is stripped of the very game for which his soul has persisted on this Earth.

The way that the two reach their compromise is logical, although admittedly convenient -- Sai acknowledges that he's being selfish, and it's Hikaru's life to live, etc. etc. He just asks this one favor of the boy -- if Hikaru gets to play "all the other pros except for Touya Meijin", Sai reserves the right to play Touya Meijin, the five-title-holding champion of Japan, the best Go player on the planet, the man closest to attaining the Hand of God. In effect, this can be reduced to a simple dichotomy -- Hikaru gets for his ultimate rival Touya the Younger, while Sai gets for his sole rival Touya the Elder. Hikaru's (obviously) bummed out that he won't get to play Touya Meijin, but he figures this is the least he can do for the ghost who made him who he is today and has brought him down this wonderful path of Go. (Awwwww.)

But the issue of the Siamese Dilemma is not truly resolved with this compromise. In fact, that's just it -- a compromise is reached, a full-out solution to the problem was not and could not be found. What do you do, indeed, when two separate consciousnesses occupy the same body, and either (a) one wants to do one thing while the other wishes to do something else (the somewhat trivial dilemma explored at the start of the series), or (b) one wants to do the exact same thing as the other? They can't BOTH play the Go game, can they? Sure, they could take turns, but that would hardly satisfy either of them. That would, again, be a compromise, not an out and out solution.

Maybe that's what the Siamese Dilemma serves to teach us -- that in the real world, you can't always find a perfect solution, and rather than pout about it, and rather than fight about it, you should reach a compromise that will try to please both people as much as is possible.

Essay 2: The Tragedy of Fujiwarano Sai
Spoiler: show
I've just finished watching episode 57, and it feels like the perfect time to write what's been weighing on my chest for the past three or four episodes -- the beautiful, wonderfully tragic Fujiwarano Sai.

In case you're not aware, Sai was the Go instructor for the Emperor of Japan during the Heian period, nearly 1000 years ago. He committed suicide two days after losing an important game -- a game which would decide who would remain the Emperor's Go instructor. Sai's competition cheated, and when Sai tried to point this out, before he could get the words out, the cheater accused Sai of making this same foul attempt at winning the game. When Sai ultimately lost, he lost favor with the court and was banished.

When we first meet Sai, he is entirely convinced (and we take his word at face value!) that the reason his ghost has persisted on Earth for 1000 years is because of his undying love of Go, and his desire to master "kami no ite" (trans. "God's Hand" or "the Hand of the Gods"), the ultimate Go joseki (trans. set of moves, playstyle).

In what is perhaps the series climax for Sai, episodes 55 and 56 pit him against Touya Meijin, the best player in the world, a man who has acquired 5 of 8 professional Go titles (something perhaps impossible to do in reality). It is Sai's sincere wish to be able to play Touya Meijin with no strings attached; and to show that he is sincere, Meijin makes an oath -- that if he loses, he will retire from the world of Go, but that if he wins, Sai must reveal his true identity. (THE SUSPENSE!)

In an amazing battle of wits and foresight, Sai and Meijin calmly grapple for the upper hand. At first, Sai appears to be winning through an aggressive campaign. The Meijin creates some impregnable plays and begins his own attacks to turn the tide in his favor. But when the dust settles and the game has entered its final stages (in which players place stones to simply "clean up", the real battles already being over and done with), the Meijin can tell that Sai has won the game ... by one-half moku, the smallest win possible in Go. He peacably resigns the game, and true to his word, retires from the world of professional Go, despite Hikaru's protests (episode 57).

What is amazing about this battle, however, is that Hikaru sees something that nobody else -- not even the Meijin nor Sai -- that nobody else could see. He sees a play that the Meijin might have been able to execute, which ultimately would have gained him a meager amount of points. But all the Meijin needs is to steal one half moku from Sai to turn the game to his favor. In short, Hikaru has seen a move which would have given Touya Meijin the win. And neither the Meijin nor Sai saw this move. NOBODY saw it except for Hikaru.

When Hikaru unwittingly shares his discovery with Sai in the form of a question ("Neh, Sai, couldn't Touya have played here?" etc.), Sai is AMAZED. In a fantastic mix of horror and astonishment, not the kind of happy "WOW! " amazement, but the "HOOOOOOOOOOOOLY SHIIIIIIIIT :o" amazement. To quote Sai in what is perhaps the most dramatic moment of the show yet, "Ima ... wakatta. Kami ha ... kono ikkyoku wo Hikaru ni miseru tame ni ... watashi ni ... sennen no toki wo nagaraisasetanoda." Translation: "Now ... I understand. God has ... given me 1000 years ... just to show Hikaru this one match." In this beautiful, tragic moment, Sai realizes his purpose for persisting on Earth -- perhaps his purpose all along! -- : to educate the boy who was destined to become the best Go player ever. Shindou Hikaru. Sai was not destined to attain the Kami no Ite -- he was destined to equip the young man who would reach it with all the tools he'd ever need.

