When Hikaru learns that Touya Akira has been chosen to represent Japan in the North Star Cup, he becomes determined to play alongside Touya in this youth tournament against China and Korea. However, qualifying for the competition is no easy task. He needs to beat some of the most promising Go players in Japan during the preliminaries, and there is a rumor that an amazing new pro from the Kansai Go Institute is entering. Will Hikaru be able to overcome this new obstacle to participate in the North Star Cup?
summary by Gatts
Highs: Everything fans know and love; great matches
Lows: Accomplishes little
When Hikaru no Go came to a close, many fans were left wanting more. Well, the wait is over. Picking up shortly after the final episode, Hikaru no Go: Journey to the North Star Cup is an hour and twenty minutes of unadulterated Go goodness. While there are no real surprises, it is a nice addition to the story of Hikaru’s career as a professional Go player.
Anyone who has seen the television series will know what to expect. It doesn’t deviate from the formula that made the anime so successful, which isn’t a bad thing. Everything from the characters to the music is here in top form and all works just as brilliantly. The matches are the real highlight; each and every game is a powerful, dramatic struggle between characters. As in the series, the music works perfectly to evoke emotion from the audience during these scenes. Two matches in particular, Shindou versus Morishita and Touya versus Ogata, are especially noteworthy. In addition to their topnotch presentations, both of these intense matches establish some very interesting new rivalries and showcase how the characters have grown over the years.
The plot is the standard Hikaru no Go fare, this time focusing on Hikaru’s efforts to qualify for the North Star Cup. The only real problem with this is that after putting so much emphasis on the tournament, this anime ends right after the preliminaries. The actual competition is never shown, and in the end, this movie fails to accomplish much of anything significant as far as plot development is concerned. Sadly, the new character, Yashiro, is introduced towards the end and never has time to develop as a character.
It may not be perfect, but that doesn’t stop this from being a thoroughly entertaining anime. If you haven’t seen the series, you won’t get much enjoyment; if you have seen it and still have a craving for Go, Hikaru no Go: Journey to the North Star Cup will not disappoint. While it may end right as things seem to be getting started, it is an excellent continuation of the series and manages to maintain the same high standard of quality set by its predecessor.
Highs: Some closure the series did not provide; suspenseful matches
Lows: Pace drags at times
Hikaru no Go: Journey to the North Star Cup is a longer than average special that allows viewers to see how life after the television series is progressing for Hikaru. Although the pace slows down at times, the suspenseful matches and the chance to revisit Hikaru’s life make this anime every bit as entertaining as the series.
This special picks up where the series left off, with Hikaru and Akira friendly yet competitive rivals as Hikaru pushes on with his professional career. The interaction between the two is lively and aggressive, giving both characters even more motivation and a drive to win. Seeing Hikaru graduate from junior high school provides a fitting end to that chapter of Hikaru’s life and emphasizes the development his character has undergone since the beginning of the story. Even more satisfying is the small amount of interaction between Akari and Hikaru; Akari was one character who would have benefited from more attention in the series, and this special provides a subtle conclusion to her part in the story that she lacked previously.
In addition to the graduation and cameos from side characters in the series, Hikaru also takes the time to visit his grandfather and plays a rematch against a minor character from the series. While these scenes give the viewer an idea of the large role Sai still plays in Hikaru’s life, they slow down the pace and do not directly add to the plot. Once the matches begin in earnest, though, the pace quickens and the suspense of the qualifying games is undeniable. Viewers who know their Go will be especially intrigued by the fascinating matches as the players strive to represent Japan in the North Star Cup tournament.
Although this special probably won’t have much meaning for viewers who did not watch the series, Hikaru no Go: Journey to the North Star Cup is a must-see for anyone who has followed Hikaru as he grows and develops. The story ends before the tournament actually begins, so I can only hope that one day we will get the chance to see what the future has in store for the young Go players.
Hikaru no Go: Journey to the North Star Cup (and two other specials) can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.