With his game against Meijin Toya out of the way, the show shifts its focus onto Sai both in the past and present.
What They Say
In order to better understand why the spirits of Go have kept his soul on the planet, Sai reflects upon his life during the Heian Period as well as when he met Hikaru and faced Akira Toya.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While there were aspects to the game against Meijin that I felt were underplayed, the episode in general was definitely a solid one that gave Sai a chance to play, though he didn't exactly shine. With a strong handicap on him and playing against a real master, Sai certainly had the deck stacked against him. The relationship between Hikaru and Sai definitely changed during this small arc as each of them are strong personalities in their own way and they haven't really clashed for awhile with what they want out of the relationship going forward.
The whole incident has caused Sai to reflect on his current life and wonder whether he'll actually find what it is he's looking for. The small chink in their relationship has him questioning a lot of things and it starts him to remembering events from a thousand years ago when he was playing Go against those of the court. The accusations that fly in the course of a match caused Sai to lose, and badly, because his reputation was ruined and he ended up banished from the capitol. What drove him, and drives him to this day, is his desire to play Go and to find the Divine Move. His journey in the outside world led him to a man named Torajiro who took him in and played often with him, giving him hope for finding the Move, but ultimately leaving him unfulfilled.
Much of the second half focuses on Sai's arrival in the present where he discovers Hikaru who can hear him and eventually see him as well. Though it's a truncated version of events, a lot of time is spent on watching Hikaru gain his skills through watching Sai and playing for him against people like Akira, who he ends up really undermining in a lot of ways. Akira hadn't faced a serious challenge outside of his father, and some of his losing may be a subconscious deferral to him, that meeting losses against such a strong if unusual opponent really drove him in a different way. But Hikaru wasn't the only one to learn things as Sai learned how Go was played in the present, the new rules surrounding it and the structure of the tournaments, professionals and more. The world of Go grew bigger for Sai throughout this and it even seemed like he lost his focus in the search for the Divine Move in order to usher in Hikaru's playing to the world.
Generally, I really dislike recap episodes. But that's more so when you have a shorter series. Fifty episodes into Hikaru no Go, a recap is not a bad thing and not when done in this sort of introspective way with Sai narrating things as he tries to understand why he's going through all of this. It's not entirely re-used animation as we have bridging clips in between and new material toward the end that helps to cement it as more than just fluff to be skipped. And honestly, after the long break between the DVD releases and the streams, having a recap at this point is definitely helpful to fully reconnect with the show. This works well as a nice way to recharge Sai's batteries after what's happened and remind him, and the viewers, what his real goal may be.
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.