To say that this development was unexpected would be foolish. From the very beginning, I've expected that either both of them would get the move, or that something horrible would happen to Sai and Hikaru would be left alone to reach this Elysium of Go, this peak of peaks, the Kami no Ite. And it turns out of course to be this second possibility. So why, then, am I harping on about it? Why do I consider it so beautiful, so tragic? Because (as in the story), all this time, Sai *has* been completely oblivious to this concept. He has always assumed that the reason his spirit was allowed to remain on Earth was to satiate his love of Go and/or to give him time to reach the Kami no Ite before passing on to the afterlife. Never in a million years (or 1000 as the case may be ^_-) would he have thought that the reason God allowed his spirit to remain on Earth was for the express purpose of cultivating Shindou Hikaru.

And this, my friends, is exactly what's so beautiful. In very much so a It's A Wonderful Life kind of way, you have to simply marvel at the majesty of Sai's impact on Hikaru if you ask yourself, "What would the world be like if Sai had never come back to the 20th century?" The day that Hikaru met Sai was the day that his life COMPLETELY CHANGED FOREVER. Before meeting Sai, Hikaru was a p-u-n-k. Rude mouth, bleached hair, failing in school, and even stealing from his grandfather. He's still got the rude mouth and the bleached hair, but he's found motivation now in his life and he's no longer a delinquent. He's made friends like Tsutsui, Mitani, Waya, Fuku, and (dare I say it!?) Touya Akira. He's single-handedly catalyzed the Go world, flooding it with excitement and anticipation for "the new era of Japanese Go". Players from around the world want to know him or play him. Fellow Japanese consider him a huge rival. And he's just a 14 year old kid. A 14 year old who, only three years ago, was getting ready to steal a Go board from his grandpa's attic and sell it at a pawnshop. Sai is single-handedly responsible for saving Hikaru, for taking him from a life of worthlessness to a life of historic greatness. That was God's plan for Sai. This is Sai's great purpose in the grand scheme of things. How bitter, bitter, bittersweet it all is. For Sai to be the Pygmalion who sculpts out a beautiful work of art (so wonderful!), yet his heart yearns for he himself to be the beautiful work of heart. For Sai to be the greatest Go player the world has ever known.

What is most tragic about the recent developments (so wonderful! so beautiful! so tragic and yet so logical, so well-written, so EPIC!) is that now, on the verge of Hikaru's blossoming to overtake Sai (as revealed by Hikaru seeing moves which not even the two best players in history could see), Sai is beginning to fade. God is calling Sai into the afterlife. His mission completed, his task over, Sai is no longer needed on Earth, and God never acts superfluously. How tragic! For even as Hikaru arranges for Touya Meijin to play Sai next week, Sai nearly cries and has to do everything in his power to put on a happy face and fool Hikaru, all the while thinking to himself, "How far away one week now seems to me." So sad!

Essay 3: The Tragedy of Fujiwarano Sai, Continued
Spoiler: show
One of the most powerful messages in Hikaru no Go is to cherish what you have today because you will not necessarily have it tomorrow. In short, to not take things for granted. It is delivered in the most dramatic way I know how -- by suddenly introducing Hikaru to Sai, and just as suddenly taking Sai away forever two years after they meet.

As children or young adults, we take much in life for granted. Our eyesight, our hearing, our taste, our mental acuity, our very lives -- I assume that a staggering majority of the human populace lives day by day as if nothing dramatic will be lost, and if anything, dramatic gains will be made. This is an arrogant, naive viewpoint, but it is a happy viewpoint, and I think most of us naturally find ourselves assuming it as our worldview until times of crisis.

Each and every day you wake up, you should truly (from the bottom of your heart) be thankful for your health. You will not be in as good a state of health in 50 years as you are today, I guarantee it. You may like to think that your vision will be as sharp, that your hearing will be as good, that your brain will be unharmed by the effects of old age, let alone serious diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. But the truth of the matter is that we only have one body in this life, and it's just a matter of time before, much like a computer, our bodies become the unfortunate victims of some Trojan horse, virus, or innocent hardware failure. If Matt's power supply dies, he can replace it -- the same is not as readily true for his heart. And in an era where we like to tell ourselves that even heart failure is not a death sentence, it remains undeniably true that we are not immortal -- that the day will come when each and every one of us will die. To those (like myself) who find this death sentence unbearable, there are few options. You can escape into a realm of self-delusion, putting the thoughts of mortality out of your mind. You can let it consume your thoughts, dragging you into depression, possibly even insanity. Not very nice options.

But you can also take heart in the fact that, despite being sentenced to death, you are alive today. You are not yet dead. You still have your health, your vision, your hearing. You can still run. You can still have sex. You can still do things which we attribute with unhampered living. And so you should live for today and for tomorrow by never forgetting your good graces, by never forgetting how fortunate you are not only to be alive, but to be in good health.

