One day while Shindou Hikaru was rummaging through his grandfather’s attic, he stumbled upon an ancient Go board. The board was not the only thing that Hikaru found, though; his discovery also awakened the spirit of a deceased Go expert, Fujiwara Sai. Sai’s soul had laid dormant in the board for years due to his passionate desire to play Go once more, and now was his chance. Serving as an ethereal mentor to Hikaru, he teaches him how to play the game he loves, and Hikaru begins his life as a Go player.
summary by Gatts
Highs: Driven and emotional story; well-developed characters
Lows: Dependent on interest in the game
Very few series can claim the distinction of affecting people worldwide, but Hikaru no Go has done just that. Introducing a new generation and new audience to the game of Go, this series has the energy, emotion and strong characters to hold your interest for seventy-five episodes, but only if you are truly interested in the game.
With the exception of a few episodes towards the end of the series, the story of Hikaru no Go is just as driven as the title character. The series plows ahead episode after episode as Hikaru struggles to reach his goals. Rather than make the series about Hikaru taking the simple route by using Sai’s skill to win, the story takes the much more emotionally engaging position of Hikaru’s desire to learn and win with his own skill… and the road is not an easy one. Because of that, both Hikaru and Sai develop through the entire course of the series. Hikaru grows and matures as the story progresses, and Sai develops from comic relief to a truly sympathetic, distinctive character. The supporting characters also receive due attention to support the plot and add to the passion and suspense of the story.
While Hikaru no Go does not require any knowledge of the game of Go, it’s safe to say that unless you have some attraction to the game within the first ten episodes or so, this series will not be very enjoyable. The plot focuses mainly on Go, so it is entirely dependent on the viewer having any desire to learn about or watch the game at all. For American viewers in particular, this gives the series the hard task of converting an audience that knows nothing of the game into Go enthusiasts.
Basing an entire series on an ancient board game is a risky move, making this a truly “love it or hate it” anime. For those whose interest is piqued early in the series, it is well worth the time investment to watch this show. Hikaru no Go might even make a Go player out of you.
Highs: Amazing use of music; character growth
Lows: Abandons some side characters; a few less-than-stellar episodes
Many people would think that a show that revolves around a board game could not possibly be interesting. Yet, somehow Hikaru no Go is not only interesting but also delivers an engrossing, emotional drama with memorable characters. A true testament to the series’ quality is the fact that it can be enjoyed even without any knowledge of the game of Go (but for those interested in learning the game, there is a live action segment at the end of each episode that teaches the basics).
While Hikaru no Go may focus on Go, the heart and soul of the series lies in the characters. Without them, none of the suspense and drama of the matches would be possible. Hikaru encounters a wide variety of players throughout his career, and all of them, both rivals and friends, are interesting and well-developed. The anime boasts a lot more than just developed characters, though; the cast matures as the series progresses. By the final episode, Hikaru has become a very different person. Studio Pierrot emphasizes these changes by visibly aging the characters: they grow taller, their faces become more angular as they lose their baby fat and even their taste in clothes changes. These may seem like minor details, but they really enhance growth. The anime really succeeds in depicting people maturing both physically and mentally.
The other aspects of this anime from the crisp visuals to the focused, well-paced plot are equally impressive. The music is really worthy of special mention. Not only is the background music beautifully composed, it is used to complement scenes perfectly, especially during games. The music conveys the intense emotions of the players and makes the matches interesting for viewers that are unfamiliar with Go. The opening and ending themes are consistently excellent and have become personal favorites. The OSTs make a great addition to any fan’s collection.
My only real complaint about the series is that most of the prominent characters from the early episodes are reduced to mere cameo appearances in the second half, but considering the sheer number of characters, it would have been very difficult to maintain a focused narrative while keeping everyone in the picture. Despite this and a couple disappointing episodes, Hikaru no Go is an anime with an interesting plot and great characters. Anyone willing to give this unique drama a chance will be rewarded with a thoroughly entertaining series.
Highs: Excellent music; story that never stands still; most characters are very deep and develop enormously
Lows: Some characters not fleshed out to their full potential
If this anime proves just one thing, it is that as long as a show contains well-developed characters and an effectively emotional story, it can succeed regardless of the subject matter. Though Hikaru no Go is essentially the story of a boy learning to play a board game, it excels in virtually every facet because it is executed so well.
The first thing that caught my attention while watching this show was the incredible music. Each of the many opening and closing themes are outstanding, and the background music itself is terrific, as well. On the less technical side, it’s even better. Hikaru no Go is a prime example of character development done right. As the years pass, the appearances of the characters change, as do their personalities and goals. This helps keep things fresh for all seventy-five episodes. Whether or not you understand how the game of Go works, it is clear that based on the actions and emotions of the characters, no two games are ever the same, and every game helps to shape their personalities.
I have very few complaints about this anime, but I did have a problem with the way that it sometimes feels as though there are more characters than can be handled properly, even in such a long-running series. Several characters, great ones, are introduced in the first half and later are either pushed out of the spotlight or dropped completely. Hopefully, we will be seeing more of them in later installments of the series, as a good character is a terrible thing to waste.
Believe it or not, I do not think of Hikaru no Go as a love-it-or-hate-it series. While creating an anime based on a game is undoubtedly a risky move, Studio Pierrot was able to pull it off by focusing more on drama and the feelings of the characters than the game itself. Anyone who skips this series is missing out of one of the best dramas around.
Hikaru no Go can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.