The game is underway as Hikaru has struck a deal with Sai to play the game that could open his eyes to the promised game.
What They Say
From newly-turned pros Ochi and Waya to Go-playing veterans Ogata and Kuwabaru Hon'inbo, everyone's got their eye on this match between Hikaru and Toya Meijin...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hikaru's first game as a pro is understandably drawing a lot of attention from people who have encountered him since he started in on everything. Some of those early games of course were all about Sai but he's more than established himself since then and has really taken to the game with a driven passion that's very controlled. His first game would draw attention no matter who he played, but that he's playing against Akira's father, and that Meijin specifically requested to go against Hikaru is of a lot of significance. There's the obvious thought that it's related to Akira and the rivalry the two have, but with Meijin it goes beyond that. Unfortunately, Meijin is not playing Hikaru.
The game itself is fascinating to watch play out as those observing it are completely confused by the approach Hikaru is using. There's an opening that would end the game and it's uncertain why Hikaru is doing that or why Meijin is not taking advantage of it. What turns the game into a more exciting match is that as we watch the two play up close, we see what Meijin is thinking and how close he is to really discerning the presence of Sai there. The whole match is really intriguing him considering the age of the player and the overall style of play, which Hikaru has blended into with his own style. Meijin's an intriguing opponent who doesn't brutalize his opponent and in his own way learns from him and adapts it into a strategy that works best. While he could crush Hikaru easily, there's also the handicap to remember that went into this game which really has you looking more closely at the end result of it.
Meijin has been a more interesting character than Akira for awhile now as he's got a very different approach and in a way doesn't view Hikaru as a rival. He's a fellow player to be understood and played against to win, but he's not threatened by him. Instead, he's really intrigued by the intensity he feels from Hikaru and understands the restrictions Hikaru placed on himself, though technically on Sai, in order to play the match. The things Hikaru do are incredibly frustrating to Akira when he learns of it, owing to his age, while Meijin only becomes more interested in playing him for real someday. Sai's reactions to the match are fairly understated though and I wish we had more on that and Hikaru's thoughts on the match as it played out.
There's a lot to like with this episode, from Sai's attempt to win with a handicap to the way Hikaru reacts to Sai's after the match is over and they talk about how it went. The real winner in this episode to me though is Meijin as he really shines as the wise older player guiding the new pros while understanding what makes them tick. He's intent on winning, no mistake there, but he's genuinely interested in what this new generation will bring up. The real fun is in watching the reactions of those watching the game and the odd style of play as well as learning that Hikaru was a requested opponent, never mind what Akira learns afterward. Good stuff all around and a very enjoyable episode that just needed more of an internal monologue from Hikaru and Sai during the game.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.