Hikaru no Go powerfully, tragically, and I would say accurately portrays what it is like to lose a loved one. When Sai's ghost fades away, he is powerless to stop it. He is inititally afraid and angry, like many people; and, like many people, when he is on his deathbed (unknown to Hikaru), he more or less resigns himself to his fate. "It was fun," he whispers to Hikaru, and disappears. Hikaru's reaction to Sai's loss is the major focus of the drama -- he can't accept it, going to great lengths to travel across Japan in search of Sai. He blames himself for Sai's departure. He feels ashamed of himself for hogging the Go games, because he realizes his great error -- he had assumed that Sai would be around forever, that Sai was immortal, and therefore that there was no rush to let Sai play. He made the assumption that Sai would be around forever, Hikaru's greatest mistake. He took Sai's company for granted. He ceased to be grateful for this miracle acquaintance and did not open his eyes until it was too late.

His spirit seeks closure, and in the end of the series, the writer masterfully provides Hikaru with a final encounter with Sai, while the boy is dreaming. So it remains unclear whether or not the dream was where God allowed for Sai to say goodbye, or if Hikaru just imagined it all. But regardless of the absolute truth, the relative truth -- that Hikaru felt he got to say goodbye to Sai -- is what really matters here. And even in the dream, the boy is filled with anguish and remorse. "Why did you leave?" he says with choked-back tears. All that the Sai of the dream can do is look on at Hikaru's face in sad silence, forbidden or incapable of talking with words.

Please value not only your own health, but the health and well-being of your parents, your brothers, your sisters, and your children. Because life is not an existence where we are born with a quality of living X and can only go up from there. No. For most people, the tragic reality is that it is not only possible but inevitable for our standard of living to fall from X at birth to some new, smaller value N. Diagnoses of terminal diseases, loss of one or more of our senses, even mental degeneration -- these are the tragic horrors which await most people as they age, be it a result of nasty microbes or the tragic mortality of our body parts. The human brain, after all, is a wonderful machine ... but it is a machine which is not designed to last forever.

Essay 4: Hikaru's Plea
(Warning: you may want to go and grab a tissue box for this one.)
Spoiler: show
The relevant scene below can be viewed, as of October 24, 2011, starting from here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eoNeW9xbls#t=5m26s and then continuing into here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP7FiurVA5Q

__________________________________________

In episode 63, we are presented with one of the most painful and tragic soliloquys of the series.

Preface: Several episodes ago, Sai finally vanished. Before he knew it, he was out of Hikaru's hearing, although his final words were, "It was fun." When Hikaru realizes that Sai is missing, we set off on the multi-episode "search for Sai" in which Hikaru tearfully examines every nook and cranny of the Japanese Go Institute, of his grandfather's attic, and of both of Honinbou Shuusaku's graves. (Note: the boy who Sai previously coresided with was a boy named Torajirou, who grew up to become Honinbou Shuusaku, the best player of Go the world has ever known. We later learn that Torajirou allowed Sai to play every game of Go after they fused, i.e. Sai is the greatest Go player of all time.)

Main: After searching all of these sites and coming up short, Hikaru reinvestigates the Go Institute in Tokyo. There, he finds an employee who leads him to a room he's never seen before -- the storage room for all of the kifu (Go records on paper) from 1000 A.D. onwards. Hikaru asks the guard to pull out Shuusaku's kifu, and the guard exits the room after fetching them, leaving Hikaru on his own to pore through the books and research Sai's old games.

In so doing, Hikaru finally appreciates just how great a player Sai is. Now, you might say, "Well, sure! Hasn't the boy realized that by now?" But the truth is, Sai always played below his full capacity against Hikaru. Perhaps his only great match of the 20th century was that against Touya Meijin, and even in this match, Sai makes a mistake which Hikaru catches. So it is understandable that Hikaru might have had a self-perception that put him just a little beneath Sai's skill level. (Note: as in the story, and knownst only to Sai and to us as an audience, Shindou Hikaru is capable of catching up to Sai, and indeed surpassing him, to become the greatest Go player ever. It just hasn't happened -- YET.)

Hikaru's discovery is too much, and he is overwhelmed by the tragic loss of Fujiwarano Sai. To quote the entire scene:

