Hikaru no Go Vol. #05 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, October 04, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hotta Yumi/Obata Takeshi
Translated by:Andy Nakatani
Adapted by:

What They Say
START
Sai's games on the Internet have Go players around the world guessing his true identity. Among them is Hikaru's rival, Akira, who suspects that Hikaru is hiding behind the screen name "sai." So intense is Akira's interest, in fact, that he skips the first day of his pro exam for a re-match. And on a rainy Sunday, the battle of wills begins anew...

The Review
Packaging:
I have to say Viz's presentation of Hikaru no Go looks very good. The cover for this volume features the captain of the Haze Shogi Club, Kaga Tetsuo, wearing his trademark red "SHOGI" t-shirt. His image is on a black Go stone placed on a white background beneath the logo. The opposite cover has am image featuring Sai, Akira and Hikaru around a Go board.

Inside, Viz retains the volume header and all of the following chapter headers. They have also translated notes from the author and the editor. Viz has also included a preview blurb for the next volume and a couple manga ads.

Artwork:
Obata's art is very tight. Actually, this has to be some of the best art I have seen in a Shonen Jump title in a while (yes possibly better than Katsura's). Characters have a good sense of proportion. Their lines are thick and very strong. Obata's inking is especially good as it used for tone and shading in a variety of situations (layout and character/costume work mainly). I love Obata's eyes they are a good size and still very expressive (once again because of the inking). Moreover, the manpu he uses on his characters are simple but brings out a good amount of comedic relief to what is a rather funny series already.

The layout is very good. It is very active and keeps readers active in the reading process as well. What I mean by this is that the layout through manpu sets up tone and mood of scenes. Action, tension, shock or fear can be expressed by the layout. And in a sport like go where the action is very methodical that is critical in order to create excitement. The backgrounds are also very good. This is also very important for every sports manga. It gives readers a few perspectives at the game at hand. The best change the perspective and depth to give new looks at the playing field (or in this case the board) to give readers an overall look at the game, often creating a sense of realism for hardcore fans of the sport to appreciate and new fans to learn from. Very impressive work, because Obata does all of this with detail and style.

Text/SFX:
This is how a sports manga should be translated. Nakatani does a solid job with both translation and adaptation. The translation is easy to read and understand. I did not notice spelling issues. The SFX look good as well, so overall a solid production by Viz.

What makes this a good production is how Viz hired a go expert to provide consultation. Janice Kim can provide insight behind the game of go and help make the script easier to understand for readers new to the game. This creates a better sense of realism, thus making the matches even more exciting.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Akira has a lot on his plate this week. While one might not think he would have anything but his pro exams on his mind there has been one thing lingering for a while and he cannot let go of it. His exams obviously take priority but he also has a game he feels he has to play to finally prove something before he breaks into the pro ranks.

Akira had been waiting to find out if Hikaru is the phenom that has taken the cyber-go world by storm. Someone by the screen name of "sai" has taken on all comers and has defeated everyone with relative ease. What has fascinated go players over the world is the style of play this "sai" plays in and the sheer numbers of matches this person puts in on a regular day. Akira has been told he plays with a style that has long been considered lost with the ages. The form is frighteningly similar to that of Hikaru's when Akira first faced off with the middle schooler. However, why did Hikaru not take Akira seriously the last time they played if he is defeating some of the best amateur players in the world online? The inconsistency is what has been eating away at Akira. He has to find out which game Hikaru really possess? Is he the next champion in the making? Is his game the one closer to achieving the "divine move"? Is he getting the online? Alternatively, was the school tournament Hikaru the real Hikaru that cannot place stones or count points?

Akira has to play this game before he moves on. He will not have the luxury to do so after, so now in the middle of his exams he had to do this. He has to clear his doubts. But what will happen to Hikaru when it is all over?

Hikaru will have to take a big step himself. He could continue his current path and play in school tournaments with his new friends or he could turn the tables and decide to chase after Akira. Each one has its merits and its responsibilities. Only one will end up giving him the satisfaction that got him interested in the game in the first place.

Guess which he will choose?

Comments
Finally! Finally, Hikaru begins to learn that the world of Go, only begins at the game and defeating those before you. As his rival begins to formally enter the world of Go, Hikaru starts to understand that there is much more to the game than rivals or collecting wins. The game is there to expand the will within each player and it is up to each player to decide just how far they are willing (and capable) of taking that idea.

For a few volumes, I almost thought Akira almost forgot about the game to pursue a silly rivalry with a cheater. He was playing against someone else, possibly the image of what he thought the game could be to him and I thought he could understand that, especially after he defeated Hikaru so easily in the local school tournament. However, it took some more pushing to get Akira to finally see that clearly. And when he finally saw that he left Hikaru behind to become a professional. His whole world would begin to change in a dramatic way. No more small tournaments against players that could be playing for fun, from this point on every match will be for his future. Even at this early point in his life, every match would determine his standing in his profession. There will be loses and victories, but in the end the perfect game is the goal and that will only come through playing the best and that will only come through consistently winning and improving his game.

Hotta-sensei finally slaps Hikaru in the face (and multiple times, as well). Yeah, Hikaru learned the difference between a total newbie and a fanatic already, but now he is going to learn why there are funny rules to the game of Go and why others seem to take this "game" so much more seriously than he does. Hikaru has to finally improve his own game and take control of what he wants Go to be for him. He has had fun with Akira chasing him. That gave him some motivation for a while, but that is gone. Akira will no longer be playing Hikaru... unless Hikaru takes on the responsibility to compete at the level at the Akira will be quickly moving into. This will take some major decisions on behalf of the young player. He will have to give up on many of the things that made the game so enjoyable up to this point. He will also have to begin to take this game seriously as a job and not just a game. He cannot fool around behind Sai's game (in person or on the net). There is no time to continue playing with his friends if he ever hopes to catch up to Akira (who has become a pro already). He has to prove himself as soon as possible and that might mean embarrassment from the start. These are the risks he has to take now or else his new goal will be unattainable before he knew it.

Hikaru no Go has always frustrated me because the game is so hard to master and yet Hikaru is always given a leg up on his competition. Whether it was Sai helping him win his matches early or it was simply getting dramatically better through experiencing hundreds of more high-level games than most amateurs get to experience in their lives. An advantage is not afforded to most people. Moreover, that concept always took away that struggle that I appreciate from the better sports manga out there. You usually see characters have to struggle with their practice. Learn from their mistakes and then eventually evolve their game for the sake of improvement. However, readers do not get to experience that in this series. All of a sudden, Hikaru wins handicapped matches. Then he starts to win even games. Soon he is pulling a street corner hustler move by taking on three players at once winning two of three. There is no drama in that. There is very little excitement either, since readers are not treated to the great game play that was present in previous matches. We get a plot without complications... at least not for Hikaru. The rest of the cast has plenty to struggle with but Hotta's focus has to be on the main character and how he always gets the easy way out.

There is no doubt that there is something brewing for Hikaru, but I can already see some way out for him continuing his run of good luck for who knows how long. That is what is going to continue to make this title predictable and almost boring. More of the game and the one-on-one battle would fix quite a few problems (even if Hikaru ends up winning most of his matches). Just the drama of the match would liven up a predictable story.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: All
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 7.99
Pages: 204
ISBN: 1-59116-689-6
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left