story by Yumi Hotta; art by Takeshi Obata; adaptation by Naoko Amemiya
published by Viz; $9.99 US
The kids are growing up fast as they continue preparing for the international tournament introduced in the previous volume.
As a faithful follower of the series, I loved seeing what happened next, but there’s not much I can say about this book to convince someone to read it. If you’ve already tried the series, you’ll likely be wanting more. If you haven’t yet, there are better places to start, since this volume is the latter part of a long process of growing up for Hikaru. He’s exploring his talent and learning more about his skill.
The cover shows Kiyoharu from the Kansai Go Assocation, a competing organization to the group that Hikaru is part of. He’s a stunning young player, one who makes daring, unexpected moves that explore the boundaries of the game instead of just working towards winning. (Although Kiyoharu does that too.) Based on the story placement, his actions are intended to be put in context against several games between younger players and their teachers.
The students are promising, and they may even have more raw talent than the older players, but the teachers’ skills win the day. The more important lesson to take is how they handle winning. One uses the event as another learning experience, showing the loser how and why he could have improved; the other rubs it in, revealing his own insecurities and fear of the coming competition.
A lot of characters float in and out of this book, as we visit Hikaru’s graduation and his former fellow students, plus there’s all the various young people struggling to be part of the team representing their country. Artist Takeshi Obata does an excellent job making them distinctive characters, each lovely to look at in their own way.