Hikaru no Go Vol. #08 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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. #08

By Chris Beveridge     July 20, 2007
Release Date: May 29, 2007


Hikaru no Go Vol. #08
© Viz Media


What They Say
Hikaru is ready to qualify for the Pro Exam and take the next step to becoming a Go master. But can he handle the pressure of top competition and overcome his own inexperience? He's not the only one sweating - Ogata Sensei has his sights set on the coveted title of Hon'inbo, but the current title-holder, wily Kuwabara Sensei, won't give it up without a fight!

Contains episodes 29-32:
Kuwabara Hon'in Bo
Ogata vs. the Hon'in Bo
The Awful Opponent
Last Day of the Prelims

The Review!
Time continues on as Shindo progresses in his game as the pro test is almost upon them.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Though Shindo and Toya are in the foreground, they're dominated more by the large background shot of Ogata which in itself is dominated by the logo and other trappings of the design. To make matters worse, a burst sticker for Toonami Jetstream is on the plastic itself and not on the shrinkwrap. It's like they're just trying to find ways to make the cover look even less appealing. The style and design is decent though with the large size logo it all looks a bit busy and cramped. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
A small but good selection of extras makes 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 hits up another four episodes which points to just how awkwardly the show has been handling the passage of time. It's been a year since Toya took his pro test and Shindo has been working hard at it and is growing in the game but little else. In fact, during one point in the show, it's something of a revelation to his mother that he's even taking the pro exam, something that you'd think would come up at some point considering how much time he spends playing Go.

There are a pair of main story elements that are woven through these four episodes that represent the evolution of the series at this stage. The first one that we get puts Shindo and the other insei in the background for a bit as it focuses on Ogata and Kuwabara. The two are locked in their seven game series to determine the title holder for Hon'inbo. There is a good generational battle going on here, as well as just completely different personalities, as the two of them go about this over the course of two months. Motivations between the two are different but the end goal is the same as Ogata ends up making things more difficult for himself.

In revealing to Kuwabara that he must defeat him in order to be ready for the new generation of powerful pro players that he senses are coming up, Kuwabara finds that this is exactly what he's looking for. While you don't get the implication that Kuwabara wasn't playing to win, you do see that he's now playing a much larger game across the series of seven games and in some ways is almost playing a teaching game with Ogata. Kuwabara has had a sense that something was going on with the next generation but Ogata's admission of it has him far more interested in staying around than he was before. With three main generations to watch across this series, watching the two older sets play their own battles is just as interesting as the new generation.

When it comes to the younger set, their battles are just as interesting but play out in obviously very different ways. For Shindo, the most interesting thing is that he continues to be fairly oblivious to the basics of the insei world and really doesn't seem that eager to learn until he catches up to Toya. This has him being ignorant of a lot of the social rules of the game as well as many of the key players in it which just alternately amuses and frightens his friends. At the same time, his general innocence about all of it has some of the others, such as Waya, wondering if he really understands that they're all really rivals for the few positions that open up once a year.

With the pro exams now underway, the series starts to ratchet up the tension as the close knit group of friends within the insei have to start competing against each other but also the various members of the general public that have come in. With Shindo focusing so much on other insei as well as trying to get closer to Toya, he's lost out on a lot of what's helped to strengthen others over the years by playing in Go salon's against adults who can be intimidating by their presence alone. Not unlike previous matches and tournaments, there's a healthy bit of teaching going on for the viewer and it's given more drama than it would have in real life, but it continues to be done in an engaging enough manner to really keep your attention. Sai actually gets kept to the background a bit more this time around but overall this has developed into a strong ensemble cast. It's also been very interesting to see the evolution of Shindo's friends as he's moved firmly from his Go club at school to the insei world.

In Summary:
Having seen this part of the show in manga form before I stopped getting the books since it was spoiling the TV series too much, there isn't exactly a lot of new material for me here but there is a lot of good material. The evolution of the characters is handled well when it comes to the game itself but there are a number of missing aspects when it comes to the characters lives in general. The focus is kept mostly on their Go careers so that isn't a surprise but it creates a bit more of a one dimensional nature for them. The series is set for its next level here, something evidenced by the new opening sequence. Hikaru no Go continues to grow well and each volume, even if seen in manga form, is engaging and fun to watch.

Features
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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