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Hikaru ShindouThe Protagonist
of the series.
Hikaru is an ordinary sixth grader in elementary school. After stumbling upon a haunted Go board, he is possessed by the spirit of Fujiwara-no-Sai, a completely obsessed Go player from the Heian era.
At first Hikaru plays only for Sai, but soon after meeting and playing against some of the best Go players, he begins to develop an interest in Go. He also develops an initially unintended rivalry with Akira Touya, son of the world's top Go master. Hikaru joins his school's Go club and participates in tournaments. Later, in effort to catch up with Akira, he becomes an insei and finally a professional Go player (at 14 years old).
Sai A.K.A. Fujiwara-no-Sai
A spirit from the Heian era who was once the Go instructor to the Emperor. His ultimate goal is to play the divine move (also known as the Hand of God).
After losing his livelihood and being unjustly blamed for cheating, Sai committed suicide by drowning. However, he still wanted to play Go, so he inhabited the body of a young boy who grew to be Honinbo Shusaku and played through him. After Shusaku died of a plague, Sai haunted his Go board until Hikaru discovered it.
Sai becomes Hikaru's mentor and occasionally plays through him. He holds a rivalry towards Kouyou Touya (a.k.a. Touya Meijin) who is the best Go player of the present age. At last he manages to play against Toya Meijin on the internet. Shortly afterwards he disappears.
- Agent Peacock: Is very effeminate by today's standards,note and is probably the best Go player that ever lived.
- Always Someone Better: Is this to Akira.
- Angst: Not normally, but only once he realizes that he might not be able to play Go forever.
- Beware the Nice Ones: All right, he could never actually hurt you, but he can defeat you in Go no matter how good you think you are.
- Bishōnen: Very, very Bishōnen. Having long hair, earrings and lipstick doesn't hurt, of course.
- Blue Blood: Was a nobleman in the Heian era.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Every time he sees wrongdoers, his natural instinct is to teach them the errors of their ways, usually through a game of Go. Fortunately, Hikaru agrees and cooperates most of the time.
- Cool Teacher
- Curb-Stomp Battle: He's so good at Go, that it is difficult for him to find an opponent he really has to struggle against. One example would be when he played against a shopkeeper who was cheating his customers. At a certain point of the game, when the shopkeeper was in bad shape, Sai suggested that they switch places, and then proceeded to win from a losing position.
- Dead to Begin With
- Determinator: Wouldn't give up on playing Go even after he died.
- Driven to Suicide: In his Back Story.
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Averted, despite being extremely Bishōnen. Hikaru, the only one who can see him, dosen't mistake his gender for a minute.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Doesn't always get the respect he deserves from Hikaru.
Examiner: "Is it true that you don't have a teacher? "
Hikaru: "Yes. Well I kind of do... A totally useless one."
Sai: "What? A totally what one, Hikaru?!"
- Eccentric Mentor
- Fish out of Temporal Water: Is excited by things such as vending machines, calls television and computers "boxes" and aquarium fish "realistic looking fake fish", and is incredulous when Hikaru tells him that humans have been on the moon.
- Ghost Amnesia: Averted. He seems to remember events that happened a thousand years ago quite well.
- Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: He is completely unable to understand someone who's into Go for money, instead of for love of the game.
- The Glomp: Occasionally does this to Hikaru.
- His Quirk Lives On: After he disappears Hikaru buys a fan which looks like the one he used to carry and keeps it with him for Go games.
- Historical-Domain Character: Not Sai himself, but the person he possessed before Hikaru, Honinbo Shusaku, was a real Go player who is considered by many to be the greatest player of the golden age of Go.
- I'm Standing Right Here: Since no one can see him except Hikaru, people will sometimes discuss Sai right in front of him.
- Japanese Christian: Implied, though he died before Christianity arrived in Japan. He speaks of God in the Abrahamic sense on a couple of occasions.
- Japanese Pronouns: Watashi, fitting his formal and somewhat effeminate demeanor.
- Let's Get Dangerous
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy
- Married to the Game
- Mentor Occupational Hazard
- Mistaken Identity: A lot of confusion arises from the fact that he and Hikaru share a consciousness. Some people thought that his internet identity was Hikaru. The closest to guessing the truth were Waya, who thought Sai was Hikaru's teacher, and Akira, who figured out that Sai had been the one playing against him in their first game.
- Nice Guy: He's completely Go obsessed but nevertheless a compassionate and caring person.
- Nice Hat
- The Obi-Wan: Let's see. A mentor that travels with the hero? Check. Has a brilliant mind? Check. Is better skilled and more experienced than the hero? Check. His role is to introduce a new skill to the hero? Check. Has a very calm attitude? Che- Well... It depends.
