Manga: Hikaru no Go

Hikaru no Go (ヒカルの碁) is an anime and manga series about Hikaru Shindo, an (initially) eleven-year-old Japanese schoolboy, who accidentally releases the ghost of Fujiwara no Sai, a Heian-era Go master who killed himself, and whose spirit was trapped in a bloodstained Go board. Once released, Sai's spirit posesses Hikaru, because he is desperate to play Go again, seeking to achieve the Divine Hand, the perfect decisive move. Initially, Hikaru plays for Sai, instructed by their mental link, simply to get him to shut up.

A chance game with a kid his age has unexpected consequences for Hikaru and Sai. Turns out that the kid is no piddling Go novice, but Akira Touya, son of the world's top Go master. Shocked that a beginner could beat him, Akira makes it his life mission to figure out who exactly Hikaru is. Things really begin picking up when Hikaru realizes that he might actually want to play too, and begins tapping into his own potential. Just how far can he rise in the world of Go? And can he ever catch up with his eternal rival Akira?

Emphatically does not suffer from the Sorting Algorithm of Evil, in that the identities of the two "strongest" Go players in the world are made pretty clear very early on. Whilst Hikaru meets and plays progressively better opponents as the series goes on, we know that none of them would be a match for the best players of all.

One doesn't even need to know how to play the game to enjoy the series, only an appreciation for strong characters and a compelling rise-to-the-top plot. Playing the game won't hurt, though; indeed, the game received a substantial popularity boost in Japan due to the manga. (Why don't you GO play it!?)

Now has a Character Sheet.

Compare Shion No Ou, which has a similar premise, only with the game of Shogi instead.

This show provides examples of:

  • Anime Hair:
    • Hikaru's a borderline case, with his two-tone hair.
    • Sai's hair is more Anime-Hair-like. It's purple.
  • Anti-Climax: The end of the preliminaries for the pro exams. Hikaru needs to win three matches to pass. He had lost twice and won twice. Everything depends on this last match... Then Hikaru wins by default. This allows even more tension in the pro exams themselves.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don't suggest to Akira that you play Go for money, as Hikaru learnt the hard way.
    • If you suggest to Hikaru that Shusaku's style is obsolete, he'll be out for blood.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Downplayed for a mundane example. Akira playing four different games at once and ending all of them with tied scores. Deliberately achieving a draw with an opponent that is not also trying to do the same is one of the most difficult things to do in Go, and the skill level of your opponent makes no real difference in how hard it is. Akira doing this in four simultaneous games is treated as a superhuman achievement. Sai, of course, goes and tells Hikaru that he thinks it looks fun, and wants to do five or even six.
  • Bland-Name Product: The A-group insei often eat lunch at Nc Donald's hamburgers.
    • The logo is 3/4 of the Golden Arches.
  • Blindfolded Vision: Akira and Go.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation In universe, a plot point in the North Star tournament arc in the manga.
  • Breather Episode: "Keichou Flowerpots" is a cute, feel-good side story that's chronologically set when Hikaru is in seventh grade, but it aired at the deepest point in Hikaru's Heroic BSOD, shortly after Sai's disappearance.
    • Ironically, it is in the same order as the manga - which has an entire Breather Volume at this point...
    • Double Subverted in "The Fated Encounter," where Sai (in a brief Omake at the beginning of the episode) says that there's going to be another side story episode, this one being a rehash of his and Hikaru's first meeting with Akira, but the latter part actually just him clowning around and trying to pull a Hostile Show Takeover; the episode is about a couple of pivotal games in Akira's Back Story. It does end with Hikaru's first meeting with Akira, shown from Akira's perspective.
  • Butt Monkey: Akota-san, the Jerkass stronger player from Hikaru's beginner go course, is treated as one several times through the series, where is almost becomes a Running Gag where Hikaru will remove his wig.
  • Cavalier Competitor: Subverted by Hikaru.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Kurata 6-dan, an adult professional Go player from the same generation as Ogata, was mentioned a few times as passing references during the course of the series (with his rank improving as the series progresses) before finally making an appearance two-thirds through the series.
    • The series does this with several characters who are either mentioned or shown, but whose name, face, and importance are not put together until later.
  • Club Stub: At first, Tsutsui is the only member of the Go club, and they are usually desperate for more.
  • Combat Commentator: Several characters fill this role. Totally Truth in Television too, since live game-commentry is a common feature of high-level Go.
  • Coming-of-Age Story
  • Contrived Coincidence: Hikaru challenging Akira for a game on the internet just a few seconds before Akira was about to challenge him.
    • Of course, it's not a coincidence at all since Akira logged in with the express purpose to challenge sai, and Hikaru, while not knowing it was him, challenged him because he found it funny to see someone with a username similar to Akira's name.
  • Cooking Duel: It is Truth in Television that Go is Serious Business, but Sai also plays Go to make a dishonest dealer remove the fraudulent Shusaku signature and in a side story, prevents another rogue from selling fake antique vases.
  • Cool Old Guy: Kuwabara-sensei.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Subverted when Akira is brought to play an exhibition match against a master tournament player, who by tradition is expected to go easy on him. The pro gets miffed when he thinks Akira isn't being meek enough and privately decides to go full out and crush him. Instead he ends up just barely staving off defeat.
  • Cut Short: That's how the manga ends. Other Ending Tropes may apply, too.
  • Determinator: Practically anyone who wants to become a professional Go player has to be one, since it's very difficult.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: At one point, when Akira is leaving school, the attractive older woman from the Go salon arrives to pick him up, mentions that he promised to tutor her, and says she'll serve him coffee and cake when they get there. The other boys all react like he's about to get laid.
  • Dramatic Irony: Ochi, after weeks of receiving Akira's training for weeks, thinks to himself, while playing against Hikaru:
    Touya is standing behind me. Is there anyone standing behind you, Shindou?
    Cut to Sai, who is behind Hikaru.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Averted. Although Sai and Akira looks incredibly feminine, nobody in the universe had ever mistook them as females.
  • Duels Decide Everything: Mostly averted. It's only played completely straight in a single filler episode, where Sai plays go to stop a rogue from selling fake vases. It's also used to force a dealer to remove a forged signature from a go board, but in that situation it's more justifiable.
  • Every Episode Ending: The ending theme start to fade in during the last scene.
  • Everybody Smokes: Almost all the adults do.
  • Flexible Club Rules: At one point, Akira's sempai forces him into playing two simultaneous games blind, and that, combined with one of his opponents playing erratically at best, is too much even for Akira's prodigious ability to handle. Fortunately, another sempai stumbles on the scene and quickly tells Akira to quit playing blind and crush them.
  • Foreshadowing: In episode 11, the head of a go salon says "The only person who'd have any hope of beating Shusaku would be Toya Meijin. That'd be a great match to watch." More than forty episodes later, while Toya Meijin is in the hospital after his heart attack, he plays Sai online. People all over the world log on to watch the game.
