The reality of Hikaru's situation finally hits home as the stones fly across the board.
What They Say
Isumi finally tracks down Hikaru and pleads with him to play one game with him. Hikaru, fearful that if he plays Sai will not return, reluctantly agrees...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Isumi's return from Japan may just be the kick in the pants that Hikaru needs to get playing again. The last episode had a beautiful moment where the two ended up face to face with Isumi forcing Hikaru's hand by putting the Go table between them so that it was a strong reminder of what's in his blood. Now that he started that much, Isumi's doing the rest that's necessary in cleaning the dust off and reflecting outwardly to Hikaru about what he learned from his time in China and how it's shaped him, and the path that he wants to walk on that's very similar to Hikaru's. The two haven't been the best of friends during their time as Insei, but there's a bond that's forming here that may be the most important on to Hikaru outside of his one with Sai.
When the two begin their game, it all comes flowing back after Hikaru stops asking for Sai's forgiveness and they go at it. Each new move becomes a key move in the match, bringing more of their desire to win to the foreground. Hikaru doesn't take long to become lost in the game and Isumi is playing to win just as hard since he expect nothing less of Hikaru. The two help to raise each other into the game, the intensity rising with each new move. It's also nicely paralleled to a game that Akira is playing in competition that will lead to who will play in the special round robin tournament, with it being his first time getting in there. Even as he plays there, Hikaru is on his mind as someone important to him that he must confront yet, though it's not as though he's realizing that Hikaru is playing once again.
Hikaru has a truly beautiful moment of realization during this game, though it's one that you know Isumi will misinterpret in some way. Watching Hikaru well up and then to have the tears flow in the midst of the game as Hikaru sees the shadow of Sai in his game is more than he can take. But it forces him to really think about what he's been doing and what all Sai taught him. It's a moment of growing up more into a true man that Hikaru has as he grapples with the loss of someone important, but retaining the important things that he was taught by him. Hikaru's had some emotional moments in this arc since Sai disappeared and all of them have felt very appropriate to the situation and not just tacked on frivolity.
The return of true Go playing to the series, not from flashbacks or with secondary characters that you don't have much invested in, is a very welcome return to form for Hikaru no Go. The various filler episodes didn't help the show much, though some of it was necessary such as Isumi's arc in China, but when we get back to the really meaty material like this and the previous episode, we're quickly reminded of why Hikaru no Go has become such an intense show that you connect with. Seeing Hikaru finally starting to wake up and have the realizations that come with being an adult is well timed and it's likely going to turn him into an even more amazing player as we get into the final stretch of the series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language
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.