- Obi-Wan Moment: Dies peacefully after realizing that his work at helping achieve the divine move is done.
- Ocular Gushers
- One of the Kids: His only true companion is Hikaru and that does make him rather childish.
- Our Ghosts Are Different
- Parental Substitute: Was probably much more a father to Hikaru than his real father.
- Plucky Comic Relief`
- Power of the God Hand: His objective is to attain it. He doesn't, but he pushes Hikaru along his own path to attaining it.
- Rapunzel Hair
- Really One-Thousand Years Old: Although most of the time he wasn't inhabiting a body.
- Secret Identity: People know about Sai because he plays Go on the internet, and at some point everyone was trying to guess who he is.
- Serious Business: Taken Up to Eleven in regards to Go. Playing this game is Sai's reason for existing. Not even death can stop do him apart from the game.
- Spirit Advisor
- Spirited Competitor
- Student and Master Team: With Hikaru.
- Tender Tears: Cries frequently, which in his own time would have been respected as a sign of intelligence and sensitivity. Nowadays it looks a trifle ridiculous.
- Undeath Always Ends
- Unfinished Business: Didn't obtain the Hand of God. (Although that's kind of impossible to do.)
- Unknown Rival: To Touya Meijin, but that's not because Touya ignores him, rather because he's invisible. Eventually they do play against each other on the internet.
- Worthy Opponent: To Touya Meijin. The latter even lampshads it.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Is afraid of frogs, or at least is afraid of a spectacularly ugly shop owner whose smile was frog-like.
- You Gotta Have Purple Hair
- Your Days Are Numbered: Knows that he is going to disappear long before he does.
Hikaru's rival and son of Kouyou Touya, possibly the best Go player of the present age.
Learning to play Go from a young age, Akira is already a very strong Go player when Hikaru meets him. He is amazed by Hikaru's (actually Sai's) skills and becomes obsessed with discovering the secret behind Hikaru's strength. After playing against Hikaru himself he is disappointed and tries to forget about him, but is unable to do so. Becomes a pro at age thirteen.
- Almighty Janitor: While Akira goes up in rank throughout the series, his ability is far in excess of his ranking.
- Always Someone Better: Is this to most of the Go players his age.
- Ambiguously Gay: Looks rather feminine with his jaw-length bob hairstyle and ambiguous clothes. Not to mention his relationship with Hikaru. See essay for more information.
- Badass Adorable: Especially when he is younger.
- Beneath the Mask: Is Hot-Blooded under his stoic facade.
- Berserk Button: Don't suggest to him that you play Go for money, as Hikaru learned the hard way.
- Berserker Tears: When playing against Hikaru at the tournament.
- Betty and Veronica: The Veronica, had he been a girl. (Opens Hikaru's mind to new possibilities and changes his world).
- Bishōnen: Even more so when he's older◊.
- Blatant Lies: Claims that he doesn't care about Hikaru in a way that makes it very clear that he does.
- The Chessmaster: Downplayed, as he usually dosen't try to be one. However, after Hikaru refuses to play against him, he goes to great lengths to insure Hikaru won't have a choice but to do so. Also trains Ochi and uses him to test Hikaru's strength.
- Chick Magnet: Quite a few girls from the Kaio Middle School Go club ask him to play a tutoring game with them, while blushing and giggling. Also, the receptionist from the Go Salon picks him up at school and drives him to the Salon, where she promises to serve him coffee and cake.
- Child Prodigy
- Curb-Stomp Battle: His game against Hikaru during the tournament of the school clubs was this. Akira was not pleased.
- His game against Okumura, who tried unsuccessfully to play a Mirror Match with him.
- Death Glare: Is quite◊ good◊ at it.◊
- Defrosting Ice King
- Follow In My Foot Steps: Inverted, since Akira has no problem doing exactly what his father does.
- Foil: To Hikaru. See Red Oni, Blue Oni.
- Hair Color Dissonance: In the manga it's dark blue, in the anime dark green. It's supposed to be black.
- Hot-Blooded: Though he hides it well, he actually can be very passionate. It's only apparent when it comes to Hikaru.
- The Idealist: He became slightly more jaded over the course of the story.
- Insufferable Genius: Is seen as such by some Go players (such as Kaga, Waya and Ochi), who interpret his indifference to them as disdain.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation
- Like an Old Married Couple: He and Hikaru bicker like an elderly couple, or rather like a pair of seven year olds. Hikaru is wonderful at bringing out Akira's immature side.
