Screwed Tightly Salutations, my dear Island Guests. The series of Hikaru no Go has been impressing me a lot lately, with only some minor complaints. Having such a run has the effect of increased expectations and while I still really enjoyed the episode this week , this episode kind of fell victim to the heightened bar , sort of speak. It’s one of those episodes you watch with a smile.. but when people ask you have to admit, I’ve seen better.
Wakajishisen is drawing closer.. and might I add.. that’s a pretty difficult thing to write.. so from here on I shall call it the Tournament against the Pro players….probably. To reach this Hikaru has to reach 16th seat in A-Class. Luckily for Hikaru the episode starts off with him holding a sheet to Waya showing he has been promoted to A-Class. Seemingly kind of to the chagrin of Waya..who still thinks the bottom of A-Class is too low. Isumi corrects him and is more supportive of Hikaru. That boy that randomly shows up, I now know is named Fuku is being loud while Hikaru only sees the positive. When you expect him to first experience a few losses in A-class like happend to him in B-Class you’d be wrong. We see Hikaru win his first match. This match is against a spectacled kid who really thinks long about his moves, taking Hikaru out of his game a bit. In the end though we see the more impulsive and instinctive Hikaru is still able to pull out the win. His second match is against Fuku.. who is almost a mirror of Hikaru’s playstyle. The two are having a lot of fun together but Hikaru does manage to pull out the win.
We then move a bit of exposition and revisiting the past. While talking about great players Waya brings up Sai, how he met a player online and how he believes it was a person in school. We briefly go over the important victories of the Internet-Go arc but from Waya’s perspective Hikaru begins to find out who faced Sai in online matches. Waya is Hikaru’s third match in A-league and the talk about internet go continues. In his enthusiasm Hikaru blurts out he knows Waya’s internet handle.. making Waya think Hikaru might be Sai.. he actually figures out the truth that Sai is most likely Hikaru’s teacher as he can sense the essence of Sai in Hikaru’s moves but more unrefined. The blonde player lies though and makes up a story of having been in the internet café and just happening to see the message and Waya drops it for now.. he also drops his guard and loses his game. Hikaru also wins his fourth match… and none after that. However Hikaru did perform well enough to qualify for the tournament.. in the bottom slot again. A group of Waya, Isumi, Ginger Weevil Underwood, Pink Cardigan Girl and Drawns-as-if-he-isn’t important guy join Hikaru in a Mc-Donals like Restaurant where they discuss the tournament. We end with Ogata antagonising Akira a bit and in the final scene we see Tsutsui and Kaga leave school. Akiri cries and shakes his hand and Hikaru says his goodbyes to the two being wished success as an Insei.
Yet again this show does a great job at showing Hikaru’s progress in a fairly organic way. His strength can be measured, yet we also establish more flaws for him to overcome. We see him being an impatient player still, so even if it is not shown, we know he is prone to make mistakes. We also see he can get quite easily distracted. In Waya’s match he has trouble keeping his head in the game.. though his opponent is met with similar conditions. In a way this establishes the sense that Hikaru hasn’t stopped growing yet and it is not his classmates who stand in his way, but mostly himself. He remains kind of sloppy and unfocussed yet has this great “hunch”. In other words we really see his innate ability as a Go-Player and not so much the experienced Go-Player. Last week we kind of saw that experience being tackled to take the new step. So in a way we really quite literally see Hikaru climb a stair. He moves up one foot, his innate talent, but can not go further unless he addresses his experience, we see him improve that and now we have to see him feed that flame from within yet again. I really like this way of handling things. It makes things so much more… real.
I am also happy we at least got to see a bit of Tsutsui and Kaga again, it will probably be the last.. and it did not end satisfyingly.. but the chapter feels closed for me now at least. Yet again it also serves as a very subtle reminder to tell us what time of year it is with the terms of school coming to close. This means that about two months have passed since Touya’s match against Oza. It helps put Hikaru’s growth in perspective but also makes it seem fast. We just have such a great sense of how the overall story progresses I am really impressed. This is also reflected in how his class treats him. While we have only seen a few matches the group really treats him quite familiarly. Pink Cardigan girl (I do not know her name at all) and Isumi are some of the best examples. We did not see that much interactions before.. yet now they all hang out together. It is something not a lot of anime do.. bonds happen on screen only which causes the show to trip up! Hikaru no Go however is super consistent and feels almost as if someone is retelling their experience through anime…. minus the ghost part.
That being said however, I did not nearly enjoy this episode as much as some of the previous ones. While the world pacing is nice.. I feel the episode pasing is a bit wonky. It’s just match after match after match and instead of learning something Hikaru coasts through this on sheer talent. That once again is great in the sense of the series.. but as an episode it isn’t that particularly interesting. These matches are a bit more empty.. there is no gain from it other than getting Hikaru to Wakajishisen. We do not really get to see Waya’s playstyle. It’s nice that we see Fuku being more established but Glasses guy.. and “looking at a victory sheet nervously guy” I have not seen before.. they feel more empty so a part of the episode feels “hollow”. We see Hikaru take a couple of losses through a stylised bit (and I do like the visual) but I would have liked it if we had skipped “looking at Hikaru’s victory sheet Nervously guy” just seeing Hikaru mention getting that win and then show him taking an L against Pink Cardigan girl or even better Isumi. Both have been shown more before and it would have offered more weight.
I am also not sure how I feel about Hikaru just being promoted to A class from the start. I think I would have preferred to see another episode. Perhaps one that is more focussed around the inevitable goodbye of Tsutsui and Kaga, while Hikaru is fighting the top members of B class. This would fix two issues. The way Tsutsui got kicked to the curb (and to a lesser extent Kaga) and the empty matches. There would be more at stake. At the very least the episode could have been a bit more about the goodbye. A lot of the exposition about “Sai” was not needed. We get told something we have experienced already. I get these two characters don’t know stuff from each other but it really lingers on this talk. We as the viewer KNOW this stuff so I feel it could have been shortened with a bit more focus on new stuff. Now the weight of the episode lies in something we already knew and that feels a bit like a shame given that some other characters really deserved that screen time.
In no way this is a bad episode, it is just an episode that I think had it’s priorities wrong. It feels almost as if I skipped an episode as the build up to this could be a bit more dramatic and now felt.. slightly unearned. The pass towards the next episode IS earned .. that doesn’t help but feel like we skipped a step. I would have preferred to see Hikaru win against Waya in a more proper match… I am all for him winning against Fuku but for Waya I feel like Hikaru should have used “something” .. like playing fast to disrupt Waya.. he had enough info to do so .. it feels right that he won.. but it also feels a bit empty because I do not think it was handled quite right.
That being said it was a strong episode with lots of subtle implications, and that as a piece of the puzzle is a lot stronger than it is as a single episode. The fact that Hikaru’s growth is tiered is delightful to see and that several factors contribute to that growth more than I could have wished for. I can only applaud the show for being so consistent in it’s world building… if anything I had trouble with the “scene choice” Within that timeframe I would have picked a few different ones.. but in the end the tale that this episode tries to tell is quite enjoyable. I do have to judge this episode on it’s own merits though and for that.. given what has been done before is just not AS good. It’s a fine episode but that is where it ends for me.