Isumi's career in China is continually being tested as he wants to return to the world of Japan as a pro.
What They Say
Still in China, Isumi decides to stay and to improve his game and boost his confidence. With the help of his new friend Yang Hai, he challenges the bratty Le Ping to a rematch...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The recent turn of story events has been continually depressing as the filler material is really stretching out the show towards its end. Instead of coming away from the series wishing it would never end, I now find myself getting closer to the feeling of wishing the end would hurry up so I could get past all of it. Some of it wasn't bad, such as the previous episode that showed us what Akira was going through just prior to his first meeting with Hikaru, but a lot of it has been flat or uninteresting at best. At best.
The side story that showcased what Isumi has been up to since he failed his test was mildly interesting in the way that we understood how hard it struck him and how far he has to go in order to try again to enter the world of the pros. His trip to China has been good for him and we've certainly gotten an understanding in the different approaches the two countries employ in order to bring out better and better Go players. The dorm aspect with numerous players there of a young age while married or involved ones live by paints it as a very strong passion/obsession for the game and the familiarity and comfort one gets from people pursuing the same goals and sports. There isn't all that much appealing about the lifestyle there though and Isumi is finding it harder and harder to stay since he's getting beaten by people that he should not be beaten by.
What Isumi needs more than anything else is confidence at this point as he has the skill and drive. Something is keeping him from really achieving his goals. He ends up getting some help from Yang Hai in order to sharpen himself so he can play against Le Ping. Le Ping is something of a visual representation of the challenges he has back home since he reminds him of Waya. It's not a completely altruistic thing though as Isumi is asked to play him by Yang Hai because he wants Le Ping to be taken down a couple of pegs. Yang Hai is at least up front about it and Isumi gets it and has no issue with it as it's a chance to stop thinking of every game as a step to becoming a pro or a pro exam itself in a way. The simple honesty between the two works well for establishing what they're doing, but also because it helps Isumi really understand more about himself and what he needs to do in order to truly play Go again.
Hikaru makes a small appearance in this episode but the majority of it is given over to Isumi in China and it's pretty dull. The relationship between him and Yang Hai isn't bad nor is the match that's played against Le Ping, but it all feels quite useless and pointless. The Go aspect itself is pretty small as well with only a few minutes of serious gameplay given to it towards the end and even that isn't anywhere near as detailed as we usually get with other games. While it is good to see Isumi finally get his mojo back, it really is something that I don't care about. So much emotion and investment was put into the Sai and Hikaru relationship that having it off the radar for several episodes now in any meaningful form feels like a bit of a slap. With less than ten episodes to go, the show needs to get back on track and soon as this is downgrading my overall opinion of it.
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.