Sometimes you can read the word flashback and think you're going to get a recap episode and be all disappointed.
What They Say
In this bonus flashback episode, Hikaru and Sai encounter an antiques dealer who sells counterfeit heirlooms he claims are from the distant past...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hikaru no Go takes an interesting approach to the Sai-less days by giving us a flashback episode in which the two are together very early on in their relationship. It's been interesting without Sai the last couple of episode as it's given Hikaru a chance to grow up some while still showing his very emotional side of his youth. Going back what seems like a couple of years to his days at school and at a time when Sai was still pretty new to him, it feels very... childish I guess you could put it. Hikaru has certainly grown but it's when you do things like this that it's all the more apparent.
The crux of this storyline is similar to one we saw recently in Hikaru's pro days as young Hikaru ends up in an antique dealers shop and comes across as shady merchant whose selling fakes to people for exorbitant prices. It's very reminiscent of the man selling the famous Go tables that weren't what they seemed but it has the kind of brashness that comes from Hikaru's age in this tale. Hikaru's been having an off day to begin with at school where he caused a lot of trouble and got Kaga very angry at him, so it's little surprise that time spent in an antique shop has him breaking something that's supposedly valuable but really isn't that leads him into more trouble.
But it's trouble that could potentially help people in the long run as he learns that the merchant may be dealing in stolen goods. That it turns out that the item that a young girl says was stolen is actually a flower bowl he knew in Kyoto when he was with Torajiro is an amusing coincidence to be sure, but it adds an extra bit of history to things and to Sai's background that makes him a bit more real and present in a way. That everything that happens here is thrown into the fate of a game of Go isn't a surprise as the merchant has a real and true 5 Dan certificate on his wall, which means he thinks he can take down Hikaru easily. At this stage, he probably could, but Sai is playing for the honor of a friend from the past and a young girl who wants part of her history back, so it's a quick but brutal game.
Hikaru no Go gives us a nice no-impact episode here that allows us to revisit Hikaru and Sai when they were together and still fairly new to the whole experience. It's a bit more overt with its comedy and silly factor as well as dealing with Go in a more basic manner since Hikaru wasn't really up to speed on things. While it's a throw-away episode overall, it's one that does remind you of where the series once was at times and just how much it's changed over the course of its run, just before it enters the final run to the series conclusion. It's not a bad episode but it's one I can easily see myself being frustrated by during the original broadcast run since I'd want more of the main storyline and not this one done to give the animators a bit of breathing room after an already long run on the series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.