Hikaru no Go Vol. #05 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • 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. #05

By Chris Beveridge     December 08, 2006
Release Date: November 28, 2006

Hikaru no Go Vol. #05
© Viz Media

What They Say
With Hikaru's help, the ghost of Go master Sai has become the sensation of the Internet Go world. Players from all over the world are itching to know the identity of the player who never loses and displays an almost superhuman ability. But rival Akira sees the similarities in the mystery player's game to the one he played with Hikaru, and will stop at nothing to discover the true identity of "Sai"!

Contains episodes 17-20.
Deja Vu
Akira vs. Sai
Hikaru's True Strength
The Road to Turning Pro

The Review!
A round of realizations come to Hikaru in this volume that are encouraging but also forces him to get truly serious.

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. This set of episodes seemed prone to a bit more line jitter, often coming just before scene transitions, which proved to be rather distracting. Beyond that, 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. Otherwise, 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.

The cover for this installment is a shift from previous ones in that the Go board in the background is gone. Taking its place is an expanded area of white that shows off some of Sai's outfit as well as providing some balance to the cherry blossoms that are falling around. Akira and Hikaru still take prominent places in the foreground though with each doing a move placement gesture. 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 had hoped that Viz would fix this in the future but apparently it's something that they cannot do; the insert with this volume provides a bit of text along the bottom indicating that you cannot change the subtitle tracks on the fly with your remote. That likely removes incompetence as the reason for it and puts it in licensing restrictions which really doesn't make sense since you can still manipulate them to get what you want, just not on the fly.

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)
Twenty episodes into the series and Hikaru's path to catching up to Akira finally starts to get really clear. The timing is perfect as his belief in his own skills is finally starting to cement as others are realizing it as well. Sometimes it's just a little encouragement from others that can really inspire someone to make that leap forward in effort.

The ongoing tournament that's attracted a wide range of strong players from around the world is still the initial focus here. A lot of them have come because they love to play but there is an undercurrent of discussion about the mysterious Internet player named Sai. It actually becomes such a topic that it slows down the tournament as the players who are familiar with him online all start to trade notes. This all comes at the same time that Hikaru is playing at the Internet café so the players are able to wrangle him into a game with Toya taking control. The tournament itself shifts to the background as the rematch that the two agree upon is afterwards. Toya's a quick person though and the moves that Hikaru used reminded him of exactly who he played against before and that leads to a confrontation with Hikaru.

Hikaru's had a difficult time in dealing with how he and Sai have dealt with Toya since it's created an odd relationship for them, one that has affected Toya very strongly. When Hikaru is away from Toya though, he's continuing to grow better and stronger with each game and it's becoming more apparent. While he's nowhere near Toya's level on his own, his strengths have him surpassing those in his club and some others that he's getting involved with. Being the hands that have played for Sai via the Internet for so long now some of the techniques are starting to rub off on him. While Sai doesn't seem able to play a teaching game with him, Hikaru is learning from Sai in that way.

The recognition from his peers is good for his confidence but he doesn't take it and go overboard by any stretch. In fact, before he's really able to start feeling good about it he runs into Kishimoto from Kaio and ends up in a game at one of the local Go cafés. Kishimoto is able to eliminate him easily enough but he does have a sense that Hikaru has grown some. But what is key is that he lays out some of what Hikaru has been unaware of in that Toya is almost to the point where he is about to rocket forward. His pro test has come and gone and a whole new world is about to open up to Toya, one that will put Hikaru further and further behind him. Hikaru now has to face that reality and decide whether he can apply himself enough to really catch up.

There are a few good games played in these episodes but the games aren't central to what's going on, rather they provide the launching point for much of the character drama. The foreign tournament players have helped to secure Sai's reputation online and strike a common bond between many of them, but it's also made sure some of them like Waya and Toya have to really deal with their own issues. Toya's time in these episodes has him reaching a turning point in his desire to beat Hikaru. Another fun place is watching the growth in the Go club at Hikaru's school. Some new arrivals have come in while Kimihiro is struggling with his entrance exam preparations. From when there was only two members to now having six, it's changed fairly well there even though it's kept in the background. It also faces its biggest challenges yet which will force some of them to question their following of Hikaru " something he hasn't realized is happening yet.

In Summary:
As much as I try to not read the manga while watching the show, the book keeps drawing me in which now has me further on than this volume was. That only leads to confusion since I can't remember which has happened here yet. Hikaru no Go is a very addictive show though it's slackened a bit in the last batch of episodes as it gets ready to set Hikaru on the proper path he needs to be on. What is apparent in this volume is that there has been some excellent growth in almost all of the characters as they seek the different things that they're all after. Each new episode, each new Go game, they push things forward for everyone and it's all strangely fascinating still.

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

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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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