story by Yumi Hotta; art by Takeshi Obata; adaptation by Naoko Amemiya
published by Viz; $9.99 US
No matter how long it’s been since I’ve read a volume of Hikaru no Go, with each new book, I quickly find myself caught up in the excitement of competition.
I admit, the previous book, with its six side stories of other characters, seemed like a digression, pleasant but not very necessary, and the one before that I found a turning point that was a bit talky. But this one is right back to the nail-biting excitement I last saw in Book 16. Perhaps it’s me, that I’ve better adjusted to the new status quo of the series, with Hikaru as a young man with a dream instead of a boy with a ghost.
Conveniently, this volume opens with a brief scene where an attendent at a go salon introduces the main characters to an observer — helpful to those of us who appreciate the memory jog. Hikaru is in his first year of pro status as a go player. He and his nemesis, Akira, now play casual games, as Hikaru dreamed of, but Hikaru’s disappointed that their official rankings are still far apart.
The players know each other, and they’ve reached a point where they can refer back to their history together, remembering previous times they’ve faced particular competitors or recalling significant games. Just like the readers, reminded that they’ve seen these characters grow up and learn from each other. Hikaru’s drawn as himself, but a little older and lankier, less a child and more a young man.
Hikaru would have been further along in his career and towards his goal if he hadn’t skipped so many games in the previous seasons. Choices have consequences, and we have to live with the results of the decisions we make, even if they were for good reasons. He’s decided to carry a fan to his matches, a symbol with multiple meanings. It reminds him and us of Sai, mentor from another era, but it also reminded me of some of the snobs he’s previously battled. I saw it as a warning that he might become too sure of himself, too caught up in the pride of his own skills. He has talent, but he just use it responsibly. The fan is also an intimidator, something that indicates to his opponents that he’s immensely serious about this game, since some of the older pros use one.
Future volumes will show many of these characters participating in an international tournament among Japan, China, and Korea for 18-year-olds and under. Right now, they’re preparing for it, and the playoffs it will take to earn a place on the team. I was also pleased to see a short author’s note about the rise of women go players.