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Hikaru no Go, TV Tokyo
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Caution: Spoilers

A 6th grader named Hikaru Shindo discovers an old Go board while he and his friend Akari Fujisaki are looking in the attic for stuff to sell. (Btw, I sometimes wonder why Akari is even friends with him, because the way he talks to her... he often seems sort of mean, for no apparent reason, though I don't think he's even aware that his words aren't exactly nice.) Anyway... Hikaru sees a blood stain on the board they find, but Akari doesn't see it. He also hears a voice which she can't hear. It is the voice of the spirit of Fujiwara no Sai, who was a great Go player and tutor to the Emperor like 1000 years ago.

One day there was a match between Sai and another of the Emperor's tutors to determine which one would remain. The other tutor cheated, but accused Sai of cheating. The Emperor didn't believe either would cheat, so let the game continue. Unsettled by these circumstances, Sai lost the game and was banished. And since many believed him to be a cheater, he could find no work (Go being his only skill), so he drowned himself. His soul found no peace, and possessed a Go board. Eventually, the board was discovered by someone called Hon'inbo Shusaku (a real historical figure), who allowed Sai to occupy his mind, and became a great Go champion himself. After Shusaku died, it was 140 years before Hikaru found the board, and allowed Sai to occupy his mind. I guess not everyone who has the board can see or hear Sai, so only a few are capable of sharing their minds with him.

Now Sai is happy to finally have a chance to play Go again, through Hikaru. He hopes to play the "Divine Move" someday. There is also a young Go prodigy named Akira Toya, whose father, Koyo Toya (or Toya Meijin, "Meijin" being a Go title he holds), is a champion Go player. Akira, like Sai, hopes to someday play the "Divine Move," but after losing a game to Hikaru, he realizes he'll first have to surpass him in skill. Hikaru, however, decides he doesn't want to play against Akira again until his skill level has grown enough to beat Akira without Sai's help. After entering 7th grade at Haze Middle School, Hikaru and Akari start a Go club, along with another student named Kimihiro Tsutsui.

Hikaru wants to compete in a Go tournament between middle schools, and mainly he wants to beat the best Go club around, that of Kaio Middle School. However, competitions must be between three students from each school, and Haze's club only has two (Akari doesn't count, not only because she barely knows how to play, but also because teams are divided by gender). So, they try to advertise for students to join the club, but get no takers. Although Hikaru learns of a student named Yuki Mitani, who gambles on games he plays at a small Go salon, and he cheats. He doesn't want to join the Haze Go club, but eventually Hikaru convinces him, and makes him promise not to cheat anymore. Though Kimihiro still doesn't really trust him. Meanwhile, Akira joined Kaio's Go club, despite the fact that he's already good enough to play at a professional level, and is far above the skill level of any middle school students. He heard that Hikaru was going to compete in a middle school tournament, and saw joining his school's Go club as his only chance to force Hikaru to play against him again.

Well, all three members of Haze's club lost in the tournament. Which really upset Akira... since Hikaru was playing without Sai's help, his skill level was way below Akira's, who was now frustrated to have thought Hikaru might be any good. Anyway, over the summer, Hikaru and Sai played Go online alot, at an internet cafe (where Mitani's sister worked). They used the screen name "Sai," which became famous among online Go players around the world. Everyone wanted to know who he was. Later, after school started again, Akira became a professional player, and Hikaru was determined to catch up to him. His skill improved alot, and he eventually became an insei (an official student of Go seeking to become a professional player). As much as his skills have improved, however, he's still behind the other insei at the Go school. What's more, being an insei means he can no longer compete with Haze's Go club. And Akira no longer seems to have any interest in Hikaru, who he doesn't believe will ever come close to catching up to his level.... One of the other insei at the school is Yoshitaka Waya, who has lost to Akira before, as well as to Sai online. But he's better than Hikaru, so he doesn't believe him when Hikaru says he and Akira are rivals....

Well, Hikaru spends a year or so as an insei I think, and he continues to improve dramatically. Aside from Waya, we meet several other insei, including Shinichiro Isumi, who is probably the strongest player; Yuta Fukui (who everyone calls Fuku), who is Waya's main rival; Toshinori Honda (a strong player, but one I don't feel we ever really got to know); Asumi Nase; Ryo Iijima (who I think is a close friend of Asumi's), and the rather annoying Kosuke Ochi. Meanwhile, the Go club continues at Haze without Hikaru, though we don't see much of that. I think they got at least a couple new players, including a girl named Kumiko Tsude. Anyway, Hikaru goes through a lot as an insei, including the Young Lion's Tournament, where insei get to play against pros. We also get to see a bit of stuff going on with some of the established professional players, including an old man named Kuwabara Hon'inbo (Hon'inbo being a title), who is a friend of Koyo Toya's, and young man named Seiji Ogata, who is anxious to capture titles currently held by the older players.

Anyway, eventually all the insei take the pro exam. They all stress a great deal over that, since only 3 people will be allowed to pass- and the competitors include more than just the insei with whom we're familiar, but others from all over the place, I guess. The first one to pass is Ochi, whose grandfather gets Akira Toya to tutor him. Ochi isn't happy that Akira seems to think highly of Hikaru's skill, who Ochi's never taken seriously. But even after Ochi has passed, he still has games to play, including one against Hikaru, which becomes the most important match of the exam, to him. Anyway, eventually the other two professional spots go to Hikaru and Waya.

Hikaru is excited to finally be a professional, and catching up to Akira, who is already celebrated as a very promising young pro. Akira acts like he isn't interested in Hikaru, but he clearly continues to stress about him getting better, and failing to understand various things like why Hikaru beat him the first time they played but later wasn't nearly as good, as well as what connection he might have to the online player Sai. Meanwhile, Sai is upset that he doesn't get to play much himself, anymore, as well as worrying that Hikaru is getting so good he doesn't really need him as much anymore. Finally, Hikaru lets Sai play an online game against Toya Meijin, which is watched by many Go players who remember Sai from two years ago, and are shocked that he's returned and is playing the Meijin... who has vowed to retire if he loses the game to Sai. And Sai does win, though afterward Hikaru points out to Sai a way Toya might have won, which gives Sai a new understanding of why his spirit has persisted for 1000 years and come into contact with Hikaru....

Well, before much longer, Sai disappears, and Hikaru spends some time trying to find him before finally realizing he's gone for good. This makes him feel very guilty, and he decides to stop playing Go. But there are some flashback eps to when he was barely beginning to play, including one that's just about Akira. And back in the present, there are some eps about Isumi studying in China, to prepare himself for his next chance to take the pro exam....

That's all I can say for now, but I must say I feel like I've become more interested in the show as it has progressed. Still not nearly a favorite, or anything, but my appreciation of it has grown. And I'd really like to learn to play Go, myself, though I don't know if I ever will....


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