Hikaru no Go, Vol. 15
By Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata
Published by Viz Media
As volume fifteen begins, Sai becomes concerned that he is quickly fading from Hikaru’s world just as Hikaru is getting into the swing of his life as a professional Go player. At an overnight hotel event where Hikaru and other pros play teaching games with guests, an extremely intoxicated Ogata once again begs Hikaru for a chance to play Sai. Sai, worried that this may be his only chance, asks Hikaru to let him play and Hikaru agrees, convinced that Ogata is too drunk to notice. Unfortunately, Sai’s style and genius shine through regardless of Ogata’s blood-alcohol content, so Hikaru hurries home early the next morning to avoid running into Ogata at the hotel. Arriving home exhausted, Hikaru only wants to nap, but Sai, certain that his time is nearly up, convinces Hikaru to play one last game. This scene becomes truly heartbreaking as Sai reflects on his importance to Hikaru (and vice versa) while Hikaru nods off, eventually waking to find himself alone. The rest of the volume follows Hikaru on a frantic journey to recover Sai that ends only in sadness and deep regret.
After fourteen volumes of energetic rivalry and awesome shonen sports manga-style suspense, this volume offers the first real heartbreak of the series, and it is honestly devastating. The agony of watching Hikaru dismiss Sai’s worries through the first few chapters, knowing that something painful is surely on the way, is eclipsed only by the suffering incurred later on as Hikaru’s regret really sinks in, leaving him sobbing in a storage room at the Go Institute, begging for a chance to strike a bargain with God. What takes place in between is a whole lot of seriously masterful visual storytelling. Hikaru’s hopeful panic as he rashly takes off on an impossible day-trip to Innoshima in an attempt to track down Sai is powerfully kinetic, dragging the reader, breathless, from site to site with no choice but to barrel right alongside Hikaru as he chases the remnants of Sai’s distant past from Tokyo to Hiroshima back to Tokyo again, finally crashing smack-dab into the reality of his loss.
Yumi Hotta’s characterizations are undeniably strong throughout, but it is Hikaru who shines in every single panel with his brash single-mindedness and complete lack of forethought which together perfectly contradict and complement his genius in the game. His energy honestly bursts from the page, pushing the story along with plain, brute force, and this volume is the ultimate example of that, seen most literally in Hikaru’s aggressive speed-game with a top-ranked amateur who he sees only as an obstacle to his reunion with Sai. What’s most striking is how completely Hotta captures the inner world of a middle school-aged boy–all his hopes and blunders and rushed conclusions, punctuated with small, significant moments of real caring, just on the brink of a greater awareness. That desperate scene in the Go Institute’s kifu store-room provides a glimpse of the man Hikaru might be, even through all the tears and futile pleading.
Perhaps what provides the greatest energy and poignance in this series, however, is Takeshi Obata’s art. From Sai’s delicate beauty to Hikaru’s straightforward simplicity, every page is filled with exuberant detail–just enough to be surprisingly realistic while maintaining the youthful whimsy of a comic suitable for kids.
There are some other small gems in this volume, too, that should not be overshadowed by the story’s larger drama. The understated portrayal of drunken Ogata is near-perfect in evoking that hazy, late night buzz-on-the-brink-of-discomfort, for readers who are old enough to know. Later, near the end of the volume, Waya and Toya’s similar reactions to Hikaru’s absence from a scheduled match are delightfully spot-on for each of their characters. It’s a pleasure to watch them there side by side. Also terrific is the volume’s final scene, featuring Waya and his roomful of insei friends as they talk excitedly about upcoming study sessions and next year’s pro trials–a wonderful reminder that everyone’s journey keeps on going, even as Hikaru has cleared his first great hurdle and entered into the world of the pros.
On a personal note, Hikaru no Go was my first introduction to manga and it was oddly gratifying to be reminded as I read this volume for review just how wonderfully crafted it is. I’ve read a lot of manga series since in just about every genre, but the unique charm and simple elegance of the storytelling in Hikaru no Go easily maintains its place amongst my favorites.
Volume fifteen of Hikaru no Go is available on May 5th, 2009. Review copy provided by Viz.
Deanna Gauthier saysApril 15, 2009 at 11:15 pm
Great review! I cannot wait for my copy to arrive! *box of tissues on standby*
Melinda Beasi saysApril 16, 2009 at 8:52 am
Thanks, Deanna! I used several tissues while reading this. *snif*
Mia saysApril 16, 2009 at 1:26 am
Oh, I love Hikaru no Go so much.
It was the first manga I read too, and just like you, I’m so pleased to see I still think it’s wonderfully done. I love everything about it, from the fantastic characterizations to the character development (and not just the main characters), the interaction, the humour and beauty and on-the-spot situations… I could go on. :)
So, thanks for posting some insightful Hikaru no Go love!
