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I have been reading this for more than a year, and somehow never got around to blogging it.

Junior high school student Hikaru Shindo (the translation uses Western name order for almost all of the characters) has never taken much of anything seriously in his life until he discovers the haunted Go board in his grandfather's attic. The uneasily resting spirit associated with the game board is Fujiwara no Sai, a Go player and court hanger-on from the Heian era. Sai, a rather appealing and mostly benevolent ghost, died before he was able to create and execute the Divine Move, and under his influence (and nagging, and pleading), Hikaru begins to play Go. Unexpectedly, he turns out to have the potential to be a master of the game, and soon he is playing for his own sake, and not just to please his ghostly instructor.

In many ways, this is a story about a teenager and sports - except that it's Go, not soccer or tennis or whatever. Hikaru starts to compete in tournaments and joins a Go study group, which essentially gives him teammates (except that he plays against them as well).

I was originally a little mystified as to why I like this series, but I think it's because I knew these kids, or their 1970s U.S. equivalent, when I was in high school, and on the "It's Academic" team, and had friends on the math and chess teams - including at one point the #2 player in the nation under the age of 16. Yumi Hotta's script and Takeshi Obata's beautiful drawings (he's perhaps more well-known for his solo series DeathNote, with writer Tsugumi Ohba) make it clear that the young Go players are mostly not stereotypical nerds, and the growth and increasing maturity of Hikaru and his friends and rivals are very appealingly depicted.

The story has very few female characters. The world of Go in Japan is still mainly male, and that is how it's shown here. For recurring characters, there are Hikaru's school friend Akari and a couple of other female members of the school Go club, the mothers of Hikaru and his main rival Akira, and the only female member of Hikaru's Go study group, Asumi Nase (see my usericon here). Asumi, 16 years old, is shown as a competitive player against both male and female opponents and stars in her own one-issue short story in vol. 18. I enjoyed the story, which I think realistically shows some of the difficulties of being both a competitive spirit and a 16-year-old girl who wants social approval "like a normal teenager." For the most part, however, she gets about the same small amount of screen time as most of the other study group members.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 31st, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
Just a note: Obata collaborated on Death Note as well. (But with a different writer.)
May. 31st, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)

Thanks - fixed it!

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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