Steaming Springs and Sprockets! This anime is just so good! This episode is quite amazing. My dear Island guests I am super happy I started Hikaru no Go.. it is such a humble show.. with such real problems.. it should be boring me to tears because I still don’t understand Go that well.. but I am truly fascinated. I loved how this episode brought us a conflict that wasn’t really set up…yet makes so much sense in the context of where the journey is going currently! It’s amazing!
Hikaru is stuck against a wall again. He has mostly been getting losses recently and isn’t progressing anymore. His chart does show a few wins but things aren’t going that smoothly. Waya notices this and invites him to join a game session with his masters and some pro’s. Hikaru thinks this is boring but Sai forces him to do so. While waiting for their first session to begin.. Hikaru encounters Ogata in the main lobby when he gets cold feet to join the pro’s. This leads Hikaru to be invited to the pro-workshop of Meiji Touya where Akira also will be. Hikaru refuses this.. he does not want to train with Akira.. but FOR Akira. Sai cries as Hikaru refuses.. but then Waya steps in , takes them to meet his teacher and Hikaru feels quite overwhelmed and uncomfortable. We also get talk of some tournament.. where young pro’s fight Insei! Hikaru wishes to participate and face Akira…but he then finds out he has to become number 16 of class one to even participate.. the pressure is on.
We cut to Hikaru losing a lot of matches and dropping all the way to the bottom of class two again. Dejected we see him get a Soda while listening to another Insei.. much older than him giving up hope to become a pro! Seeing this inspires Hikaru to try harder… but victories aren’t coming to him. Sai knows why! It is because Hikaru is facing off against an opponent as strong as Sai.. he punishes every mistake.. and because of that Hikaru has taken a much too defensive playstyle.. He doesn’t risk anything and because of that he can be countered and beaten rather easily! He needs courage in his moves again. Sai trains this in Hikaru and we see the boy perform better and better in the workshop! One day his old teacher, who is part of the workshop , challenges Hikaru to a match! Hikaru now fights with more courage as he goes in for the attack.
It has been a while but Sai really comes in clutch for this episode. We finally see him again in the capacity of Hikaru’s teacher, which before was mostly implied to happen offscreen instead. I am happy we finally see us get some mileage out of Sai as well. It even got some nice set up with the topic of teachers being discussed, thus once again the show slides into its subject matter in a very organic way. The lesson we learn today feels like it’s fits.. because we build up to it. Even though Hikaru’s wall is a completely new obstacle and mostly used as a narrative crutch to probably let him become a lot stronger a lot faster.. the show makes it feel earned. Hikaru training with Sai to master a new step of mastery of the game feels satisfying on all levels. We also see Akira is not bothered by his loss… also showing he has grown! He handled losses poorly in the past… REALLY poorly yet here we see a much more complex Akira, one that is much more following his own path. He doesn’t care about Oza, he cares about staying ahead of those currently behind him. Losses don’t matter because Akira’s goal lies behind him. Hikaru experiences the reverse. losses matter because his goal lies in front of him.
The last episode I complained about not using any metaphorical visuals.. which can make scenes a bit bland and sterile.. and lo and behold this episode uses visual metaphors. We see Hikaru and Sai battle with Katana’s on that neon version of the Go Board that signifies important matches. THANK YOU that is all I wanted from last week’s episode. This episode is visually so much more interesting than the previous one. We get less subtle references.. but there is also much less at stake here.. but we get a lot more colour, interesting set pieces, visual metaphors and just all kinds of goodness to keep us with the action. The cast this episode also has a bit more oomph and flavor.. they are more definable to me as.. moustachio man that writes stuff. The presentation is up by a lot.
Not really any negatives for me this week, just pointers that could have made this episode even better. The first element they could have done is .. not have Sai cry when Hikaru refused to play with Meijn and Akira.Sai lives in Hikaru’s head .. he should know how Hikaru feels , plus there was never really any sense of loss, he would still see pro’s play games. It is just not THE pro. With Sai realising that Hikaru’s current level has stagnated I feel like he should be smart enough to realise this and him crying once again played for comedy. I know the man is excited about the sports.. but he is also fascinated by all levels of it.. this felt a bit..ungrateful or something. Nothing too bad, it doesn’t feel like the same Sai we see for the rest of the episode.
I do still think that the show has too many characters to juggle around. Ogata pushing the rivalry between Hikaru and Akira seems a bit strange but somewhat fascinating.. but now we get Waya’s teacher and his group and we have Mejin’s workshop click as well, along with the girl Insei now showing up more regularly.. and that boy that really looks like Weevil Underwood from Insei class. It really helps the world of Go feeling large but it also really invokes.. “Wait who is that again”.. and the moment you start thinking you move out of the episode a bit. Maybe a flashback here or there for the viewer could have come in handy. This will probably be less of an issue if you binge this show a bit.. but since there usually is a week before I watch these ( I tend to watch them on Saturdays unless I have no time) if someone doesn’t show up for a couple of weeks all is kind of vague. A name sign appearing or a flashback could really benefit this cast.. even add some details like rank and stuff. Great info would make the show a bit easier to follow.
Episode 25 of Hikaru no Go once again gets my highest grade. Despite Sai crying is a weak scene, I can not say anything but positive about the rest of the episode. It offers a new obstacle.. a new element in the Go puzzle! Emotion! Hikaru must not just play with his head but also with his heart. Otherwise he will get ruled by fear.. and while I do not understand it in terms of Go .. I do know lots of gamers both analogue as digital who are held back by fear who I can wash because I dare to take risks. They play games a lot better than me but because they play the meta.. they become predictable and that can be punished. So I am happy to see the show also addresses this aspect of the game. It makes sense Hikaru becomes super careful from facing superiority all the time.
There is also yet another subtle reference in this. Akira has his father as a teacher, he trains the same way Hikaru trains.. but Sai acknowledges that Akira does not share the same flaw as Hikaru. This establishes that Akira still is pretty far ahead.. Because the Insei Akira they faced in the first episode… or at least in the rematch.. was already past this point. In a way Hikaru is at least one year of Akira’s pace development away from Akira himself. This episode does show that he grows faster though..They will come to clash.. a sense of inevitability is established in this episode.. but when it happens will all depend on if Hikaru can make his current deadline .. adding tension for the future!