Hikaru no Go Vol. 1

Written by Yumi Hotta
Art by Takeshi Obata
192 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Oh me of little faith. I admit it, when I first heard about Hikaru no Go I laughed, a lot. I’d heard of the game of Go, even played a dumbed-down variant of it as a child called Pente. But a comic about a kid playing Go being exciting and able to kick start a Go renaissance among the younger population of Japan? This just seemed too strange to be true. Well, Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata proved just how wrong I was. Let’s put it this way: I’ve got a new favorite comic appearing in the pages of SHONEN JUMP and this is it.

Hikaru’s a typical young boy growing up in Japan, complete with short attention and interests only on new and flashy things. Then he finds an old Go set in his grandfather’s attic that houses the spirit of Fujiwara-no-Sai, and his life turns upside down. Sai was an ancient Go master who can’t pass on to the next life because of his need to learn The Divine Move, the ultimate game of Go. Only Hikaru can see or hear Sai, and in exchange for help passing his history tests, Hikaru lets Sai play games of Go through his own body. But it turns out that Hikaru may be a potential Go master on his own… if he can just concentrate long enough to learn how to play.

In some ways, Hikaru no Go can be compared to other “sports” or “competition” comics from Japan, like Iron Wok Jan!, The Prince of Tennis, and Slam Dunk in that it’s a story about learning how to become the best in one’s chosen arena, peppered with competitions and tournaments large and small. I think part of the appeal with Hikaru no Go comes from the fact that anyone can play Go—it’s very easy to imagine yourself in the same position, especially since you as a reader are slowly learning the game along with Hikaru himself. That’s not the only reason why Hikaru no Go is so addictive, mind you. Hotta’s writing in general is extremely strong; she’s able to make Hikaru a typical, “who cares?” kid that is still interesting to read about. You always get the sense that Hikaru’s a good kid, just one that lacks a real focus in his life and who may have just found one. There’s a spirit of fun around Hikaru no Go as well as Hikaru deals with all sorts of obstacles in his own goofy manner, and it’s really easy to warm to his journey. Best of all, Hikaru’s rivals like fellow 6th grader Akira Toya aren’t typical villains, but game masters in their own right who have the drive and ambition that Hikaru currently lacks. As much as you want Hikaru to win, that doesn’t stop you from empathizing from these other players who have worked their whole life towards what Hikaru has gotten from Sai overnight. Everything Hotta sets out to do as an author, she clearly achieves in Hikaru no Go.

Obata’s art for Hikaru no Go is a beautifully clean and slick creation. His characters are skillfully drawn, with open faces and a graceful look to the characters. More importantly, though, Obata has to draw a book where people playing pieces on a board looks exciting, but somehow he does it. So much of Obata’s drawings are not so much about the piece being played (although let’s face it, he makes even that look so dramatic I found myself trying to slap down a penny onto a table the same way) but the reactions of the players. You can see in their faces what’s going through their heads, from Hikaru’s befuddlement to Akira’s sudden revelation that Hikaru and the unseen Sai have been playing a game on a much higher level than he first thought. Best of all, with such an open and fresh looking art style, it’s easy to follow the storytelling. For people who might have never encountered Japanese right-to-left comic pages, a book like Hikaru no Go is a good introduction to the form.

What else can I say? Hikaru no Go Vol. 1 is easily one of my favorite graphic novels of the year. Even better, having read the next handful of installments in SHONEN JUMP I know that Hotta and Obata just improve more and more with each new chapter. Best of all, bargain-priced at just $7.95 it’s almost like you’re stealing just under 200 pages of fun. Now I just need to hook all my friends in the area on Go. You see, once they’re as sucked into this book as I am, I figure we can start our on Go league. It’s just that good a book. Trust me, you’ll love it too.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

2 comments to Hikaru no Go Vol. 1

  • Sora

    I LOVE Hikaru No Go.

    The Anime and Manga, are just plain awesome.
    It has a wonderful story line. And Takeshi Obata’s art is spectacular!

  • Miyuki

    This is one of the best manga and anime I’ve ever read and watch. It’s really easy to get hooked with this series, it really deserves high ratings
    I LOVE HIKARU NO GO I am a huge fan! Great art and storyline.
    One of my favorites