Friday, June 18, 2010

Hikaru No Go: going and gone.

A couple of years ago Shonen Jump, a monthly collection of Japanese manga (comics) began publishing in the US (end of 2002). I saw it at the Bi-Lo in Royston, Georgia, and picked it up immediately. It was kind of neat to see Jump in the US with all these comics I had seen as manga or as anime such as Dragon Ball Z and Yu Yu Hakusho when I was a kid. Made me a bit old, to tell you the truth!

“Listen dude, I know how this fight goes. This comic ended before you even got into high school!”Needless to say, picking up the new Jump became something of a ritual for me. Buy it at the store, sit in the parking lot to read the whole thing (or at least my favorites), and go home to pass it on to my roommate. I’ve been doing that pretty much ever since. What can I say? Its cheap entertainment! It was also very cool to finally be able to read the comics instead of looking at the pictures and trying to figure out what was going on. Of course, I found new favorites like One Piece, Naruto and Hikaru No Go.

Hikaru No Go (Hikaru’s Go) isn’t your typical shonen manga (comics for early to late teens). There’s no fighting, no martial arts, no violence, outlandish characters or anything of that sort. Rather, its about a middle-school student’s entering the world of Go, an Asian boardgame over two-thousand years old. It all starts with him going to his grandfather’s house and finding an antique Go board that is haunted by a ghost named Fujiwara no Sai. The boy is named Hikaru, hence the name of the manga.

Hikaru No Go is no longer in Shonen Jump, but rather is released every few months in a paperback book. Its something that I look forward to, and when its supposed to be out I can be found at Borders asking, “do you have it yet?” Its certainly come to be a real favorite of mine; the story is interesting and time progresses fast enough you can see the characters getting older and maturing. Its set in modern day Japan, which reminds me of places and people I would like to revisit one day. The art is wonderful, and the mood is balanced between the intensity of the Go players and the emotions of them as people.

More than that, one small thing I discovered is that my father’s father used to play Go. During the evening times he and some of the older men would play; my father and auntie remember this, although they have no idea what became of his board or stones. I never met him, or if I did I was too young to remember, but its a link to someone I never knew.

The next volume, number 19, comes out in August. The series ended in Japan a few years ago, and there are 23 volumes in total.

While its better that it end rather than continuing on past the point of interest, becoming just another “by the numbers” formula-driven comic, it is a little sad. There are many interesting characters with goals, ambitions and lives that I’ve grown attached to. But, until then, I can enjoy it while i lasts.

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