Konichi-Wow … this episode sure picked up some serious slack from the last one! Hikaru No Go bounced back strong with this set up episode. Easily one of my favourite views of this week so far, I am happy that I can be very positive. This episode really made me happy and I am so eager to see what happens next week! I really mean it.. this is one of those episodes that makes me regret doing these in a weekly format i just wanted to press on! But NO! Pinkie contain thyself! We shall walk the path you paved for once.
This week focuses on Hikaru’s journey through the Insei School.. or club.. I am not sure what it is. I am going to say school as there are classes, and Hikaru is learning and growing. We see him pick up more losses that eventually turn into a couple of wins. Which are played off as flukes.. but the audience knows better. Hikaru is catching up; he is just downplaying himself. That subterfuge however is reinforced by the fact that Hikaru really knows NOTHING about the Go world whatsoever. He does not know what it really means to be Insei, he struggles to comprehend how the world of pro’s works and he has no idea how to move upwards in the world of Go.. he is literally just there to play games.. and we can see him winning games. Waya becomes Hikaru’s mentor of sorts, showing him the ropes and teaching how things will work. He also is proof that miracles can happen without him even knowing. At the end of the year only three people can take the Pro-Exam.. which seems like a pretty trivial fact.. However it’s established that Waya only holds the sixth seat in the Insei group. Another Insei passed the test.. so I guess Waya was at least seventh last year?! That means he got to participate despite his ranking? That could be interesting for Hikaru later on.
There is a second story though as we see more of Akira again , taking his first steps in the world of the pro’s. I think his journey is meant to be the opposite of Hikaru’s .. as things seem to be going fairly well. He hasn’t played any matches yet but people think very highly of him.. however where Hikaru has that fire in him driving him to be pushed forward we see Touya being depicted as empty.. lacking passion.. skills but no heart.. while Hikaru is more in the Heart.. but lacking the skills needed to progress. He is facing off against an Ouja.. i think that was the word at least.. some high ranking pro player, who first thinks he will go kindly on Akira.. but after Akira is shown that Hikaru is trying to catch up to him.. his passion is reawakened.. he hates the boy now and wants to make sure he will forever stay out of reach rising higher than anyone.. this new drive makes him super confident when facing his new foe.. which insults the man.. and he plans to crush Touya.. Hikaru is playing his Insei match at the same time as Touya is playing his exhibition match.. but with some luck Hikaru will be able to see the second half. The match between Touya and the pro is about to get started and things get serious pretty quick. .and we see Akira place a stone.. in a very dramatic manner. Ending the episode.
This episode was very VERY good! I really adored all the elements that came into play and the many MANY ways the writers give themselves to tell this story. Where the school tournament arc for example basically wrote itself to have only one possible outcome with Hikaru losing to Akira as it would end the story otherwise, here we are seeing so many options open up. Hikaru can make his way up the ranks.. get drafted for the Pro Exam.. The most obvious route.. However what Waya said opens the possibility that Hikaru gets selected for the Pro Exam based on his more “mysterious” qualities and his potential. He can take on the role of the rising star with a mystery appeal. Yet Waya’s oldest friend and number 1 of the Go class tells us also that you do not be an Insei to take the pro-exam. While he says it, it turns into a deadline for him.. but here we could get a Journey that reflects Hikaru’s journey with the Haze Middle School Club.. he stops being a Insei and goes take the Pro Exams on his own accord. Once again being forced the ties that he formed there to move forward. This episode hints that Hikaru is getting better.. but also keeps it’s foot in the door to say it is a fluke.. as the guys he played all made some mistakes Hikaru claims to have been huge.. yet is it?! Or is he underselling his own talent again… and is his comprehension of the game rising so much that he thinks small mistakes are big ones. This is something I am super happy to see.. anything can happen this episode opened the field completely!
The animation is amazing as well.. something simple as how victory and loss stamps are being brought into view.. to show the “power level” of future opponents is done very well. When Hikaru is distracted we see a match being played with no focus on the board when he begins winning we see a close up of the board just seeing the frustration of his opponent from losing to a weaker opponent.. but could it also mean Hikaru is actually catching up?! The way Touya places his stones makes me fairly confident he will win. Regardless if he will or not.. the way he placed these stones are like the “old” Touya.. Not the angry and broken one.. but the one who will do anything to reach that certain level he aspired. He feels like a final boss! Taking more traits similar to Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh as he steels his heart and wants to prove he is the elite one. We do see a form of arrogance sneaking into the boy. He is slightly moving towards a more antagonistic path. Where he will go I feel depends on his first steps as a pro and I do like that. The music is spot on in this episode as well!
The weak points of this episode are view and I have talked about them before. I do not think the writers have great comedic timing. Right at the beginning of an episode there is a lot of frowning faces that are played a bit to comedical.. it does keep things light and it’s very anime yet it doesn’t hit.. it’s airy.. and whimsical.. it’s not funny though.. while the visuals seem to indicate it should be. I do think Waya and Hikaru bounce off each other better comedy wise than any other before.. so it has improved.. but that third guy.. that is a bit of the random add on of the group that joined in the comedy moment it just felt like a big miss to me. “I Lost to Akira as well…Teehee” .. isn’t really a joke. In Hikaru and Waya the comedy can arrive from their persona.. they have traits that allow you to be funny.. otherwise it keeps feeling shoehorned in to me.
The other negative is that pro-player turning into an absolute cartoon character. You can already see in his design he is not a good person.. but he even does the whole face change thing. “New Plan.. I’m gonna Crush Him” while chasing from a friendly smiling face to an evil face. I don’t find that it fits the style of the series so well and I kind of feels it goes a bit against its philosophy as well. It might be weird as an analogy but in a way this show has a somewhat similar mentality as the main characters in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. The characters are all very differently but bound together by their desire for an amazing fight. To grow and to fight better opponents. This has extended to virtually everyone in the Go community so far.. with a few scammers as possible exceptions. The fact that we are dealing with a high ranking pro being so petty towards young Akira seems strange for saying something as simple as what he did. Not being nervous to face a pro?! I get that it might be insulting from everyone else.. but Akira plays his father all the time probably so it makes perfect sense he is not afraid. It’s nothing to major but by making him this two dimensional I feel like he is going to lose. and we lose a bit of that otherwise superbly build up tension.
Not liking a guy that is just providing a single match of course is not a reason to discredit this episode because what it mostly did was setting up a path towards a bright and exciting future. The somewhat forced first three minutes, and the mentality of this particular player do keep the episode from getting a perfect score but I love how this show .. for the most part.. manages to be a reflection of it’s own self. This episode clearly being a Hikaru.. showing so much potential and room from growth with a few rough edges here and there that come from “quirks” in personality that do not seem to match with the bigger picture.
The episode is back to it’s stellar direction, great cinematography, great audio direction and the way the episode flowed as amazing. Each scene mattered and felt like it was just in the right place at the right time. Offering us exposition in a natural way but also giving us some room to let those news ideas breath and put them into perspective of the bigger picture. It gave me some Prince and the Pauper vibes.. where we see Waya rip on Hikaru’s lack of talent while Akira gets extra pictures taken and lauded as this new prodigee. I love how this episode established contrast. I would have just loved it a slight bit more.. if we just played a little bit more with said contrast. We are bound to see the situation flip at some point so I woild have loved to see them have just a bit more fun with it and build in a bit more tension from Akira’s end. If he loses now.. it’s because a petty man that is his superior tried to hard.. if he wins good for him and it will truely show his level.. either outcome however I kind of feel is okay for Touya and that just makes it a bit less exciting.