Hikaru no Go Vol. #03 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Hikaru no Go

Hikaru no Go Vol. #03

By Chris Beveridge     July 21, 2006
Release Date: June 27, 2006

What They Say
Now that Hikaru is full-fledged student at Haze Middle School, he's ready to join the Go Club and enter tournaments. Unfortunately, his team is one player short. Can he convince Yuki Mitani, a fellow classmate, to give up scamming players at the Go Salon and join the team?

Contains episodes 9-12:
The Third Player
A Very Despicable Act
No Cheating Allowed

The Review!
As the next tournament closes in, Hikaru and Kimihiro find themselves having to secure their third member while Toya grapples with the path he's chosen.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a fairly standard stereo mix with a lot of the show being focused around dialogue as opposed to action effects or even all that much music. Both play into the show well at times with various effects but they're not dominant. The dialogue however is nicely done with plenty of placement due to the nature of Sai's voice effectively being able to come from anywhere. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions with either language track.

Originally airing back in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this show are in great shape which has resulted in a very good looking transfer here that is essentially problem free. During regular playback, the only area where we could really find much issue on our setup was during some of the angled panning sequences over the Go board where the numerous close lines started to shake a bit which is essentially just a product of NTSC. Beyond that, the show has some very vibrant and strong colors in key places and maintains a solid real-world style color scheme that helps to highlight the more unusual aspects that come into it. This is a very good looking transfer overall and very easy to get into.

Fairing a bit better design wise than the first two volumes, this cover provide a good "action" shot of Shindo playing while Sai guides him which also has a side shot of a grimacing Yuki to flesh it out. The background of the Go board itself is good and they surprise a bit by giving up so much of the top part of the cover to black space. The back cover brings in the logo again at the top and has a brief summary of the shows premise and lists the episodes and titles. Between that and the discs features (and obvious plug for the manga) there are a few bubbles of shots from the show. The bottom portion goes for a heavy credits listing and some basics in the copyright and required logos but no technical grid. The insert for the release has a softened image of a Go layout while laid on top of it is the episode list with their corresponding chapters. The reverse side is a big push for the Shonen Jump magazine and the various graphic novels.

The main menu is nicely done with a mixture of animation and static pieces. The main static image wraps around an oval along the right side where clips and stills from the show play out. The left side brings in the series logo and as close to an action pose as you can get with Hikaru and the Go pieces while next to him below the clips is a board load with pieces on it and each of them being set next to a navigation selection. The layout is very easy to navigate and the style used is very much in theme with the show and looks solid. From the menu, you can perform language selections easily and each can be toggled so you can get English language with English subtitles, or turn subtitles off, but what is really bothersome and is either poor authoring or inane license restrictions is that you cannot change subtitles on the fly. This feature is locked out and locked out features that are considered basics of the format is simply wrong. I hope Viz is able to revisit this in the future.

A small but good selection of extras make their way into this volume. The best one is that there's a brief but useful glossary/liner note section that covers some of the various terms and retained Japanese words as well as a few Go concepts. This is followed-up with a section of sketches and storyboards as well as another of the manga preview sections.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hikaru no Go moves along nicely here as it continues to work through some of the more basic setup portions of the series. With the show being seventy-five episodes long, it has a bit more of a leisurely pace in general never mind that it's a show about the game of Go. This allows for there to be more time spent in getting to know the characters and their starting positions and frustrations that form what kind of players Toya and Shindo will be.

Toya's arc on this volume is pretty enjoyable as it shows just how bad the Kaio kids can be at times but also the kind of really difficult position that Toya's joining the club has caused. Toya's been challenged already in his question to be on the team to face Shindo but he still can't be challenged by the captain since if the captain loses, it would be too humbling and demoralizing to all the other players. Players that are already quite on edge as the mood, accented by the drab colors of the Kaio rooms, and simply despise that Toya is even there. Some of the challenges that Toya gets have been interesting but this time a couple of the younger punks on the team force Toya into a number of games that he has to play blind. It's interesting to see how it goes at first but the Kaoi kids really end up going too far in their trying to shame Toya down.

The troubles Toya faces aren't just with the students but with several adults. While the principal was encouraged to see Toya join up since it would raise the level of the school in a few ways and potentially draw in more players, the Go advisor has his own methods of teaching and assigning positions for the tournaments that puts Toya in a really bad position. So much so that he gets extremely emotional about it which was great to see since it kept him in the proper frame of mind for someone his age, regardless of how great he is at Go. Toya also has to deal with his father, who talks about how he had no issue with him joining the club but is concerned about the path he's following and how it may affect his status. Similar to how Toya deals with the advisor, but a bit more controlled, Toya presents an emotional rather than logical reason for wanting to face Shindo. The interplay between father and son is really nicely done here with his father understanding but keeping the reasons for it to himself. That sense of internal pride in his son is just great to see here.

Shindo has a fairly decent arc during this volume but it's more of a secondary position as he deals more with bringing in the third member of the group. We get some decent material with him and Kimihiro and the others in talking about the upcoming competition and their plans to draw in a new member, but it all becomes much more focused on Shindo being an observer. With their poster in school with the go problem on it being solved by someone, they're able to track him down and it's interesting that we see that it's Yuki, the somewhat roguish/rough and tumbling looking student who has taken to cheating to win his games. Yuki takes advantage of his fast hands and skill at the local Go salon by adjusting stones on the table during the counting phase of the game to ensure he wins, and wins the money on the table.

Yuki's been taking advantage of people for some time but his streak is close to coming to an end when one of the older guys that comes in to play against the owner takes Yuki up on a game. Shindo spends a good bit of time and effort trying to convince Yuki to join the team but Yuki has such a good thing going on right now that it's easier to just spend a bit of time and make some money instead of playing in competitions that he doesn't think means much. What's most enjoyable about this particular storyline is that both Shindo and Yuki really come across as middle school aged kids with their attitudes, reactions and even the way and reasons behind Yuki's cheating. As diverse as characters tend to be in most mainstream anime shows today, the kids here seem to be just a bit more fallible than others, particularly when it comes to self-interest. That makes it a heck of a lot more interesting to watch.

In Summary:
With word of an increased release schedule later this year, I'm hoping that my enjoyment of the series will go up when there isn't too much time between each volume. Having been watching this since late last year and only being up to volume three, it feels like we should be much further into the show than we already area. Especially since this is such an addictive and enjoyable show, one that continues to surprise people that they're enjoying it because it's about a game of Go. This volume does some good stuff in positioning the lead characters into where they need to be for the upcoming tournament and going through some of the emotional pressures that they're under. The show has plenty of potential but it's just being hamstrung a bit right now by its schedule.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Go Glossary,Storyboards & Sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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