(Hikaru is thumbing through Shuusaku kifu when his eyes suddenly widen)
Hikaru: This move by Sai ... it's an incredible move. It attacks all of the surrounding sides. His opponent would lose all of his will to fight after seeing a move like this.
(Hikaru's voice, still soft and quiet, begins to falter with sorrow)
Hikaru: Sai... He's ... a genius. I should have let him play more. That would have been much better than my playing ... Why didn't I realize this before!? Yeah ... I'm sure Touya would have been much happier if Sai had played. I should have let Sai, the genius, play everything!
(Hikaru's eyes widen with horror)
Hikaru: Yeah ... That's what Torajirou did ... Unlike me, Torajirou was strong enough to try to become a pro when he met Sai ... Therefore he was able to see how strong Sai was. And he let Sai play.
(Hikaru grabs his hair with both hands; he looks like he's about to cry, and his voice is quavering)
Hikaru: I ... didn't know anything about Go. And I had no idea how strong Sai was! I just thought about how I wanted to play. When I finally realized how good Sai was ... I still put myself ahead of him. I'm .. an idiot.
(Hikaru loses it, and tearfully screams the following)
Hikaru: I'm an idiot!
(he goes silent, shaking; he clenches his fist)
Hikaru: Sai ...
(a teardrop falls on the ancient kifu)
Hikaru: O-oh no. *he tries to rub it dry*
(quiet, almost as if out of energy)
Hikaru: I should have let Sai play ... from the beginning ...
(Hikaru begins to cry)
Hikaru: Anyone would agree ... It would have been better to let Sai play all the games.
(he screams, progressively louder)
Hikaru: All of them! All of them! ALL OF THEM!
(crying as loud as the last phrase, he now has tears flowing from his eyes)
Hikaru: I DON'T NEED TO PLAY! I WON'T ASK TO PLAY AGAIN! So ... GOD! PLEASE! TURN BACK TIME! TURN TIME BACK TO WHEN I FIRST MET HIM!

Silence ensues. When Hikaru realizes that his prayer is not going to be answered, he bursts into renewed tears, sobbing uncontrollably, howling into the late night.

That he would say those things (particularly that last line) is so moving, and so revealing about how much he valued his time with Sai and would do anything to have him come back. Hikaru loves Go. It is a love which Sai invested in the boy and which blossomed alongside Hikaru's hidden talent more wonderfully than the 1000-year-old Go master could ever have hoped for. That Hikaru would ask God to exchange his opportunity to ever play Go again (his most favorite thing in the world) for the chance to be reunited with Sai is just so, so moving. This really captures, in my mind, what anybody who loses a loved one thinks and feels at that time. We are willing to forsake our greatest loves -- indeed, sometimes even our own lives -- for that person we cherish more than anything else. Sai has been the greatest friend and greatest teacher Hikaru has ever had. It is no surprise that his disappearance would result in a 2-day search of faraway Innoshima coupled with an equally long search of Tokyo's monuments, Go institutes, and graveyards.
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Old 10-24-2011, 08:57 PM   #5
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I've only read about half of the manga, I didn't stop on purpose, though, as I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe I should pick it back up again...? It seems like you've justified a reason for me to continue, for sure.
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Old 10-24-2011, 08:58 PM   #6
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Anime is certified Masterpiece except for a few filler parts. Definitely a much-watch for everyone.
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Old 10-24-2011, 09:05 PM   #7
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Read a preview of the manga once. Looked cute. Put off watching the animé since I'm skeptical of CHILDREN's CARD GAMES "games r srz bizniz" plots. Then again, I'm currently watching Kaiji and enjoying it. Will make a note to check it out when I have time.

Question: Will it count towards my GARathon? XP
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Old 10-24-2011, 09:23 PM   #8
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It's incredibly wholesome -- anime food for the soul, to be sure -- but ... it isn't really what I'd consider to be "GAR." ^^; I mean, I wouldn't call Kaiji "GAR" either, so if you were counting Kaiji towards the GARathon, then I guess you could count Hikaru no Go towards it as well. lol The only things we're watching right now that I feel are is GAR are is, well, just Fate/Zero.

It'd be the largest time investment we've asked of you yet, barring Fate/Stay Night the visual novel. But I think it'd be well worth your time. Doppel is backing me up on this. Maybe a push from a third veteran will be the charm. (C'mon, Mcsweeney! Where are you? ) Hikaru no Go is, to me, the sort of story that comes along only once in a very great long while. I mean, if it helps you to understand, my MyAnimeList of Top Animes, which is restricted to only five titles, lists Hikaru no Go at position #5. Haruhi is only just barely above it in position #4. Kaiji did not make the cutoff, nor did Level E, nor did a number of other shows I have felt were phenomenal experiences. Hikaru no Go is a rich, rich emotional and philosophical ride.

As for the YGO angle, don't let my comparisons between HnG and YGO scare you away. The similarities are pretty bold but they're also pretty few:
  • a young boy's body is inhabited by a ghost from a thousand years ago
  • a young boy learns to play a game which the ghost happens to be very, very good at
  • several of the adversaries the boy and the ghost encounter are other players of this game
But aside from that, the two series are very different. It isn't just the story that is different: it's a lot of things. For starters (but without going into explicit details), one major difference between the two is the so-called Siamese Dilemma I write about in one of my essays. The Siamese Dilemma plays a huge role in Hikaru no Go but it's pretty much absent in Yu-Gi-Oh.
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Old 10-24-2011, 10:00 PM   #9
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I mean, I wouldn't call Kaiji "GAR" either, so if you were counting Kaiji towards the GARathon, then I guess you could count Hikaru no Go towards it as well.
I wasn't really counting Kaiji, but the degree of manliness is at least viable in that one, if not of the hot-blooded variety. ^~

I haven't even officially set my sights on commencing the GARathon. At the rate I'm currently sampling sugary shows & manga (no thanks to some people), I may just give in to temptation and go on a GIRLYthon instead... Which sounds completely wrong when I say it out loud. XD

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The only things we're watching right now that I feel are is GAR are is, well, just Fate/Zero.
I'll probably extend GAR to include "shounen", just so I can count Hunter x Hunter. XP (Oh, and Persona 4, I guess.)