- Like Father, Like Son
- Lonely Rich Kid: Comes from a well-to-do family and dosen't seem to have any friends his age. However, the lack of friends is probably more due to the fact that he's a child prodigy Go player. Also, unlike many examples of this trope, he does not suffer from any sort of Parental Abandonment.
- Master of the Mixed Message: While not necessarily in a romantic sense, Akira's behavior in regards to Hikaru is very much this. First he is obsessed about him and chases him relentlessly, until he is disappointed and promises never to appear before Hikaru again. But won't stop thinking about him, and checking on him... and surprising him from behind... and watching his games... and asking questions about him. But will refuse to talk to him, and so on.
- No Sense of Humor
- The Perfectionist: Is so shaken by losing to Sai that he chases after Hikaru for quite a long while in order to defeat him.
- Rage Quit: When playing against Hikaru (as opposed to Sai) for the first time, he tries to do this, but his teacher stops him and forces him to finish the game. Inverted, Akira was angry not because he was losing, but because he was winning too easily.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blue to Hikaru's red.
- The Rival: To Hikaru.
- Second Place Is for Losers: Does not like being told to throw his game, even if it's necessary to pacify an important politician. His solution is to intentionally play to a draw.
- Shy Blue Haired Boy: Brought up in the company of adults ever since he was young, he tends to be somewhat awkward and shy around peers his own age.
- Spirited Competitor
- Stalker Without a Crush: Is almost completely obsessed with Hikaru/Sai, and constantly looks for opportunities to challenge him to a game.
- Sugar and Ice Personality
- Teen Genius: Grows into one.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: While teaching Ochi, insisted that he call him Sensei (teacher) for as long as the lessons last.
- Unknown Rival: Is this to Hikaru at first.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Hikaru, complete with a Hypocritical Heartwarming moment:
Akira: (to a customer who disregards Hikaru) "Don't look down upon Shindou just because he's a first-dan." (Strides away indignantly.)
Customer: (in bewilderment) "Weren't they just fighting?"
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Always seeks his father's approval, although he usually gets it.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: Despite being male he fits the trope pretty well: calm, mature, joining the family business, coming from a traditional Japanese family etc. Except when it comes to Hikaru, where he becomes unusually aggressive.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Tells this to Hikaru when he's having his Heroic BSOD:
Akira: "You're no good, what do you mean?"
Students Of Haze Middle School
Hikaru's childhood friend.
She begins to learn Go as well when Hikaru becomes interested and later joins the Haze Middle School Go club, serving as vice captain of the girls' team, despite her being a weak player. She also seems to have feelings for Hikaru, as noted by her two friends in the carnival and various other characters. Hikaru dosen't show much interest in her.
Although their connection weakens, she and Hikaru remain friends throughout the course of the series.
Voiced by: Makoto Tsumura
President and founder of the Haze Middle School Go club.
When he founds the Haze Middle School Go club he is the only member, but through the efforts of Hikaru and Akari the club grows. Tsutsui graduates from Haze Middle School before his dream of defeating the Kaio Middle School Go club can be realized.
President of Haze Middle School's Shogi club.
Kaga hates Go and prefers Shogi because his father forbade Shogi and forced him to play Go from an extremely early age, and because he always lost to Akira Toya.
He still plays Go from time to time to keep his skills limber. He participates in a tournament together with Hikaru and Tsutsui.
The third member of the Haze Middle School Go Club.
Mitani is a rather good Go player who fell into the habit of cheating. After being taught a painful lesson, he is recruited by Hikaru for the Go club and remains a member throughout the series.
- Aesop Amnesia: Even after he loses 10,000 yen because of cheating, he still cheats while playing against Tsutsui and continues to talk about cheating for a while.
- Achilles in His Tent: Gets angry when Hikaru decides to leave the Go club in favor of chasing Akira, and quits the Go club, until his friends pester him back.
- Break the Haughty: Invoked by Shu-san, the owner of the Go salon who hires a hustler, Dake-san, to feed Mitani some Humble Pie. However, even he admits that Dake-san overdid it.
- Brilliant but Lazy: He doesn't put nearly as much effort into his game as the other players.
- Cool Big Sis: Has one.
- The Cynic: Seems to believe that not noticing the other person cheating shows your hopeless naivety and proves that you didn't deserve to win in the first place. He also radiates apathy about life in general, although he gets better as time goes by because of The Power of Friendship.
- Deadpan Snarker: After Hikaru had practically dragged him to the Go club and sits him down in front of a Go board to play against Tsutsui, he points his thumb at Hikaru and asks, completely straight faced: "Is this guy always this forceful?"
- Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Not only he teaches you how to cheat, he makes it look easy and beneficial.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: To Hikaru, after he loses all his money, betting it on a game.
