story by Yumi Hotta; art by Takeshi Obata; adaptation by Naoko Amemiya
published by Viz; $9.99 US
The final tournament, begun in the last book, concludes here, as does the series.
Given that this book ends the series, published here since 2004, I expected more of a punch. Instead, this read like just another installment. There’s something to be said for consistency, I suppose, and the ending message, all about how Go has a future, feels very Japanese in approach and emphasis. It just seemed odd to me that I felt as though I could read another book or two more afterwards with no changes.
Japan and Korea, each represented by a team of three, are facing off in the international young players’ tournament. It seemed to me that there was more emphasis on game play in this volume than in many previous, with strategies and moves presented, commented on, and drawn in detail. At times, I found myself a little lost, not knowing what a “peep” or a “cut” was in terms of the game.
Koyo Toya returns, to emphasize the generational distinctions. This grand master of the game has been traveling, to find promising young players wherever they might be. The future of Go, this series finally says, is international, not only to be determined by Japan, although there are potentially great players there too. (All of them male, apparently.)
Instead of focusing on Hikaru only, the final tournament also features Akira Toya, Koyo’s son, and his competition game. Hikaru has become only one of a large cast, even though it’s his name on the title. That’s because it’s all about the over-arching tradition, “link[ing] the distant past to the far future,” as Hikaru puts it. No individual player is that important — heck, we don’t even get to see Ko Yong Ha and Hikaru resolve the misunderstanding that made their tournament face-off so significant — what matters is the game continuing and improving over the years. That’s an effort the existence of this manga has also contributed to positively.
Filling out the book is a sketchbook section, with head shots of the characters by artist Takeshi Obata and comments by writer Yumi Hotta, and two bonus stories. The first, a flashback to a game between Akira Toya and Hikaru back when the spirit of Sai was teaching Hikaru how to play Go, reminded me how much I missed seeing the courtly ghost. The series changed after his departure back in Book 15, becoming a more traditional story of a young boy working to become a champion.
The second story is a short afterword, with Akira and Hikaru and two members of yet another new generation, inspired by them to carry on. I thought at first that one of the two younger players was a girl, which thrilled me, but it wasn’t to be. I was just misreading the cuteness. Their trainer is a woman, though, so maybe it’s not a totally male game world. (The publisher provided a review copy.)