Melinda Beasi saysApril 16, 2009 at 8:53 am
Oh, thank you so much for stopping by to comment! I love to share the Hikago love! *heart*
email@example.com saysApril 16, 2009 at 5:00 am
What a beautiful review. I look forward to reading!
Melinda Beasi saysApril 16, 2009 at 8:53 am
Thanks, mom! Damn, I put that spoiler warning in for *you*. I guess you decided to risk it, eh? :)
jansong@livejournal saysApril 16, 2009 at 8:56 am
You know I don’t mind spoilers. I thought about not reading it, but then I realized that spoilers are just fine for me. I don’t like suspense. I’m weird.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 16, 2009 at 8:58 am
I do realize you usually are fine with spoilers. I was worried about this one, though, since it’s the biggest one in the whole series, really. :)
jansong@livejournal saysApril 16, 2009 at 9:37 am
I won’t remember a lot of it by the time I read the book. My reading memory is very short. :)
Tari saysApril 16, 2009 at 7:24 am
I’m reminded all over again of how this series broke my heart with this volume. Thanks for this review! Now I want to go back and reread this volume as well.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 16, 2009 at 8:54 am
Oh, thank you Tari for taking a moment to leave a comment! This volume is just… yeah. Kind of interesting how they’re releasing it on the 5th, no?
Michelle Smith saysApril 16, 2009 at 7:55 am
I love love love this paragraph:
After fourteen volumes of energetic rivalry and awesome shonen sports manga-style suspense, this volume offers the first real heartbreak of the series, and it is honestly devastating. The agony of watching Hikaru dismiss Sai’s worries through the first few chapters, knowing that something painful is surely on the way, is eclipsed only by the suffering incurred later on as Hikaru’s regret really sinks in, leaving him sobbing in a storage room at the Go Institute, begging for a chance to strike a bargain with God.
And you’re right about this being an inkling of the kind of man Hikaru might be. Seriously, reading this review almost made me sniffly remembering how much this impacted me when I saw the anime. I wanted so very desperately for Sai to return.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 16, 2009 at 8:56 am
*heart* Thank you so much, Michelle. Oh, reading these comments is making me sniffly all over again!
Aja saysApril 16, 2009 at 8:49 am
This is an excellent review of the most heartbreaking moment in what is still the most beautiful, heartbreaking story I’ve ever read. We can hear your voice, Sai.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 16, 2009 at 8:57 am
Thank you, my friend. *heart* Oh, Aja, when Sai is saying his final words to Hikaru as he nods off over the board, his last sentence is cut off, something like, “I hope it’s been a pleasure to—” I seriously burst into tears.
NarwhalTortellini saysApril 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm
Oh, man. I remember being *so angry* at Hikaru for brushing off Sai so much in his last days. I didn’t completely blame him, but I was still angry. I remember thinking he was going to be so devastated when Sai actually left, and waiting for it and thinking he deserved it. And then it happened and he pulls all the denial on us. I was frustrated (I wanted to see him PAY!!! ^_^;;), but the longer I watched him frantically search and falsely assure himself that Sai was still around there somewhere, the more heartbreaking it got and the more I realized his inability to accept Sai was gone was just another indicator of just how much Sai meant to him and how little sense a world without Sai made to him. And then the storage room. T_T (Oh, Hikaru, I’m sorry I said you should PAYYY. I take it backkk! T_T)
One of my most memorable manga/anime moments…is what I was thinking, and then I started wondering what my others were and realizing a disproportionately large amount of them probably come from Hikago. Aaaah, this series is so wonderful, hehe.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 16, 2009 at 6:16 pm
I was telling Michelle recently that my own strong reaction was partly based on how angry I was with Sai for having insisted on playing his game against Toya Meijin in the Beginner Dan Series. I was absolutely furious with Sai for this, and felt that it was an insanely selfish act, since it had the potential to affect Hikaru’s career dramatically and, hell, Sai had thrown away his own life years ago. I’d been carrying this around with me all that time, not really letting go. So then when he left, and Hikaru was devastated and ground down with regret, so was I. Gah.
What an incredible series. Seriously. I mean, look at us. :)
Zazi saysMay 4, 2009 at 1:36 pm
is vloume 15 the last volume??
Melinda Beasi saysMay 4, 2009 at 2:23 pm
Nope! There are 23 volumes in Hikaru no Go! :)
Zazi saysMay 4, 2009 at 11:04 pm
oh that’s great!thanks for replying! ^_^
ceillon saysJune 17, 2009 at 12:34 am
Hi! Thank you for the great review. :)
Hikaru no Go was the first manga I’ve read . . . thanks to it’s great anime version. And yes, when I watched this part I shed some tears a bit myself T_T
I’ve read a lot of mangas since then but I still consider Hikaru no Go one of the best manga out there just next to Slam Dunk.