Let's stretch the run out just a bit more with another Special Episode.
What They Say
Back before Hikaru Shindo met Akira Toya, a young Children's Go champion pays Akira a visit to the Go Salon in order to challenge him.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Much like Sai at the start of this episode, it's very easy to feel sad about what's about to happen. With Sai still out of the picture and with Hikaru moping around over the loss of his friend that he had forgotten had value, Hikaru no Go takes us back a couple of years again but this time to a period before Sai existed within the framework of the story so he's not really in it all that much. The story focuses more around Akira who see when he was younger and the difference is even more stark than how young Hikaru has looked when we've gone to these past stories.
As young as Akira is here, there are still many people prodding him to move forwards taking the pro exam since he's so gifted and he has quite the lineage that is influencing it as well. But even as he does well and continues to push off the pro exams until he feels that he's good enough to take them, he's got this nagging feeling in the back of his head that something is missing from his life. Of course, even at this age, rumors swirl about him and his skills and there's a reputation building that's not entirely accurate in a lot of ways which keeps other players from approaching him. There are those that are tempted to go after him though, including Hideki who initially appears to be more of a somewhat older woman than a young boy who wants to challenge Akira.
I felt really bad that I thought he was a she and a middle aged lady at that. When it's revealed that he's the winner of the Children's Meijin competition, I cringed even more over it. It's just a bad design in general, especially with the turtleneck he wears. I felt worse for him after the match with Akira stated though as it was quickly apparent at just how outclassed he is by the young Toya. After the last couple of episodes with weak or little interesting Go material, even with the episode focusing on Isumi, it's good to see one of the core players, even at a younger age, going at it with all he's got against another player. It's apparent early on though as Akira's expressions soften that there's no challenge to be had here and it causes him some concern about how good the competition his father runs really is.
Akira has been lost in the shuffle as the series progressed and Hikaru found himself facing all sorts of challenges in the insei program and then as a pro. Issues there kept the two from playing against each other and we've had only a smattering of growth episodes focusing on Akira and the challenges he faced. Going back like this to the past helps to show Akira in a slightly different light, a necessary thing after all that's happened and is potentially about to happen, so it's definitely a good episode in that sense to humanize and ground him a bit more. All of this leads towards that first moment where Hikaru and Akira cross paths, giving us that clue as to what Akira's mindset really was when he met Hikaru, and it's definitely a good piece of closure for that arc. I'm definitely not a fan of these flashback specials, but this was one of the better ones.
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.