- Greed: Cheats for money even though he dosen't really need it.
- Ineffectual Loner
- Jerkass: Is arrogant and a shameless cheater.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Turns into this as time passes.
- Loners Are Freaks: His story almost seems to imply that only friends can stop you from committing immoral acts.
- Out of Focus: After Hikaru leaves the Go school club.
- Recruiting the Criminal: Subverted, since he's recruited for his skill at playing Go, despite his criminal behavior, not because of it.
- Redheaded Anti-Hero
- Sour Supporter: Of the Go club.
- Token Evil Teammate: The most cynical, jerky and amoral member of the Haze Middle School Go club.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Is the only one to call Hikaru out on the somewhat selfish act of leaving the Go club.
An insei who is first introduced playing Go on the internet against Sai.
Later, after Hikaru turns into an insei, becomes his friend. Passes the pro exams the same year Hikaru does, at age 15.
Another insei friendly with Hikaru, Isumi is the eldest in Hikaru's peer group, turning 18 during the series. Despite being ranked first among the insei, he does not pass the pro exams. Later, he goes to China and studies there, and passes the pro exams a year later than Hikaru.
- Angst: Quite a lot during and after the pro exams.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Generally a very calm person, but after suffering from Heroic BSOD and losing a few crucial games, he was not in the mood to hear Ochi's taunting.
- Big "Shut Up!": Tells Ochi, who was busy gloating, to shut up before they begin their game. Downplayed since he said it quietly, to match his tranquil fury.
- Curtains Match the Window: Blue hair and blue eyes.
- A Day in the Limelight: Gets a few episodes centering on his experience in China.
- Death Glare: Gives one◊ to Ochi before their match. As he's not the kind to usually give death glares, this served to emphasize his state.
- Emotions vs. Stoicism: Learns to control and deal with his emotions better while in China.
- A Friend in Need: He and Waya help Hikaru get over his psychological fears before the pro exams despite the fact that they are making their opponent stronger. Also forces Hikaru to play with him when the latter was suffering from Heroic BSOD.
- Heroic BSOD: After cheating by mistake in his game against Hikaru.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Suffers from this, but eventually, while in China, grows out of it.
Isumi: (after losing a game)
"It wasn't bad? I am dissatisfied with that game I just played. I'm not depressed at all.
I'm just angry with myself for playing too aggressively because I thought I couldn't lose... For not being able to play my best..."
- He's Back: After beating Ochi.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Waya.
- Hidden Eyes: When undergoing emotional stress his hair covers his eyes.
- Icy Blue Eyes/Innocent Blue Eyes: Often innocent◊ but can be icy◊ as well.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness:
- Is aghast when he learns that Yang Hai is using psychological tactics on Le Ping (such as coming late to make him angry) in order to help Isumi win his crucial game against him.
- He considers it a bitter memory that he even considered cheating in the pro exams, instead of resigning when he realized he'd violated a rule.
- In-Series Nickname: "Shin-chan", although only one person calls him that.
- Journey to Find Oneself: When he goes to China.
- Moral Dilemma: Cheats by mistake while playing against Hikaru during the pro exams, and hesitates for some time before resigning.
- Mr. Fanservice: The only character that has a shirtless scene.
- Nice Guy
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Passing the pro exams without losing once.
- Only Sane Man: Clearly considers himself this while going to visit Go salons with Hikaru and Waya. The other two are busy proposing dangerous challenges, fighting over what the reward will be, and eating vigorously.
- The Quiet One: Talks a lot less than his friends.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blue to Waya's red.
- Shirtless Scene: Has a very short one while changing clothes.
- Shrinking Violet: While in China, alone among strangers and suffering from self confidence issues, he quickly turns into this for some time. It's also very apparent when he's being photographed before his beginner dan match with Kuwabara.
- Tranquil Fury: When playing against Ochi at the pro exams.
- Warrior Therapist: Strengthens Waya and Hikaru, helping them get over their fears and Hikaru's Heroic BSOD.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair
Another insei in the same group as Hikaru, Ochi is one of the youngest and the most talented, and very outspoken about his ability. Akira tutors him to find out about Hikaru's current strength. He becomes a pro the same year that Hikaru does.
- Ambiguous Disorder: In addition to having absolutely No Social Skills, has a weird habit of locking himself in the bathroom and tapping on the door with his finger every time he loses.
- Turns out he's actually mentally replaying his game and tapping down each move that was played/that he should have played.
- Ambition Is Evil: While he is certainly not the only ambitious character and not really evil, he is the most ambition-obsessed. He rarely thinks of anything else, and lets it take over his whole life.