  • Four (Six) Temperament Ensemble: While not exactly a group, all the important characters that were introduced at the beginning of the series fit this. Hikaru (Sanguine), Kaga (Choleric), Akira (Melancholic), Akari (Phlegmatic), Tsutsui (Supine) and Sai (Phlegmatic II).
  • Gaming and Sports Anime and Manga
  • Gender-Blender Name: Both Hikaru and Akira.
  • Gilligan Cut: Hikaru announces that he's totally not going to the Anniversary Festival and waiting for Akari. Of course, at two-o-clock sharp, he's right in front of the gate, complaining that she's not there.
  • Gratuitous English: It never ends!
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Subverted. The series looks as if it was set up to demonstrate the meteoric rise of Hikaru as a talented Go player. However, despite his immense talents with a thousand year old spirit of a Go genius as a teacher, he is never shown to be capable of dominating his rival Akira, who is just as talented as him if not even more, but had started playing much earlier than him.
  • He's Back: Hikaru experiences a two-month retirement about two thirds of the way through the series. This is caused by Sai disappearing. He becomes afraid that by playing Go himself, he has caused Sai to disappear. He also suffers a crisis of confidence, and believes that his rival Touya will never want to play against him, preferring instead the now-vanished Sai. This fear prevents him from playing Go for two months, with no explanation given to anyone else. A game with Isumi, however, finally makes him realise that his connection with Sai still exists in his Go, and that he can legitimately continue to play. Upon his return, he is back with a vengeance.
  • Hint Dropping: When Akira requests that he be assigned to the tournament's third board, his teacher says "I will consider it." From a Japanese perspective, that's a fancy way of saying no, but Akira instead thinks he's a shoe-in for the spot he wants, and loses his cool when he's put on first board.
  • Hustling The Mark: The owner of a Go salon hires Dake-san to do this to Mitani, after the customers get tired of him cheating.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Anyone ranked below their actual strength.
    • Dake-san, quite literally (though inverted, he is left-handed and usually plays with his right). He actually switches to his dominant hand, showing that he's had more practice then he previously let on. He also starts playing seriously at this time.
    • To a lesser extent, Hikaru's two month hiatus leads to him missing Oteai, leaving his official rank lagging behind his actual one.
    • Sai put a 15-point handicap on himself in the Beginner's Dan Series game against Touya Meijin at Hikaru's request. He couldn't win under such a large disadvantage but the Meijin did recognize his strength.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All episodes are numbered as "Games"
  • Japanese Honorifics:
    • At one point, honorifics become an issue when Akira demands that Ochi address him as "Touya-sensei" while he's teaching Ochi, because he can't teach Ochi anything if Ochi doesn't respect him. Ochi eventually does so.
    • Even before Akira becomes a professional, the regulars at his go salon address him as "Akira-sensei" because he's just that good, though he technically hasn't earned that title yet.
  • Japanese School Club: Hikaru and Akira are members of their respective school's Go clubs.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mitani. He's arrogant and a shameless cheater, but Hikaru only accepts him in his school's Go club because they need three members (and even he didn't want to join at first). Later when Hikaru has to leave the Go club, Mitani protested furiously and even threatened to quit, although he is shown to be secretly wishing him all the best.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Sayonara, Hikaru.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Touya Meijin taught his son Akira, who later took Ochi as his student.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Sai, with an Obi-Wan Moment.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Inverted. Rather than inventing their own marketable game, or licensing a copyrighted game, the creators brought an ancient board game roaring into popularity.
  • Mirror Match: Okumura attempts to stalemate Akira by mimicking every move he makes, starting by taking away the spot in the center board. Akira wins anyway by tricking him into a position where he manages to capture, breaking the guy's strategy. (Which is later revealed to be low-grade and easily countered.)
  • Mr. Fanservice: Sai. Consistently dominated the manga's periodic character popularity polls.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Nase.
  • Multicolored Hair: Hikaru and Ochi.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Every game of Go is played like a typical sports game, with speed lines, dramatic angles, and important moves glow.
    • Episode 62 takes this Up to Eleven, since Hikaru is virtually berserk with worry at the time. Every stone Hikaru plays has an echo, and electricity arcs between the stones at one point.
  • Mundane Utility: Having a long-lived ghost in your head is very useful for cheating on a history test.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: After a really ugly loss in the pro exams, Isumi is emotionally wrecked and even loses to Fuku, whose lack of strength has become a punchline by this point. Then when he faces down Ochi, the boy can't resist taunting Isumi about how the loss ensured that he wasn't even Ochi's rival anymore. At that point, Isumi told Ochi to shut up and promptly got his head back in the game for the rest of the tournament.
  • No Indoor Voice: Tsubaki at the pro exams.
  • No Koreans In Japan: Averted. Yun-Sensei, the teacher in charge of the Kaio Middle School Go club, is originally from Korea. Hikaru also stumbles into a Korean-run Go shop and irritates everyone there when he shows his complete ignorance of anything Go-related, especially when it comes to Korea.
  • No Sense of Humor: Touya Akira and Touya Meijin.
  • Passing the Torch: Sai eventually did this to Hikaru.
  • Power Level: Truth in Television, as real Go players are ranked in playing-strength.
  • Power of the God Hand: Not a weapon or fighting technique, but it still counts, sort of: Go plays are called "hands", so all of the high-level Go players (Sai in particular) are looking for the "hand of God".
