Hikaru no Go

When I first rediscovered the local libraries, a year or so ago, I found a few unexpected things. The biggest and best of them was a manga ('the library carries manga?!? Cool'), called Hikaru no Go.

As one might expect (and definitely would if they could see, and read, the chinese characters of the title), it's about a kid named Hikaru who plays go. Check that link if you want details of the game; I don't really want to go into it (and I suck at the game, come to that :).

The main character finds a go board in his grandfather's house in which resides the spirit of an ancient go master. When he touches the board, the spirit talks to him, and they can understand one another.

After some badgering, the spirit talks him into learning how to play.

The story follows Hikaru's growth in life and go for the next couple of years (I forget the exact length), and it's a fantastically well told story. I was never really able to put it down, although finding later volmes quickly became difficult.

What I really wanted to talk about, though, was the ending. Because the ending basically just dropped off a cliff. That is to say, it ended very abruptly.

And the last page really made me wonder what the point of the whole series is. That is, I didn't point out that the Go master in question could only talk to Hikaru. He could occasionally play other people, but only when Hikaru agreed to be his go-between. And even then, he pretty much needed it to be anonymized somehow, so it didn't ruin Hikaru's own games.

So, in the last couple of pages, Sai (the master in question) disappeared. No real explanation as to why. But that's not really what bothered me. There were three things that really bothered me about the ending; the first two were that a number of people were looking for the 'divine move', I believe it was called. I figured that that was significant in some form. And there was the question of why Sai appeared to Hikaru, in particular.

Well, the 'divine move' was a canard, which was slightly disappointing. And as for why Hikaru? Well, it seemed that it might be because he was such a special talent, or some such (maybe he was going to be the one to play the 'divine move'? Or maybe he was going to end up better than Sai?).

However, after the disappearance, on the last panel, Sai appeared again (presumably to someone else; I forget, maybe there was an expressed time period between?). So, if he appeared to someone else, then it couldn't have really been something about Hikaru's play, or ability. Which begs the question, what was it?

Random luck is an awfully unsatisfying answer, and terrible writing technique, if so. And it doesn't appear to have been skill; Hikaru himself said, shortly before the end, that he wasn't good enough (to match Sai).

My suspicion is that the manga-ka, Hotta-sensei, just put it in to answer the certain clamor of people complaining about Sai going away to begin with. And I must admit, I was disappointed with the disappearance as well. But I think she didn't consider what that reappearance implied.

It also renders the "dream" (I put that in quotes because the sequence seems rather more like a vision) where Sai appeared to Hikaru a bit nonsensical. The whole point of that sequence was that Sai was pleased that Hikaru was playing well, and was content to move on, permanently. But if Sai was going to reappear, then why worry about it (other than to say good-bye, of course)?

Anyway, enough about that, I suppose. I mentioned that there was a third reason why I was disatisfied; that has to do with Hikaru's friend Akari. One would assume, since she appeared on page one, that she would be a very central character. But one would assume wrongly here; not only was she not central, but she disappeared completely for long stretches of time (whole volumes) repeatedly. There was also the issue that she always seemed to like Hikaru, but I could never figure out why.

He never treated her well; in fact, he frequently treated her very poorly. And to reinforce the suddenness of the finish, it appeared that he might be starting to be nicer to her (perhaps even to return his feelings). But all he ended up doing (and that, unwittingly) was to inspire her to do better with her studies. Important, perhaps, but damned boring.

I should also point out, I suppose, that there is an anime series to go with the manga, but I can't really say anything about it, beyond that friends have told me that it is good. One of these days, I'll track it down for myself.

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