I have never been into anime based on puzzle games, but that easily changed after finishing the series Hikaru no Go. The series starts with a simple concept. Hikaru finds an old Go board in his grandfather’s basement. When he finds the board, he notices blood on it but he is the only one that can see it. Sai, the androgynous ghost who resides in the board, arises from his rest and possesses Hikaru. After Sai explains why he possessed Hikaru and his mysterious past, he convinces Hikaru to play some Go. Hikaru takes Sai to a Go salon and plays another boy named Akira. Naturally, due to the guidance of Sai, Hikaru crushes Akira. Hikaru saying that his first time playing only furthers the plot. Akira trying to surpass Hikaru and figure out his mysterious strength, etc etc.
Now judging the series, solely on story line, isn’t fair when it comes to Hikaru no Go. I have watched this series twice in my lifetime. The first time, I was 13 and bored watching repeats on Toonami. The second time, I actually learned how to play Go before watching the series again. This made a world of difference and I suggest people follow my footsteps before watching the series. An understanding of Go, goes a long way. (<—see what I did there ^_^) Anime based on games/sport of any kind are usually hard to pull off and the audience usually needs understanding of the game/sport before really getting into the series. This is where Hikaru no Go really shines. Not only does the series do a good job explaining certain rules/elements of the game, but it also really puts perspective on the participants of this game. There are plenty of times, usually when Sai is teaching Hikaru a strategy, that the rules are explained in a simple and fun way. I found myself learning new things about Go by the third episode and I had been playing Go for about three months already.
Furthermore, at the end of each episode, more emphasis is put on GO and the community. The segment is called “GO! GO! IGOO!”. In this short two minute segment, being taught by real Go professionals, the series takes a Detective Conan puzzle approach. Different problems are given to the audience to solve by either next episode or the end of the segment. The cast even travels to different parts of Japan, China, and Korea to explore different Go communities around the world. This segment really got me into Go. Anyone giving the series a try will almost be forced to try the game at least once.
If I could compare the relationship of Hikaru and Sai to any other show, it would be a Zanpakto and a Shinagami without the blood and story inconsistency. Sai, in the beginning of the series, brought a lot of attention to Hikaru because he was playing based on Sai’s instructions. Hikaru naturally begins to learn the game and happens to be amazing at it. So the amount of games Hikaru gets to play start to change drastically. Naturally the relationship takes a hit and the characters bump heads. The thing that stood out to me most about this dynamic is that the relationship was very adult. No wimpy feelings, no crying, no inexplicable bitching. Both characters brought up logical points for how they felt. Not only did this dynamic exist between these two characters, but the whole cast. I concluded this was done purposely to give the audience an idea of how professional Go is handled. Hikaru may have been thirteen when he turned pro, but the world of Go was adult and he was treated as such. The series still has small humor bits and it is not always serious. The combination of these two elements makes the series a much watch for me.
Is there a flaw in the series? Yes. It has the same flaw as many series based on games or about detectives. The anime doesn’t spoon feed the audience every bit of information. Nothing is made apparent. The problem with this series and others, it isn’t flashy and will only grab a persons’ attention if they aren’t willing to give it up. For example, Bleach will can capture someones attention because of the weird looking monsters, hero with orange hair, and a giant sword or two. Compare that with an anime based on a strategy game that uses white and black stones……see what I mean? I personally don’t find this to be a flaw. But I also am a fan of many anime series that are known to do this: Monster, Detective Conan, etc.
This is a very good anime and should be watched for an enjoyment and educational reasons. Hikaru no Go is the full package when it comes to animation and voice acting, and goes above and beyond to make one of the oldest games ever created awesine. Long live Go and long live Hikaru no Go.