Not so long ago on Twitter, Deb Aoki asked, is Shounen Jump manga the gateway drug for yaoi? I expect that’s true for quite a number of people, and as you know, fanservice for girls in shounen manga is kind of a pet interest of mine.
As it so happens, my path was roughly the opposite. It was slash fandom that introduced me to Shounen Jump manga, by way of the series Hikaru no Go. In fact, it was a specific slash fanfic, carefully selected and presented to me with the purpose of selling me on a specific romantic pairing, that piqued my interest in the series. As a result, I first began reading Hikaru no Go not just as a ready target for this particular type of fanservice, but actually expecting it, and to some extent, already embracing it as canon.
Epic male rivalry is classic slash fodder, so it’s not like this is anything new, but I’ve rarely seen it done with the same level of intimacy that is generally inherent to the love-you-like-a-brother flavor of male bonding in fiction. The deep obsession is there, but it’s alongside deep trust, genuine warmth, and a overwhelming acknowledgement between the characters that nobody understands them as well as they understand each other.
It’s not all obsessive rivalry and closer-than-brothers soul bonding, of course, We’re also offered up out-and-out jealousy and emotional insecurity of the “but you’re only thinking of him!” variety. It’s kind of stunning, really.
Theirs is an eager, emotionally fraught rivalry, with as many shades as such a thing could possibly have. Furthermore, it’s been going on for quite some time.
Not that rival-slash fodder is the only service Hikaru no Go has to offer up to girls. Takeshi Obata draws some of the prettiest and most distinctively detailed male characters in shounen manga, with carefully chosen clothing, hairstyles, and attitude to match. For my money, most shoujo manga can’t compare to Obata when it comes to drawing men in clothes. This isn’t the kind of fantasy-based outfitting I’ve raved about before. These costumes are crisp, modern, and carefully suited to the nuances of each character. And does anyone draw prettier faces?
With all this in place, it’s not incredibly surprising to note that my entire experience with Hikaru no Go fandom has been heavily female-dominated (as is, I expect, the comment section of this post), even outside slash fandom circles. And though I once sent my nephew the first disk of the anime series as a gift, I admit it’s his little sister I expect will eventually latch on to it, sometime down the line.
So talk to me, readers. What’s your favorite example of fanservice in Hikaru no Go?
Michelle Smith saysMay 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm
What lovely examples you have found. I’m especially happy to find Isumi and Ko Yong Ha well represented, because they’re the two I find prettiest.
What strikes me most, though, is that title page for chapter 169. The poses, the expressions, the clothes… just that one snapshot captures the characters of those three brilliantly. I suppose this falls more in the realm of, y’know, craft rather than fanservice, but I appreciate it anyway.
I would add that, although he’s not particularly sexy—in the same way that The Doctor might be attractive but his mind is so fully occupied by other things that he doesn’t come off as a sexual being—that Sai is an extremely lovely bishounen in his own right.
Witness the evidence.
Melinda Beasi saysMay 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm
You know, I considered including Sai here, but somehow I felt like that might sully him somehow. Is that insane? :D That is such a beautiful choice you made there for your linkage!
And yes, I really love that title page for chapter 169. The characterization is just so ON. It’s amazing work.
Michelle Smith saysMay 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm
It’s not insane at all. He’s… ethereal, remote. He’s beautiful but not… visceral.
Noura saysMay 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm
I love everything about Hikaru no Go. My favorite shonen series of all time. Touya and Hikaru’s relationship is deep and well developed and thought of. I never really thought of them as more than friends and rivals but I want them to always be together. This is actually one series in which I was happy that none of the main characters were distracted with romance or were in a relationship. I just felt that there was no place for girls in this series and so I am glad that Hikaru didn’t end up with Yukari or maybe he will in the future. Who knows.
I am so much in love with Ogata. He is so sexy and genius Go player. I love all the characters. I am definitely rereading this series soon.
LG saysMay 7, 2011 at 12:48 am
I think what helped hook me on this series was the fantastically slashable rivalry between Akira and Hikaru. I know, you already mentioned them in the post, with some absolutely fantastic examples, but they really are my favorite. I loved watching Hikaru’s frustration with the idea that, whenever Akira wanted to play him, the person he really wanted to play was Sai – and his determination to get Akira focused on him instead provided the momentum for a good portion of the series.
As far as slashability goes, I actually can’t think of any couple of characters in the series I loved nearly as much as those two. Sai is gorgeous, but he never even entered my mind as being slashable with anyone. As has been mentioned, it just seems wrong – he’s not sexual, so much as stunningly devoted to his calling and, well, stunning.