The simple phrase of talent is worthless if you don't play is what perfectly sums up Hikaru's situation at this moment.
What They Say
Isumi returns to Japan a stronger and more focused player. He soons discovers what everyone else already knows: Hikaru Shindo is losing his games by default...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hikaru is slowly but surely getting closer to playing the game of Go again as he finds himself drawn to it after being away for awhile. His quick visit to the high school tournament previously had him feeling the rush inside him again as he watched others play and could feel the way games should go. The small exposures, something he's tried to stay away from, are becoming more common and harder to resist. The game has definitely gotten into his blood and he very much is drawn to it in a way that surprises him at times as well.
While he struggles with this, Isumi has returned to Japan to do his preparations for the pro exam and he's surprised to find out about the losses by default that Hikaru has been having. It's not what he expected after all this time and it's really shocking when he finds out that it's more than one loss at that. Isumi's return has him getting back in touch with Waya and it's actually rather adorable since he kids him by treating him like Le Ping at first, treating him like a little kid who has suddenly shot up. Waya's confusing is obvious enough but just seeing a happy and outgoing Isumi that has some confidence to him is the real plus here. His meeting with Waya has him searching for more answers about what's going on with Hikaru, leading him to talk to several people about it so he can get a clearer picture.
Isumi's eventually confrontation with Hikaru over things is fairly anticlimactic but there aren't any real expectations to be had here in general. The growing round of concern expressed by others is what's important here as every little nudge towards getting him to play again is critical at this stage. The adults that are aware of the situation are taking just as varied an approach as the younger kids are that are now pros so it's interesting to see the similarities, especially where there's a push by some to remind him of his original struggle to defeat Akira. Akira has been largely out of the picture for Hikaru for awhile now but the loss of Sai even has him questioning whether that's something he ever really wanted to deal in. Yet just by talking about it, Hikaru brings everything closer to the surface and it pushes him further along the right path, with a little help from his friends.
As much as I disliked Isumi's arc into China, the important part is how he's come back to Japan with a new found confidence. That confidence is important to him as a player and for the test he must take, but it's also the confidence that will get him to sit down in front of Hikaru and forcibly put a Go board between them. Isumi had struggled hard against Hikaru and there's been that rivalry and camaraderie between the two, but it's now at a strange stage where each of them are actually about to support each other to rise up to their actual potential. The moment the board is placed between the two of them is a powerful moment of understanding for both young men that helps to elevate this episode significantly.
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.