Hikaru No Go (Volume 18) Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata
It's not too often that I review a series well into its run, but this is a good one-off issue of what is a really engaging manga series, so here I am taking a look at volume 18 of Hotta and Obata's book. With this volume, the creators take a break from the escalating tension of Hikaru in his quest to beat Akira at the boardgame go and take the go industry by storm. The six chapters focus on six different secondary characters from the unwieldy cast that has been built throughout the series. First, we see Hikaru's rival Akira Toya right before he plays his first life-changing game of go against Hikaru, complete with scenes with his father and other talents his age that just aren't up to snuff. Next is Tetsuo Kaga, who returns to his high school to encourage a group of boys to enroll in the school's go club (to much amusement). Since Hikaru has been so caught up in the professional world of go, it's nice to see what's going on back at his school and the changes that are occurring there. Then Asumi Nase steps into the spotlight. I always felt like she got the shaft a bit during the series, which is a shame as she's one of the few females in the entire Hikaru No Go saga. But here she gets a piece of the limelight in a story that explores her life as an insei and how it effects her peronal life. Yuki Mitani's story is another one that takes us back into the past and shows the little troublemaker leading up to the point where he joins Hikaru in the school's go club. Then professional go player Atsushi Kurata is seen being taken advantage by a teacher in his youth before moving into the realm of go in an odd story that tries to demonstrate his motivation, although I'm left with more questions about him than answers at this point. And finally the book comes around to Fujiwara-no-Sai, the ghost who accompanies Hikaru through his adventures, as he helps Hikaru to stop a con man from taking advantage of consumers. Of course the entire volume is drawn with confidence in Obata's beautiful realistic and detailed art that fans have come to expect. I'm always amazed how, volume after volume, the creators can keep this simple board game looking as fresh and exciting as when I first began reading about it eighteen volumes ago, but they manage to do just that. It was a nice distraction this time around to take a step back and examine some of the overlooked characters of the series, but I really can't wait to dive back into the main story thread again with the next installment.