Anyway, from the way you herald it the story does sound very impressive, and unlike what one would expect from a CHILDREN'S CARD BOARD GAME. I've always been seeking an emotional impact from an animé (or other medium) as strong as the one I received from Full Moon. (Kanon came very close!) Philosophy is always fun too.
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Old 10-24-2011, 10:01 PM   #10
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I remember watching this show like a maniac back in college because a friend was burning DVD's of it and also because it was a good way to procrastinate. I think I stopped halfway through because he ran out of DVD's. =3=
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Old 10-24-2011, 10:29 PM   #11
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No GAR in this title.

Hikaru no Go's length was less taxing than other shows, and a big part of that was keeping the characterization simple and the pace even. I never felt HnG dragged, and each episode efficiently accomplished something.

Like Talon says, it is wholesome. Perhaps a bit too wholesome. HnG portrayed a super idealized, safe/clean Japan that was the perfect soil bed for growing professional Go players.

The manga doubled as an advertisement, of course, but unlike the propagandist Bakuman it didn't try to openly defend Go's shortcomings, only emphasized its positive aspects.

But it's still a fantastic show, even if a bit too romantic.
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Old 10-25-2011, 11:59 AM   #12
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Hikaru no Go is a personal favorite of mine. I've re-watched the entire series twice, and read through the entire manga after watching the series. Re-watching it, it's always interesting to see Hikaru and the other characters grow up. The show has a great flow, and before you know it, Hikaru has matured (well...in certain aspects). Without a significant time-skip or anything! Or maybe my memory is tricking me.

My dad is a fan/casual player of Go, and HnG inspired me to play. I always tried to imitate how the players in HnG held and then slammed the pieces on the Go board, and how they always managed to read ahead and make traps. Unfortunately I suck at Go and my dad had to give me advice constantly. :P
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Old 10-25-2011, 01:08 PM   #13
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19x19 Go can take a while, but if you want to play a game of 13x13 just for fun and/or to see how good we are, I'd be game. I'd consider myself a very rusty player who at his best was somewhere around 16k or 11k or something (for ranked 19x19 play on KGS). Actually, 11k sounds too high, but I dunno. I was mid kyuu. I was nowhere near amateur dan level, let alone (duh-hur ) professional dan level. My roommate in college, though, managed to work his way up to right around amateur 1dan. I forget if he just barely broke past (and was 1d or 2d) or if he never managed to (and was 6k, 5k, somewhere around there). Regardless, he was pretty good.

If you don't play at all, maybe I should ask to play your dad. Though I imagine he'd wipe the floor with me. lol I think the last time I played was Summer 2009. So ... it's been a while. ^^;

Let me know if you want to. That goes for anybody, actually. Just reply here or PM me or something. We may even have a Go thread in the Club Forum ... *goes to check* ... hmm, apparently not. Well, if there's interest, even remote interest, we could make one.
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Old 10-25-2011, 02:33 PM   #14
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I tried playing Go once a long time ago with my brother. It was fun from what I recall. All I remember of the rules is that you have to surround your opponent's pieces.

"Cracker, I be playin' Checkers."
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Old 10-26-2011, 09:21 AM   #15
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Unfortunately I suck so much at Go that it probably wouldn't be fun for either of us Talon. I place pieces randomly and hope they work, so basic strategies/set of moves would probably destroy me.

It would be kinda weird to call up my dad and ask him to play some random person on the Internet, but I suggest going on Yahoo Go and playing random people if you want to play . Should be able to find someone around your level after a few matches to determine your ability.
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Old 10-26-2011, 10:03 AM   #16
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Unfortunately I suck so much at Go that it probably wouldn't be fun for either of us Talon. I place pieces randomly and hope they work, so basic strategies/set of moves would probably destroy me.
How would you like to try playing a total newbie? XP I'd probably suck even worse. All my moves would be completely random. ^^;
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Old 10-26-2011, 02:37 PM   #17
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I suggest going on Yahoo Go and playing random people if you want to play . Should be able to find someone around your level after a few matches to determine your ability.
No, that's okay. If I wanted to play random strangers, I'd stick with what I know and go and play on KGS. Speaking of which ...