- Big Fancy House: His grandfather's, whom he regularly visits.
- Character Development: After Hikaru defeats him, their relationship mellows a bit. He is also shown in a more sympathetic light later, when he insists on playing against Yashiro.
- Doting Grandparent: His grandfather regularly invites pros to his house and pays them to tutor Ochi.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Becomes jealous of the amount of attention Akira gives to Hikaru.
- Insufferable Genius
- Intelligence Equals Isolation
- Lonely Rich Kid: Though his loneliness is probably more due to his anti-social behavior.
- Loners Are Freaks
- No Social Skills
- The Perfectionist: He hates losing.
- Scary Shiny Glasses
- The Short Guy with Glasses: Is one of the youngest and most talented insei, in addition to actually being short and wearing glasses.
- Spoiled Brat
- Trash Talk: Gloats about his assured victory against Isumi (who was suffering from Heroic BSOD). This was a mistake.
Ochi: "You even lost to Fuku yesterday, Isumi-san? I'm disappointed. I thought that Isumi-san would be the biggest hurdle in towards my passing undefeated. You're too worried about Shindou. I kind of regret ever seeing you as a rival. Though thanks to that, it shouldn't be hard to pass undefea-"
Isumi: "Ochi. (death glare) Shut up."
- Unwitting Pawn: Subverted. He understands very quickly that Akira only wants to use him, but eventually decides to go along with it.
Kaio Middle School Go club president and a former insei.
Professional Go Players
Kouyou Touya A.K.A. Touya Meijin
Akira Touya's father and the best Go player in Japan. He rivals Sai and like Sai he also pursues the divine move.Following his defeat by Sai he retires from the Japanese Go circuit and plays in China.
He has an interest in Hikaru and requested to play him in the Beginner Dan series after Hikaru becomes a pro.
A Go professional who is also a student of Kouyou Touya and soon takes the Judan and Gosei titles when Koyo Toya retires.
He keeps tropical fish and smokes heavily.
- Badass in a Nice Suit
- Broken Ace: Is one of the best Go players, good looking and apparently has money, but is also a very proud, deeply socially awkward and highly selfish geeky guy in his thirties whose personal life extends to his old Sensei and his tropical fish.
- Cool Car: Owns one.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Exact Eaves Dropping: Subverted, he only hears Hikaru mentioning Sai, and immediately draws conclusions.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Depends on how you view his character.
- Loners Are Freaks: His best friends are probably his pet fish, and you have to admit there is something weird about him, if not outright creepy.
- Man in White: Wears a white suit at formal occasions.
- Manipulative Bastard: Keeps reminding Akira of Hikaru in order to motivate him, even after Akira makes it clear that he dosen't want to have anything to do with him anymore.
- Pet the Dog: Gets enough moments of these to not be a plain Jerkass. For example, sponsoring Hikaru when he's applying to the insei exams.
- The Resenter: The "I am still better than you" speech that he gives to Akira, after winning an official match against him, hints at this.
- Scary Shiny Glasses
- The Stoic: Tries to be one. However, the result usually is...
An elderly professional and current holder of the Honinbo title.
Kuwabara is friends with Toya Meijin, but rivals Ogata, whose challenge he defeats. In his title defence next year, he defeats the young fast-improving Kurata.
He is able to vaguely sense Sai's presence, and develops an interest in Hikaru.
Voiced by: Katsuhiro Kitagawa
A 9-dan pro who is Waya's go teacher and leader of the study group which Hikaru also frequents on Waya's invitation. He considers Touya Meijin a rival, since the two of them became pros at the same time.
The youngest pupil of Touya Meijin and one of Akira's friends.
A former insei who passed a year before Hikaru. Played against Isumi during the Young Lions Tournament (the Wakajishi Sen).
- Butt Monkey: He loses to Kuwabara in his first dan match, falling for a simple psychological tactic, and is later mocked for it. During the Young Lions Tournament he plays against Isumi and loses miserably. When he tries to get back at him verbally, he gets punched by Waya.
- Collective Groan: Elicits one from all the insei the moment he appears on the scene. Even Ochi can't stand him.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Tries to degrade Isumi because he's jealous of him being a better player.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: Acts so arrogant towards the insei because he's a mediocre player and he knows it.
- Lucky Bastard: He passed the pro exam more due to luck than talent, as he himself admits.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Acting this way is the main reason why he's disliked.
- Sore Loser
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tries to give one to Isumi, telling him that his victory wasn't worth anything because he didn't pass the pro exams. He gets interrupted by Waya.
- Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Likes to gloat about passing the pro exam.