Hikaru no Go Vol. #09 - 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. #09

By Chris Beveridge     August 01, 2007
Release Date: July 31, 2007

Hikaru no Go Vol. #09
© Viz Media

What They Say
Hikaru, Waya and Isumi visit some Go salons to test themselves against a variety of opponents, but the competitive passions they stir up may be more than they can handle. At a local festival, Akira faces his own challenge in the form of a cranky city councilman, who he must let win! But Akira's not ready to "lose" so easily...

Contains episodes 33-36:
We're a Team!
No Winning Allowed!
Only One Can Win
My Name is...

The Review!
As the pro exam looms ever closer, Shindo and the others find ways to excel at their training.

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 design of the cover continues to dominate this series and this volume brings in the supporting cast to flesh things out. With Shindo's two main insei friends and Akira behind them, it has a rather dark feeling to it with the amount of black in general. 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.

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 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. New to this volume and rather welcome is a clean version of the opening and closing sequences as they changed recently.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Though it's certainly taking its time to get here, the pro exam is ever closer with these four episodes now out of the way. In a way this is a good thing as it continues to show the progress that Shindo is making in the time since he really started to become interested in Go. Rather than blazing fast through everything and becoming a phenomenon, he's been working hard while still growing at an incredible rate. When you consider that Sai was drawn to him for his potential, it isn't a stretch to believe that he could just have a real talent for the game that only showed up once he was properly motivated.

The four episodes on this volume are all about the progress that Shindo still has to make at his game. The focus is kept mostly around him, Waya and Isumi as they've become rather close during the insei games and all that was involved there. It continues to be fun to watch how Shindo's circle of friends has changed from the start of the show to where he is now. Almost nobody from those early episodes are left but there are some nods to them here and there as he moves forward in his attempts to catch up to Toya. There is a scene towards the end which has someone from an earlier match show up and realize what he saw back then wasn't a fluke. It's a great moment for Shindo since it highlights that he has grown from when he used to just let Sai play, but for Sai the implications aren't pleasant at all.

The first half of the volume focuses primarily on the trio as a group as Waya and Isumi are trying to help educate Shindo. Since he's such a neophyte about the world of Go, the realization that he's never really played against adults is something that they need to help correct. With him about to face other adults in the pro exam and even more so should he pass, the ability to handle the different styles and decades of experience is critical. Waya has an interesting plan though as he intends to take them to different Go salons to get some real variety. But he even surprises Isumi by going into them and setting up team playing with Isumi as the First and Shindo as the Third. The older men in the salons are amused by this at first but as it goes on the whole thing takes on a far more interesting air.

Shindo's education through this is surprisingly helpful as he's now exposed to far more different attacks and defenses than he's seen through the insei groups. He's also being challenged in different ways as he becomes addicted to going there. One of the salon owners suggests that he play a game with the intent to tie. This keeps you much more focused on the points and a goal which is a considerably more difficult game. But even there the challenge is something that's taken to the next level as he has to play multiple games at the same time, all of them to a draw. The parallels are drawn to what Toya can do, which isn't a surprise. Toya hasn't been on screen too much but he has a fascinating game in this volume where he has to do some of the public relations work that a pro player occasionally gets drawn into.

The show does take a nice twist with the second half of the disc as the group heads into a Go salon that's Korean in nature. With Japan losing much of its edge at the same to China and Korean, this has been something of the elephant in the room. The series has been focused mainly on the Japanese side of things with a few nods to the outside during earlier episodes but this set takes us right to the heart of the matter. Combined with Ogata and Kuwabara's talk of the next generation that they sense is coming up to show their stuff, it's good to see the differences in the two Go cultures and how they approach it. There's some mild stuff in there that plays up Shindo's usual obliviousness to, well, just about everything, but it works in this context and gives the match he plays a lot of meaning.

In Summary:
Though Hikaru no Go doesn't break any new ground here nor does it have any truly killer games with lots of tension to it, it does continue to provide solid evolution and growth for Shindo. The end of the disc does start to hint at some interesting problems as Shindo's newfound skill is realized but for the most part this is simply another set of engaging matches with a fun if simple cast of characters. Watching the cast getting more confident about their abilities while seeing how Toya is progressing provides a good balance to it while also reminding us of Shindo's real goal. Hopefully as the series progresses though we'll start to see more of Sai in a serious manner in a high level match. Until then however this just continues to be a solidly enjoyable series.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Go Glossary
Storyboards & Sketches,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 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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