... just got back from investigating what became of my account. Looks like it got deleted. So I made a new one, Suigin, and just finished playing a game. (One game, ranked, 19x19.) The guy I was playing against was also unranked but, like me, he wasn't green in the slightest either. I honestly felt I was going to lose after attempting a corner invasion which, after some back-and-forth greed on our parts, I ended up losing due to a miscalculation. However, right at the very end of the game he got cocky (it happens!) and passed much too prematurely. I took advantage of that and basically robbed him of 10-15 moku of his by (a) encroaching into it myself and (b) making him play his own stones inside of his (previously-thought-to-be) held territory in order to stave me off. I ended up winning by around 40 moku (with the 6.5 handicap that's afforded to white), but had it been a closer match, that would have certainly spelt the difference between victory and defeat.

And then I got bored. I'm not at a point in my life right now where I feel like upping my Go game, so I really don't want to re-learn all of the strategies I've forgotten and trying to redevelop my gut instincts in the game which have gotten rusty and covered with cobwebs. It takes too much time and is really only worth it for the diehard fans of the game. But if anyone does want to play, I have the account so we can play. ^^; The name is Suigin. And again: this is on KGS.
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Old 10-27-2011, 01:15 PM   #18
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Hikaru no Go is a masterpiece.

A while back I was re watching some episodes, and during several moments I actually choked up and felt like I wanted to cry. Not necessarily because it was sad, but just because it was so powerful. My favourite part of the show:

Spoiler: show
Isumi takes his hand off the stone.

When Hikaru is an insei, he plays Isumi in a match; these games are to determine who will qualify to become a professional Go player. The insei school is ultra competitive, with only a few of the very best players making it, so every match is important. Hikaru falls behind in this game. However, Isumi makes a stupid mistake and accidentally places the stone in the wrong spot, but for a split second takes his hand off the stone before picking it back up to place it in the correct spot. Under the official rules, once you take your hand off the stone, the move can't be changed. Hikaru notices this, and wonders if he should say something to pick up an automatic win via disqualification. Sai is in disbelief; "Maybe his hand did come off the stone, but don't you want to play on? I know you can find a way to come back!" Hikaru does have a plan, but he's sure it won't work. Every win is so important! He needs it, no matter what. On the other end, Isumi is petrified, wondering if Hikaru noticed his mistake. Finally, Hikaru speaks up.
"Isumi, just now, did you--"
"I resign."
Isumi quickly cleans up the board and walks away without saying another word. Hikaru is obviously shaken by this incident, but tries to fool himself into believing he made off well. "All right, I picked up a big win! A big win!"

That match weighs heavily on Hikaru's mind, though. The next game, he loses his composure and plays badly, losing against a guy he normally always beats. He can't stop thinking about that game against Isumi. Isumi is also depressed by that match, and he too goes on a losing streak. Hikaru goes home and destroys his pillow in frustration. "It's all because I'm weak. I took the free win because I'm weak!"

At last, in a cloud of pillow feathers, Sai calmly points Hikaru toward the Go board. "Let's re-create that game against Isumi. I will play in his place. We'll clear your mind before playing again tomorrow."

Notice how it's not revealed if Hikaru wins or not, because it doesn't matter. All that matters is that he cleared his conscience.


I have to disagree with Talon about the animation though. I thought it was bad, lol. Just going by appearances, Hikaru no Go looks like a cheap, generic shounen. It doesn't matter though because the story is too good. Even with the mediocre animation, I would still recommend the anime over the manga. The addition of music and the SWOOOSH sound effects with lines flying in the background when people place stones adds a lot to the dramatic flair. The music was better than Talon gave it credit for too. Yeah, they re-use the same tracks over and over again, but they're all good so I didn't mind. I like the one that plays during especially epic matches that sounds like Final Fantasy final boss music.
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Old 02-15-2012, 07:35 PM   #19
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On a whim, I watched some of the early episodes (7-9) of the series. Then I watched the OAV (had to watch the last half raw). Then I watched 59 or 60 on forward thru 74, and am paused on 75 right now. This show is just that good: once you pop, the fun don't stop. Things slowed down a bit from like 71-73, but oh my word at the epic cliffhanger Episode 74 ends on.

It's a shame that the English-subbed series seems so hard to locate. =/ Really hurts our ability to get newcomers to check this one out. So surprising, too: everyone who has posted in this thread so far and who has seen the show has said things like "masterpiece" and "one of the greatest animes of all time." You'd think the community would have taken better care of this beloved story, then, and ensured that future generations could access it as easily as we did. I found someone who uploaded all of the episodes to DailyMotion, but they've cut out the OP and ED from every episode in order to get the files under twenty minutes. Unacceptable for a first-time viewer considering just how memorable some of the OPs and EDs were.

