The Merriest of mornings to you my dear Island Guests. My anime adventures this week have been.. lackluster, with a great start on Monday but after that it’s .. been .. okay. Luckily Hikaru no Go lifts the level with another amazing episode and I do mean amazing there is just so much to appreciate in this episode again. So many layers and subtle insinuations. I really love that a lot about this show and this episode might even take it to another level.
I have said before that I have trouble writing a summary but this one leaves me in quite a pickle. The entire episode is dedicated to the match between Akira and Oza and through clever dialogue , facial tics and looks we can tell how the match is going. As someone who can not play Go and has no real idea how the territories work still I am quite amazed with how I can follow a match on so many levels. Not only do the students and pro’s following the match offer exposition we also get told about facial tics of Oza while we already know Akira’s! Thus we constantly see a shift in balance. Akira and Oza are having a very close match while Hikaru tries to move through his own match to watch the spectacle himself.
Hikaru soon wins his match but is kept in place.. by formalities. Meanwhile we see Akira make plays that challenge Hikaru to come closer as it were.. almost as if he is taunting him. Hikaru finally walks into the specating room just in time to see one of the final taunts before the match balance begins to shift. Akira is put on the backfoot after dominating for a while. However He is not satisfied anymore with just winning.. he wants to soar beyond Hikaru’s reach and begins to play super aggressively. For a brief moment he seems to put Oza on the backfoot again. Yet as the onlookers are distracted by the fact that it is starting to snow outside..then Oza strikes back.. and finishes off Akira.. forcing him to resign and now having been defeated by not just Sai but by Oza as well.. how he reacts happens off camera.
This episode really did a lot for me! I loved this episode! It was so subtle in everything. Let’s begin with the way how the music alternates between its three main themes. The Heroic theme signalling how strong Akira is playing, the excitement team signalling he is losing ground and the sad theme to clarify the match has been fought.. but what was strongest was the end for me. No emotions no reactions, when the match is over.. we do not get tears.. we get no prolongation of the sad theme. We get silence.. with just a visual of snow falling in the background. It tells us how Akira will feel.. without showing us… without making us hear it from his mouth directly. The visual of the snow beginning to fall.. almost as the white stones Oza is using on the board almost seems like a omen.. of Akira’s defeat .. it makes sense and it puts levels in perspective. Akira has lost to one of the strongest players out there..but he did not get washed such as was the case against Sai.. leaving us with the notion that Akira IS not infallible and it keeps Hikaru’s dream alive and probably also keeps Akira from turning into a full on Antagonistic character.
What might be better is how subtle we are once again clued on Hikaru’s amazing progress. He fought the same girl he had his first match against (I think) the one he lost to pretty badly. Now he manages to win.. but that is not even it’s true strength. Hikaru plays this match very distracted yet he still won. He is SO good now that he can beat the girl he lost to initially while being distracted, once again showing how insanely fast Hikaru progresses. The way he looks at Akira’s match.. wanting him to soar once again makes him a bit of a counterpart to Akira. Where Touya is shown to at least pretend to want to blow Hikaru completely out of the water and to become unreachable , Hikaru wants Akira to do well.. yet we also see him kind of content.. not at first.. but we see him go outside and be a bit of a kid again. Almost as if we see him allow himself to take a bit of breath. I do really like how subtle everything is but also how there is such a sense of progress even when it’s not about our main character.. we still get that amazing measuring stick.
The show is super subtle it does tend to juggle with too many characters, Akiri, Mitani, Tsutsui all seem to have completely vanished.. and while I hope we will see some of them again, I do think a few of the new characters aren’t as strong. I still don’t know how that guy besides Waya is called. He is never referred to by his name except for maybe once or twice subtelly. He has his own arc like thing though .. with his wish to be a pro and his time as an Insei coming to an end. Touya’s older friend is there as well.. but again I do not have a good idea of his name.. he is just there to spectate. There are many people active here.. and while it makes sense for so many to be interested in Akira and I do remember the characters but they have a bit of that “who the heck are these guys” vibe.
While the visual references in this episode are great, there is a bit of a lack of pisaz sort of speak. The snow falls against a pitch black sky No details. We get very sterile and clean environments, and sometimes characters lack detail when there really is no need for them to lack such detail. I get it’s school and it will look clean.. but everything looks just a bit too clean. The match part between Akira and Oza is fine for a location where we spend almost half an episode I at least would like just a BIT more of “set dressing” I get it from a manga panelling sense that lacks a whole lot more space but the backgrounds can be a bit bland. Add an interesting cat poster.. or a ticking clock on the background.. a mani neko or heck even some transparent images of the match you are talking about. Saki and Beyblade are examples on how boring scenes can be made more interesting.. If people talk in imagery down in the stands we get these detailed still shots.. for example they say Akits is on the offense.. in Saki or Beyblade they would have depicted him as a Samurai running in for an attack. While it clashes with the subtle tone of the rest I don’t think it would be detrimental as the worlds already are spoken.. no need to be subtle about that. Offer us an interesting visual to break that monotony.
While that last point might seem like a big negative.. it isn’t really. I enjoy the show thoroughly so that last point doesn’t keep this episode from getting my highest score. After all I deeply enjoyed this episode. It is simply a discourse between the genius moments in the show and the “regular” exposition. Like I said this show is very VERY good on cinematic level..when something is going on… when LESS is going on the show can feel a bit… on a budget…and while it doesn’t make me enjoy the episode less I do realise it has the potential to do better. Both itself and other shows not that much older show how it can be done. Cowboy Bebop which is even older has a lot of grey visuals as well but it just adds something in the picture so a background is always interesting, so it’s more that I want more of a good thing than I think this is bad.
I thoroughly like the outcome of this match.. but like I said last week.. it has been set up to not really matter.. or so I thought..the implications for Hikaru made me enjoy this episode so much more! The clever little hints on what is going on really sing! When it began snowing I first felt like… awww shit Akira is going to lose.. and when the music stopped I was like .. Holy Arceus.. he really did lose! Followed by.. Oh wait this is actually really good at Hikaru.. aww look at that he is so happy and Hikaru isn’t losing who he is just in this pursuit.. this was an important match! I am happy! This is a good episode.. This is better than a good episode. I hope this show can keep it up!