story by Yumi Hotta; art by Takeshi Obata; adaptation by Naoko Amemiya
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Hikaru Shindo gave up the game of go in the last volume, but here, he’s found new purpose in playing tournaments and continuing to strive for pro status.
He sees the memory of the departed Sai in the games he plays. He’s passed a major turning point in his life, choosing to push forward on the path to go pro instead of being dragged along by some other force.
That theme is echoed through the rest of the volume. Much of this book is about the turning point from youth to adult and other signs of growing maturity and facing the future. Hikaru is more often called Shindo, for example, by those who are no longer treating him as the child he used to be. We check in with Hikaru’s schoolmates and their go group, struggling to survive as many of them are about to graduate but inspired by the opportunity to gain a fresh start. Other scenes show battles over the titles left empty by the champion Toya’s retirement, new players struggling to fill gaps opened by generational change.
Others are taking Shindo’s rivalry with Akira Toya seriously, as Hikaru has demonstrated the skills to challenge him. As one sage points out, it takes two great players to make a great game of go. Together, the two are speculated about as “the future of go” by observers and journalists.
Now, there can be a little too much talk for my tastes — as shown by Hikaru’s experience chasing Akira, words only matter if backed up by deeds. So all this chatter about a new generation and how mature Hikaru has become only matters if they fulfill their potential and inspire others. The reporters speculating on this “new wave” have their own incentive to keep the game interesting, too, to sell more papers and keep their organizations alive.
Artistically, I was reminded of the stark beauty of black-and-white artwork as I studied the dramatic poses and excellent contrast Takeshi Obata uses to portray the matches. It’s nicely connected to the game itself, black and white markers coming together to create multi-faceted patterns. I was reminded of the musical Chess and the lyric “Each game of chess means there’s one less variation left to be played.” Yet there’s always another game to come.
This is the first Hikaru no Go book published after the price was raised from $7.95 to $9.99, and the increased cost shouldn’t put off readers, since the story is still inspiring.