P.S. Just LOL at how gay Touya is for Shindou. awww
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Old 02-15-2012, 07:39 PM   #20
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I found someone who uploaded all of the episodes to DailyMotion, but they've cut out the OP and ED from every episode in order to get the files under twenty minutes. Unacceptable for a first-time viewer considering just how memorable some of the OPs and EDs were.
These are the ones I ended up having to watch. =/ Sucks I know. I NEED DAT ED TO GET ME PUMPED. ...At least it plays a little bit before the episode ends.
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Old 02-15-2012, 08:18 PM   #21
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These are the ones I ended up having to watch. =/ Sucks I know. I NEED DAT ED TO GET ME PUMPED. ...At least it plays a little bit before the episode ends.
That is problematic. Not only are the songs good, but a good chunk of HnG's soundtrack consists of instrumental remixes of its OPs and EDs. Familiarity with them, generated by hearing them over and over in their capacity as OPs and EDs, is what part engenders sentimental attachment to the instrumental remixes. So ... ideally, you want to watch HnG with its OPs and EDs, not without them. That's why I said the DailyMotion upload is no good for beginners.

The good news is, that person has uploaded "the good subs." They're the subs that I have and that most old school people probably have. To be honest, they're not really the greatest subs by today's standards. ^^; Back then translators could get away with a little looser translations. There are quite a few things they translate incorrectly, but in most cases it doesn't change the meaning too too badly. And usually it's the episode titles that they botch the worst which (imo) are the least important thing to get right anyway. Apparently these subs are still the gold standard for HnK English subs ... which is kinda sad when you think about how you can't even find 'em anymore. ^^;

I guess I would say to you ... if you want, you could make an effort ^^; to load up the OPs and EDs on Youtube that match where you are in the show, and watch them each time before watching the episode proper. If you're an OP/ED skipper, at least watch them the one or two times you ordinarily would anyway. These links'll probably all be dead in a few months , but for now, here they are ...

WARNING! It ought to go without saying, but you are just so gosh darn spoiler-grabby ^^; ... DO NOT WATCH ANY OF THESE BEFORE YOU SEE SNIPPETS OF THEM IN THE DAILYMOTION EPS!

Story Arc 1:
OP 1
ED 1
ED 2

Story Arc 2:
OP 2
ED 3
ED 4 (better but raw copy here)

Story Arc 3:
OP 3
ED 5

I wish I could find you better versions of these but they all have problems in one way or another. For example, the #1 hit for ED 2 on Youtube has the video badly out of sync with the audio, defeating the purpose of even watching it as an ED (as opposed to just listening to an mp3), so I had to link you to one with Chinese-only subtitles. :\ ED 4, one of my favorite OPs or EDs of all time, is in this particular case plagued by some kinda brash audio channel interference and too much onscreen clutter through a combination of both English and Chinese subtitles. So, sorry for that. But at least this is better than nothing, right?

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Old 02-15-2012, 09:32 PM   #22
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Fun with Names

One thing the creators of Hikaru no Go had a lot of fun with were the names they thought up for these characters. There are a lot of interconnections which cannot be coincidental, given just how numerous they are. Some of them you may have figured out on your own, others you may not have heard of before now, and others still I'm sure I myself am unaware of or am forgetting. But go ahead and pull up a chair if you like and let's look together at some of the ways that the characters names contain clever clues about their personalities, roles in the story, or goals in life.

Warning! This spoiler box contains actual spoilers! Just to be on the safe side, I would advise against clicking on this until around episode 62, 63.

Spoiler: show
Sai and Hikaru:
Fujiwara no Sai's clan name, Fujiwara, is that of the most powerful clan in the nobility of the Heian-kyou period. If you've ever taken a Japanese history class, you've probably heard the name before. So how is it written and what does it mean? 藤原 literally means "wisteria plains" or "wisteria fields." Wisteria is a famous plant with a long and storied history in Japan. Now is not the place or time to go into those details, but suffice to say, you see the plant in many Japanese stories and (whether because of the plant, the clan, or both) you see the word fuji in many Japanese family names. Now, the thing is, like most Chinese characters, this one isn't always read fuji. Sometimes it's read dou. As in ...

... you guessed it: as in 進藤 Shindou. Hikaru's family name literally means "advance/proceed/progress wisteria". In other words, within the context of this story, we have a very clever word game afoot: Fujiwara no Sai is to pass the torch along to Shindou Hikaru, who in turn is to advance the goals of Sai and to try and find the Hand of God.

Sai:
So how do you write Sai's given name? 佐為. The first character means "assistant, help." The second character means many things but among them are such meanings as "to do" and "to be of use." noun+to do in Japanese means "to [noun]", so Sai's name can literally be taken to mean that he is the person who will help ... whomever it is that he's to help. This meaning thus has several layers to it. One meaning is that he was the court's head instructor in Go and that he helped the Emperor to learn how to play better. But another meaning is that Sai is the one who will help Hikaru on his personal journey towards obtaining the Hand of God. This becomes especially evident in the late episode 50s and early episode 60s of the series.

