Hikaru no Go Volume 23

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.)

Hikaru no Go Volume 23

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 volume 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.)


  • Just a comment on the gender issue, it’s my understanding that until pretty recently, the game was so male-dominated that men and women did not even compete against each other for the highest titles, and women mainly competed in special women-only tournaments. This is changing, but if you look at the bio for Rui Naiwei, considered to be the strongest female player in the game, she was the first ever woman to achieve 9-dan status, and that was just in 1988. She was also the first woman to win two big open tournaments (one as recently as 2004), but even there you can see that most of her wins have been in women’s tournaments. I’m not an expert in Go or anything, but this is something I looked into a lot when I was initially obsessed with the series, so I figured I’d pass it on. :)

    That said, the technical advisor for the manga series was a female pro, so women really *are* becoming more visible in the game! On the other hand, I’ve heard that part of the reason she was chosen to do Go tutorials at the end of the anime episodes is that she’d been ranked “best looking Go pro” or something like that. Take that as you will.

    On a different, but still gender-related note, as you probably know (since I’ve been very open about it in my blog), Hikaru no Go was the first manga series (and actually the first comic series of any kind other than newspaper strips) I ever read, and I read it via scanlations, since that’s how it was introduced to me. I’m actually surprised to hear you say that Oka isn’t a girl! The scanlators used female pronouns for the character all through that chapter! I’m looking forward to reading the official translation for this volume at long last.

  • Wow, that’s some neat background, thank you. I didn’t realize this was such an early favorite for you. Is Oka one of the next generation at the end?

  • Yes, Oka is the one who initially argues that Akira is the best player, before getting trounced by Hikaru in their match. :) I’m assuming that’s who you (and the scanlators!) originally thought was a girl.

    And yeah, it would not be a stretch to say that Manga Bookshelf would most likely not exist if my friend Aja hadn’t convinced me to read Hikaru no Go. In fact, it was only a few months before that happened that I’d made a big post in my blog at the time about why I would never get into comics. Heh. I’ve learned since to never say never.

  • Oh, your first manga is a much better choice than mine. I’m so glad it worked for you!

  • Oh! I also should mention that I think, considering how male-dominated the game has historically been, that it’s significant that the series makes a point of following up with the Haze Middle School Go Club from time-to-time, even after Hikaru has long left it, and especially with the club’s female members, who really put a lot of work into keeping it going. I think it was important to Yumi Hotta to show young girls getting interested in Go. Her depiction of the actual Go world at the time was, from what I understand, pretty accurate, but it’s clear that in addition to inspiring a new generation of young boys (WSJ’s primary audience), she wanted to inspire girls too. Nearly every source I’ve consulted has commented on the huge influence the manga had on re-popularizing Go in Japan, especially among children, and though none of them specifically mention girls, I can only hope that some of those new Go clubs were started by or supported by girls like Akari and Kaneko (who also goes down as one of the few heavy-set teen girls I’ve ever seen portrayed positively in manga).

    I’ll stop spamming you now, I promise. But I’m enthusiastic, as you can see.

    Also, I’m dying to ask what your first manga was!

  • Not spamming! Very interesting background and elaboration I was unaware of. I very much appreciate your contributions.

    My first mangas were Hot Gimmick (yuck) and Love Hina. It’s kind of amazing I stuck with it. :)

  • Oh wow. Yes. Yes, it really is.

  • Lily

    For me the real ending to this series is vol 17 (that also where the anime series ended at), I feel like there not that much else to add to the story after that point.

  • lovelyduckie

    That ending got me mad. They tried to have a positive spin on it with a message of how everyone is always developing and changing, and how Shindou has a great life of Go ahead of him. AND I understand that Go players aren’t undefeated in life, they win some, they lose some. But the fans of this series were already being denied so many scenes that they hoped they would see someday (Shindou winning against Akira, Shindou becoming a player on par with Sai, the Divine Move, etc…) couldn’t we have at least been given a strong win before saying farewell to Shindou and the gang? Sometimes I like having an unexpected and slightly sadder ending to my series, it adds a touch of realism. But this was a series that I REALLY did not want to end on such a negative note.

    But keep in mind, the reson I’m THIS upset over the ending is because I really liked the series. I wouldn’t care as much if it was a series I wasn’t enjoying up until that point.

  • The question of whether the ending is satisfying, after 23 volumes of the series, is a tough one for me, too. It certainly wasn’t traditional, as you point out — the hero we’ve followed for all those books becomes just one of the pack — but it’s also the case that the series became about more than just one boy’s struggles to learn a game.

  • Sebastian

    I seem to remember rumors/stories from the time the series ended in Japan saying that the ending wasn’t planned that way, but the series was stopped abruptly in an over-reaction to complaints from korean/chinese Go fans about the handling of the 3-nation tournament. Some one-shot chapters were later tacked on to the open ending to get at least some closure. Can’t seem to find any sources for this at the moment, apart from some wikipedia discussion, though.

  • Nick

    Late to comment here, I know, but I was just curious, given that you say “At times, I found myself a little lost, not knowing what a “peep” or a “cut” was in terms of the game”, how much of a gap you had between reading each volume of the series. This because I’m sure earlier volumes explains what those are. Certainly, I learnt a lot about Go from HnG, and was inspired to go on and read other books about how to play the game (I’m no great shakes, though).

    For what it’s worth, a “peep” is when a player plays a stone next to a gap between their opponent’s stones, threatening to play their next stone in that gap unless the opponent connects the stones on their play. A “cut” is when a stone is played between the opponent’s stones to prevent them connecting them on their next move. Sensei’s Library has diagrams – http://senseis.xmp.net/?Peep and http://senseis.xmp.net/?Cut

    Oh, and regarding the ending, my recollecting of it at the time was that the manga ending when it did pretty much came out of the left field and took everyone by surprise. I don’t know if the rumours mentioned above about it being due to complaints by Korean/Chinese Go fans, but I don’t doubt that it was largely unplanned. I was gutted, at the time, but now I’m happy that we at least have the 23 volumes that we have.

  • Good point. I read the books as they come out, and I don’t often reread them, so I would have forgotten such details. Thanks for bringing me back up to speed.

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