Hikaru No Go Volume 21
It has been some time since I’ve read Hikaru No Go. I started getting it when it came out and collected up to volume 11 or so, and stopped automatically buying it because I thought at some point I’d go back and fill in the missing volumes. Even though there was a big gap for me, it wasn’t hard at all to pick up this volume and get back into the story.
Hikaru has gone pro, and much of the volume centers around his preparation for his first big international tournament. Many people have a stake in showcasing young players at the tournament. The Go associations and media think there will be more general interest if younger players are included. Hikaru and Toya play well enough in the preliminaries to be selected for the tournament, along with Yashiro and Kurata. Even though I know almost nothing about Go, Obata’s art still makes all the matches and rivalries between the players look dynamic. Hotta’s story juggles several themes and sub-plots, so even though the main storyline might be about gearing up to compete in a tournament, there’s so much other stuff going on that the plot doesn’t seem stale. Akira’s father is competing overseas even though he’s retired. He’s still on a quest to find the divine move, and the way Akira looks at his father shows some frustration that I think is going to be explored in a later volume. A Korean player is talking smack about Hikaru’s former mentor Sai, setting up a cross country rivalry. Hikaru and his teammates sequester themselves for training, and Hikaru is still falling short when playing games against Akira. I’m looking forward to seeing how the young players handle the stress of a professional tournament. Checking in on this series again reminded me of how good it is, I need to stop being such a slacker and seek out some of the volumes that I’ve missed.
Arata: The Legend Volume 4
For the first half of this volume, I felt a little frustrated. I do generally like Yuu Watase, even if some of her series are often a bit formulaic. I like Fushigi Yugi, Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden, Ceres, and Alice 19th a lot. Imadoki is simple, but very sweet. I do not speak of Zettai Kareshi. The first part of this volume was frustrting. I wasn’t sure how many times Arata was going to stumble across Kotoha when she was changing. The romance aspect of this manga is really uninteresting, I don’t particularly care about Arata being tortured with guilt because Kotoha has confessed her love to him, yet he knows she’s really in love with Other Arata who is taking his place in modern day Japan. The quest element of the story is the type of plot that Watase does often, sometimes well, and sometimes not so well. Arata’s emphasis on winning through peaceful means is a little bit of a twist on the more typical shonen fighting hero.
What made me want to keep giving the series another chance were a couple things that happened a bit further into the book. There was finally a long sequence showing Other Arata trying his best to live Arata’s life in Japan. It was interesting to see how he was able to deal with school bullies and the issue of having parents when he hasn’t had a family before. The other sequence in the book that I thought had a lot more emotional resonance was when Arata and his allies accidentally stumble in to an odd orphanage filled with plucky children who immediately start relating to them as parents. Somewhere there’s a mystical barrier, but the “adults’ in charge of the orphanage are anything but human. Arata and Kotoha befriend twins named Naru and Nagu, and the revelation about who has been creating the orphanage with magic and the resolution of the episode had much more emotional impact than a lot of the previous events in Arata. So while this is not likely to be one of my favorite Watase series, there were enough good elements in this volume to make me hope that the series might continue to get better.
Review copies provided by the publisher.