Hikaru and Akira:
So what about Hikaru's given name? And what about his rival, Touya Akira? Both boys' names are deliberately spelled in katakana by the author. Hikaru's is ヒカル and Akira's is アキラ. However, there are some very common ways that these two very common names are spelled in kanji. In Hikaru's case, there's really only one correct/common possibility, and that's 光. It means "light." Thus, Hikaru is symbolically the light who will illuminate the path towards the Hand of God. He is the guiding light for the future of Japanese Go. In Touya's case though, we have some very clever shenanigans afoot. The two most common ways to spell the name Akira are 晶 and 明. The first one, literally a collection of three suns, means "crystal" or what crystals do, "sparkle." The second one, literally the sun and the moon, means "bright." As you can see, both words have something to do with light. Thus, Touya and Hikaru are like two peas in a pod.

But it gets better, dear readers. Much better. For you see, while Hikaru may only be written one way normally (光), I never told you how many readings the character 光 has. And would you believe it if I told you ... that one of the readings for 光 is, you guessed it, Akira. Because the boys' names are always spelled in katakana and never in kanji, something authors tend to do deliberately and for various reasons, it's impossible to say for certain: but there is a high possibility that the two boys spell their given names the very same way and thus are not just two peas in a pod but are two sides of the very same coin. Destined rivals indeed.

Touya Kouyou and Fujiwara no Sai:
This is one that either hadn't jumped out at me before or else that I had forgotten about until rewatching parts of the show recently. Touya Meijin's given name is 行洋 Kouyou. It's a very uncommon name and the reading is an even rarer one for the way it's spelled. If you were to read it literally, it means something approximating "go Pacific," "go ocean," or "go West." (洋 is a character traditionally used in connection with the Pacific Ocean and all connotations thereof. 行 simply means "go" as in "to go" {opposite of "to come"}.) However, if you consider homophones for Touya Meijin's given name, one obvious one that comes to mind is 紅葉 kouyou. Literally "crimson leaves," this refers to the change of leaves' colors from green to red in the autumn. Such a reading is symbolic for Touya Meijin in a number of ways.

First, it's symbolic because they're saying that Touya Meijin is like the autumnal man of the Japanese Go world. On the one hand, he's getting on in years but he's still not quite elderly or unable to play (winter). In fact, one could even say that he's the best he's ever been (harvest season, in autumn, after all the labors of spring and summer).

But second, and much more likely to have been a deliberate action on the part of the creators, Fujiwara no Sai is often depicted in official artwork (anime or manga, both) with red maple leaves. In other words, Sai and the Meijin are connected to one another, the Meijin by his name and Sai by the literal red leaves he's often shown to have blowing around him. Neat, no?

Akari and Akira:
This is one I know I've told Yuki about before. It's more obvious in English, but even in Japanese it's too obvious to not have been deliberate: the two characters who love Hikaru the most, Akari and Touya, are only one letter swap away from having the other's name. Just swap the positions of the a and the i in Akari's name and you get Touya's, Akira.

Akari and Hikaru:
Like Hikaru, Akari's name has to do with brightness. (Words spelled akari include in them characters like the bright kanji 明 or the character for lamp 灯.) But more obviously, Akari's family name is Fujisaki, 藤崎. Yep, there's that wisteria kanji again. So basically ... Hikaru and Akari are connected by the red string of fate, too. They both have names that have to do with wisteria and light.

These are just some of the name connections I've noticed. I'm sure there are more but looking at the names on Wikipedia there's nothing that really jumps out at me. (I could force theories, sure, but there's little point in that. I'm trying to find things I think the writers did on purpose, not quirky coincidences.)
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Old 02-17-2012, 05:48 AM   #23
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Cool stuff Talon.
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Old 10-29-2012, 08:22 PM   #24
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I'm 10 episodes through this. So far it has been a pretty nice show. The animation is kinda bad, and the generic music kinda grates me, but I can easily forgive those two things. I also wasn't crazy about how it suddenly started raining when Akira started telling Hikaru off (so damn cheesy!). Once again, those are small complaints. EDIT: They need to cut the waterworks down. They cry too damn much. I don't understand the importance of a board game, but I doubt it's something to cry over all the time.

The fact that this show sticks closely to actual Go is also nice. I kinda liked being able to tell what Akira was doing against the guy who mirrored his moves. There's also some pretty good writing with the characters and their problems.

Here's to hoping things stay this way!

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Old 11-01-2012, 12:29 AM   #25
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I intended on posting halfway through this, but like a dumbass, I forgot 35 was half of 70, so I'm at 45 and speaking about it.

This show is good enough for me to burn through 45 episodes in 3 days, so that should say something. I do kinda wish they went over the characters some more, especially Hikaru. I know nothing about him outside of his interest in Go, and it has been 45 episodes already. Some other characters have obvious backgrounds, but they're never gone over. Maybe it's just an anime thing, or maybe it's just telling the story through Hikaru's perspective and not telling you anything he doesn't know? If so, then I guess that's kinda cool.

The pro exams have been really interesting so far. Some really nice internal struggles here and there. I'm still not finished with it though, so here's to hoping for a good conclusion.
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