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Isumi, Fuku, Waya, Ochi, and Nase after Hikaru becomes an Insei.
  • Public Domain Artifact: Go itself, see above.
  • Recap Episode: "Sai of the Fujiwara."
  • Retired Badass: Touya Meijin
  • The Rival: Hikaru and Akira to each other. The series' epithet for them is even "Eternal Rivals". Other strong Go players' attitude go more along the line of Worthy Opponent.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Discussed and played with. Sai is an almost invincible player, but he wins despite his style being over a century obsolete, not because of it.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Ogata. To a lesser extent, Ochi and Kishimoto.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: When Hikaru tries to take the Insei examination, it transpires that he's already missed the application deadline, and the clerk tells him that the next exam will be in March. Then Ogata-sensei comes in, tells the clerk he'll sponsor Hikaru, and Hikaru is promptly registered for the examination.
  • Serious Business: Most of the characters take Go very seriously, but that is pretty much Truth in Television.
  • Shōnen
  • Shown Their Work: Every important match played in the series is based on a famous Real Life game. The writer of the manga consulted the Nihon Ki-In (Japanese Go Association) throughout, with ranked professional player Umezawa Yukari 梅沢由香里 credited as a consultant to the manga and anime.
  • Slow Motion Pass By: Hikaru and Akira have this more than once.
  • Smart People Play Go: Lampshaded by Akari saying that stupid people usually can't learn how to play Go.
  • Smug Snakes: Itō, Kojima, and Okumura, the three students who dislike Akira's presence in the Kaio Middle School Go club, and try to humiliate him into quitting the club by making him play "blind go". It doesn't work out exactly as planned. However, nobody wants Akira in the club. These three are just the most obvious about it.
  • Spin-Off: The live-action instructional series "Go Go Igo!", presented by Umezawa Yukari, shown after episodes of the anime.
  • Spirit Advisor
  • Spirited Competitor: Most Go players. Sai stands out because he remains in the world after his death one thousand years just to play more Go.
  • Speed Stripes: Around people placing Go stones.
  • Strategy Schmategy: Okumura's playing style is unpredictable, because he's so awful at Go. It actually manages to trip up Akira when he's playing blind.
  • Student and Master Team
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Akira's go club considers him a disruptive influence because he's significantly better than anyone else there; he's the Heir to the Dojo, trained from birth and on the fast track to professional status, they're ordinary middle school students. Accordingly, a Smug Snake sempai tries to humiliate him by forcing him into a loaded game, and even the more reasonable sempai who rescues him blames him for inspiring jealousy in his fellows.
  • Tempting Fate: "The Go from [the Edo period] is stupid, it won't work at all these days." Cue a game against Sai.
  • Theme Naming: The names Hikaru, Akira and Akari are all related to light. For more on this, see this essay: [1].
  • There Are No Therapists: Hikaru spends two months suffering from severe depression after Sai disappears. None of the adults in his life do anything about this.
    • Fridge Brilliance: When you think about it, none of the adults in Hikaru's life were in a position to notice he was depressed, because they have no clue what's going on in Hikaru's head. Hikaru has a responsible adult living inside of his head (even if he had his dashes of childishness at times), so there was no need for him to ever talk to actual adults about anything important. But no one knows about Sai, so the adults around Hikaru probably thought he simply became more introverted, and started taking care of himself. Hikaru's become so used to having Sai following his every move that he doesn't know how to express himself to adults well.
  • The Thing That Goes Doink: Shown a number of times, most prominently in the Touya residence.
  • Tournament Arc: The pro exams, and later the Hokutonote  Cup.
  • Tranquil Fury: Shortly after Sei's disappearance, Hikaru is half-insane with worry and playing a game he needs to win quickly so he can get back to Tokyo. His face is locked in a frown, he is completely silent, and yet he's placing stones with less than a second of thinking time and utterly demolishing his opponent. A rare example of Tranquil Unstoppable Rage.
  • Translation Convention: Names of modern characters are placed in Western order in everyday speech but remain in Japanese order when referring to them as competitive Go players (as does Sai's throughout).
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Poor Akari. She follows Hikaru around but he doesn't appreciate her at all. She obviously likes him way more than he likes her.
  • Unrelated Effects: When someone is demonstrating exceptional skill in the game, their fingertips glow as they place down the stone.
  • Untranslated Title: But it isn't too hard to guess what it means. If you're interested in the details, in Japan, someone's skill at the game is called 'their Go' ("His Go is strong.") The manga chronicles the growth of... Hikaru's Go.
  • Victim Blaming: When Akira first joins his school's Go Club, several jealous students try to figure out a way to humiliate and beat him in a 'fair'note  game. When they're caught, both the girl who discovers the bullying and the club president tell Akira it's his fault because his talent naturally inspires jealousy.
  • WHAM Episode: When Sai disappears.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Early on in the show Akira ask Hikaru about his goals in playing Go, Hikaru nonchalantly talks about taking on a few championships and winning prize money, Akira calls him out and flat up tells him how disrespectful that is towards professional Go Players.
  • What Would Sai Do?: Hikaru uses this mantra when he can't think of anything on his own.
  • White and Grey Morality: While some characters are jerks, no one is evil. Sometimes it's even Good Versus Good, when two sympathetic characters have to play against each other (and something high is at stake).

Alternative Title(s):

Hikaru No Go