Go forth and do battle

I fancied myself a chess player when I was younger until a college editor demolished my ego by defeating me in 10 moves. It was a sad day for me. And if I were the heroine of some coming-of-age anime, I would have wept my eyes out while sitting on a swing at some playground with rain falling softly in the background. Cue appropriate sad music.

But of course I live in the real world so I dealt with it by admitting I really sucked at chess and the game was better off without me. The decision was bolstered by the fact I’ve never even beaten my brother at the game let alone won a school chess tournament.

Imagine how far I would have gone if I had a mentor like Hikaru Shindo did in “Hikaru no Go”. It’s a shonen or boy’s show about a student, a Heian Go master and the ancient board game called Go. Hikaru finds a Go board at his grandfather’s place and somehow the ghost of Go master Fujiwara-no-Sai awakens and appears before the boy.

Hikaru doesn’t know how to play Go but wanders into a Go parlor where he ends up playing Akira Toya, the son of a high-ranking professional Go player and a whiz at the game. Hikaru beats Akira because Sai actually tells him what moves to make. Akira, who could easily turn pro, becomes obsessed with defeating Hikaru going so far as to join a middle school team so he could meet his rival again at a school meet. This time he beats Hikaru but he thinks the boy isn’t playing seriously. Actually Hikaru could have won if he just let Sai play Akira again instead of playing by himself.

Hikaru isn’t a good Go player but he’s trying to improve his skill. He wants to catch up to Akira’s level. In the fourth DVD volume, Hikaru lets Sai play Internet Go where he bests players all over the world and gains a reputation as being an excellent player. Everyone is looking for Sai.

I like watching the show despite the shonen cliches. I find the game interesting and Hikaru not a bad kid at all. Akira on the other hand, needs to lighten up.

There’s a lot of anime cliches that appear in “Hikaru no Go”. Players weep and clench their jaws, every game is treated like it’s the battle to end all battles, the hero also learns new skills/moves as the show goes on and there’s the rival always in the background. There’s a lot of close ups of the Go board as each game is played perhaps to entice the viewer to play along.

Each DVD also contains a segment featuring a lady Go teacher and her two young pupils so the viewer can learn Go along with them. “Hikaru no Go” isn’t a bad show and certainly kid-friendly. I even thought about learning the game at one point then reality hit me upside the head. I didn’t want to lose anymore games by 10 moves and last time I looked, no ghostly Go master was trailing behind me.

“Hikaru no Go” is available on DVDs and via www.toonamijetstream.com

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