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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/25/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Hikaru no Go, vol 4"

Hikaru no Go, Vol. 4
By Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata
Translation and English adaptation by Andy Nakatani
Published by VIZ Media

Review by Tom Good

Years ago, when I first started getting interested in manga, I immediately noticed the huge variety of subjects addressed in manga stories. I was accustomed to reading American comics about superheroes. But I discovered manga stories with topics like golf, professional wrestling, or becoming a sushi chef, and I wondered if anything like that could ever appear in America. I would not have expected to one day see an English translation of Hikaru no Go for sale, because it revolves around the game of Go, a game much more popular in Asia than in English-speaking countries.

But this manga steers clear of technical Go strategy, instead delivering a character-driven story about the spirit of competition and the quest for excellence. So even readers who have never played a game of Go will still enjoy the book. The main character, Hikaru Shindo, plays for his middle school's Go club. After an encounter with a haunted Go board, he joins mentally with the spirit Fujiwara-no-Sai, the ghost of a dead Go master. Sai just wants to play the game again through Hikaru, but Hikaru knows other players will suspect him if he suddenly starts playing at such a high level. Also, Hikaru wants to achieve success at Go by becoming a good player himself, not merely through paranormal "cheating."

In this volume, while on an trip to watch a professional match with his schoolmate Kimihiro, Hikaru discovers the world of Internet Go, logs in as "Sai" and lets the ghost fully control the play. This sends the regular online players into a frenzy of speculation about the identity of this powerful newcomer who can play at the level of the pros. Everyone wants to play against Sai, including Hikaru's rival Akira Toya, a student who is ready to take the professional test.

Artistically, though nothing about Hikaru no Go stands out as spectacular or unique, it is nevertheless a solid, consistently executed comic. It does not take many risks, but never makes a mistake. Each player has a distinct personality, and the story feels true to the ups and downs of competition and the journey of learning a difficult skill. Go players will certainly want to read this manga, and manga fans may find themselves inspired to learn more about Go. Kudos to VIZ for making this available in English.

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