Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hikaru No Go

I've been reading Shonen Jump magazine since it began publishing in the U.S. and I enjoy every strip in there, which surprises me, because there's one strip in particular that I was sure I wouldn't like when I heard of it.

It's called Hikaru No Go (Hikaru's Go), and(here's a big surprise) it's about a boy named Hikaru who plays Go. That's right, the (originally Chinese, I think) game with the white and black stones. This in the same magazine that publishes Dragonball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh. Try to imagine this in America: you buy the latest issue of Superman, and the back-up is about a kid who plays chess. Gag me, right?

Well, as it turns out, you don't have to play Go in order to enjoy the story. In fact, there's a certain Zen pleasure in not understanding the McGuffin. It's like a textbook example of how to create the perfect Japanese boy's adventure, regardless of subject. Take a happy-go-lucky main character, who discovers he has a destiny and has to develop the serious intent to pursue it. Give him a secret talent that sets him head-and-shoulders above anyone else, if he could only develop the skill to go along with it. Add a scowling rival, who has been pursuing the same goal as our hero for a long time and has the skills, but not the secret talent. (at some point, this rival will become our hero's best friend/ally).

The thing I really like about Hikaru No Go is seeing the challenges that surround every game he plays. The drama doesn't come from hte stones on the board, but from the people facing each other. Hikaru and his opponents come to the board with very different goals and outlooks, and every game represents a bigger issue in Hikaru's life. It's masterfully done, and the artwork is gorgeous and full of appeal. Try it.

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